Lookbook: VOLTA NY 2016

All photos courtesy of POVarts staff.

Emilio Cavallini Transcends Nylon into a Spiritual State

Emilio Cavallini’s exhibition “Transfiguration” at the Rosai Ugolini Modern gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side channels the geometry and spirituality of mandalas into colorful sculptural matrices. “Transfiguration” is Cavallini’s first solo exhibition in New York. Aside from his artwork, Cavallini is known for his tremendous contributions to the fashion and textile world, particularly his bold patterned and brightly colored hosiery and bodywear.

Cavallini’s artwork at Rosai Ungolini Modern shows an attention to detail that conveys an articulate manifestation of his intention in each piece, as modeled in his heptaptych, “Rainbow ­Catastrophic Bifurcation”. The piece is made up of seven square panels, each its own matrix woven with nylon yarn and framed by iridescent Plexiglass. Each is created with analogous colors, with one color being the most prominent – i.e. the first panel’s main color is orange, and red and yellow reverberate through the background and in small details.

Emilio 2

Emilio Cavallini’s “Rainbow – Catastrophic Bifurcation” 1998

On the back wall of the gallery was “White ­Star­ like Catastrophic Bifurcation,” a circular piece about six feet wide. A single bright spotlight lit up the work, imbuing it with an aura of mystery and enchantment. Its presence seemed almost sacred – a sign that the show’s title is a fitting one. While viewing it, I wished it had been hung higher on the gallery wall, because it seemed to warrant a long upward stare. The intricate detail of the work gave way to an overall sense of peace and simplicity.

Emilio 1

Emilio Cavallini “White – Star-like Catastrophic Bifurcation” 1990

Even though Cavallini is already a very established name in the fashion industry, it was exciting to come across his artwork in a gallery setting. The connection to his work in textiles is evident in the materiality of the nylon yarn used in his artwork, though as the title of the show, “Transfiguration,” implies that this Italian fashion designer is able to transform the everyday fabric of hosiery into a spiritual and luminous experience for the viewer.

“Tranfiguration” was on view at the Rosai Ugolini Modern 9/24 – 12/6

48 Orchard St. NYC 10002 http://www.rosaiugolini.com/transfiguration/

Written by Collette Tompkins

Mark Benson Answers One Of Life’s Eternal Questions in Solo Show “How was your weekend?”

Mark Benson. 2015. Fan, beach ball.

“I worked the whole weekend. Again.” Mark Benson. 2015. Fan, beach ball.

Taking cues from the 9-5 (or is it 8-6 or longer?) sleep/shower/shave/work/weekend/repeat life, Mark Benson’s solo show, “How was your weekend?” at San Francisco’s Ever Gold Gallery starts with the most common of conversations held in jobs the world over, each and every Monday morning, shining a light on the mundane and repetitive in contemporary work culture.

“So? How was your weekend?”

Benson takes almost-found objects and obsessively recreates them through sculptures and paintings, elevating the sacred weekend activities, placing them on the pedestal of art within the holy walls of the gallery – a show of respect and honor for those times of magic and wonder that people share each and every Monday morning together.

“My weekend? My weekend was awesome. How was your weekend?”

Stuck in time and removed of the backyard, or the beaches, according to the gallery release, “a pall hangs over these moments alluding to them as dead and gone forever, or for at least another business week.” 

“I Went Camping For the First Time and Last Time”, Mark Benson. 2015. Cast plaster soap.

“I Went Camping For the First Time and Last Time”, Mark Benson. 2015. Cast plaster soap.

“I had the flu.” Mark Benson. 2015. Wet Newspaper.

“Not Good.” Mark Benson. 2015. Cast Plaster, tufstone, pigment, Imodium AD.

“We Did Absolutely Nothing.” Mark Benson. 2015. Printed jeans lounge pants, Vornado fans.

“We Did Absolutely Nothing.” Mark Benson. 2015. Printed jeans lounge pants, Vornado fans.

Much like a poor man’s Damien Hirst, Mark Benson’s work uses transformed, reinterpreted everyday objects to bring to life a variety of contemporary social issues and emotions, from anxiety around productivity to the fear of failure.

“My weekend? We went to the beach. It was awesome”

The question is, does Mr. Benson succeed? In a poor man’s way, yes.  Not only does a pall hang over the work, its weekend participants dead and gone, but a mundane repetitiveness hums through the space, from the flapping sweatpant jeans to the perpetually circling beach ball. The show becomes a museum to weekends past, from an ancient time when weekends were a thing.  See the beach ball – it goes round and round. Watch the fat pants – they go flap, flap, flap. Everything almost celebrates its own boringness. Even Mr. Benson, who was present, seemed bored by the work, of the gallery, of the visitors, and most of all of that damned question, asked every damn Monday:

“How was your weekend?”

How was his weekend? His weekend was terrible – he fought with his girl, her cat scratched his face, no one bought his art, his friend forgot to include him when they decided to go to the Beauty Bar, on and on and on. How was his weekend? His weekend was shit.

“It Was Great. I Got in Some Good Studio Time 1.” Mark Benson. 2015. Oil on canvas. 13×16 in.

“It Was Great. I Got in Some Good Studio Time 1.” Mark Benson. 2015. Oil on canvas. 13×16 in.

“It Was Great. I Got in Some Good Studio Time 2” Mark Benson, 2015. Oil on canvas.

“It Was Great. I Got in Some Good Studio Time 2” Mark Benson, 2015. Oil on canvas.

But is any of that in the art? Is Mark Benson in the art? Is there heart in the art? No. It’s all too cynical. There is too much about other people and their stuff, and their stories – those dead vanished people and their awesome weekends.

Those magical moments lost.

Does that mean it’s bad art? No.

Art too can be lonely, mundane, boring, cynical and repetitive. Even good art can be. I guess we are just going to have to keep an eye on this Mark Benson to see how good his gets.

P.S. Give the guy some money to go a little bit bigger. Benson’s work might even find some swagger as a result.

Mark Benson received his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2011. He currently lives in Oakland, CA.

Ever Gold Gallery, 441 O’Farrell St., San Francisco. 415-796-3676. evergoldgallery.com

Written by POVarts West Coast Editor: Chuck Frank

Jordan Doner Blows Up Luxury at Serge Sorokko Gallery

Jordan Doner photograph

Jordan Doner Revolution in Luxury

Jordan Doner’s debut solo show at Serge Sorokko Gallery called A Revolution in Luxury, is part of the artist’s ongoing series about fashion, consumption, and vague concepts of utopia. New York photographer Jordan Doner takes (supposedly) limited edition Louis Vuitton luxury handbags by Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince, fills them with explosives, and then documents the moment when the explosion occurs. The site-specific installation features large-scale color photographs, photo-etched metal plates, sculptures, walls of hung parachute material and video works.

According to Doner, the idea for the series came from researching mid-century utopianism. His research pointed him to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point. Doner was captivated and inspired by the final scene of the film, where in a tremendous explosion, a home with designer goods and space-age food, are all blown apart in beautiful slow motion.


By borrowing from the film’s critique of a consumerist utopia and the ‘blow-things-up’ technique, Doner took limited artist-edition Louis Vuitton handbags and detonating them in Upstate, New York. The photos and the harvested debris from these explosions were first exhibited the end of 2009.

Jordan Doner

Jordan Doner at Serge Soroko Gallery

This new series on display at Serge Sorokko Gallery, expands on those original explosions by packing the bags are with luxury ‘shrapnel’, as Doner calls it all – luxury watches, sparking jewelry, lipstick, stiletto heels, rhinestone encrusted cuffs, and silicone breast implants.

First, here are my doubts. At the prices that the bags go for, around $2500 – what if the bags are fakes? What if Doner’s critique is in fact a postured critique using fake bags? NYC, the artist’s hometown is known as a source for fake luxury bags in Chinatown. In which case, Doner’s desire to blow up the utopian consumerist ideals by blowing up symbolic representations of that ideal, in fact achieves only the opposite by blowing up fake luxury handbags. Because of the status of the bags within the context of this show is so paramount, I was hoping to see the actual tags and receipts somehow presented to verify the theoretical position of the explosion.

Secondly, there’s the question of the source material reference, and the artist’s dialogue with the work of Antonioni. Doner’s work should be seen as a cover version of the Antonioni, instead of an iteration of the idea, which would make the discussion much more interesting. If Doner’s work celebrates the blowing up, by replicating the explosion, with luxury goods or with other status signs, the homage becomes an action in support. The blow up then serves as an anti-consumerist utopian exercise.

Also in this series, Doner explores several contemporary artists in his Antonionian utopian critique of luxury arts by exploding scale replicas of Donald Judd’s volumetric “boxes” and an Equilibrium Tank sculpture by Jeff Koons – (that must be fakes). The gallery proclaims that the “debris from the destruction will be displayed alongside the resulting artworks in a near-forensic manner.” While I certainly take issue with the idea that the artworks are displayed in a near-forensic manner, once I understand the idea of the fake art work being part of the anti-consumerist exercise, by including a critique of contemporary art consumption, with the choice of the artists that he selects, the work really seems to start to take shape.

Doner Parachute copy

Lastly, the space is swaddled in backlit parachutes that are reflected and refracted with mirrors and photographed. With this, the artist crafts wall sculptures, mixing actual parachutes with his photographs of ones to create his own personal “utopias” in an attempt to fade the distinctions between the projected materialistic fantasies of a luxury class and everyday reality. In this way, according to Doner, the entombing of the gallery in white military parachutes blurs the representation and physicality of the artist’s utopian critique evident in the photos and videos.

Jordan Doner parachutes

Jordan Doner parachutes

With this I disagree. The images of the parachutes are beautiful, though they don’t really work in the ‘blow-up’ critique, nor do they suggest a new utopian path – and if they are meant to, that path is completely obscured. But the photographs are stunning regardless of the ‘new path’ suggestion.

The photographs and the videos are great. They are mostly pictures of things blowing up and that’s almost always pretty cool, and the parachute pictures are pretty.

And yes, as an Antonioni exercise, storied within a critique of class, consumption, luxury and fashion, it’s a great success. Though having been photographed by a fashion photographer, and on display along one of the toniest shopping streets in San Francisco, across from the Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen and Agent Provocateur store, where bras sell for $800, it’s also deeply and likely unintentionally ironic as well.

Jordan Doner window

Jordan Doner window

One must only wonder how Doner decided to price his artwork. Did he price them as surrogate luxury goods, critiquing the consumption of luxury goods?

Jordan Doner

Jordan Doner

With that last question everything becomes so meta that viewers heads are ready to explode, with the anti-utopian critique coming full circle back to the viewer.

The show marks Doner’s first exhibition in San Francisco.

Serge Sorokko Gallery 55 Geary Street San Francisco CA 94108 (415) 421.7770 http://www.sorokko.com

Written by POVarts West Coast Editor: Chuck Frank

What is #Gorgeous at the Asian Art Museum? You Tell Me.


Photo Credit: Chuck Frank

Having a vague concept of what gorgeous is, the Asian Art Museum partnered with the SFMOMA to present 72 artworks drawn in what appears to be a random sampling from both the collections of the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With woks spanning over 2,200 years and dozens of cultures, the Asian Art Museum made “an attempt to shift the focus from historical and cultural contexts, emphasizing instead the unique ways each work announces itself or solicits a viewer’s attention.” Just because Jeff Koon’s “Bubbles” (sculpture of Michael Jackson with his pet monkey) is placed next to a Buddha, does not make ‘context’ relevant and impact our understanding and appreciation of the work. Context requires more than just proximity.


Jeff Koons, “Bubbles”. Photo Credit: Art-Nerd.com

“Bubbles” is a statement to its own excess, and Koons’ particular brilliance, no matter where you set it down. “Bubbles” is the #gorgeous, but the curators, hoping that this new context makes us think of “Bubbles” in a different light, don’t succeed. Instead everything else looks old, colorless and drab. It reminds me of when lesser artists use a great movie as a source to make their art. The greatness is in the original movie, the derivative works just leech some of its power. You’re left thinking that you should just really re-watch that great movie – and ignore the art. Here, all you can think is that “Bubbles” and the many other great contemporary pieces would look so much better with some space to breath, without these beautiful artifacts that become like tchotchkes in a fussy antique store, cluttering the space.

The curators hoped that ‘left to (our) own devices, (we) might gravitate toward the strange or the familiar’ in what seems like a win – win situation. And when it comes to being ‘Gorgeous’ ‘some artworks may be beautiful to (us); others, bizarre and challenging’. Clearly they had no idea what gorgeous means. Here’s a hint – gorgeous is splendid or sumptuous in appearance, coloring, etc. Gorgeous is something that is magnificent. It is not strange, bizzare or challenging. “Whatever (gorgeous is), your reactions to the show will be unique. And that’s what interests us. And as Allison Harding, co-curator of “Gorgeous”, states, “This isn’t about what the museum thinks. This is about what you think.” Does that mean that “Gorgeous” is #muddy, #spiritless and #boring?

Because, that’s what I thought.


Photo Credit: News Time (ww1.hdnux.com)

Mixing contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs with art historical objects of high design or decoration (sacred or profane) is not curating. Making a meaningful point through art is. I found something a little condescending in the tone of the show, for instance the viewer was guided: “(a)cross from a Picasso, you might spot a decorated Qur’an from 16th-century Persia or an arresting photograph by Sally Mann.” Which in fact you do, because that’s what’s on display. #statingtheobvious. Hey, and you know what if you went to the #Gorgeous show at the Asian Art Museum, you might also have to walk up some stairs to get into the building, and if you are thirsty you might find yourself a drinking fountain to get a sip of water, and if you are really lucky you might find some escalators to take you up to the third floor where the truly amazing Buddhas are located. And there if you are really lucky, you’ll find yourself in the presence of truly great art, in a truly great institution. But whatever you find, you’ll not find any #gorgeous in this show, thanks to the exhibition’s misguided curatorial slackness.

It’s a pity that in the case of “Gorgeous” hosted by the Asian Art Museum there was not a greater whole created from the sum of the parts. Instead the parts competed in a mangled attempt to create an artistic dialogue around the idea of #gorgeous.


Photo Credit: Chuck Frank

Asian Art Museum’s video promotion for “Gorgeous” 

Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is located at:

200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

“Gorgeous” exhibition ran 6/20 – 9/14, 2014

Written by POVarts West Coast Editor: Chuck Frank

Marni Kotak’s “Mad Meds” at Microscope Gallery

Marni Kotak's "Mad Meds" at Microscope Gallery, 2014

Marni Kotak’s “Mad Meds” at Microscope Gallery, 2014

Marni Kotak’s recent show “Mad Meds” at Microscope Gallery was her third solo show at the gallery. The exhibition featured sculptures, videos, and photography, as well as Kotak’s live 6-week durational performance in the space. The exhibition recreated, in a way, a hospital stay but altered into a personalized sanctuary, rather than an anonymous oppressive institutional environment, while the artist weaned herself from depression medication. In 2011, Kotak gained instant notoriety, as well as national and international attention for doing a performance art piece around the birth of “Baby X”. Microscope Gallery was turned into a birthing room. Kotak gave birth to Baby X in the gallery. The story of the “Baby X” exhibit has grown to epic proportions, and in some ways eclipses the potential for the work to be just art. “Mad Meds” has a very different feel to it.

“Mad Meds” deals with similarly intimate and personal events – depression brought on by postpartum, the use of anti-depressants (Wellbutric, Abilify and Klonopin), and a weaning off of the drugs. The viewers are invited into the space to reflect on their own mental states and relationships to mental health. As a result of postpartum depression, Kotak endured a traumatic inpatient stay in the psychiatric ward at Beth Israel Hospital. This art installation/performance piece takes over the gallery and we’re asked to enter the space. Instead of a build up of expectations and energy as in “Baby X”, it is an unwinding and reflective space. The gallery is turned into a shrine, a temple of sorts with a gold elliptical machine, printed curtains and pillows, and upholstered hospital chairs – in gold and green (images of Tivoli Bays – surely influenced by her undergraduate days at Bard College). We are made witness to her process and her goals, as well as her rewards, such as a 10-foot trophy (made by the artist).

Marni Kotak's "Mad Meds" at Microscope Gallery, 2014

Marni Kotak’s “Mad Meds” at Microscope Gallery, 2014

What I really loved about this show, is that while Kotak is at the very center of the performance/space/art/installation, she is a conduit for a larger discussion on mental health, the personal experience of birthing, new motherhood and dealing with mental health issues such as depression, medication, and the weaning process off of medication. I was fortunate to sit and speak with Kotak (dressed in her gold hospital gown) during her performance about the 6-week withdrawal-performance piece.  I asked her about the oversized notes that she was writing on Bristol board. She informed me that her therapist had suggested using her non-dominant hand to write and journal as a way to access her deeper subconscious thoughts. I also asked her about what she found most surprising in her experience through the 6-week durational performance. She said that people, men and women, were making pilgrimages to see her from around the country to talk with her, to sit with her, in her self-empowered temple honoring the power of life experiences. She gave them spoken and unspoken assurance that mental health issues can be ok – to be embraced as transformational, instead of shunned and swept under the carpet of taboo.

Seeing Kotak’s work, one can come to understand in a moving way, how art indeed can have a shamanistic history, along with an aesthetic one.

The exhibition ran July 18 – August 25, 2014.


Microscope Gallery’s new address (Sept. 1, 2014) 1329 Willoughby Avenue, #2B, Brooklyn NY 11237

Written by POVarts East Coast Editor: Kit Franco

Swoon Soars at Brooklyn Museum

Swoon at the Brooklyn Museum. Exhibition view. Photo by Kit Franco.

Swoon at the Brooklyn Museum. Exhibition view. Photo by Kit Franco.

Swoon, who is now semi-revealing herself as Caledonia Curry, is a street artist turned gallery artist turned activist. Each role weaves in and out of what ends up being a stunning and elaborate installation “Swoon: Submerged Motherlands” in the rotunda gallery of the Brooklyn Art Museum.

In it she uses her signature large-scale block printing technique to achieve a heavy lined, graphic structure to her imagery. Surprising though, is how well the other elements of her artist vocabulary work together in this show. While there is a touch of Waterworld sci-fi in the weathered and sun-bleached patina of the overall aesthetic of the show – it seems to be there for good reason. Swoon is interested in addressing the aftermath and environment circumstance of Hurricane Sandy that devastated parts of New York, and in particular her own neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn. She has built sea-worthy boats of debris and remnants of land-based civilization. Car parts, packing crates, miscellaneous construction materials combine to create sophisticated forts that float. In fact, the maiden voyage for these unlikely vessels was one that went from Troy, NY down the Hudson River to Long Island Queens, NY in 2008. They were then disassembled, shipped and reassembled in Slovenia and used to crash the Venice Biennial as an unlikely visitor/participant in 2009. Besides the vision, persistence, and absolute dedication to her work, Swoon also needs to be credited for being able to work with a community of artists and assistants who she leads to create and show such amazing and visionary work. It takes tremendous talent, humility and gusto to get all of this done.

SWOON cutoutsSWOON vessel

In “Sumberged Motherland” the viewer walks into the top floor rotunda at the museum and is at first a little disoriented. Instead of a traditional clockwise or counter clockwise meandering to see an art exhibit, there is an immediate pull towards the center of the gallery. And there at the core of the installation is a huge fabric covered tree sculpture that reaches up 72 feet to the top skylight of the rotunda. The base of the tree stretches out in tendrils of fabric root systems, and is surrounded by various sculptures: the floating vessels/boats, a little house/hive that fits four people comfortably and invites viewers to sit, and a slew of blockprinted, wood-backed figures. Images of women abound. The artist references her mother, and the various life cycles that her mother has transitioned through. At the top of the house/hive structure is an image of a breast-feeding mother – grand and nurturing. The walls of the rotunda are streaked with yellow paint along the outer circle, and inside are streaked with a watery bluish green. There is an oceanic feeling that results and a field of blue fills one’s peripheral vision to support the boat voyage narrative. The range of materials and scale shifts work well in this installation. Intricate paper cutouts (mostly laser cut), add decorative filigree and juxtapose well against the weathered and distressed wood, metal, and other salvaged materials. Particularly stunning is how these cutouts, acting like stained glass elements against the skylight, fill the top of the rotunda. They cast dramatic shadows around the top of the architectural dome of the gallery. The dominant toned paper block-prints fit well with the overall earthy materiality of the show and support a sense of humility in the presents of nature. “Submerged Motherland” is a testament to Swoon’s development from making art for the streets, to making art for galleries, and then back again with literally more momentum and in more dimensions.

SWOON hive1

written by POVarts East Coast Editor: Kit Franco

The exhibition dates: April 11 – August 24, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum, NY