All photos courtesy of POVarts staff.
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.
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.
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
I had high hopes for “Analogue”, Zoe Leonard’s 10-year plus project now on view at The Museum of Modern Art. All artists of my generation, including myself, are affected by and respond differently to this overwhelming datascape we have at our disposal. Leonard’s approach is archival though not nostalgic and without a directive moral. She begins her investigation, over ten years ago, in her quotidian surroundings and traces them to where they reach beyond her immediate environs. The data is presented in the form of photographs that record either a storefront that used to exist in her Lower East Side neighborhood or a market place, somewhere far away, where the goods from the former store have been relocated for sale. Leonard archives and collects data, which gathers critical distance and mass over the time. The work brings to mind Berndt and Hilla Becher’s work, both in its documentary form and its focus on the architecture of the place, and format, square photographs arranged in grids.
The show, installed in MoMA’s atrium, is comprised of 412 photos, each square in format and held with clean L clips, arranged in various square or rectangular grids, like chapters, forming a non-regular but clean looking order. The differences in sizes of grids, rows and columns allows for fluidity and visual variation, while the uniform spacing between individual images maintains visual rigor. MoMA’s atrium is a space that has so much flux going on it can be hard for artworks to hold focus. The installation itself, the curatorial work of Roxana Marcoci and her photography department in collaboration with the artist, is beautiful; it is pared down but not too spare, and it makes a powerful impression. Both the installation and the work are strong, disciplined and serious, the installation in service to the work, demanding respect. My only complaint in viewing the pieces is that there is glare on some of the photos, making it hard to examine the works individually – too bad because the individual elements in the photos are a crucial layer of the work and the project’s attempt to follow the pieces globally.
The work itself begins by tracking a largely gone, fabric-based sales area of the Lower East Side, Leonard’s own neighborhood and path of daily routine. Having lived and worked in the East Village and Lower East Side for a long time, the photographs were of interest to me in part because I wanted to identify the former locations. But they hold interest beyond my own curiosity. They are straight-on, honest and plain images, documentary in form, owing to Walker Evans’ legacy among others, that allow the viewer to sample the data on view without bias of unusual camera angle or sentiment (aside from some nostalgia that cannot help but be perceived as with anything lost or bygone). The images of these storefronts and their consistency of view is exacting as they document no longer existing specimens from the Lower East Side.
The work continues past the storefronts to track the goods once sold inside the Lower East Side establishments and now part of a global storefront. While I appreciate the conceptual tracking of goods, the artist’s investigation, and her desire to trace our globally fragmented world in which goods are endlessly moved about, the work loses some of its rigor when it tries to take on the varying architectures of the myriad places where the goods have travelled to. I wish she had applied a colder, tighter and more architecturally focused frame to the marketplaces as she did to the storefronts. The images of the storefronts are consistently framed, giving equal value to each, and no preference of a deli over a fabric store for example. However, once Leonard follows the goods from these storefronts, the frame is, inevitably lost, as markets and shipping yards cannot necessarily be captured from equal distances, angles, lines of entry. As a result, the roughly second half of the show holds less power than the first half. I wish the artist could have maintained a similar meticulousness to the framing of the marketplaces, whether shooting individual stalls within a larger market or some other constraint that allowed these images to be more formally consistent. Much of the appeal of the storefronts is their laboratory-like examination. Once the documentation leaves the Lower East Side, so too does the feeling of examining specimens or data.
Some of this may have to do with editing. Leonard’s photos number somewhere beyond 10,000. The task of editing this to 412 is immense – just the ability to layout the images to view at once – affects how the viewer interprets it. Still, there is a responsibility for the artist or the curator/exhibitor to deal with the plethora of visual data, especially in our contemporary visual culture of image saturation. The selection process and what is selected becomes a major part of the artwork. The conceptual strength of the project carries through, and the idea that Leonard followed her initial storefront photographs across the world as a means of tracking gentrification and globalization is valid and more than worthy of pause. But, I cannot help feeling that the work takes on a nostalgia or a potential bias that detracts from the message of global goods, once the persistent frame is lost.
On view at the Museum of Modern Art June 25–August 30, 2015
Written by Katherine Keltner, Contributing Writer to POVarts
Jacqueline Humphries’ new large-scale paintings, recently on view at Greene Naftali’s new ground floor space, are an exploration of what we might call screen noise abstracted into paintings that I don’t want to stop looking at.
The press release explains the artist’s desire to recreate the “spatial and temporal logic of a world increasingly dominated by screens” and the paintings certainly communicate that. Their din, though, is not an unbearable over-saturation or constant movement that has the effect of numbing the eyes and mind. When I entered the gallery, I did not feel overwhelmed or put upon, the way I do when I sit down in a taxi and a screen starts making noise and movements in my direction. The paintings here provide a relatively quiet and pleasant greeting with a mix of graphic black and whites, blues, purples, greens, and pinks. A glow pervades the works and her signature silver underpainting reads otherworldly like the din of light of a computer screen in a darkened room.
:::, 2014, Oil on linen, 100×111 inches
As I looked more closely at the individual works, I got a strong sense of humming in the background or foreground of each work. In fact, there is no clear distinction between foreground and background in the works; rather they are generously and densely layered with swaths of paint and repeated patterns of ready-made marks, without a sequential need for which came first or which should be given visual primacy. The layers are distilled enough to identify the different images, colors and patterns, but none are really preferenced in the paintings. Some, like Ω, are more like static or white noise – layers melting into layers without any elements popping out, while 🙂 comes close to noise that cannot be distinguished – a highly abstract sea of marks.
Ω, 2015, Oil on linen, 100×111 inches
: ), 2015, Oil on linen, 114×127 inches
Others, like Xx, are more discreetly layered and swaths of paint can be delineated from printed patterns of emoticons. Overall, there is a non-preciousness to the images. Humphries does not cling to any particular emoticon as prized or special. Each is just a mark contributing to the overall visual song. They are all readily available and seemingly everywhere.
The result for me was a beautiful dreamlike state of uncertainty and suspension from grounding either in real space or alternative, digital space. Disjointing my sense of location though not aesthetics (I very much enjoyed looking at these), Humphries gives us a line to walk between the binary digital/analog divide. She communicates the dislocation between real, flat and digital spaces, and our near constant surround by one or all simultaneously, and rewards the viewers aesthetically in a way I have yet to see digital work do.
While these paintings represent a departure from her provisional painting style, the departure does not strike me as conceptually radical. In earlier works, the unfinished nature of the painting was conveyed primarily through brushwork. These paintings too can be read as unfinished or, at least, to be continued. While the painting, printing, and stenciling are on the whole decisive and confident, the message may well be that these are not complete in the same way that what passes in front of us on a screen is never really complete. The paintings become captured moments in the midst of non-stop action that is life.
Xx, 2014, Oil on linen, 100×111 inches
508 W 26th St, New York, NY 10001
Written by Katherine Keltner, Contributing Writer to POVarts
Billed as the summer of great American art, and promoted as “the largest outdoor art show ever conceived.” The Art Everywhere US campaign was comprised of 58 artworks, reproduced to a total of 50,000 times, and seen from coast-to-coast throughout August 2014. However ambitious the project was, it failed to break through the visual noise of the city (where we at POVarts saw it). Instead, it either makes the case against painting and photographic art in the public realm, or makes the case for the deep abiding need to support galleries and museums as the primary place to see art.
Much like orchestral music choking in the face of rock ‘n’ roll, these fine paintings and photographs whisper valiantly, but without success in the face of their brash commercial graphic relatives. The worst part of the campaign is that it is a foil to great advertising, as almost everything about the formal layout of the campaign fails. Let’s start with the questionable relationship between the original scale of the artworks, and their enlarged reproductions for the billboard format. And then there’s a tangle of words aligned at the bottom corner accompanied by a colored dot with white numbers. The dot doesn’t say anything more that that. It doesn’t tell you that this is 24 out of 58 works. It’s just a numbered dot. The words spell out the artist’s name, the name of the artwork, and the relevant museum collection. At the top of the frame is the hashtag #ArtEverywhereUS. Whereas #ArtEverwhereUs might have been slightly more intriguing, suggesting that in fact we are all the Art, and we are Everywhere. Next, there’s the white frame around the reproduced artwork. Perhaps it is meant to suggest the museum galleries’ white walls, but the effect is a strange off-centeredness of the image in an ad space. The visual noise of the city creeps in, and its cacophony ultimately swallows the reproduced artworks. The city suffers no weakness, and here art feels listless, gaunt and anemic.
Walter Benjamin anticipated art’s loss of aura through mechanical reproduction, and here we see his notions materialize. Instead of showcasing art for the masses to see, these works are literally flattened out, losing their specific presence in time and space. While these great artworks may be liberated from a kind of ritual viewing that is part of their being seeing in a museum setting, they enter into a new kind of ritual space, one of desire and consumption. There is an irony that these literally priceless (or very pricey) art objects fill the frame of signage space usually reserved for advertising things to people, to consume, but cannot afford. (Or perhaps in this case, cannot afford to see in person.)
We have to wonder about why this public space wasn’t opened up for contemporary and/or emerging artists who don’t have their work hanging in the galleries in haloed museums? For some great examples of billboard space used for contemporary and context specific art see the work done by the Billboard Art Project.
Next to the vibrancy of the street graffiti, #ArtEverywhereUS might even make the case for the aerosol kings who roam the streets after dark showing us what art everywhere might actually look like. In the end, here’s our suggestion – put on great museum shows, and advertise them with the verve and gusto that is the billboard’s common language. Let people know that they’ll be awed and surprised in their local museums, for a short time only, and on some days it’s buy one ticket, get one free.
Written by Chuck Frank (POVarts West Coast Editor) and Kit Franco (East Coast Editor)
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).
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, 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.
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.
written by POVarts East Coast Editor: Kit Franco
The exhibition dates: April 11 – August 24, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum, NY