Check out BKLYNER.com for my post on Spencer Finch's Lost Man Creek currently on view at MetroTech Commons in downtown Brooklyn through March 2018.
Kara Walker's highly anticipated installation at Williamsburg's soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar Factory opened last weekend to long lines waiting in the rain. Commissioned by Creative Time, A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby is Walker's largest public art project to date and a departure from the delicate yet disturbing cut-paper silhouettes that the artist is best known for (see my post on the artist from September 2009 here and another from May 2011 here).
After waiting a little over 30 minutes in intermittent downpours last Saturday, and signing a waiver to enter the active construction site, visitors were greeted by an almost sickly sweet odor—a remnant of the refinery's earlier days (the factory has been vacant since 2004). Scattered throughout the massive, five-story space, fifteen life-size sculptures made from molasses depict child laborers carrying baskets and stalks of sugar cane. The sculptures will slowly melt where they stand as the weather gets warmer. At the far end of the space, a towering, sugar-coated sphinx crouches confidently, and perhaps, defiantly. Nude, aside from a mammy-style kerchief wrapped around her head, the sphinx is four-stories high and 75 feet long. The title of the work, A Subtlety, references elaborate sugar sculptures from the Middle Ages that served as centerpieces for the dinners of the wealthy. The subtitle of the exhibition: an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant reflects on the history of the Domino factory while addressing the connection between sugar production and slavery.
Thanks to Creative Time and Walker, the Domino Sugar Factory, which will be soon be demolished to make way for residential and commercial developments, is making a grand exit from Williamsburg after more than 120 years. A Subtlety is a commanding and thought-provoking installation. My one qualm with the exhibiton was all the sexy selfies people insisted on snapping—posing like they were licking the sphinx's derriere or groping her breasts, pretending to take a bite of the sculptures of the child laborers, and preening for vacant-faced "fashion" photos. Seriously?! Artwork representing oppression and exploitation shouldn't be trivialized like this. Walker and her work warrant more respect and contemplation. Learn more at creativetime.org and nytimes.com. Through July 6th.
Ai Weiwei's must-see According to What? has arrived at the Brooklyn Museum—a triumphant final stop for the touring exhibition. The Brooklyn Museum features 30 works spanning over 20 years of the multimedia artist and activist's career. Many of these works were displayed at the Hirshhorn Museum last year (see my post here), however, Brooklyn has a few newer works on view that were created after the artist's 81-day detention by the Chinese government in 2011. The museum's lobby has on display S.A.C.R.E.D., 6 large iron boxes equipped with small windows allowing viewers to peer into claustrophoic scenes of Ai's imprisonment. The detailed fiberglass reenactments show two officers watching the artist closely in his cell as he sleeps, eats, showers, and uses the toilet.
A site-specific installation, Stacked (2014), features 700 stainless steel bicycles neatly arranged into a towering piece that reflects on the artist's childhood as well as represents an important part of daily life to many people in China.
Up in the museum's fifth and fourth floors, be sure to check out Ye Haiyan's Belongings (2013), an installation composed of the actual possessions of an activist who campaigns for women's rights and AIDS awareness. Due to her activisim, Ye and her family have been evicted from their home by the Chinese authorities on several occasions. In the early morning of July 6, 2013, secret police went to Ye's home, forced her and her family to pack their belongings, drove them out of town, and dumped them and their possessions on the side of the road, ordering them not to return. The installation is a precise reconstruction of Ye's belongings after being dropped off in the middle of nowhere. In a room just off the gallery where Ye Haiyan's Belongings is on display, be sure to watch Stay Home! (2013) a video telling the heart wrenching story of Liu Ximei, who at 10 years old, after suffering a serious injury while working on the fields, was given a transfusion with HIV-contaminated blood.
Also, check out a bit of 258 Fake (2003 - 2011), a video installation featuring 12 monitors showcasing photos taken between 2003 - 2011 (some posted to Ai's blog before the government shut it down in 2009). Organized in categories like animals, architecture, exhibitions, and food, the images offer viewers a glimpse into the artist's studio, his everyday life, as well as his sense of humor.
Since Ai's passport was confiscated by Chinese authorities, he was unable to travel to Brooklyn to oversee the installation of the exhibition. Read a short article on how the artist, the exhibit's curator, Sharon Matt Atkins, and 4 installers worked around this obstacle at brooklynpaper.com. Learn more about Ai Weiwei: According to What? at brooklynmuseum.org. Through August 10th.
S.A.C.R.E.D, 2011 - 2013
S.A.C.R.E.D, 2011 - 2013
Safe Sex, 1986
Profile of Marcel Duchamp in a Coat Hanger, 1986
Ye Haiyan's Belongings, 2013
Ye Haiyan's Belongings, 2013
Snake Ceiling, 2009 and He Xie, 2010
Straight, 2008 - 2012
Straight, 2008 - 2012
258 Fake, 2003 - 2011
On an unassuming block in Fort Greene, under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, a series of 5 noise-activated metal gates playfully light up in response to the sounds of the busy surrounding streets. Silent Lights debuted last month at the intersection of Navy Street and Park Avenue in Brooklyn, on a pedestrian pathway situated beside a parking lot under the BQE. Created by the design studio Urban Matter, with support from the NYC DOT, the public art installation is composed of 2,400 LED lights and sound equipment. When triggered by passing street noise, the gates illuminate in colorful patterns, visualizing the noise pollution in a beautiful, serene manner.
Silent Lights brings a bit of life and color to an otherwise dark and ordinary city block. Take a stroll through the interactive work and enjoy the art of noise. Learn more at urbanmatterinc.com and watch a video of the Urban Matter team discussing the project here. Through November 2014.
Verge Art Brooklyn was a wee bit confusing to navigate as it took place in six buildings around DUMBO and on multiple floors of said buildings. 111 Front Street seemed to be the center of activity since the Brooklyn Art Now: 2011 Survery Exhibiton was on display in various rooms of the second floor and resident galleries and art organizations were hosting shows here. The connecting building, 55 Washington Street, housed Art Brooklyn Artist's Project Spaces where several local artists had set up booths showcasing their work. When I was there Friday night, some artists had arranged themselves impressive, functional stations while others seemed to be still in the early stages of setting up, drilling and hammering away...
Over at the street level venue of 81 Front Street, a sprinkling of international galleries had set up shop in the eerily quiet and ghost-town-like space where many booths seemed to have been abandoned. One Main Street also had a ground floor venue in a rather raw, unfinished space. Again, it was pretty quiet here and booths were left unmanned. 20 Jay Street's Suite 312 hosted an Open Call Exhibition which featured work by artists from across the U.S. as well as from Germany and Japan, but by this point, the chilly weather outside and the odd atmosphere inside the exhibition spaces had left me cold. I knew I was over it when a nice couple mentioned to me and my friend that there was free beer over at the 81 Front Street venue and the lure of free booze couldn't tempt me back.
While I'm glad that Brooklyn got in on the action of Armory Arts Week and I got to see some exciting work (I especially liked pieces by Chiezo and Nick Yulman), there was an unenthusiastic and perhaps unorganized vibe throughout. I hope this won't deter Verge Art Brooklyn from happening again next year. Hopefully they'll be able to iron out the kinks by then. Learn more at brooklynartfair.com.
Nick Yulman, Song Cabinet, 111 Front Street (when opened, the mechanized drawers play melodies created by the contents in each—bottles, shells, a xylophone... When all four drawers are opened at once, the "instruments" play in harmony.)
When thinking of Pop art, Andy Warhol immediately springs to mind, as do Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and scores of other male artists' names. The Brooklyn Museum's current exhibit hopes to change this imbalance. Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968 on view in the museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art "examines the impact of women artists on the traditionally male-dominated field of Pop art," (from the museum's website).
Pop art emerged in the 1950s blurring the line between fine and commercial art with bold, vibrant works that commented on society, popular culture, and consumerism by incorporating everyday items and imagery taken from advertising, packaging, newspapers, and comic strips. With over 50 pieces on display, Seductive Subversion brings together the work of a number of "important female artists... working internationally during this period," including Evelyne Axell, Pauline Boty, Vija Celmins, Chryssa, Niki de Saint Phalle, Rosalyn Drexler, Dorothy Grebenak, Kay Kurt, Yayoi Kusama, Jann Haworth, Kiki Kogelnik, Lee Lozano, Marisol, Mara McAfee, Marta Minujin, Barbro Ostlihn, Faith Ringgold, Martha Rosler, Marjorie Strider, May Stevens, Idelle Weber, Joyce Wieland, May Wilson, and more. Some highlights include: Strider's Green Triptych featuring a bikini-clad woman whose 3-D breasts pop off the canvas; Drexler's vivid paintings that "appropriate[d] pulp imagery from 1940s film noir, Hollywood B-movies and tabloid culture" (from show's notes); Chryssa's neon sculptures inspired by the bright lights of Times Square; and Weber's Mad Men-ish and Ska-ish, seventeen-foot-long triptych Munchkins I, II, & III showing silhouetted businessmen riding criss-crossing escalators in the former PanAm building against a vivid yellow and black checked background.
Decades later, Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968 celebrates the many talented yet under-recognized women of Pop art and their contributions to the movement. Learn more at Brooklynmuseum.org. Through January 9, 2011.
Head over to the Brooklyn Museum to check out the mid-career survey of 25-year Williamsburg resident Fred Tomaselli. The exhibit, Tomaselli's first major solo show in New York, showcases about 50 of his signature mixed-media paintings from 1990 to the present. The artist's detailed, elaborate works are created using a combination of cutout images of birds, plants, mouths, and eyes culled from field guides and magazines, pills (Oxycotin, aspirin, Benadryl...) leaves, hemp, and paint. The results are dynamic, colorful, kaleidoscopic images that require long studies both up-close and from afar. The museum has divided the artist's works into four galleries—the first displays his abstracts; the second shows his figurative works; the third, his avian images; and the fourth exhibits 15 pieces from a recent series of prints and collages in which Tomaselli takes a copy of the New York Times front page and alters the images with his own distinctive touch. The fourth gallery also shows a few samples of CD covers that feature music-lover Tomaselli's artwork for bands including Magnetic Fields and Phish.
The son of Swiss immigrants, the 54-year-old Tomaselli was raised in southern California, where the "manufactured reality" of the theme parks he grew up near influenced the artist along with "the music and drug counterculture of Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s," (from Brooklyn Museum's website). Unsurprisingly, Tomaselli's "hobbies of gardening, kayaking, and bird-watching" also serve as influences in his work. Referencing art history and pop culture, Tomaselli meticulously creates works that are surreal and spectacular. Learn more at Brooklynmuseum.org and check out an interview with the artist at observer.com where he discusses the exhibit, his work, and moving his studio to Bushwick. Through January 2, 2011.
Work of Art winner Abdi Farah's solo exhibit Luminous Bodies, currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum, is nerdily and endearingly named after a line from The Empire Strikes Back. Jedi Master Yoda wisely tells Luke Skywalker, "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." Farah's small but impressive exhibit examines "the body as a material entity that possesses the potential to transcend its physical being" (from museum's notes).
The centerpiece of the exhibit is Libation, the two sculptures (that look a whole lot like Farah wearing basketball shorts and sneakers) that were featured prominently on Work of Art's finale episode. Baptism, Farah's life-size, charcoal and dirt drawing that won the competition's nature challenge is also on view. Not featured on the television show (that I remember, anyway) are Ichabod and Grey (Farewell Line), two skillful, naturalistic works showing from behind figures weighed down with baggage. Alien, Mirror, Poor Reflection, and Tuskegee (Warm Body) are self-portraits done in shocking hues emulating infrared lighting and imaging. The beautiful and saddening Untitled and Home show obscured figures encased in body bags suggesting, as the show's notes state, "the expiration of 'crude matter' and, perhaps, a threshold to another state of being."
With this series of work, Farah aims to bring attention to "the disenfranchised in our culture." He forces viewers to look at the people we typically avert our eyes from and presents them as, like Yoda says, "luminous beings." Farah proves that along with being an exuberant and very likable t.v. personality, he has a lot of promise, talent, and drive. Learn more at Brooklynmuseum.org and at the artist's website Abdiart.com. Through October 17th.
Not a whole lot going on these days — summer shows are winding down and galleries and museums are prepping for their big Fall shows. There's practically tumbleweed blowing around the streets of West Chelsea! Here are a few things to tide you over in the meantime...
~More ART (Art Reality Television) - The Ovation cable network (channel 83 for those with Time Warner) has 11 art-oriented programs on offer for those who are suffering from Work of Art withdrawal. While the shows mainly focus on art theft and heists this week, one show last week titled Money Money Money dished on the "commercialization of contemporary art" and another called Art Race featured two struggling artists racing across America in 40 days using only their talent and artwork to pay for all their needs and essentials (hopefully they'll repeat these in the near future). Alas, it seems doubtful there will be any over-the-top outfits to ogle like the ones worn by WOA's China Chow and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. Read the full story at artinfo.com.
~Labor Day Weekend in the City - If you aren't joining the mass exodus heading out of the city for the long holiday weekend, you might want to take advantage of the thinner crowds at the 1st Thursdays DUMBO Gallery Walk (September 2nd) and/or the third annual Governors Island Art Fair. Organized by The 4heads Collective, the 2010 Governors Island Art Fair will occur every Saturday and Sunday from 11am-6pm throughout the month of September (from the 4th-26th). And though I don't think the crowds will be any smaller, there's PS.1's final Warm Up line-up of the summer. DFA's Holy Ghost! will perform. I guess this means summer is officially over :(
~Nick Cave's Soundsuits in Vogue - I didn't want to shell out the cash or break my back hauling around the September issue of US Vogue, but while flipping through someone else's issue I noticed an eight-page accessories spread featuring some bright and furry Soundsuits by the artist Nick Cave. The editorial is called Monsters, Inc and was shot by Raymond Meier. You can check out the images at thefashionspot.com. They look like awesome, psychedelic Muppets with a taste for designer handbags and shoes.
~Brooklyn or Bust - The New York Times asked a bunch of museum directors, artists, and business executives for suggestions on a business plan for The Brooklyn Museum. While the museum has tried re-branding itself by adding a completely out-of-place glass entrance hall a few years back, hosting free First Saturday festivities every month, and exhibiting a solo show for the soon-to-be-announced winner of Bravo's Work of Art, the institution still unfairly lacks the prestige its Manhattan counterparts enjoy. I liked the suggestions artist William Powhida and Rochelle Slovin, the Director of The Museum of the Moving Image, offered best. Powhida suggests the museum organize a survey show of contemporary Brooklyn artists and "engage one of its greatest assets, artists working in Brooklyn..." Slovin's advice is straightforward: "Continue to take excellent care of your treasured collections... more great exhibitions, more performances, more joyful noise." Chairman of the Blackstone Group, Stephen A. Schwarzman, also has an excellent tip — "to instill the same feeling of pride that New Yorkers feel about other institutions that make this city great, from Central Park to Yankee Stadium." It's The Brooklyn Museum fer chrissakes! Represent and take advantage of that borough's fervent pride! Read the full article at nytimes.com.
~Tim Nye: Art Guy - The NYTs also has a profile on former dot-com entrepreneur turned gallery owner, Tim Nye. Nye, who opened Nyehaus in a four-story brownstone on West 20th Street last year, organized the recent, three-gallery-spanning Swell shows which featured surf themed and/or inspired art. Read the article at nytimes.com.
~Jerry Saltz's Top Twenty - New York Magazine Art Critic and Work of Art judge Jerry Saltz makes like Nick Hornby and lists his top twenty favorite paintings in New York. His selections include works by Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, Philip Guston, Paul Cezanne, Marsden Hartley, Kazimir Malevich, Georgia O'Keefe, Edouard Manet, Goya, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio from collections at The Met, MoMA, The Guggenheim, The Frick, The Brooklyn Museum and The Hispanic Society of America. While it's cool to learn Saltz's top picks and discover some new works, the highlights of the article are his smart, charming, and passionate descriptions. Check out his list and see a slideshow of his selections at nymag.com.
~Bookworms Rejoice! - David Zwirner Gallery is launching its first annual summer Pop-Up Bookstore next Monday for one week only. From Monday, August 9th - Friday, August 13th, the pop-up shop will have special offers on rare and out-of-print books, signed artist catalogues, DVDs, and more. The Pop-Up Bookstore will be open from 10:00am - 6:00pm daily except on Wednesday and Thursday when it will stay open until 7:30pm. Shop early and shop often! Learn more at Davidzwirner.com.