An open-ended look at contemporary art – both inside the Walker and out – as framed by our Visual Arts curators.
For me, things have to be life-size or larger. I believe it is possible to bring something so close that you can see through it, so it comes to you right off the wall. I like to bring things into unexpected immediacy—as if someone thrust something right next to your face—a beer bottle or his […]
For me, things have to be life-size or larger. I believe it is possible to bring something so close that you can see through it, so it comes to you right off the wall. I like to bring things into unexpected immediacy—as if someone thrust something right next to your face—a beer bottle or his shirt cuff—and said, “How do you like it?”
—James Rosenquist, 1965
James Rosenquist, a key figure in the Pop art movement, passed away on March 31, 2017 at age 83. Rosenquist was known for his large-scale, vivid, and colorful paintings that combined and cropped imagery that reflected the excesses of postwar consumer America—movie stars, automobiles, domestic objects, and food items.
Like his peer, Ed Ruscha, who brought the techniques of layout, illustration, and lettering with him into painting, or Andy Warhol, who was a successful commercial illustrator in New York in the 1950s, Rosenquist similarly incorporated commercial techniques into his artistic practice. The artist was deeply influenced by his time working as a sign and billboard painter in the 1950s, translating the size, format, and mass-recognized imagery of billboards onto his canvases. Asserting larger-than-life images, Rosenquist transgressed categories and pushed the boundaries that defined what art could be and how it could be experienced.
Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and lived in various cities in Minnesota and Ohio in his early childhood until his family settled in Minneapolis in 1944. In junior high school, Rosenquist studied art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and in 1952 he enrolled in the studio art program at the University of Minnesota. During the summer break of 1953 Rosenquist worked for a contractor painting gas station signs, storage tanks, and grain silos, before he left college to pursue his artistic career in New York in 1955. In order to support himself in the big city, where he was studying at the Art Students League, Rosenquist painted billboards in 1957 to 1960—advertisements for movies, liquor, and soft drinks—and was briefly employed by Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation, painting some of the largest billboards in the world.
Rosenquist began his early artistic career in Minneapolis, and over the course of his life presented his work at the Walker Art Center on numerous occasions. While his early work was primarily rooted in Abstract Expressionism—evident in his 1957 painting, Passing Before the Horizon that was included in the 1958 Biennial: Paintings, Prints, Sculpture at the Walker Art Center—in 1960 he began to work with existing commercial imagery, and soon adopted his signature billboard-inspired, mural-scaled paintings. In 1964 Rosenquist started making the painting for which he is perhaps best know, the monumental F-111. At an astounding 86 feet in length, with panels that occupy multiple successive walls, the painting’s central subject is an F-111 bomber plane, which was being developed at the time for use in the Vietnam War. The plane collides with visual imagery ranging from food to consumer items to war references, drawing links between the Vietnam War, consumerism, the media, and advertising.
After F-111 Rosenquist created a series of five large-scale paintings with winged, Mylar side panels that enabled the paintings to take up three-dimensional space. The Mylar panels serve to extend each painting by reflecting it, refuting the finality of its outer edges. As early as 1963, Rosenquist was concerned with “purging myself of devices that would put boundaries on my pictures.” One of these works—a 1970 painting in the Walker permanent collection, Area Code—presents fragmented images of a bird’s wings and telephone wires sharply severed, perhaps indicating the artist’s interest in mass media and communication.
Rosenquist was also an accomplished printmaker. Resistant to the medium at first because of the difficulty of translating the splintered compositions of his paintings into print form, Rosenquist eventually began working with Kenneth Tyler, of the renowned Tyler Graphics Ltd., who introduced him to paper pulp—a medium that offered a surface similar to that of painting. Rosenquist explained to Tyler that he wanted to make prints as big as paintings, and to work in a spontaneous manner akin to painting, and Tyler responded, “OK, I’ll make the biggest pieces of handmade paper you’ve ever seen.” Together the pair made some of the most boundary-pushing prints of Rosenquist’s career. A repository of the archives of Tyler Graphics, the Walker holds many of Rosenquist’s works on paper, including his most ambitious prints from the series Welcome to the Water Planet (1989–1990). Made at an unprecedented scale—so large that the Walker had to build new drawers to accommodate their size—the prints were inspired by the vegetation of Florida, where Rosenquist had a studio. The works were scaled-up versions of smaller collages, featuring a splicing technique that meshed foreground with disparate background imagery. The series reflected the artist’s disquiet with what was happening to the earth.
Rosenquist continued to experiment with printmaking techniques, and in 1993 the Walker hosted a retrospective of his editions, James Rosenquist: Time Dust|The Complete Graphics, organized by the University Art Museum at California State University. The survey of more than 100 prints examined the artist’s graphic production from his groundbreaking Pop images to the mural-sized handmade paper and lithographic collage prints. Rosenquist was a prolific image maker, undeterred even after his Florida studio burned in 2009. He was described as having a child’s energy, and he liked to move around and dance. “Let’s boogey” was one of his favorite expressions, meaning “Let’s go.” To Rosenquist, who worked ever since he could remember, movement implied work. Rosenquist was a devotee of the ever-moving, the infinite, the larger-than-life. And while the scale of his work brought immediacy to the subject, he stated, “The reason for bigness isn’t largeness. It’s to be engulfed by peripheral vision; it questions the self and questions self-consciousness.”
In Frank Big Bear’s newest collage—on view now in the Walker’s new Target Project Space—universes are created and collided. Sourced from magazines and books and referencing topics from space and time to history, art, science, and people, hundreds of images are juxtaposed and superimposed. Photos of the Vietnam War mix with pictures of Patti Smith, hairless cats, and Chicago’s “bean” sculpture. […]
In Frank Big Bear’s newest collage—on view now in the Walker’s new Target Project Space—universes are created and collided. Sourced from magazines and books and referencing topics from space and time to history, art, science, and people, hundreds of images are juxtaposed and superimposed. Photos of the Vietnam War mix with pictures of Patti Smith, hairless cats, and Chicago’s “bean” sculpture. Figureheads of the American Indian Movement share space with fashion nudes, famous artworks, and Minnesota landmarks. Dubbed Walker Collage, Multiverse #10, the work—the artist’s largest to date—consists of 432 panels, each composed on an invitation card for an exhibition by his son, Star Wallowing Bull. It is at once a microcosmic view of life on Earth and a personal endeavor—throughout the piece, the artist interspersed family photos and plastic photo corners, which might evoke a family album. The work is also dedicated to the artist’s late brother, the poet Joseph E. Big Bear.
The work occupies a prominent location, spanning the entire wall of the Walker’s new restaurant, Esker Grove, and is visible from Vineland Place. Created especially for this space, The Walker Collage, Multiverse #10 will be on view for a full year—and, given its depth and rich details, it invites multiple and extended visits.
Based in Minnesota, Big Bear is known for his elaborately detailed drawings, paintings, and collages that portray a world overflowing with vitality, activity, people, and creatures, like this 1989–1990 drawing in the Walker’s permanent collection. Big Bear’s drawings mesh and meld imagery in a frenetic assemblage manner, which perhaps enabled him to easily transition into collage making—a recent shift for the artist.
Fitting with the collage’s focus on intersecting worlds, the artist has agreed to share with us his Facebook updates, posted throughout the development of Multiverse #10. Collectively, they unearth some of the personal, cultural, and artistic influences behind the work while sharing aspects of his life and artistic process, from his time driving taxi to his love for Spoonbridge and Cherry to his endless appetite for reading. Here we are given a rare glimpse into the parallel existence of Big Bear and his collage.
What struck me most about the artist Benjamin Patterson was his lightness of spirit, and his playful way of approaching just about everything. I met Patterson in 2014 when he visited us at the Walker to present several performances as part of the exhibition, Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. I was amazed by […]
What struck me most about the artist Benjamin Patterson was his lightness of spirit, and his playful way of approaching just about everything. I met Patterson in 2014 when he visited us at the Walker to present several performances as part of the exhibition, Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. I was amazed by his generosity, his fierce memory, and his remarkable ability to tell stories, especially at the noble age of 80. Patterson, who passed away June 25, was a founding member of Fluxus, an international, postwar art movement that challenged traditional art-making modes by combining visual art, music, and performance. Like his Fluxus peers, Patterson created instruction-based works—what he called “compositions for actions”—that encouraged situations allowing for direct engagement with participants or the audience, often through humorous actions. Fluxus unlocked the potential of art to be fun, engaging, and accessible to all people, making it perhaps the most influential and significant experiments in the history of art. (more…)
Recently I had the immense pleasure of visiting Mark Manders’s studio in Ronse, Belgium, to view his progress on the sculpture the Walker commissioned—his first major public artwork in the United States—for next June’s opening of the newly renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It’s one of 16 new works (including five commissioned by the Walker) that will […]
Recently I had the immense pleasure of visiting Mark Manders’s studio in Ronse, Belgium, to view his progress on the sculpture the Walker commissioned—his first major public artwork in the United States—for next June’s opening of the newly renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It’s one of 16 new works (including five commissioned by the Walker) that will animate the campus. The Walker’s history with Manders dates back to 2011 when we hosted a touring exhibition of his work, the first in North America.
My journey to meet the artist began with my renting a car in Brussels and entrusting GPS to guide me to the remote Flemish town of Ronse, where Manders lives and works. I approached a large red wooden gate, pressed a doorbell, and was greeted by the artist who led me into his home. I met his partner and his five-week-old baby boy, who was sleeping, and began to understand why Manders has chosen to live and work in this peaceful and idyllic environment. The town is situated outside of the fast-paced art world, where the artist has the resources and headspace to create massive sculptures that at once assert their monumentality, timelessness, and fragility.
Manders is known for creating surreal and hauntingly evocative sculptural installations that feature stoic figures reminiscent of ancient Rome and Greece. The artist uses deceptive materials for the works—first constructed from molded wet clay and wood, then cast in bronze—which are then painted to look indistinguishable from the original components. During our three-hour visit, I caught a rare glimpse of the artist’s thinking process and the meticulous steps that go into creating these uncanny bronze pieces.
The artist led me through the various spaces of his labyrinthine studio, a former fabric-manufacturing factory, where the artist has lived for 11 years. Room after room, we moved through the various steps taken to create each sculpture, beginning in the artist’s library and drawing room where the brainstorming, research, and sketching takes place. The space was filled with models of his sculptures, maquettes of furniture, and drawings scattered about the floor, everything strewn haphazardly as if created hastily before moving on to the next idea. In fact, Manders’s entire studio was filled with objects that appeared ready to be deployed, containing a dynamism that reflected not only the artist’s boyish energy, but also the nature of the object’s tentative status: appearing cracked, overstuffed, fragile, discarded. Manders revealed that he thinks through his concepts over many years and keeps early drawings and models within his daily encounter in the event that he has time to realize one of his unexecuted project ideas. Each drawing is a visual reminder for Manders, and for me, a peek into the inner workings of his mind and the memories that occupy it.
For more than three decades, Manders has been developing an endless “self-portrait as a building” in the form of sculptures, still lifes, and architectural plans. The notion was inspired by his interest in writing and literature, however, realizing the greater potential of objects to convey meaning and narrative, the artist switched his focus from writing to object-making. He noted to me that books, autobiographies, and more generally, language move linearly—readers absorb one word after another, moving forward in one direction—whereas sculptures have no time or chronology associated with their consumption. There is much greater room for interpretation when proposing that an accumulation of sculptures makes up the artist’s self-portrait.
In a drawing from the early 2000s, a floor plan articulated a building with various rooms containing objects—all of which have been produced. The artist explained that the “rooms” of his “self-portrait” continuously change, morph, and grow, and that the persona of “Mark Manders” (who is very much like, but not actually, the artist) shifts in relation to these rooms. In this excerpt from The Absence of Mark Manders (1994), he writes about his persona as a building: “Mark Manders has inhabited his self-portrait since 1986. This building can expand or shrink at any moment. In this building all words created by mankind are on hand. The building arises, like words, out of interaction with life and things. The thoughts that surround him in his building are, materialized or not, always important and never gratuitous.” As Manders toured me through his one-story studio complex, his floor plan, I realized that we were sequentially moving through the artist’s self in the form of this very building. Each room and all of the objects within it are Mark Manders.
What became clear to me is that Manders builds every aspect of his sculptures, including furniture. The artist’s father was a furniture maker and taught him some of the craft, although Manders insists that he is primarily self-taught and has acquired many woodworking skills over time. For the Walker’s commission, Manders is producing three large-scale figurative sculptures, and a comparatively intimate, life-sized cast bronze chair. When he indicated to me the low-seated chair that was cast for the Garden, I was surprised to learn that it was not sourced at a vintage store, but rather had been built by the artist. He explained that when he began making art in 1986, the furniture in his immediate surroundings was built in the 1970s and ’80s, and he has been consistently drawn to this vintage style. The combination of classical style figures and mid-century modern furniture again denies us a clear resting point in time.
After touring what must have been about ten different rooms within his massive studio complex, Manders drove me to the foundry where his sculptures are being produced: Art Casting in Oudenaarde, Belgium. (The internationally renowned foundry—just 20 minutes away by car—works with high-profile artists from around the world, and for this reason it insists on confidentiality with a no-photography policy.) Manders excitedly toured me through the facility, explaining that the lost-wax method employed there has been used since ca. 4500–3500 BCE. Art Casting has perfected the craft, with 50 to 60 employees who specialize in the various aspects of this technique. They also use the most receptive combination of liquid silicone and a catalyst that is able to produce a perfect negative of the original model—so detailed that it can capture fingerprints—and also imports the highest quality bronze from the US. It was a fascinating place.
Finally, I learned the ultimate stage in Manders’s process, and one of the most mystifying: the application of paint. We visited his second studio where three assistants were painting two large bronze sculptures. In order to access all sides of the massive sculptures, the team uses heavy-duty lifts to suspend the 1.5-ton sculptures in air. The painting process takes about two weeks and includes seven layers of paint. During one step the assistant actually removes paint to give the appearance that the sculpture is worn and, in another, uses a dry brush technique to gently graze the uneven surface so that pigment is only applied to the raised parts of the piece. After an exhaustive journey to their final bronze state, the sculptures return to their original models’ clay-like, fragile appearance—however, now, ready to endure the test of time.
Hong Kong artist Lee Kit spent the past two-and-a-half weeks in the gallery working on his site-specific installation for his first solo museum exhibition in the US, Lee Kit: Hold your breath, dance slowly. The installation features new videos and paintings, as well as everyday objects sourced from Home Depot and IKEA: cabinets, lamps, rugs, chairs, […]
Hong Kong artist Lee Kit spent the past two-and-a-half weeks in the gallery working on his site-specific installation for his first solo museum exhibition in the US, Lee Kit: Hold your breath, dance slowly. The installation features new videos and paintings, as well as everyday objects sourced from Home Depot and IKEA: cabinets, lamps, rugs, chairs, and storage containers. Opening Thursday, the exhibition is a poetic, sensorial, immersive environment that invites viewers to experience it in their own way. Please join me and the artist—as well as Martin Germann, senior curator at SMAK, which is opens Lee’s first solo exhibition in a European institution on May 28—for the opening-day artist talk on Thursday, May 12. In the meantime, here’s a look at the artist’s preparations for his Walker show.
On May 12, 2016 the Walker Art Center will open the first solo museum exhibition in the US by Lee Kit, a Hong Kong artist based in Taipei. Lee (b. 1978) creates subtle object-based installations that are fashioned from quotidian forms/materials (soap, towels, cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and other domestic wares and products associated with […]
On May 12, 2016 the Walker Art Center will open the first solo museum exhibition in the US by Lee Kit, a Hong Kong artist based in Taipei. Lee (b. 1978) creates subtle object-based installations that are fashioned from quotidian forms/materials (soap, towels, cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and other domestic wares and products associated with personal hygiene) that he transforms through subtle gestures of painting, drawing, video, as well as placement. Lee frequently imparts political commentary in his work. His repetitive use of foreign products and English words makes reference to the presence of market capitalism and Hong Kong’s sociopolitical history. Conceived as a site-specific installation, the Walker’s exhibition will feature a selection of paintings, drawings, objects, and video drawn from the last five years of the artist’s production, including an ambitious 13-channel video installation acquired by the Walker, I can’t help falling in love (2012).
Lee Kit’s studio is also his home. It’s spare but warm and personal. The rooms are filled with Danish furniture, and surfaces are mostly bare save a few travel-sized hygiene products (lotion, toothpaste, matchbooks) collected during his travels. His art is tacked up casually on the wall, as well as images that inspire him: classical sculpture, found imagery, and hand gestures. The apartment is in the Xinyi neighborhood of Taipei, where the Hong Kong artist has lived since 2012. I just returned from a visit there, where Lee and I spoke about his upcoming exhibition, his interest in hands, and his attachment to hygiene products. He and I concluded an interview that will appear in the exhibition catalogue for his presentation at Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst Gent (SMAK) in May 2016. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
Misa Jeffereis: When you were in Minneapolis earlier in the year we talked about depictions of hands in art. We were at the Minneapolis Institute of Art looking at religious paintings and you said you always pay attention to the hands. In your work there’s a specific recurring image of hands, and you also made that piece called Scratching the table surface (2006–2009), in which you scratch a table with your fingers until a hole forms, and the installation Something in My Hands (2012). What’s the fascination?
Lee Kit: In paintings from the Renaissance or even earlier religious Italian and Flemish paintings, the artists all paint these hand gestures that are very symbolic, and everybody understands their meaning. They don’t question the gesture or why they understand it. And now we’ve lost this feeling or sensation or sensibility—somehow we lost it. I don’t want to bring it back, but I’m curious about it.
Lee: And also, hands do things and touch things. I think hands are the most honest language. I don’t mean sign language. For example, when people feel nervous, it’s a pure feeling and your hands shake. It’s something you cannot control. So it is a super honest language, but it can be very intimate as well. For example, when you love someone, you hold each other’s hand, and you are the only one who can feel it. You cannot explain it to someone else, and even the person whose hand you’re holding will have a different experience than you. On the other hand, if you hate somebody and you want to kill them, you also use your hands.
I just cannot get rid of this fascination. When I look back on my art practice, since day one when I started making art, there were hands: the picnic photographs and scratching video. It’s about hands, I realized.
Jeffereis: In your earlier work you were making hand-painted cloths that you then washed by hand and infused wear and use into the fabric before incorporating the picnic blankets, tablecloths, and curtains in your daily activities.
Lee: Yes, exactly. When I touch things, I experience something I cannot describe. And even if I could describe it, you won’t get it. And going back to my belief is that if I can understand something clearly, then I don’t need to make work.
Jeffereis: In the movie Chungking Express, by Wong Kar-wai, there’s a scene in which Tony Leung is moving around his apartment and speaking to his belongings, giving pep talks to his hungry soap bar, crying dish cloth, lonely shirt, and hopeless stuffed animal. The intimate moment in the film reminds me of your works that incorporate personal hygiene products like Nivea and Vichy lotions, and domestic wares like worn tablecloths and sheer curtains. There’s an intimacy and softness to these works. Wong Kar-wai is also from Hong Kong—a very populated city with small, isolated living spaces. Do you think that there is a desire to connect more deeply to things and people, rather than just buy and consume products? Maybe it’s a rejection of the hyper-capitalist nature of the city.
Lee: When I was younger, I did tend to talk to objects. It’s simple if you think of it like this: Who is seeing me naked, and who is in the bathroom with me? Johnson & Johnson. Nivea. And while taking a shower, a lot of people talk to themselves, or are deep in thought. That moment is very intimate, and some of these conversations you just don’t want to share with other people. It’s so intimate and you’re naked, and you’re cleaning yourself like animals. No one’s around but all these bottles—I mean, they are looking at me. Since you don’t have enough physical space, you are forced farther into your mental space. You talk to yourself, you talk to objects. You have no privacy; the only privacy you have is the moment you talk to yourself.
Lee: When Chungking Express first came out in theaters, I went to see it. The audience didn’t understand this artistic side of Wong Kar-wai—they wanted his gangster action movies. They threw things at the screen; they “booed.” But I felt a connection to the film, because, like him, I talk to bottles. I project my thoughts onto these objects. I think we all have this kind of projection. You see a cup and you might associate something with it, and that’s part of our nature.
Jeffereis: We’re constantly evaluating things around us and gauging our relationship to them. Your art-making process begins with a curiosity for the things that you don’t know or understand, and you seem to work toward expressing inexpressible feelings.
Jeffereis: Thank you for speaking with me, Kit. We’re looking forward to your show at the Walker next May.
Over the last several years, Lee Kit’s work has received increasing attention in Asia and in Europe. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award, awarded by the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai (2013), and represented Hong Kong in the 2013 Venice Biennale. He has exhibited his work at the Sharjah Biennial (2015), Staatliche Kunsthalle in Baden Baden (2014), the Liverpool Biennial (2012), and Museum of Modern Art (2012), and has held solo exhibitions at Mother’s Tankstation in Dublin (2015), Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai (2012), Western Front in Vancouver (2011), and Para/Site in Hong Kong (2007). Lee’s work is held in the collections of the Walker Art Center, M+ in Hong Kong, S.M.A.K. in Ghent, and The Hong Kong Museum of Art. He is represented by Vitamin Creative Space in Guangzhou, Aike-Dellarco in Shanghai, Jane Lombard Gallery in New York, and ShugoArts in Tokyo.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from curator Devrim Bayar and artist Kalup Linzy to designer David Reinfurt and artist Shahryar Nashat—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from curator Devrim Bayar and artist Kalup Linzy to designer David Reinfurt and artist Shahryar Nashat—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to .
Alejandro Cesarco was born in 1975 in Montevideo, Uruguay. He has exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. His most recent solo exhibitions include: Secondary Revision, Frac Île-de-France/Le Plateau, Paris (2013); A Portrait, A Story, And An Ending, Kunsthalle Zürich (2013); Alejandro Cesarco, MuMOK, Vienna (2012); Words Applied to Wounds, Murray Guy, New York (2012); The Early Years, Tanya Leighton, Berlin (2012); A Common Ground, Uruguayan Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennial (2011); One Without The Other, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico (2011); and Present Memory, Tate Modern, London (2010). Group exhibitions include: Under The Same Sun, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014); Plaisance, Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (2013); The Imminence of Poetics, 30th Bienal de São Paulo (2012); formes brèves, autres, FRAC Lorraine, Metz, and MARCO, Vigo (2012); Short Stories, Sculpture Center, Long Island City (2011); and Nine Screens, MoMA, New York (2010). He was the 2011 winner of the Baloize Art Prize, with his installation The Street Were Dark With Something More Than Night Or The Closer I Get To The End The More I Rewrite The Beginning at Art 42 Basel. These exhibitions addressed, through different formats and strategies, his recurrent interests in repetition, narrative, and the practices of reading and translating. He has also curated exhibitions in the U.S., Uruguay, Argentina, and a project for the 6th Mercosur Biennial (2007), Porto Alegre, Brazil. He is director of the nonprofit arts organization, Art Resources Transfer. Forthcoming solo exhibitions in 2015 include: Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis; Murray Guy, New York; Parra-Romero, Madrid; and Kiria Koula, San Francisco. He lives and works in New York.
Pierre Huyghe, Centre Pompidou (Paris)
Installed within the structure left vacant after Mike Kelley’s retrospective in the same space, Huyghe’s continuous attempts at reinventing the exhibition model as a site of playful experimentation came together movingly. Works bled and echoed into one another, for an experience that felt partly choreographed and partly left to chance—the presence of animals in Huyghe’s work played a key role in this. (For more art and animals see Godard’s latest marvel, mentioned below.)
Mike Kelley, MoMA/PS1 (New York)
Curated by Ann Goldstein, organized by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. What better place to house Kelley’s posthumous retrospective than in a defunct cavernous-like school building? Birdhouses, Educational Complex, felt-banners, Extracurricular Activities, and all their trippy post-punk consequences.
RIP Elaine Sturtevant
Bruce Hainley’s monograph Under The Sign of [SIC]: Sturtevant’s Volte-Face (Semiotext[e], 2014) and Sturtevant: Double Trouble (curated by Peter Eleey, Museum of Modern Art, Nov 9, 2014–Feb. 9, 2015) were two long overdue acknowledgments of the key role Sturtevant has played in the politics of style, image production, and reception.
Haim Steinbach, once again the world is flat, Kunsthalle Zürich
I actually did not make it to Zürich to see this show—which was curated by Beatrix Ruf, Tom Eccles, and Johanna Burton—but its CCS Bard iteration (June 22–December 20, 2013) was, to my mind, one of the most memorable exhibitions of 2013.
Louise Lawler, No Drones, Metro Pictures
A follow-up to Lawler’s adjusted to fit series, the tracings presented in this show pushed forward a self-reflective analysis of the reception of the artist’s own work as analogy to the state of the art world and its larger contexts. Sharp and humorous, as always. An exemplary practice where every move counts.
RIP On Kawara
Private tour of Christopher Williams, The Production Line of Happiness, Museum of Modern Art
Led by the artist and organized by Artists Space. A master class on exhibition design, institutional critique, and ways of looking. The show is also accompanied by one of the year’s most stunning catalogues.
Amy Sillman, One Lump or Two, Hessel Museum of Art, CCS Bard
Curated by Helen Molesworth. Brilliant and sensuous. Figuration, abstraction, animation all with Sillman’s trademark wry wit. An artist to look up to.
Martin Beck, Last Night, full listening session
Organized by White Columns, PS1, and the New York Art Book Fair, Last Night, Beck’s latest publication, documents the 118 songs played by David Mancuso on June 2, 1984 at the last party of the 99 Prince Street location of the Loft. On Sept. 13, Beck (with the help of Matthew Higgs) played the 13-hour-long playlist.
RIP Harun Farocki
Jean-Luc Godard, Good Bye To Language
At 83, the masterful auteur can’t stop himself from continuing to explore the possibilities of cinema and has produced possibly the most radical 3D film ever made. At certain moments Godard moves the dual camera lenses out of sync, emphasizing the artificiality of the 3D effect. These sequences seem to require viewers to close one eye or the other, and to in turn devise individual montages with their own senses. The director’s beloved dog Roxy is the other star of the film.
The Distribution to Underserved Communities Library Program of Art Resources Transfer celebrated another year of creating access to the arts and education by distributing free contemporary art books among a growing public of library patrons, students, artists, and readers across the country. In the last year alone, the DUC distributed more than $690,000 worth of new art books to 517 public schools and libraries nationwide.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from curator and architect Andreas Angelidakis and musician Grant Hart to poet LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and artist Alejandro Cesarco—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from curator and architect Andreas Angelidakis and musician Grant Hart to poet LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and artist Alejandro Cesarco—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to .
Devrim Bayar is curator at WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, where she recently organized the exhibitions of Daan van Golden, Thomas Bayrle, Allen Ruppersberg, and Robert Heinecken, among other projects. In 2015 she will curate the first large survey exhibition of French artist Pierre Leguillon entitled The Museum of Mistakes: Contemporary Art and Class Struggle, which proposes an exhibition model that attempts to foil, or “de-class-ify”—to reprise the exhibition’s title—the hierarchies of art. She is the founder of the web platform Le Salon aimed at presenting, documenting and reflecting on the Brussels contemporary art scene.
Belgium vs. USA at the World Cup
The FIFA World Cup means something different for every participating country. This year, the Belgian team’s efforts became a timely symbol of national pride and identity soon after local elections had seen separatist parties gain even more power. In this regard, the match of Belgium vs. USA was the most electrifying. I had never seen my city stand so still as all eyes were riveted to TV monitors. When Belgium finally won after a tough battle, the European capital literally exploded. People from all linguistic and ethnic communities descended on the streets to celebrate the victory of Belgium and this multicultural celebration was a wonderful sign of what Belgium really stands for, against the current right wing political mood.
The adoption of the law allowing parents to choose the family name of their children
If, as Jeff Koons would claim, procreation is the way to eternity, why should eternity bear fathers’ names only? Under pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, Belgian lawmakers have tried for 15 years to pass a law that allows parents to choose which last name they give their children. This year the law was finally adopted, allowing parents to choose between the father’s, the mother’s or both parent’s last name, marking a new step in the direction for more gender equality and allowing me to give my soon-to-be-born daughter my family name.
Haim Steinbach, once again the world is flat. at Kunsthalle Zürich (curated by Beatrix Ruf)
This exhibition literally blew my mind. It not only offered the rare opportunity to discover early works by the artist and to retrace his evolution but also introduced a remarkable scenography created by the artist himself who thus reinterpreted his own works and played with the exhibition codes at its core. At once seducing, full of humor, and complex, this show allowed us to firmly grasp Steinbach’s reflection about art, display, and commerce and their interconnections.
Jef Cornelis at the Liverpool Biennial (curated by Anthony Huberman and Mai Abu ElDahab)
Jef Cornelis is a TV director who is well known and respected in Belgium but much less recognized abroad. I was thus happily surprised to see an entire section of the Liverpool Biennial dedicated to his work. His documentaries from the early 1960’s until the end of the 1990’s exploded the conventions of television and provide a unique insight into the history of the arts of the time.
Daan van Golden: Photo Book(s)
My former colleague Emiliano Battista accompanied me throughout my research on Daan van Golden for the retrospective exhibition that I curated at WIELS in 2012. Following this in-depth research, he developed a fascination for the photographic work of the artist and published a monograph entirely dedicated to this generally less documented part of van Golden’s practice. His book reproduces every page of every catalog on which van Golden published a photograph. The book thus reveals the people and the motives that keep coming back in the work of van Golden while playing with the notion of repetition so dear to the artist. Brilliant!
Planningtorock, All Love’s Legal (released by Human Level)
Without hesitation the album I listened to the most this year. All Love’s Legal proves that artists can still create politically engaged songs that keep you dancing all night long. And it works at the gym too!
Instagram accounts of K8 HARDY, Rob Pruitt, Jerry Saltz,…
I might be late on this one but it’s only this year that I signed onto Instagram thanks to NYC artist Megan Marrin, who lived at my place at the beginning of the year and convinced me to join the social network. I must admit that I have taken pleasure in following people who excel in appropriating new technologies for their social satire. Now I am looking for more of these fun yet provocative web persona.
Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Die Schmutzigen Puppen von Pommern, Micheline Szwajcer Galerie (Antwerp) and Art Basel Unlimited
Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys are two of my favorite Belgian artists, whose work explore dark psychological states and spaces. Their recent series of scarecrows are characters “allergic to social positivism and utilitarianism, who abhor humans who aspire to physical health, labour, and reasonable material wealth.” Presented at Art Basel Unlimited, this installation provided a stark yet healthy contrast to the generally seducing and complaisant atmosphere of the fair.
Joachim Olender, La collection qui n’existait pas
La collection qui n’existait pas premiered just a week ago and hasn’t been subtitled in English yet. This documentary about the conceptual art collection Herman and Nicole Daled built in the 70’s, and which the MoMA recently acquired, provides an authentic and rare insight into the life of these collectors, who considered collecting nothing less than a form of political engagement. A lesson from which many should learn today.
Robert Heinecken: Lessons in Posing Subjects (co-published by WIELS & Triangle Books)
2014 has seen the publication of the entire series of Robert Heinecken’s Lessons in Posing Subjects which the American artist created in 1981-1982 and which was the centerpiece of the show of the same title I curated at WIELS over the summer. Thanks to the help of the artist’s estate, my partner Olivier Vandervliet of Triangle Books and I conceived this publication as a real artist book. It took us many long hours to work on the hundreds of Polaroid prints that are reproduced in this book in order to stay as true as possible to the analog original with our digital means. I am very proud of the result of our efforts and that it will leave a trace to this remarkable body of work.
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to . Shahryar Nashat […]
To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines to share a list of their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to .
Shahryar Nashat was born in 1975 in Geneva, Switzerland, and lives and works in Berlin. Nashat uses a broad range of media including video, digital print, and photography. Recent solo exhibitions include Lauréat du prix Lafayette, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2014); Replay the Ruse, Silberkuppe, Berlin (2012); Stunt, Kunstverein Hamburger Bahnhof, Hamburg (2012); and Workbench, Studio Voltaire, London (2011). His work has also been shown as part of the 8th Berlin Biennale (2014); Catch as Catch Can, Locks Gallery, Philadelphia (2013); When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes, CCA Wattis, San Francisco (2012); ILLUMInations at the 54th International Venice Biennale (2011); and Frieze Projects, London (2010). Nashat has been awarded the Kunstpreis der Stadt Nordhorn (2013), the Swiss Exhibition Award (2009), and the Kiefer Hablitzel Prize (2000, 2001, 2002).
Prosthetic devices can now restore a sense of feeling.
The fetish for the bionic limb, and the now artificial encroaching on the real fascinates me.
Some Proximity by Adam Linder
Adam‘s Some Proximity mediates criticism through the radical gestures of a gliding body. Presented with Silberkuppe during Frieze London, it did for me what every performance in a non-theatrical environment should do—it slowed down everything around it, allowing a focus on the bodies playing off of the critical statements that were fed directly from the environment.
Under the Sign of [sic]: Sturtevant’s Volte-Face by Bruce Hainley
Published by the ever so thought provoking Semiotext(e), this monographic study is written with a variety of literary genres that mesh with each other to create a very singular piece of art criticism.
I first came across Park’s work earlier this year at her show at Essex Street. The interplay of sculptural, social, and bodily questions in her work are thoughtful and fresh. Can’t wait to see more.
The everlasting tradition of one of Germany’s longest post-War annual journals for contemporary art and culture continues with this year’s iteration, masterfully edited by Dominic Eichler and Brigitte Oetker and published by Berlin’s Sternberg Press.
Lee Lozano: Dropout Piece by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer
I really enjoyed reading this book that focuses on a single work by the late New York artist. A journalistic approach combined with art history and the author’s interpretative agency make an outstanding addition to Afterall’s One Work series.
Spectrum Reverse Spectrum by Margaret Honda
I saw this 20 minute silent film at the Berlinale earlier this year. The film is a reproduction of the color spectrum captured in 70mm and made without a camera. The gradually changing array of color and light filling the screen confronted me with the sole performance of one most perfect medium.
Transparent by Jill Soloway
I totally binged on watching what became by far my favourite comedy-drama produced for the (internet) television this year. Set in Los Angeles, Transparent features Jeffrey Tambor, a father who comes out to his family as transgender. The writing is sharp, witty, sometimes even acerbic and the cast is flawless.
National Gallery by Frederick Wiseman
It’s no secret I’m a sucker for the subject! Wiseman’s analytical camera lingering on the art, its spectators, and the backstage of one of Britain’s most famous museums is even more brilliant because he focuses on the museum guides that voice the discourse that accompanies the reception of art in an institutional context.
Beyoncé at the Louvre
We’ve seen celebrities visiting museums (not to mention celebrities having private visiting hours in museums) and we’ve see celebrities posing in museums. However Bey and Jay’s photo-op at the Louvre, which comprised mimicked sculptural poses whilst making selfies, created complications that whether intentional or not, continue to intrigue me.
Costume Made of Nothing is a performance created by the artist Pope.L and is featured in the exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. It debuted at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) in 2012 and its most recent iteration at the Walker Art Center involved a weight-bearing structure and new movements. The performance takes […]
Costume Made of Nothing is a performance created by the artist Pope.L and is featured in the exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. It debuted at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) in 2012 and its most recent iteration at the Walker Art Center involved a weight-bearing structure and new movements. The performance takes place in the galleries, thirteen times over the course of the exhibition’s five-month run.
Prior to the final performance of Costume Made of Nothing, I sat down with the performer, Brian J. Evans, who worked with Pope.L to develop this new piece. Join us on January 4, 2015, at 2 pm for Evans’s final performance, which coincides with the closing of Radical Presence.
Tell me about your background and training.
I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, but I moved to Gaylord, Minnesota when I was seven. I went to Gustavus Adolphus College for liberal arts and left with a dance major. I didn’t find dance until I was a sophomore and studied abroad as a junior, so I only had three semesters and two classes of dance training before I got into the field. I had always done performance and I got super lucky when one of my professors, who was in Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, set me up with an audition. At the end of two rehearsals they asked me to come dance as an apprentice, and eight years later I’m a professional performer and teaching artist.
How did you find out about the opportunity to perform in Pope.L’s piece and what was your audition like?
I found out about the audition from a friend of a friend, and when opportunities like that come up, I take them. So I looked at the video of the performance at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and my first inclination was that I didn’t want to do it. In this iteration the performer just stood there and put his arm into a hole in the wall, so I wasn’t so sure about it. But I did a little research on Pope.L and was impressed by what I found on Google. So I auditioned and went through the poses, and what then really peaked my interest was having a Skype conversation with Pope.L directly afterward. I remember he gave me directions to try out different movements, and he told me to go away and come back after thinking about it, but I decided to try to incorporate those instructions right then, on the spot. That’s when the collaboration started. I thought, ‘Good, let me try to do something that would inevitably start us on a process of collaboration.’
What was it like to work with Pope.L for that brief time that he was here in July? What was the working process?
There were three rehearsals, two to three hours each. In the first one, he said right up front that he’s not a choreographer and he’s not going to try to choreograph anything. He said that he would need me to collaborate with him to figure out the movements. He didn’t want to do what he did the other two times. The structure at the Walker is three times as big and is weight bearing. Right away we talked about his influences: Bauhaus and the German stylistic movements. We talked about character, and I thought to myself, ‘why the structure, why the costume?’
In the second rehearsal we got into it and he had this image of me hanging from the pipe. How to I get up there? Do I jump or crawl? So I improvised and crawled up and he said, “Yes, keep that.” We decided that I would say “Well” three times at different pitches and volumes. There are headphones attached to the piece, so what am I listening to? There were terms like ‘step and fetch it,’ ‘the funky chicken,’ and butoh—that’s where the walk came from. He would then send me away with different assignments like, how does this character walk, how does this thing look, how does he interact, why is he traveling, what does he do every day, and why does he continue to go to this structure? In the third rehearsal we had a set of instructions and a character sketch, and for opening night that’s what I had to work with. Since then, the character has evolved into a more multi-dimensional entity.
How has the audience reacted to this piece?
Pope.L and I talked about how it’s unimportant that there’s an audience. The character will do the performance regardless of an audience. There have been a lot of people that want to imitate me or block me when I’m moving through the space. I remember on opening night after it was done, Pope.L told me that this character doesn’t want to be touched, doesn’t want to be messed with, isn’t really inviting. I have to fight the temptation of allowing people to influence me. I don’t think this character is human so I don’t feel like I’m being mean to anybody, but I do find myself thinking, ‘Don’t touch me, don’t come close to me. I don’t know how I would react if you did.’
So it’s been interesting how people interact with me, whether they move or not. Older people tend to have a slightly more reserved reaction. I know I’ve startled people. Teenagers are always running away, but kids are fascinated. It’s performance art in a gallery, which is very different from performance on a stage. As a performer you’re trained to think that if people leave early you’re not doing your job correctly, but because this is not that, it’s been fine that some people stay for five minutes. It’s a different way of thinking about performance art.
Tell me how the performance has changed over time.
From the first time to today’s, and this was the twelfth time, it’s gone from more of a hollow character sketch of making sure I did all of the instructions right, to allowing myself to let the character interpret those instructions. That usually always changes because I, myself, as Brian, come to it differently everyday, because something’s happened or I’m thinking about something, or I’m totally focused, or I’m trying to reach a goal.
There were some performances where no one moved except for leaving and coming, and there were others where the audience would surround me and circle the structure. It’s different every time. When nobody is here I’m usually hoping that I don’t perform too quickly because there’s no one to feed off of. This was new today: when I was approaching the exhibition, I felt totally alone, so I thought, ‘I’m going to do my solo and no one’s going to see it and that’s fine.’ So that was a different mindset. I recognized people were watching me after a while, but my way into it was a solitary one.
The structure is like a prop or a second performer. How does its presence affect your performance?
I haven’t yet (maybe it will happen in the thirteenth performance) attached an identity to the structure. I will say that the structure does feel different. And that’s partly because of my physical stamina and how I’m able to approach it. The structure is the thing that keeps me grounded in what I’m doing. I always go back to it and everything is about that interaction, so I don’t ever really feel like I’m alone. Then it doesn’t really matter if anyone is watching, because this structure is consistent, unlike most things in my life [laughs]. Once we bolstered the structure, the thing became unbreakable. It’s always going to be there to support me.
Have you done any other performances that are like this—in the contemporary art realm, as opposed to performing arts, on a stage with a seated audience?
No, I’ve never performed when it’s called contemporary visual art. I’ve done things that are more along the lines of visual architecture or improvisations that had minimalistic movement parameters. This is something more in-depth. This performance has been different in that it’s just me and that structure. Every time I’ve done it, it’s gotten a bit more involved. Most of the time you don’t get to dive into a piece, you just have your weekend of performances.
Have you ever had to do something multiple times over the course of many months?
I’m part of a dance company, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, so we do a lot of touring. There are three or four full-length works that I’ve done anywhere from 30 to 50 times over the span of five months on tour. Costume Made of Nothing is different because it’s the same space, the same apparatus, the same lighting, the same area, and we’re shooting for the same duration. In the work I do with Stuart Pimsler we really want to know what the audience is thinking and feeling, and in this piece, I feel very autonomous. I wonder how many people saw me perform and what they felt and thought—and I’ll never know.
Pope.L asked me to record one of your recent performances with the idea that he would send you feedback and ask you to change aspects of the piece. I wonder how Pope.L envisions the final performance.
The little I interacted with him, I got the impression that he was very respectful of my process. The last thing he said to me, which has really influenced me, was that he was going to come by at some point. In the back of my mind I didn’t think he was actually going to, but because he said that, I always perform it like maybe he will that time. I think it was part of his plan.
Brian J. Evans of Gaylord, MN is currently in his seventh season with Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater. In addition to performing, he serves as the company’s Musical Director. He is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, where he earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in dance. In 2009, he was recognized by the Star Tribune and the following year received a SAGE Award for Outstanding Performer. He also teaches at the Saint Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts and Young Dance, and served as Dance Program Administrator for SPDT at FAIR School Downtown. Evans has also worked with numerous directors and choreographers on productions throughout the Midwest and performed as a singer/dancer at Valley Fair, as well as appearing in a feature film.