Thursday, April 12, 2012

Undercover (I love this show)

Slag Contemporary is pleased to announce the opening of Undercover, featuring drawing, painting, sculpture and performance by Joy Curtis, Rebecca Goyette, Carin Riley, Molly Stevens and Trish Tillman.

April 10 – May 2
Opening Reception: April 14, 6-9 pm

Undercover, at its most basic, means going under a cover. This can be a physical barrier or a metaphorical one, a persona you stand behind.

Going undercover implies danger. Sometimes it’s the danger from which you seek protection, the reason why you seek cover; other times it’s the danger that meets you on the other side. Both involve adventure, psychological confrontation, and, in our case, quite a bit of humor.

Once you start labeling sides - front and back, outside and in, the protected and exposed - you realize there is no difference. You’ve become your front. Your front is you.

This multi-approach exhibition is at times revealing, at times stealthy, at times both. Either way, the work goes behind, beneath and beyond in order to keep its truth covert or to blow it open.

Rebecca Goyette’s
Bundling Bags call on participants to literally get under cover and hold hands. Based on the Puritan sacks used in coupling rituals, her contemporary version confronts the vulnerability of being present with one other person while in public. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, Goyette will inhabit the bundling bags, inviting viewers to participate in a bundling date with her.

Trish Tillman combines home relics and furniture parts to construct private memorials and characters. They are present like furniture, but are non-functional, and as such, become unsettling talismans or companions.

Carin Riley’s diagrammatic mural Revolution represents underlying forces mapped according to ancient laws of fate and positioning. In responding to the exhibition space it becomes a personal drawing of lithe linework that sticks with you like an enigmatic lesson.

Molly Stevens’s large-scale oil stick drawings put forward vigorous color, shape and line that communicate a direct, fully visual energy. Bold handwork come to form convivial power figures - a soothsayer, a guardian, a knight in armor, each representing safeguarded resolve.

Joy Curtis creates not-quite relics that are familiar at first, but then catch you by surprise. Reminiscent of Romantic ruins, they are in fact cast from contemporary molding and aged. Here, standing in for Joan of Arc - the historical heroine, who donned male attire as a defense in her fight to liberate France - is the stake at which she was burned once charged with insubordination and heterodoxy.

Slag Contemporary specializes in contemporary American and Eastern European art and is operated by owner and director Irina Protopopescu.

Slag Contemporary is located at 56 Bogart Street, Ground Floor #005,Brooklyn, NY 11206

L train to Morgan

For general inquiries, contact the gallery at 212 967 9818.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pathos 2012

"Group of Mothers." Memorial sculpture by Fritz Cremer. Unveiled 1965.

It took me about an hour to read a 1,000 word article in Artforum – man, that shit is dense! – but I can proudly say, the subject made it worth it. Diedrich Diederichsen (of course that’s his name) considers an exhibition in Cologne entitled “Before the Law: Post-war Sculptures and Spaces of Contemporary Art” that brings together figurative sculpture from then and now, leaving out the transitional years in between. The earlier period puts forward pathos – humanistic compassion for the suffering plight of mankind – as a direct reaction to the shock and destruction of World War II. Think rough-surface bronze monuments of weeping mother figures. This pathos, as an approach to injustice, has become complex in contemporary art, and is replaced by the self-reflective, the ironic, or other emotional approaches like indignation or “the euphoria of counterculture” (I don't really know what that is). Pure pathos in contemporary times – like the work of William Kentridge – can come off as ostentatious (I agree). So the question is “What sort of feelings or moods should political art, or even any sort of serious art, engage with today?” Whether I know it or not, I think I might personally favor humor, but that doesn't mean disengaged irony.

Then the article considers “verticality” – literally the direction of uprising embodied in a standing figure. Is the vertical still relevant today? The conceit of new political movements, like Occupy, champions the horizontal. The horizontal steers clear of upright individuals and also voyeuristic culture that empties a single body. There’s no pinpoint focus. That can be effective. In my own work, I very much favor powerful vertical figures. It’s one-on-one viewing, body to body. But the question of vertical vs. horizontal has no set answer.

“It may be that all art, in encountering this problem, must ask itself what kinds of direct paths between affect and articulation, between reflection and revolt, it can still rely on – or whether the first task of art today is to blast away those very connections. “ I’m not totally sure what that sentence means, but I believe it enough to chew on it for a while.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Trayvon and art insiders

(T-shirt designed by Ali Spagnola)

I don’t think art is an effective place for direct political statements. I think political stances are most powerful in art when communicated through metaphor, or at least subtlety. I’m not likely to be moved by a portrait of a woman flexing muscles on top of a pile of robber barons in suits. Although maybe I should try depicting that.

I guess I would point to literalness as the culprit, to spelling out as the culprit. At least in visual art. And I’m speaking for myself, as an art insider who doesn’t need the crutch of obviousness because I speak the language of New York insider art pretty well. Yes, that makes me part of an elite, something I can’t pretend I am not, even though I’d like to just be regular. Regular, but an artist too.

I like Hennessy Youngman’s videos. But I think many art insiders like them in part because he comes off as not an art insider and that’s partly because he’s black. So by association we become regular. Many politically aware artists who are members of the art elite don’t want to be what they are. I get it. It’s full of damn uncomfortable contradictions.

All this to say, I’ve been thinking about wearing the name Trayvon on my back at the opening of Undercover, a group show that I'm in opening next week in Bushwick. But I think it would be a fashion statement; too much about me (and not me); too much about my politics as a definition of me (and not me).

Maybe I’d do it if I could get a large majority of people coming to the opening to wear the name Trayvon somewhere on their outfit or body. Still there’s the whiff of the false, of the cause célèbre publicized to people who already agree. Wearing the name in Walton, New York, a hotbed of poor Republicans: that’s another story.

I’d do it if I were Bruce Springsteen. In fact he did, dedicating his song “American Skin (41 Shots)” to Trayvon at a concert in Jersey this week. But he’s a rock star. I heart Bruce so much.

You think artists are rock stars?