Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Winds of Change: MoMA Under Ann Temkin

Posted in Reviews by bridgetdonlon on October 13, 2009

Installation view, Measuring the Universe, Roman Ondák, 2009. Photo by Bridget DonlonThe Museum of Modern Art has an ongoing struggle with itself to remain at the forefront of artistic production despite the commitment it has to the preservation and celebration of Modern Art History. As the museum comes under a new stewardship in Ann Temkin, we begin to sense palpable change in the course MoMA wants to set for itself.

Waste Not, an installation in the atrium by Song Dong, Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, Roman Ondák’s interactive performative work Measuring the Universe and Looking at Music: Side 2 are four separate exhibitions that combined this past season to present a fairly even overview of contemporary art. The atrium installation led viewers halfway through the work before entering the contemporary galleries where the drawing exhibition was on view. From there it was through the Ondák performance, into the music exhibition then back out into the second half of the Song Dong installation.

Is it fair to say that this grouping of exhibitions is Ann Temkin’s vision of a contemporary future for MoMA? Each component was curated by an in-house curator – Barbara London for Song Dong and Looking at Music, Klaus Biesenbach for Roman Ondák, and Christian Rattemeyer with Cornelia Butler for the drawings exhibition. Temkin remains the chief curator however, and we must (must we?) give her credit for the overall presentation and selection of shows on view. Use of the same atrium space under John Elderfield has previously showcased paintings by post-war masters Philip Guston and Cy Twombly, the contemporary galleries displaying veritable ‘greatest hits’ of the 1960s through 1990s, not pushing boundaries in any evident way.

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The Actuality of the Idea

Posted in Reviews by bridgetdonlon on May 19, 2009
Installation view, via www.modernart.net

Installation view, via http://www.modernart.net

The recent group exhibition at Stuart Shave/Modern Art breathed some new life into Minimalism. The show disperses works by old standards among mid-career and younger artists. The exhibition’s title – The Actuality of the Idea – is the type of Hegel-referencin’, po-mo jargon hip phrase common to so many contemporary art show titles, but when broken down into layman’s terms describes exactly what is on view at Modern Art: the idea of Minimalism described visually. (more…)

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Kate Shepherd at Galerie Lelong Paris

Posted in Reviews by bridgetdonlon on February 25, 2009

img_1860The death of painting is announced with great fanfare every so often, only to be brought back to life later on with equal enthusiasm. Kate Shepherd is a painter who works steadily regardless of whether or not painting happens to be “alive”. Her current exhibition of new works at Galerie Lelong Paris reflect this steady investigation of the medium, testing the limits of her established visual language.

Those familiar with Shepherd’s body of work will recognize in this exhibition the wood panels finished with high-gloss industrial paint in nostalgia inducing colors providing a backdrop for fine white hand-painted lines. These self-imposed parameters have provided Shepherd with a formula in which she has been comfortable exploring ideas of implied physical space and references to classical linear perspective. It seems that she may have become antsy over the past year though, as these works are moving in an utterly new direction with new questions being interrogated within her signature format. (more…)

Jon Pylypchuk at Alison Jacques Gallery

Posted in Reviews by bridgetdonlon on January 31, 2009

Jon Pylypchuk presents new works in the form of sculptural installation, painting and works on paper in just sit back and recount the violence of one year at Alison Jacques Gallery. A cast of crudely formed creatures appears in each incarnation, musing literally and figuratively on life’s futility in the midst of an approaching apocalypse. Pylypchuk’s world is an alternate universe that might be a grotesque reflection of our own.

In the center of the main room of the gallery’s ground floor is an installation in which psychedelic, oddly anthropomorphized but recognizable animals made of stuffed fabric sit on beach chairs amidst a pool of sand littered with crushed beer cans. The animals face inward to watch the main event – other animals snorting cocaine off the belly of a walrus. It is a schizophrenic’s version of Beach Blanket Bingo.

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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at Haunch of Venison

Posted in Reviews by bridgetdonlon on November 25, 2008

Peter Mallet

© Haunch of Venison 2008 Photo: Peter Mallet

The three floors at Haunch of Venison are filled with political and emotional, if not physical, volume. The seven works that make up Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s exhibition use familiar technology to comment on the dissemination, (mis)interpretation and power of information. The viewer’s interaction with the pieces is a necessary element in all works (save one, Airport Cluster Plot [2001]).

The idea of surveillance is prevalent in the works Glories of Accounting (2005) and Reporters With Borders (2008). Both pieces employ surveillance mechanisms to track viewers movements. Glories of Accounting is a plasma screen that appears to be blank until activated by a viewer. Video of a hand appears that corresponds to the number of people in front of the work. The hands then turn according to the person’s movements. It is a humorous manifestation of a sinister practice. Reporters Without Borders is a more recent work that uses the same technology to more conceptual ends. Two panels of numerous talking heads are projected on to the wall. Each panel is assigned a classification that changes every few minutes. These borders, as Lozano-Hemmer identifies them, are: Light/Dark, Mexico/USA and Male/Female. The reporters’ visages are presented like an exponentially bigger, more professional, older and more diverse “Brady Bunch”. They remain silent and motionless until a person walks past the screen. As the person moves, the video turns on and the talking heads come to life. It is not possible to decipher what the newscasters are reporting on, as a cacophony of sound builds and then subsides with the viewers’ movements. It all seems all too familiar in the age of 24 -hour news channels and up-to-the-second reporting on blogs. The lyric from the Talking Heads song Psycho Killer comes to mind: “You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.” Lozano-Hemmer sets up the rules of how we are meant to gauge the news sources – gender, for example – which might reflect our own prejudices, but the rules are, in effect, meaningless as we cannot decipher the information being conveyed. How are we meant to digest and interpret that which we cannot understand?

Less Than Three and Pulse Tank (both 2008) poeticize human interaction. Less Than Three is a visual map using LED strips that light up as a voice travels from one intercom to another on opposite walls. It makes daily forms of communication visual, depicting the way information travels physical distance through imaginary space. This piece also illustrates the lengths to which people often have to go to communicate, whether between faraway places, hostile borders, or languages. Pulse Tank is made up of sensors that mimic heartbeat, sending pulses into a clear tank of water. A spotlight is projected on to it from an obtuse angle, causing the rippling water to be refracted and projected on to the floor and the wall. An immediate, if completely obvious, parallel is that it only takes one person to cause change; The recent American election and Obama-mania comes to mind. On the adjacent wall a monitor tracks heartbeats per minute, electrocardiogram and temperature of the participants. By reducing the work’s activators to the most basic life functions, gender, ethnicity and other polarizing indicators are neutralized. Lozano-Hemmer’s concern is the human element.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Haunch of Venison
6 Haunch of Venison Yard, W1K 5ES
15 October – 29 November, 2008

Roger Hiorns’ Seizure

Posted in Reviews by bridgetdonlon on October 13, 2008

Approaching Roger Hiorns’ current Artangel commission Seizure is like turning over a rock found in the woods. There is a sense of dread of what one might find: There could be a cluster of festering maggots, there could be nothing, or there could be something spectacular.

The council flat where Seizure is located has all windows and doors boarded up, but one on each side of a u-shaped cement courtyard.  A room on one side holds Wellington boots which visitors are instructed to wear as well as exhibition brochures for this and other Artangel projects. Putting on the boots adds to the sense of exploration: you are suiting up to enter another zone.

Straight ahead from the entrance there is a room with peeling wallpaper leftover from a different era. It evokes a ghostly feeling and would seem intrusive to go forward into this space. To the right is a niche and then another threshold emitting a blue glow. The result of finally entering Seizure is not only a feeling of relief (there are no maggots), but transcendence. The room is covered in crystals and feels like walking into a cave in some fantastic, prehistoric place.

The walls, ceiling, decorative molding, all lighting fixtures, and a bathtub in an area that was once a bathroom are covered with brilliant blue crystals. The room is lit with a few dim bare bulbs.  The ground is slightly springy, and feels like walking on moss. Large depressions in the floor give evidence to where work boots or equipment were during the production of the piece. There are a couple of areas of partial crystal growth on the floor where copper sulphate may have leaked or pooled. This is an alternative landscape, which feels at the same time subterranean, lunar and otherworldly.

The materials that Roger Hiorns uses in his work are often industrial and duplicitous. Here, copper sulphate begins as liquid then solidifies as brilliant blue crystals. Seizure is borne out of a Dadaist practice in which the artist sets up a system of rules and materials and the resultant work of art is left up to chance. This pseudo-scientific undertaking does not aim to solve a problem, but to experiment and stimulate.

Seizure is certainly a spectacular sight, but its conceptual premise is to draw attention to or memorialize something banal and marginalized. There are parallels here to Rachel Whiteread’s House and Catherine Yass’ High Wire (a concurrent Artangel commission). All of these works employ existing post-war low-income housing as a central element of the artwork. They are like impressionist paintings of the everyday — Manet’s Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère for example – where art re-presents something so commonplace it has become visual white noise. The apartment utilized in Seizure is small and ordinary, but has been transformed into the extraordinary.