Friday, October 30, 2009

Rembrandt’s J’Accuse

From Art Forum:

Greenaway methodically deconstructs the painting, probing thirty-one of the fifty mysteries he found within it, and for much of the film he’s a talking head—a lofty yet accessible lecturer/prosecutor—contained in a small panel center-screen. He not only examines the placement and dress of the figures and the significance of the symbolism (a phallic spear, a dead chicken, a dwarfish girl holding a coffee pot) but also analyzes Rembrandt’s use of artificial light, contrasts The Night Watch with other militia paintings, and reveals how Rembrandt satirized Italian art. The actors from Nightwatching, including Martin Freeman as Rembrandt, re-create moments from the story (but none of the big dramatic moments), while Saskia (Eva Birthistle), the artist’s wife, gives testimony. Greenaway often films the live-action scenes in shadowy settings to echo Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Adler Guerrier's Everyday Travails

Alfredo Triff

This review will be unusually schematic. The reason? After much work, I lost my final draft. First, stupor, then, frustration, hence, resignation. One loves these wordy babies. Surprisingly, they have the ability to come back. If form changes, content remains.

Adler Guerrier's "Everyday Travails" is a show of prints, photos and sculptures, at David Castillo Gallery in Wynwood. But before we go into the exhibition proper, let's do a bit of history:

Around 2001, Guerrier explored the figure of the flâneur. In these early shots we'd see of the artist dressed as a businessman, carrying a briefcase and aimlessly walking through the empty Miami downtown streets. They expressed an intriguing balance between autonomy and social stereotype. (None of these photos appear in the show).

Thinking is walking, walking is thinking. But the experience is too fleeting, which brings to mind the wanderer in Breton's L'Amour Fou. The flâneur, a sort of bourgeois proto-tourist, cares about space but he doesn't have time for "place."1

Why? Otherness is costly. Energy loss: Something the flâneur's aesthetic solipsism would not allow.2 The shot above present a different concern for posture, orientation and feel. "Where" is never "there." "Down here" is something else: For example, a homeless person resting on his cardboard "bed" on a street corner, reaching for the cigarette box at arm's length, near the border of the street shoulder. A momentary promise of smoke and self-absorption. This is the right place. "Standing up" is undesirable. It confronts the self with the expanse of a cold and soulless avenue.

Let's hypothecate: How does an ant feel  its environment? Leaves, sticks and pebbles in its way do not amount to "rugged." The insect navigates over -and around- all of these obstacles in an effortless way. Sort of walking on two coordinated set of tripods. Guerrier's low-angle shots suggest mongrel scenarios made up of structures and identities in parasitic coexistence; a promising shift.

By 2005, the Haitian-American artist was toying with his own version of psychogeography. Guerrier moved away from 3-D-"drifts" into a non-hierarchical shifting of lived patterns "projected" onto a flat surface. Dérive required physical presence in the analysis of everyday life through the art of juxtaposition. How to sum up the experience of lived space in real-time? By bringing time back, by accepting without prejudice a cohabitation made up of mongrelisations between layers of experience. Thus,

The hexagon appears! It's a mark that Guerrier repeats over and over in newer contexts. It works as pattern, shooting target, abstract logo, no-form, foreground/background, graphological link, lattice replicator. Guerrier's new prints incorporated a superimposition of images where space and time were implicitly present without texture overlapping. The kind of abstract faux collage where traces of experience hang together as congealed animation.    

Coming back to "Everyday Travails," I had a problem comparing the intense realization of the print (above), with the sparsely chromatic prints presented in the show.

With the possible exception of this one (below). Untitled (cloaked or mass shield protection).

Take this print from the group, (below). It looks "studied": ornamental, not incremental. More casual, less informative. Symbols float "as if" for the sake of aesthetic balance, not of "real" need. It lacks the rigor and richness of information that characterize Guerrier's best work.

The installation is the marrow of the show: Each piece interpenetrating the other. Below, Untitled (wood mdf and plexiglass, 44x12x16"). What's that object, with hexagonal stickers, standing on stilts?

Here is a fragment of my review of Guerrier's 2005 "entry/loss/return": 

I've been interested in Guerrier's work,which has changed from photos of Miami's downtown at night: This is more like a superimposition of events, black blotches and green tempera splashes (with directional tentacles) moving near the background of the metropolis's silhouette. Amid these images you find linear sentence fragments, silent remarks as if coming from a lost century of ideologies. Then one discovers this conspicuous cantilevered solid structure -a sort of corbel- that the artist draws in most of his pieces. I read a bit into it: In architecture, cantilevers separate themselves from the ground; they are singular, impulsive. What's more important, they don't subjugate the territory.

"Everyday Travails'" shortcomings point beyond itself.3 Now, we have Guerrier's "corbels," hexagonal sign/objects + stamping, which simultaneously point as signal, effect and emotion. A future dialogue between pieces like these in a more psycho-geographical environment could stimulate a robust logic of action, even political libido: repetitive and receptive, permeable and fluctuant. More importantly, it could further develop "place"4 and links beyond place with relaxed rigor.

1"Without place there would be no place for language".-- Joseph Grange's Dwelling Place and the Environment, (Columbia University Press, 1989). According to Merlau Ponty, "place" serves as the precondition of all existing things: "To be is to be in place." Merlau Ponty's The Phenomenology of Perception (Humanities Press, 1962). 2The problem may have to do with an inherent tension between the ideologies of "time" and "space." The reason the flâneur doesn't pay attention to place is the timely quality of his experience in the "now" and its possible enjoyment of memories (think of Proust). As early as 1964, Guy Debord expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of  false consciousness of time. Henri Lefebvre built on it for a deeper analysis in his 1974 treatise, Production of Space. For Lefebvre, Capitalism is driven by a false consciousness of space. So, praxis shouldn't concentrate on regaining time as historical time, but on the reappropriation of space.  3"Everyday Travails" would've looked better in a smaller place, (or a smaller section of the gallery). The overall energy of the print/photo/installation assemblage, which happens to be Guerrier's forte, was needlessly spent. 4I keep bringing "place" because of its importance in Guerrier's overall art project. All the pics of "Everyday Travails" are courtesy of David Castillo Gallery.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Richard Höglund's Omnium Gatherum

For the best pickit in a brewflade, pick Flowers.-- Stanley Unwin

Alfredo Triff

Richard Höglund is dead serious about his art. But if he is, then he's not. In the end, the apparent contravention becomes convention. Let me explain.

Höglund’s "Fieldwork," a series of drawings and installation at Gallery Diet, display a veritable omnium gatherum of styles.1 They are ambitious pieces, filled with elliptical renderings, doodling minutia, quasi-writing, diverse looping, volumes in revolution, parabolic dispersions, hyperbolic explosions and quanta-like charts. There are traces of visual punning, graffiti, diagrammatic scrawling and capricious scribbling. Below, Untitled (v. libertate humana), 2009, 44x72" [Graphite, diatomaceous earth & acrylic gesso on linen]

From afar, the drawings look like a Gestalt. One can visualize a clear axis, with upper and lower zones. But as you come real close, the emerging details suddenly disconnect from the rest, as if executed by synapses in different brain hemispheres. Untitled (v. libertate humana) [detail]


Even scribble has its context! There are two distinct "graphic drives" in Modern Art. One is proto-ideological, design-oriented, quasi-geometric and intentionally planned. Take a look at the center of Höglund's Untitled (iii de affectibus), 44x72", 2009:

Then, there is l'écriture automatique (and its close cousins), generally apolitical, intuitive and amorphous. Untitled (iii de affectibus), 44x72", 2009 [detail]

The "style dissonance" happens no matter whether one approaches Höglund's drawings from a "historic," or a "formalist" viewpoint.2 For instance, unless one is familiar with art styles, one may not realize the huge gap between Mondrian and Tanguy.3 They both worked in Europe in the 1930's, but they belong in different vocabularies; their work emerging as solutions to different formal and historic problems. Mondrian's "hard" grids and Tanguy's "fuzzy" landscapes are sort of opposites.

Höglund's Gestalt is at a crossroads: When he seems fuzzier, he really IS NOT, because of the straitjacket of his own overall design. Is there chance for chance?4 (Thus, my big red sentence, above).

In Untitled (ii. de mente), 44x72", 2009 [detail], we get the best of both worlds. Here, calligraphy and doodling blend to achieve an abstract and subtle ebb-and-flow mood. On the upper vertical axis, above, you get a tinily buzzing island of pontillistic scrawling, cut off by a tatty little rectangle. Is Höglund zooming on muons of memory? For sure, he is having a lot of fun.

Obviously, Höglund could care less. He might argue that my analysis is as "conventional" as his drawing choices. And it's true that art doesn't have to respond to any such constraints. He could point that he favors hybridization and crossbreeding of styles. And that's that. Yet, he would still agree with me that some of his "fuzzier," more interesting choices imitate a "synthesized," stereotyped version of the original.* What was -then- chaos, becomes now "designed chaos." Even Höglund's drawings have a time-and-space. He could not have produced "Fieldwork" right on the spot, out of nowhere.5 Could he have made this installation in the New York of the early 1950's?

Which brings me to the sculptural element in "Fieldwork." I recall the strong smell of rubber, which filled the space the night of the opening, which took me out of the hierarchy of sight, into olfactory denigration. As if all of a sudden, Höglund's i. de deo exploded, turning flat smudges on linen into solid rubber shards on a gallery floor, causing a three-dimensional white-cubicle origami with the writer of this review inside it.

Höglund's drawings may not driven by modernist ideas of progress or revolutionary inquiry, but they work at the level of mental statements: injuries and traumas of the conflicting and unresolved project of Modernity.

1Höglund exhibits an array of Modern/ Postmodern influences: Masson’s écriture automatique, Lettrist Maurice Lemaître, Cy Twombly’s graffiti, Timothy Ely metaphysical ruminations and Julie Mehretu’s cosmic amalgams. 2 Structuralists make a distinction between "diachronic," or historic approach to art that looks for changes in a particular epoch (for example, Conceptual Art as reaction to Pop Art) and the "synchronic" approach, which looks at structural aspects of Western Art (independently from historic events). 3The formalist would defend his point this way: Imagine any four different "details" of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. One reason you would not have a problem connecting each detail back to the whole triptych is that they belong in a Bosch-style continuum. *By "original" I don't mean purer. 4A question attributed to Einstein by Paul Tillich, during their meeting at Davos, expressing the physicist's frustration with the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics. 5 In The Blind Watchmaker, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins suggests the possibility of a monkey typing Hamlet's line: "Methinks it's like a weasel." Dawkins actually calculates the odds against that possibility: 1 in 10,000,000,0006!

Ralph Lauren faux pas

The Huffington Post:

The picture of model Valentina Zelyaeva wearing all gray --and suffering from a bad case of pelvis-smaller-than-head-syndrome- was found in a window display in Sydney, Australia.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More fakery

In the NYTimes: The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock.

James Curtis, a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, in 1991 published a revisionist history of FSA photography, “Mind’s Eye, Mind’s Truth: FSA Photography Reconsidered.” Curtis’s thesis was simple. “The bitter reality” of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographs was not the result of clinical, photographic field work: “The realism was deliberate, calculated, and highly stylized.” According to Curtis, many of the most famous of the FSA photographs — Walker Evans’ interior of the Gudger home in Hale County, Ala. (which appeared in Evans’s collaboration with James Agee, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”), Arthur Rothstein’s “Fleeing a dust storm” and the most famous photograph of all, Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” — were all arranged, staged and manipulated.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mario Bava: Black Sunday

The curse of the Miami early mid-career artist*

A test of the new economy:

During the boom, deals were done in the first few hours of the five-day fair. This time, prospective buyers tended to put works on reserve, promising to deliver their verdicts after sleeping on it for a few nights (...) On the whole, the art on display was smaller—mercifully there was scant evidence of the giganticism that had infected boom-time sculpture—and younger. Some established dealers, such as New York's Tanya Bonakdar, Anton Kern, and Andrew Kreps, had dropped out, while the fair's new entrants tended to represent rising artists. Moreover, Frieze had introduced a new section, called “Frame”, where fledgling dealers presented solo shows of young talent.


*Miami Bourbaki is working on a series of interviews on the state of the Miami art scene. We'll tentatively call it "The curse of the Miami early mid-career artist."  

Friday, October 9, 2009


1. Genius is a talent for producing for which no definite rule can be given: not an aptitude like cleverness... consequently originality must be its primary defining mark. 2. Since there may also be original nonsense, (the products of a genius's efforts) must be... exemplary... (that is, they) must serve to inspire others to learn how to realize their own ambitions...(They do this if they) function as yardsticks for aspiring artists of successor generations: yardsticks against which to measure their own achievements if they then resolve to equal or surpass their predecessors. 3. Artistic geniuses cannot demonstrate how (they) contrive their works, for (they) give the rule as nature. Geniuses do not know how they arrived at their ideas, nor can they will such ideas into existence. 4. Through genius, Nature prescribes the rule, not to science, but to art, and this only if the art in question ranks as fine art.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No copyright, no authorship


A social thing, as opposed to being an artist making things for bored rich people to hang above their couch.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How far does a girl has to go?

The following is the description offered by the State of Massachusetts of sexual conduct as the basis of its law on obscenity:

Human masturbation, sexual intercourse actual or simulated, normal or perverted, or any touching of the genitals, pubic areas or buttocks of the human male or female, or the breasts of the female, whether alone or between members of the same or opposite sex or between humans and animals, any depiction or representation of excretory functions, any lewd exhibitions of the genitals, flagellation or torture in the context of a sexual relationship. Sexual intercourse is simulated when it depicts explicit sexual intercourse which gives the appearance of the consummation of sexual intercourse, normal or perverted.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dinah Washington - Dream

N is for natural
or real or true
the you of yourself
and the self in you.-- Audrey T. McCluskey

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Monolake - Linear

More "ous"

Apodous, antropodous, blizzardous, cogitabundous, decapodous, frondous, gastropodous, heteropodous, hybridous, iodous, isopodous, jeopardous, lagopodous, lignipodous, molybdous, mucidous, multifidous, nefandous, nodous, octapodous, palladous, paludous, pudendous, repandous, rhodous, sauropodous, staganopodous, tetrapodous, thamphipodous, tylopodous, vanadous, voudous.