Contemporaneous Extension


Come Out and Play

This has been far too long coming.

I have envisioned my entries as an amplified, verbal do-si-do amid visual ignition. It’ll be an outlet for my musings as well as an archive for personal favorites.

After the onslaught that was the Armory Show this month, I thought it most beneficial to expand upon some of the artists that caught my eye at a few of the shows I attended.

Tim Knowles : this was exciting photography for me. Knowles has a way of intuiting the voice of nature, as can be seen by his earlier series ‘Tree Drawings,’ in which pens attached to tree branches elucidate Mother Nature’s gasp. He focuses the creative potential of movement in itself, as can be seen in ‘Vehicle Motion Drawings’ and ‘Balloon Drawings.’ The former translates torque and direction into lines on paper, produced in the trunk of a given vehicle and closely linked to the resultant dips and turns of a prearranged journey. The latter heeds to the magnificence of wind, producing a drawing in pen, which is attached to the tail of a balloon in a confined space. His ‘Nightwalks’ series, presented at PULSE with bitforms, intrigued me. Illuminated landscapes are revealed as the artist walks across the craggy pathways away from the camera, shutter open, torches in tow. The long exposure is detailed and definitive, with meticulous depth in the midst of an overwhelmingly dark night. Like flattened lightening bolts, the landscapes reveal tamed shouts, confident yet admonished sparks of movement. The woven abyss incites interest from afar in the staggering of the light itself in all its glossy glory.

Alicia Ross : Uniting a digital pixelation with cross-stitching, she revels in the notoriety of sexuality. ‘Motherboards’ was on display with Black and White Gallery at PULSE. Ross presents women outside of their scenic crutches and transforms them into spotty regurgitation of themselves, with loose lags of thread bonding splotches of fiber. An odd transparency arises, due in part to the large areas of negative space. Blocks of color insinuate a sterile digitization but manage to provoke the imagination regardless. The tactility of the materials empowers the domineering women, instigating a desire to mentally and physically embrace the subject matter. ‘Samplers’ is another cross-stitched series that I find equally if not more interesting, if only for their smaller size and more extensive figure study. The intensity of contrast and shadow vary, ranging from trim highlights in a spectrum of tones to almost singularly outlined figures. She even dives into black-and-white translation, uniting her seemingly simplistic craftsmanship upon vintage photography with the expectations of the future media.

Noam Rappaport: although I couldn’t find much on him outside of his show at the ATM gallery over a year ago, he was exhibited in White Column’s area at the Independent Art Fair. The work that lassoed me in departs from his earlier work in its lack of canvas and existence as an dynamic object. Prior to these pieces, he utilized constructive materials on canvas to create mild relief wall-hangings resembling spatial concepts of Buenos Aires circa mid-19th century, transposing mundane canvas structure with the (dis)functionality of aesthetics. At White Column, he showed several wooden assemblages constructed out of approximately three-inch flanks of ply wood. The stakes pulled strands of twine into tight geometric compositions. They projected outward into space, a single light bulb relishing in the ultimate victory of gravity despite mechanical theorem to uphold it. If properly placed in the path of harsher sunlight, a wonderfully fleeting, familiar but different, shadow effect on the wall is a supplementary perk. Although the promising visual wasn’t realized at the White Columns space, the potential serves as a large portion of this piece’s staying power. The barrenness attends to the delicacy in the tension between rope, string, and any latent crash.

John Stezaker: I am a sucker for collage, and was immediately drawn to Stezaker’s foray into what is oftentimes (and at its best) a topsy-turvy existential question mark. The Approach represented a decent showing of his most recent collage combined with some older examples from the late 1970’s. Inspired by the Latin tabula rasa, Stezaker’s collages enforce a concentrated viewing experience, sharpening one’s eye whilst slipping into sweet surrender of the fantastic. His earlier works generously enmesh rhomboidal voids (literally, white space) into dubious movie stills or uncertain landscapes. The rhomboid was summoned by musical composer Arvo Part in the 1970’s, a particular influence on Stezaker, upon the dissolution of his creative block and in relation to his ensuing “clean slate.” Discussions of tabula rosa arise in Locke’s ideas about the nurtured, experience-seduced and thus impacted man originating from a pristine slate. Stezaker’s later works, predominantly from 2009, obscure the mental landscape by fusing disparate focal points and feeding your eyes to the sharks. Not only is perspective swayed, portions of the picture plane expropriated, but the fluidity with which it occurs is confounding. What is up and what is down anymore?

The Armory Show in itself had a few exciting ideas and experiments, in my opinion. These two artists immediately stood out to me in the grander scheme of both trends and the quality of their pursuit of my perceptual heart.

Zilvinas Kempinas: I’m pretty sure this was the last piece I mentally processed after six hours at Pier 94. In retrospect I’m not surprised that ‘Serpentine,’ Kempinas’ most recent endeavor being shown at Yvon Lambert, impacted me so acutely despite my exhaustion. The piece consists of five strands of magnetic tape upheld in a corner by a single floor fan reminiscent of my parent’s basement fan from the summer of 1997. It’s electric. The tape flutters, percolates in the wake of circulation and enforced elation. Between the faint flapping of the tape against the two white walls and its grey simplicity against the immaculate white corner back-board, I’ve grown addicted to the uncompromising sensual suction of this piece. Kempinas dismantles the safety of the scenarios he places his magnetic tape in, which is the unifying media throughout his oeuvre since his 2003 debut in New York. ‘Tube,’ presented at the 53rd Venice Biennale, and ‘Columns,’ a component of his 2004 exhibition at Spencer Brownstone, encompass everything I enjoyed about ‘Serpentine.’ Utilizing magnetic tape for both explorations, Kempinas warped our perceptual data while challenging the assumptions of both media and represented object. ‘Columns,’ a room of supremely stoic and nondescript pillars extending from floor to ceiling, has a disarmingly inviting air in their transparency despite gargantuan size and hefty numbers. There is no obvious interaction to be had with viewers, but the vertical heathens reflect the subtlest energies of the space. ‘Tube’ allows a viewer to stroll through the confines of a cylinder of magnetic tape, each thread parallel to each other and to the ground. The tape whisks in the breeze of the Lithuanian Pavilion, shrunken by the rescinded reality within Kempinas’ tube. Not quite large enough to encompass the wing-span of a Vitruvian man, it disarms the claustrophobia of encirclement in its strong fluidity and the pure visual gratification of seeing the reality of the space through his filter.

Polly Morgan: her ‘Stillbirth’ series from this year appeared at Other Criteria in the Armory show. Amid a flurry of taxidermy in general (Joachim Schonpeldt’s ornery animal pileup, Enrique Gomez De Molina fantastical hybrids), Morgan encouraged me to view her objects in completion in a way that was dynamically painterly and exceedingly gracious. I’m reminded of Magritte’s conundrums immediately, reiterating the necessary surrender to a parallel reality created in an image not to be confused with our own. ‘Stillbirth’ presents three graceful glass enclosures, ovular entries about two feet tall with understated foundations. Inside each container is a pheasant chick, lurking sadly over itself, dreadfully vulnerable. A single strand connects the chick to a miniature inflated balloon (green, blue, and red respectively) about half its size. The entirety of this object is tainted by the delicacy of death, further muddled by the immediate delight of a snarkily optimistic balloon. Like Magritte I think the power of her work is lost should too much focus is placed upon the seemingly simplistic option of taxidermy or the effortlessness of her animal’s accessories in artistic vocabulary (flower stems and vases, vintage telephones, chandeliers). They were a potent instance of an influx of crafted taxidermy, gingerly compelling and tactfully memorable.

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