Shifting Connections continues with writer and critic Kathleen MacQueen’s take on Joseph Kosuth’s new installation at Sean Kelly Gallery, on view through April 30th.
Fred Wilson makes history at the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art.
“Papa Legba, ouvri berriere pour moins!” (“Papa Legba, open the gate for me!”): a plea to the voodoo intermediary between the world as we know it and the spiritual realm beyond, inscribed on the wall at the entrance of Fred Wilson’s recent intervention at the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art entitled Life’s Links. Papa Legba is guardian of the crossroads and it is movement across boundaries that the artist evokes as he selects from Walter O. Evans’s rich collection of art, artifacts, and manuscripts of African-American history, a fraction of which has recently been gifted to the museum. Using the Savannah Grey bricks—a local hallmark—Wilson creates a resonant visual continuity that echoes the transition of the building from its former existence as the historic Central of Georgia Railway depot to its 2011 revitalization as a contemporary art museum. In doing so, he alludes to pavement and archives as well as barriers and slave quarters in an installation that opens chinks in the walls of historical blindness. Bricks—like the documents in the cases that guard Dr. Evans’s notable manuscript collection—are units that cumulatively have the potential to build or destroy.
Shifting Connections untangles the complexities inherent in the work of Hans Haacke.
One of contemporary art’s best-kept secrets is that Hans Haacke’s work can be fun: what a pleasure to see the repeat performance of his 1967 systems art exhibition at MIT! I tried to imagine what it would have been like to see this seminal work when it was first exhibited—questioning whether it was art or science—but I soon disconnected from time and history. It was simply nice to be there! The wafting sensuality of Wide White Flow (1967/2006/2010), the sinewy wiggle of White Waving Line (1967/2011), and the enamel-like sheen on the sleek, wet surface of Ice Stick (1966) all speak of a straight-forward aesthetic that shifted the emphasis in art from medium and mimesis to art as a dynamic environment. Whatever its effect in 1967, the work exerts a strong presence today as a lively interface between medium, methods, context, and content of art.
In the inaugural entry of her new column Shifting Connections, writer and critic Kathleen MacQueen discusses Krzysztof Wodiczko’s show at Galerie Lelong, on display through March 19th.
Shifting Connections continues with writer and critic Kathleen MacQueen’s interview with Alejandro Cesarco, Uruguay’s representative in this summer’s Venice Biennale.
I joined conceptual artist, Alejandro Cesarco, Thursday afternoon, May 5th, to screen and discuss his recent work, including Everness (2008), The Two Stories (2009), Zeide Isaac 2009), and Present Memory (2010). We also referred to Turning Some Pages commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in 2010.
Kathleen MacQueen I was motivated to speak with you because your work introduced me to experiences that are both distinctly different from and also extremely similar to my own. In homage to your indexes for books you have not “yet” written [Index from 2000, Index (a Novel) from 2003, and Index (a Reading) from 2007-08], I found myself preparing a set of questions for works I have not “yet” seen. Even so, in the way you work—the culling of diaries, a precise selection of memories, an open sharing of influences—the unfamiliar is expected. It is not that I know where the work leads but I recognize in my reading of it where I am.
Alejandro Cesarco Two Stories and Turning Some Pages both suggest an open-ended conversation. They offer spaces to fill, a discussion to join.
In her latest Shifting Connections, Kathleen MacQueen reflects on three of her favorite shows from the Summer of 2011.
First, I’ll admit that I am out of my element, thrown against the grain of my comfort zone—viewing Ryan Trecartin’s installation videos at PS1 is like asking me to accept a child who has mutated to a completely different genetic code and adopted a distinctly altered social construct than my own. It’s a generation gap thing, confronting an alien set of values, and a disconcerting, unfamiliar experience. Yet his épater la bourgeoisie, in-your-face, gender-bending outrage has a distinctly hopeful glint of bad boy/bad girl possibility: a revolution whose lack of political gravity might just be the tremor that dismantles neo-capitalism in a way that it least expects. The threat that Trecartin poses is the very transmutation of product culture, reality television, and rhythmic MTV overload that determines the perfect flight attendant, ruthless CFO, calculating media strategist of the corporate boardroom and the campaign trail. Through a lineage of influences—a tearless Paris is Burning, Alexander McQueen sans Goth, chaos infiltrated Bauhaus—Trecartin’s scandals are the dry heaves of thwarted expectations. Overdosed on visual and auditory stimuli, the psyche splinters helplessly yet this artist’s visual tantrums are assembled with such an aesthetic consistency that chaos appears to be a reasonable state of being.
Shifting Connections continues with writer and critic Kathleen MacQueen’s take on Terence Koh’s nothingtoodoo at Mary Boone Gallery, on view through March 19th.
In her latest Shifting Connections, Kathleen MacQueen reflects on her favorite shows of the Spring of 2012.
Themes of language and communication ricochet through this spring’s exhibition season in New York City, from Jenny Holzer’s restricted language abstractions at Skarstedt Gallery uptown, to Elaine Reichek’s threads of betrayal and cries of complaint in her Ariadne tapestries at both the Whitney Biennial and downtown at Nicole Klagsbrun in Chelsea. The Biennial also features fragments of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft’s correspondence as interpreted by photographer Moyra Davey. Davey’s inclination to fold her own images as letter-envelopes sending them through the mail extends intimacy across time and space as a tactile flight of fancy and a restless search for communion. Even Nicole Eisenman’s languidly empathic painting at the Biennial entitled Breakup exposes the vacuum look of despair induced by a smartphone text that divides existence into before and after.
What interactions are triggered by the exchange of brief messages?
Shifting Connections returns to the work of Fred Wilson, staring through the looking glass at a different facet of the artist’s creative practice.
In his recent exhibition at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea, Sala Longhi & Related Works, Fred Wilson, a sculptor and conceptual artist, extended themes begun in Venice nearly a decade ago when the artist represented the United States at the 50th Venice Biennale with the exhibition Speak of Me as I Am. Returning to Venice in 2011, he created an installation inspired by Pietro Longhi’s 18th-century painting cycle in the Sala Longhi of the Palazzo ca’ Rezzonico in Venice. Wilson’s Sala Longhi (2011) was first installed in Glasstress during the 54th Venice Biennale. In a salon-like setting of twenty-seven artworks framed in gold, Wilson replaces Longhi’s genre scenes with sheets of black Murano glass graced with cutouts where Longhi had painted faces and masks. An additional central canvas is a cascade of glistening white leaves and flowers, an opulent sconce blossoming from the wall.
Fascinated with Western culture’s primacy of vision as a means of measuring worth, Fred Wilson recognizes both the seductive power of visual objects and their subtle influence on our psyche. With Sala Longhi & Related Works, including Iago’s Mirror (2009) and To Die Upon a Kiss (2011), Wilson intimates that splendor and magnificence are often matched by cruelty and intolerance.
What we say and what we fail to say matters. Read what Kathleen MacQueen succeeds in saying about the 54th Venice Bienalle in the latest installment of Shifting Connections.
What we say and what we fail to say matters. How we are prevented from speaking matters as well. The innumerable implications of the expressed and unexpressed struck me dumb in facing the themes of war, violation, displacement, power, and isolation that course through this year’s Venice Biennale. It is, according to New York Time’s reviewer Roberta Smith, a biennial beefed up on steroids but, by looking beyond the spectacle to the smaller details, one can discern both subtle and complex exhortations to the subjects that matter in contemporary art’s most prominent arena.
“Speech matters” (Katarina Gregos, curator, Danish Pavilion).
For its second biennial in a row, the Danish committee has eschewed the tradition of national pavilions by selecting the Belgium-based Greek curator Katarina Gregos to construct an international dialogue on issues of free speech. Gregos has curated a group exhibition with only two Danes among eighteen artists or collectives from ten other countries, infusing both depth and breadth into a topic that is not simply a “thumbs up or down” decree but a complex discussion relevant to Danish society and of utmost urgency world-wide.
Of particular note are American Taryn Simon’s photographs of hidden subjects—glowing radioactive capsules at a nuclear waste storage facility, deformed white tigers (the product of genetic breeding), gynecological surgery to restore the hymen of women before marriage—experimentations of ethically questionable social, economic, or scientific taboos.
In her latest installment of Shifting Connections, Kathleen MacQueen sits down with South African photographer Jo Ractliffe.
South African photographer Jo Ractliffe and I had each read Another Day of Life, Ryszard Kapuściński’s account of the events leading up to Angola’s struggle for independence from Portugal and the civil war that ensued. To her, Angola had been a myth, the site of a border war between her native South Africa and Namibia, a place where brothers and boyfriends were sent for military service. For me, the conflict had continued through six presidencies but I was completely unaware of either U.S. or Soviet involvement—a protracted parallel of the Cold War—a struggle over ideological positions and resource allocation. It was a global struggle mapped as local, which ended militarily in 2002 but continues economically today. We shared a conversation about her landscape series As Terras do Fim do Mundo as an imaginative space that creates its own language.
Kathleen MacQueen Thinking about Sontag’s early essays included in On Photography (1977), I question photography’s value as documentation of reality. Looking at your images—particularly this latest series entitled, As Terras do Fim do Mundo (The Lands of the End of the World)—I consider a way of seeing rather than a documentation of fact. In this sense, the American geographer D.W. Meinig introduced in the 1970s a hypothetical landscape with ten viewers; each saw the same landscape differently: as nature, habitat, artifact, system, problem, resources, ideology, history, place, and aesthetic. He failed to foresee an 11th viewer: you, who see landscape as conscience! Why landscape, why Angola, and why now?
Jo Ractliffe I agree; for me, photography is very much about seeing—and being critical and self-reflexive about what such seeing means. Jill Bennett has a fine way of articulating it; she talks about a seeing that reflects upon “conditions of perception.” I like that; how it speaks to the contexts that frame our perceptions and understandings of things . . .
Why landscape? I’m a little hesitant to even call it landscape; it’s more about space and the ways space speaks to the things I’m interested in expressing in my photographs. And to be honest, I prefer working with space and structures and objects. I have difficulty with what it means to photograph people–the complex, often fraught, exchanges it entails. David Goldblatt says I like landscape because it doesn’t talk back! I don’t entirely agree; I find landscape very present and I have a strong sense of being in dialogue with it. I also like the solitariness that comes with the process–the road, the journeys, time and distance.
Shifting Connections continues with Kathleen MacQueen’s interview with Daniel Canogar, one of the artists featured in New York’s Into the Light event.
Nuit Blanche originated in Paris in 2001 and has developed into an annual global network of contemporary art events taking place one night of the year. This year’s New York event, Into the Light, invited 69 artists to create, in the words of the organizers, “an immersive spectacle for thousands of visitors to re-imagine public space and civic life” along the waterfront of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Another of New York City’s marginal and transitional zones, this industrial neighborhood bridges a history of development that is rapidly changing. Now in the eyes of real estate developers, Greenpoint has traditionally served a labor economy with its port, warehouses, and long stretches of roadway that encourage transport over transformation, movement rather than contemplation. What kind of intervention gives meaning to an existing landscape without simply appropriating it, considers its features, its origins, and its purpose—in short, recognizes it for what it is rather than what we ask it to be?
To address the industrial scale of the neighborhood in relation to human involvement, I spoke with Daniel Canogar, a new media artist from Madrid and a veteran of public art interventions and installations including Constelaciones, a permanent public art installation on new pedestrian bridges crossing the Manzanares River in Madrid, and Travesias, a LED screen 33 meters in length installed in the atrium of the Justus Lipsius building of the European Union Council both from 2010. For Into the Light, he adapted his work Asalto (Assault) (2009/11) to create a dynamic light painting whose color and composition is determined by local participants translating gesture to visual projection.
In her latest Shifting Connections, Kathleen MacQueen reflects on three of her favorite shows of the season.
November 4, 2011 – January 22, 2012
— John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972)
Maurizio Cattelan consistently refutes any comfortable positions we might accept in our relation as viewers to art and art’s face-to-face with reality. In his retrospective currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum, he dangles some 130 works (most of his collective output since 1989) as a defunct carousel around which we spiral, circulating the rotunda. The artist has also hung his career up to dry, vowing to retire with the Guggenheim exhibition serving as his swan song.
Kathleen MacQueen travels to Kassel to immerse herself into the depths of dOCUMENTA (13).
Therefore, an exhibition may be conceived as a network of many exhibitions, each shifting continuously between forefront and background, some visible, some invisible, some visible only many years after the event. – Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, 100 Notes—100 Thoughts
This year’s dOCUMENTA (13) is often confusing, frustrating, and in need of signposts. The installations are so determined by their spaces that they hide among the scientific instruments in the Orangerie, tower in the “grandiose display” architecture of the documenta Halle, and, like travelers between trains, are lost to the expanse of the Hauptbahnhof. A two-day visit, as recommended by the online visitor’s guide, is scarcely enough with distances between venues too great and artworks too complex to absorb in such a short period of time. With ten primary venues and twice as many off the main site, there is a bewildering array of choices: one can choose among a range of dTours and dMaps as guides or get sidetracked as I did, hoping to find satisfaction in unexpected encounters.