Appendix Project Space embraces change, progress, and unpredictability, breaking the traditional archetypes of the white-wall gallery space.
In cities from Boston to Bangalore, Philadelphia to Paris, Troy to Tehran, there exists a continuing culture of galleries and venues within non-traditional walls, exhibiting and featuring the projects that rarely, if ever, make it to commercial spaces. Appendix Project Space is part of a bumper crop of such art spaces that have popped up around Portland, Oregon in trucks, porches, and boats. Appendix is an artist-run venue located in the clean white-walled garage of Zachary Davis and Travis Fitzgerald’s home, (co-founder Joshua Pavlacky recently moved to Philadelphia). Nestled within the alley between Northeast 26th and Northeast 27th Avenues, the space sits in the heart of Portland’s Alberta neighborhood. Every month Alberta hosts Last Thursday, a street fair featuring fire-dancers, DJ drum-circle dance parties, old-timey bands, a couple of hundred venders selling folk art, glass pipes, kimchi pizza, and some 10,000 attendees to gawk at. Within this mayhem there are several bars shaking great cocktails, a few interesting galleries and two fantastic bookstores. Appendix’s thoughtfully considered and well-presented endeavors make it the not-to-be-missed spot of the evening. I spoke with the gentlemen of Appendix a few weeks ago as they were wrapping up the year.
Mack McFarland You’re about to end your third season of Appendix programming, how many exhibitions and performances did you mount this season?
Travis Fitzgerald Including Hay Batch! and Target Language @ 937, we put on a total of 16 shows this season. At Appendix itself there were 10 shows.
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.
Kevin Kinsella on the dark tensions within Ilya Kabakov’s work—and the political implications of the artist’s apolitical approach.
Art produced in the former Soviet Union between the years 1953 (the death of Stalin) and 1986 (the advent of Perestroika and Glasnost) that fell outside of the rubric of Socialist Realism is often crowded beneath umbrella terms like “noncomforist art,” “underground art,” “unofficial art”—even “dissident art.” But it would be a mistake to view all art not produced with approval of the State apparatus through the same lens. Indeed, when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin for his crimes at a secret speech at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956, his Thaw introduced a liberal atmosphere to the arts, giving more freedom to create work not previously sanctioned by the State without fear of reprisal.
The surprising move turned the notion of “official art” on its head. Formally approved artists like Alexander Gerasimov, who produced Soviet Realist portraits and idealized sculptures of Lenin and Stalin, had their stamps of approval rubbed off, as pretty much everyone else got the go ahead. Artists who had been producing work in secret, now could come out of the shadows and take part in public exhibitions.
Growing up in a very different New York from the one we know today, artist Michael Alan saw the city in all its transformative glory. Emily Colucci explores the realism of Alan’s inner and outer worlds.
Born during the 1977 blackout, artist Michael Alan follows in the footsteps of New York artists who often employed and celebrated the dark conditions around them.
A lifelong New-Yorker, Alan was born in Bushwick before it was an artistic community. After moving from Bushwick, Alan was raised in different places around the city, finding himself living next door to the Wu-Tang Clan one instant, and then in Queens the next.
While growing up in these various locations, the artist lost three of his best friends and came close to losing his own life on multiple occasions. Alan, from his earliest years, began making art as a means to escape the danger around him. Alan explains, “I found it to be a struggle to be positive because everyone around me was negative. So I was the guy who drew everything all the time and that’s what I was known for. As I got older, people respected that.”
David Goodman reflects, in this photo essay, on the playground that was Miami Art Basel.
Miami is acting as a new metaphor for me. An end of a cycle with a new match struck to start a fresh blaze. The most resonate event I witnessed was Iona Rozeal Brown’s battleofyestermorrow. The strength of motion, contorted figuration and intense physicality of Benny Ninja, Javier Ninja, Rokafella, Beasty, GI Jane, Uko Snowbunny, Lady Beast and MonaLisa made almost all the other art that landed in South Beach ice cold.
That performative power disintegrated the NYC grid and I watched the dissipating dividing lines from multiple vantage points—in the air, from the hotel, the streets and the beach—like sand spilling out of my palms and through my fingers.
With this cleansed palette, I took in small elements of materiality which quietly pulsed outward from the fairs—glass from a Louise Bourgeois, Russell Maltz’s stacked and painted forms, the crocheted net of Ernesto Neto.
Erika Chong Shuch has a lot of feelings. Tess Thackara joins the artist in a circle sit-down to see how her new work takes therapy off the couch and into the crowd.
Erika Chong Shuch and her performance troupe would like to know how you feel. Think about it. How do you feel? Why have you come here? Can you let go? What does it mean to let go? These are some of the questions unassuming audience-turned-participants are asked during Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project’s (ESP) latest multidisciplinary work, Sitting in a Circle, staged at San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts. The questions are intoned with such authority and depth, it’s hard to resist them. Why have I come here, I wonder, reduced to a quaking existential question mark within moments of my arrival. The premise of this evening chez Chong Shuch was just too seductive, too latent with possibility: a group of individuals have been mysteriously summoned to grapple with what it means to sit amongst strangers—and connect. Join the group, and be guided through an interactive journey incorporating movement, installation and theater.
The night was billed to sound like an anthropological petri dish: What safety does the circle offer? Who is excluded? And why? The form-bending work, a dance-cum-performance art piece-cum-group therapy session, didn’t disappoint. Performers sit in a circle among audience members and assume the roles of emotionally damaged characters. Their interactions with one another—through dance, role-play, performance and song—cut to the core of what it means to negotiate our own emotions in a world where we are constantly negotiating the emotions of others. Do we hunger for the expression of emotion, or do we hide from it? When is emotion performed, and when genuine? Which emotions do we value, which are taboo? I struck up a conversation with Erika Chong Shuch to help unpack the baggage.
Tess Thackara In Sitting in a Circle, audience members are asked to consider an emotion that has dominated their lives and draw it onto a blank paper mask. What do you see as having been the dominant emotion in your lifetime?
Erika Chong Shuch I should’ve known that would come back and bite me! I don’t know if I can say that one specific emotion has dominated my life. I can say that my life has been dominated by emotion. My way of navigating through the world is pretty intuitive; I tend to make choices based on what I am feeling about things. And if I do have a dominant emotion, I think I’d rather draw it on a mask than put it into words!
John Reed examines our cultural fascination with the Joker through the quirky, armless lens of Don Porcaro’s art.
Why is the Joker so curious? Rizzoli/Universe’s November 2011 biography, The Joker, attempts to answer the question with historical insight, but the crux of the matter is this: creativity is crime. In the bloodless bureaucracy of present-day America, the sanguine smile is very nearly criminal. The Joker is the best and worst of the United States, the Randian mythos that has wrecked us on the shoal, and the spirit of free adventure that may well be our only hope. Batman, as originally conceived, is a literal personification of the Comics Code Authority, and the authority figure we’re likely to resent. By the late 1960s, in his television show, the Batman had become a joke, while the Joker retained his frightening appeal. The Dark Night of the 1980s and 1990s attempted to rectify the problem: Batman was now lawless, or very nearly lawless. But even so, the Batman only existed to defeat our fears, which were most purely manifested in the Joker: the criminal, or more aptly, the artist in all of us.
The artistic object—a sculpture, a painting, a found lamp—is a Frankensteinian animation of real if intangible cultural forces. The Joker, in his plots, pranks and gadgets, brings life to the jokes that are not funny, the meaninglessness of our daily regimen, and the nihilism—our fondest daydream—we are taught to fear. Don Porcaro’s army is not funny: he has sent his legions to express the leering oppression of normative culture, and our tittering desperation to be liberated.
New York artist Liz Magic Laser discusses her performance pieces—and their unusual settings, conceptions, and influences—with Amanda Valdez.
Liz Magic Laser has staged her work in bank ATM vestibules, on a staircase in Times Square and, for her Performa 11 commission, in a movie theatre. Equal in range is her cast of collaborators: dancers, actors, cinematographers, surgeons, and a motorcycle gang. Though she started out as a photographer, over time her art practice has become predominately performance-based. In the 2010 Greater New York show at PS1 she exhibited Mine, an installation of her ransacked purse in a vitrine, accompanied by a video projection of a set of hands using surgical tools to pull apart the purse and its contents. Another piece, chase, is an epic adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s play Man Equals Man. Every line creates a new frame in the film from a different location in which the actors delivered their lines to ATM machines, other patrons, and within the general contained space of bank locations. I Feel Your Pain, a feature length film created while the audience watches the performance take place in the same space recently premiered at Performa 11. In the work, the American political scene is set up as a romantic drama as seen through the lens of Russian agitprop theatre techniques. I spoke with the artist before the premier.
Amanda Valdez In your last several projects there’s a clear shift into theatre. chase was developed from Bertolt Brecht’s play Man Equals Man, Flight combines live acting with mashed up film scenes, and your latest piece is invested in theatre practices. How did this develop?
Carmen Winant interviews Brock Enright about his unusual CV and the evocative similarities between a mirror and the stage.
Brock Enright has an unusual CV for an artist. Over the past several years, the artist has staged abductions upon request, been the subject of a documentary film, held solo exhibitions in New York, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles, and appeared on The View and Good Morning America. His most recent work is now up at Kate Werble Gallery.
Carmen Winant So, before we speak about your current show at Kate Werble gallery, I am hoping to talk about your own mixed media practice. You work in performance, music, installation, drawing, and, perhaps you would even call yourself a director? I read that for your 2001 MFA thesis show at Columbia, you had your mother perform a body building routine. How would you describe yourself as an artist—and is it difficult to reconcile across different media, or decide what is most fitting for each project?
Brock Enright . . . I use the appropriate material to execute my hypothesis. By doing that, I am aware of the possibilities for misunderstanding, or the lack of interest or comprehension. The result is a larger bite than one normally eats in entertainment, or the art world.
Jorge Tacla’s latest exhibition cuts the ground out from under the notion of—well—solid ground. The result? A realm where trauma is the only terra firma.
Jorge Tacla’s Altered Remains challenges the most basic human assumptions about the cornerstones of civilization: namely, the notion that people, buildings, landmarks, and cities are safe, settled, and unshakable. Instead, the shuddering expanses of Tacla’s canvases usher us into worlds littered with post-apocalyptic detritus—the “rubble” of once interior, private spaces mercilessly torn open and dispersed.
In this vision, things appear as just shadows of their figurative selves and yet Tacla manages to invest each organic shape with meaning. We can almost read burnt vehicles, ruined structures, mechanical waste, and human figures in the repeating arcs of his work. The paintings show landscapes that may have once been ordered and familiar, now stripped to their bedrock—but not beyond all recognition. The disaster that caused the trauma has already occurred and we, as the viewer, can only bear witness to aftermath.
On October 1, millions of people in Toronto ventured outside their homes to experience the 6th annual Nuit Blanche. Rebecca Melnyk spoke to the curators about the multi-city event and the role of public art.
On October 1, millions of people in Toronto ventured outside their homes to experience the 6th annual Nuit Blanche, an all-night art event that originated in Paris. Families, tourists, students, artists, and even those with a skeptical eye toward contemporary art engaged with large commissioned conceptual installations and smaller independent exhibits that, together, culminated in a celebration of art in public spaces.
According to Julian Sleath, the programming director for this and other major cultural events, Nuit Blanche “is the only all-night event in the City of Toronto specifically focused on the contemporary visual art scene. The hope is that by using the urban setting, participants will question their relationship to once familiar surroundings, to each other and to their experience of contemporary art.” And curiosity flourished in such exhibits as Raymond Boisjoly’s “the sense of reckoning,” an installation that took the form of electronic road signs and stressed the ability of the potential for text to produce experience, as fragments of language flashed quickly on signs normally used for cautioning and blocking off the public. The piece required a heightened attention as viewers attempted to form coherent words from the jumble, and in the process, re-engage with language. As Sleath says, “like Carsten Holler’s “Test Site” in the Tate Modern, Nuit Blanche ends up ‘using people as raw material.’”
Nicholas Brown, Candice Hopkins, and Shirley Madill were the three curators for this year’s 6th annual Nuit Blanche, each curating a particular city zone. I spoke with the three about how this major art event connected to the public, the reception of conceptual art, the challenges in producing a large scale art event, and their hopes for what the public experienced.
Rebecca Melnyk What do you hope the public walked away at the end of the evening?
Nicholas Brown I hope audiences walked away with a greater sense of entitlement to physically and psychologically inhabit the financial district on their own terms. We had a tremendous opportunity to collectively recall the events of the G20, which took place just over a year ago, as the Occupy Wall Street protests continue to unfold. But it was also important to myself and to many of the artists in our exhibition that the works not prescribe a specific reading or outcome. I hope the public left empowered, and still a bit nonplussed about their experiences. Frustration, even outright hostility is expected and totally welcome. Down the road, I would hope that people discover a sense of déjà vu next time they find themselves in the financial district late at night.
Alison Saar and Hadley Roach take a stroll through Madison Square Park to explore the stages and cycles of the Seasons.
On the Saturday night before I met with Alison Saar, I walked through a moonless Madison Square Park. The Shake Shack sent greased smoke into the papery fall air. Some leaves littered the ground under my feet, while others clung and rustled overhead. The seasons leaned into each other.
Saar’s Seasons, however, were hesitant to emerge from the darkness: the serpentine branches of “Fall’s” hair caught quick glints of traffic; a ring of fireflies pulsed sporadically against “Summer’s” rounded womb; and “Spring” and “Winter” remained curled in shadow, waiting.
“Feallan and Fallow,” the installation of four seasons that Saar created for the Madison Square Art Program, was revealed in its full splendor the following Wednesday. Accompanied by two towering “Treesouls” that Saar constructed in 1994, the pieces form a larger-than-life loop of bodies, seasons, and implications. They operate, most directly, through the timeless mother/daughter myth of Demeter and Persephone—pomegranates punctuate the imagery of each piece, and the spinning of the seasons is a constant reference to Persephone’s cyclical journey between mother and lover (or captor, depending on how sympathetic we’re feeling towards the King of the Underworld).
Twenty years after their first interview, Jane Wilson and Mimi Thompson sit down together to discuss the behavior of paint and that moment when the artist disappears.
In the 1950’s Jane Wilson did something unusual—she began to paint landscapes while most of her fellow painters wrestled with the idiosyncratic tenets of Abstract Expressionism. She was not entirely alone. Artists such as Fairfield Porter and Jane Freilicher also painted figures and landscapes, but Wilson’s work was, and remains, different. It vibrates on the line that separates the abstract from the real. Her balancing act continues with her new series of landscapes. They release a palpable atmosphere, surrounding the viewer and pushing two dimensions into three and four. Growing up in the wide open spaces of Iowa, and living by the sea in Watermill, New York, Wilson contacts a lifetime of experience as she works, and pairs what she calls “an uncontrollable allegiance to subject matter” with an ability to transmit nature as feeling and memory.
Mimi Thompson The surfaces in your new paintings are complex. Some of them won’t let the viewer in.
Jane Wilson I am usually looking for the color behind the color. There is always something underneath to discover. I try to irritate the surface until it gives up what I want, so I guess I just like making trouble.
MT If it’s trouble it’s the beautiful kind. Each painting’s atmosphere seems to slide into the air around it, and the paintings communicate with each other as well.
JW I hope they are doing that. The artist never knows anything. You don’t really see your own paintings. You think you are doing one thing, and you are actually doing about fifteen different things at the same time. You don’t know what’s dominant, but you just keep doing it until you discover the answer.
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.
Artists Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich and Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen unpack the politics of the creative process.
I first met the formidable Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen at an iteration of the Be Black Baby party I had co-curated with artist Simone Leigh at Recess Activities in TriBeCa. Jacqueline—a recent graduate of the Whitney Independent Study program—at the time was still sharing creative space at the new ISP headquarters off of Canal Street. That day the artist was in the midst of her newest investigation, a project that compares a small Canadian town’s choice to build the first UFO landing pad in 1967 to the alienating aspects pertaining to the politics of immigration. Jacqueline and I continued that conversation, considering the roles of identity and activism within our respective practices.
Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich Jacqueline, tell me a little about your individual history. How did you arrive at your artistic practice?
Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen Born of Vietnamese immigrants in Canada, I was raised in the French-speaking part of Montreal. In other words, I belong to the visible minority group within a national linguistic minority group, the Québécois, in a vastly English-dominant Canada. So, in short, my life is a constant exercise of translation, negotiating and resistance between cultures, languages, and economical classes.
BOFFO pairs Patrik Ervell with Graham Hudson to build fashion against all odds.
BOFFO is a non-profit organization with the mission of facilitating partnerships between artists, designers, and the media, as well as instigating the public’s curiosity in the realms of architecture, design, and fashion. BOFFO also aims to serve as a channel that connects up-and-coming stars on the rise with twinkling luminaries.
To become a purveyor of a fresh perspective in architecture and fashion BOFFO launched Building Fashion, that, having begun in September, will cycle through a selection of five installations open to New Yorkers for two weeks each on 57 Walker Street through this December. Building Fashion is quite literal in its phrasing, as the partnerships unite fashion designers with architects who will then transform the location to express the visions of fashion designers with promise. The five chosen designers do not currently have freestanding stores, and so thereby will gain a valuable understanding of the pragmatic business side of having a pop-up of their own.
Museums want more friends. So should they strive to behave like Facebook? Jen Delos Reyes explores the emerging social trends in museum culture.
“Poor old forgotten fool / Do you have to do what you do? / I agree that it hurts no one but you / But don’t you think it gets us down / To see your long sad frown? / We truly believe you’d be better off with us / So come, come to the land where anything belongs / No one else will let you know the truth / Because we are your friends.”
—Simian, Never Be Alone
With the development of new technologies, audience expectations of interactivity and input, as well as a changing climate of how people can engage with the creation and distribution of culture, old cultural mainstays such as museums are trying new strategies to ensure that they are not forgotten or left behind.
In the new Brooklyn Babylon, graphic novelist Danijel Zezelj harmonizes with composer Darcy James Argue to make art in the round, as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival.
Composer Darcy James Argue and graphic novelist and animator Danijel Zezelj will be premiering their epic Brooklyn Babylon at this year’s Next Wave festival at BAM. The collaborative work fuses live performance with original music from Argue’s 18-piece band Secret Society, stylized animation created by Zezelj, and live painting, all in the service of a highly compelling and socially relevant narrative. I attended the October 22nd preview performance at SUNY Purchase. A few days later, in the last rays of October’s glory, I rode my bike out to Danijel’s studio in Gowanus to talk to the creators of this multifaceted and original work.
Jeremy Mage Brooklyn Babylon seems set in a mythical Brooklyn, with some visual cues suggesting we are in the 1920s or ’30s, and other references to more modern aesthetics, such as hip-hop. Can you talk about the artistic purpose of these anachronisms?
Danijel Zezelj The whole idea was that the story is set in a place that’s specific—that’s Brooklyn—and that Brooklyn has to come through, but it’s not set in any specific time, it’s rather past and present and maybe near future. And that’s why those elements are mixed together. Also aesthetically for me those are things that I’m very attracted to: the ’20s and ’30s, the aesthetic of silent movies, Russian avant-garde movies and German Expressionism, all of that, [plus] black and white photography from that time. Then there is a lot of play with shadow and light, the Baroque aesthetic. I was always fascinated by that, so it worked perfectly well as a set up for the story. And anyway, today it seems things keep coming back, certain aesthetics, fashions and looks, and it seems these circles of how things come from one to another keep getting smaller and smaller and faster and faster. Even on the street today you have people dressed like they were dressed in the 30’s and 40’s, and it’s not even that strange anymore. So there’s that element too, it reflects the reality.
California’s Arts-In-Corrections program offers new meaning to modes and methodologies of institutional critique, bringing the relationship between art and morality into focus, both inside prison walls and beyond.
Ronnie Goodman, a fair-skinned African-American man with deep-set eyes and a wide smile, began, “The program saved my life.” Ronnie, who was convicted of first-degree burglary in 1986, could neither read nor write when he began working in the California Arts-In-Corrections (AIC) program some twenty-five years ago. “When I arrived at Folsom [State Prison],” he said, “I felt like a broken toy. I needed to help myself before helping others.”
Ronnie started AIC drafting comic strips and later began reading about Fine Art, and learning to paint and carve. Now out of prison and homeless, he lives at a shelter in San Francisco and spends his days making and selling intricate linocuts and teaching art to the underserved at Central City Hospitality House. A better citizen? It would seem so.
If a collection of seventy photographs, an installation, and a film prove one thing, it’s that Patti Smith rocks much more than one world.
Even before conquering the literary world last year with a National Book Award for her memoir, Just Kids, it was hard to confine Patti Smith to one label. Descriptions of the “poet turned rock ‘n’ roller,” “shamanistic poet, proto-punk-rocker and voice in the wilderness,” “singer and visionary,” “poet, rock star, activist,” “influential poet and musician of the 1970’s”, “godmother of punk” (a big one) or to the New Yorker, simply, “singer and songwriter”, have preceded or followed her name since the launch of her debut album Horses in 1975. But now, with her new exhibition of photographs at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, it is simply impossible to call Patti Smith one thing or the other. She is, simply, an artist.
Who’s in charge? Michele Horrigan takes a look at art in a failing economy.
What’s going on with this country? is a question often heard in Irish streets and homes at the moment. Following a descent from the economic success of the Celtic Tiger, Ireland is now supported with financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A controversial recapitalization of the Irish banks by the government has left many parts of society free-falling away from a high point of a decade of affluence. Many in the visual arts community have explored these instabilities, with emerging artists collectives such as Occupy Space in Limerick and Block T in Dublin programming events and exhibitions in empty commercial spaces in city centers, triggering a new verve into dormant spaces built through an extravagant property bubble that peaked in 2007. With larger state-sponsored art institutions only sporadically addressing these issues, more makeshift cultural initiatives have formed a focused collective consciousness and critical impulse around such immediacies. Individual artists are also tackling this topic with an ability to see beyond economy and find potential.
Is CHERYL a raging dance party wherein participants share blood, glitter, and a penchant for freaky felines? Hell yes—but that’s only the beginning.
In an attempt to categorize art collective and dance party hell-raiser CHERYL on his art approval matrix, Elias Tezapsidis hits the group with twenty questions, lowbrow and highbrow alike. This is the second and final part of the conversation—aptly dubbed “The Highbrow Haught”.
Elias Tezapsidis How would you describe the social practice role the parties and CHERYL overall serve?
CHERYL CHERYL as an entity was never about the four of us. It’s a pulsating organism comprised of a very tightly-knit community of people, who are now friends and collaborators because of the initial situation CHERYL set up. We didn’t expect this, but then again, that’s kind of how we interacted as friends before CHERYL existed, so it makes sense. Positive, fun weirdos attract other positive, fun weirdos. And we are lucky that the group keeps expanding and we keep meeting even more fun weirdos, all over the world. We definitely have found our people in places like Lisbon, London, and Amsterdam. Who knew?
BOMBlog’s new Art Editor, Legacy Russell, shares her thoughts on “public art,” culture’s trans era, and connecting the dots across the globe.
The BOMB crew would like to introduce our latest addition: new BOMBlog art editor Legacy Russell. Legacy, an artist and curator herself, is a perfect fit for BOMB—where the artists are writers, the writers are artists, and the editors are both. American Idolatry, a show curated by Legacy, opens this Friday, October 28 at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn. BOMBlog’s Tauni Malmgren spoke to Legacy about growing up in New York and the development of her artistic practice. Welcome Legacy, it’s great to have you aboard!
Tauni Malmgren Welcome aboard, Legacy! First things first, how did BOMB come into your life?
Legacy Russell BOMB and I first encountered one another at Saint Mark’s Bookshop, in the East Village. BOMB set up for me a new kind of discourse, and established for me new role models outside of the traditional ones. I got a chance to realign my understanding of the world just by spending time sitting on the floor and pouring over the articles while my parents shopped. I was probably around ten. From the get-go I knew whatever I did, I wanted to write as a part of it. To entertain myself, I wrote, I read a lot. I wasn’t allowed to watch television—we didn’t even have one in our apartment. I was kind of in a black hole for most of growing up which is why books were such an asset to me. I grew up in a studio apartment with my mother and father smack-dab in the middle of the East Village. They still live there. Where writing and art intersected was in places like P.S. 122, Theater for the New City, Saint Mark’s Bookshop, the Public Theater, and later, Joe’s Pub. Where performance came into play was seeing my first drag show as a kid with my sister and then later my mother taking me to see Karen Finley for the first time. When I saw Karen Finley I was like Shit, what the fuck am I supposed to do now? I nearly went home and poured burning chocolate on myself.
Is CHERYL a raging dance party wherein participants share blood, glitter, and a penchant for freaky felines? Hell yes—but that’s only the beginning.
What is CHERYL?
CHERYL is an artist collective birthed by the evil and corrupt minds of Destiny Pierce, Stina Puotinen, Nick Schiarizzi and Sarah Van Buren. They were bored together one night after an evening of bacchanalian debauchery in South Brooklyn and found themselves without a local landing spot closer to home to use as their very own danceteria. It is here that the saga of CHERYL began and how it became a household name, a performance art party, and even a verb—To Cheryl.
The CHERYLs possessed the insight to make this a memorable engagement by attempting to make it as strange as possible: they added cat masks, played music that did not come from the most recently released pop charts, and added a little glitter and guts to the mix. While hearkening back to the playful Club Kids of an ’80s Tunnel-era New York, they still remembered to forget taking themselves too seriously. Far from Alig-murderous, an evening with CHERYL still promises (fake) blood on the dance floor.
Who needs Chelsea? With Recess painting the town, contemporary art proves it can be approachable, engaging, interactive, and downright unassuming. Is it possible? Legacy Russell made a visit to 41 Grand to find out who’s at work and what keeps the gears turning at this storefront oasis.
Legacy Russell So let’s talk about what’s most important first—is it “Recess”? “Recess Activities”? “Recess Activities Inc.”? With all these names floating in the ether, I don’t know what to choose!
Allison Weisberg This is a timely question for us. We’ve just rebranded as Recess, and overhauled our website and logo to reflect the new simplicity. I like straight up Recess. It’s short and sweet, but has a lot of layered meaning packed into one word. Activities remains in places like our url, and our Con Ed bill, and it’s a fitting addendum for us, but just call us by our first name—like Madonna.
But here’s a little back story: we couldn’t incorporate as just Recess. We needed an addendum to reserve a corporate name (I know, snooze, sorry). Activities was the solution. It follows the playful recess vernacular and makes me think of hopscotch and freeze tag. We often use the word active to describe Recess—we expect active audiences, and foster an activated environment—we assume an active role in informing the trajectory of the contemporary arts. So although we embrace play, we require a level of creative and intellectual rigor that complements our recreational spirit.
Sophie Calle is not afraid of a little intimacy—and she wants you to come up to her hotel suite. Check in to Calle’s fearless art of exposure in her latest installation, Room.
Sophie Calle, whose work has always played with notions of intimacy, vulnerability, and intrusion, has kindly invited all of New York City up to her hotel room. If the offer sounds like a bit of a come-on, that’s because it is. It appeals to our sense of morbid curiosity and, given the transitory, private, and anonymous terrain of the average hotel room (where doorknobs are often adorned with “Do Not Disturb”), it’s quite an invitation.
Photographer Amy Elkins peers through the lens of masculine identity into the eye of a high-contact sport with a new show at Yancey Richardson.
After seven years of living and working in New York, the photographer Amy Elkins recently moved to Portland, Oregon. However, her roots in the city are still strong: her current exhibition, Elegant Violence, is open through October 22nd at the Project space in the Yancey Richardson Gallery. In making portraits of rugby players, Elkins’s new work continues her ongoing investigation of masculine identity through photography.
Carmen Winant Your series of photographs, Elegant Violence, up now at Yancey Richardson gallery, was begun in 2010. As with your last body of work, Wallflower, you have chosen to make intimate portraits of young men. Will you address a question that I imagine you get a lot: why maleness? Artists often tend toward negotiating their own subjective experiences . . . is the driving force in your work to achieve the opposite, to probe maleness as a thing fundamentally unknowable?
Amy Elkins It’s a theme I began exploring once I moving to New York. I had lived in California and New Orleans prior to that, and had never considered narrowing my photographic explorations to sex and gender. I have always primarily worked within portraiture, but my interests were less formal and less specific. It is true to some extent that I am interested in the subject matter because it is foreign to me . . . I won’t ever really know why men are the way they are, or why they have been compelled throughout history to act on impulses of competition through sports or violence. I can read about it, look into it endlessly or talk for hours with the men I am photographing, but I will probably walk away just as curious. My curiosity also stems from my personal history. I’ve always been a keen observer of the men in my life.
In continuation of BOMBlogs reprint series of San Francisco’s [2nd floor projects], Matt Sussman writes from a collection of illustrated artworks by Matt Borruso that inspire visions of a post-apocalyptic environment.
The camera zooms out slowly to show that I’m the last man on Earth. Actually, I’m having cocktails with friends I stole from the department store. The city is a veldt in which all the metaphors have been poached. Watch me perform a trick shot in which doves fly from my open wounds, white darts from a magician’s coat. The animals had to be borrowed surreptitiously, because nothing conveys the dark night of sense and desire like a lone camel. The waiter cuts into my neck and extracts a cancerous squid simmered in indigo. Voila! Dinner is served.
With Chinatown tat and other trimmings, Whitney Claflin attaches personal significance to otherwise impersonal loot on the grounds of abstraction. Mary Jones talks shop and Twitter with the artist.
It’s the last week of August and Whitney Claflin is unpacking her week-old studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At the same time, she’s preparing for a four-person show at Thomas Erben Gallery in New York. At the end of September she’ll leave for a two month stay in Venice, California, where she’ll be selling her wine bottle paintings on the boardwalk. Whitney graduated from RISD in 2005 and from Yale in 2009.
Mary Jones I think of your work as being completely deconstructed. Everything about painting is questioned––put under pressure and analysis. Can you describe your influences?
Whitney Claflin Miró is someone that I think about a lot. He was someone who was very much a painter, he questioned everything in a wry, humorous way, but also in an angsty way. His Constructions and Objects (from the early 1930s) are inspirational because they’re visual puns, and they’re both formal and personal.
In her new column Rocks and Gravel, Alex Zafiris investigates creative relationships. In her inaugural entry, she talks to author Ivan Vartanian about his new book Art Work: Seeing Inside the Creative Process.
Ivan Vartanian’s new book, Art Work: Seeing Inside the Creative Process (Chronicle) is an in-depth study of the process by which artists arrive at original thought, and the means by which they make it reality. Vartanian has collected and photographed the notes, scribbles, post-its, chalkboards, sketches, trinkets, journals, spaces and studios of 25 different artists. Analytical text, with interviews—occasionally written by the subject themselves—accompanies each section. Where the artist was not present, a relevant critic, or friend, stepped in to write a second-hand experience.
The result is a handbook of sorts. As we’re accustomed to seeing only the finished product, the evidence of creative machination is intriguing and deeply personal. The walls of Will Self’s writing room are covered with hundreds of strategically placed yellow Post-it notes. Louise Bourgeois’s insomnia drawings are static and angry. Shahzia Sikander’s ink gestures are contained dreamscapes. Yohji Yamamoto writes, “To single out the moment of waking something that was asleep: All creation is a repetition of that moment. A repetition of fragments.” Merce Cunningham’s notebooks disclose the choreographer’s system of stick-figure notations to set down his dances. Carsten Nicolai’s preparatory drawings for his sculpture Anti-Reflex look at the exchange between form and sound. Richard Hell presents his journals, complete with an early 1970s Blimpie wrapper, a sketch of Jean-Luc Godard and a list of song titles, and declares that the entries “are meditations and manifestos rejecting the concept of rigid identity.”
Alex Zafiris You had certain ideas about how to format the book. And then, Richard Serra upped your game.
Ivan Vartanian It was a great moment. As we were talking about it, I told him that we had done a shoot at Doug and Mike Starn’s studio at Beacon. I had commissioned a photographer to capture the work as it was being developed. He took that as a launch pad. That room in his studio became a metaphor for his larger artistic process. He brought his nephew, Ivory Serra, to do the photography. Ivory shoots a lot of Serra’s sculptures for catalogues and stuff, so it was this organic coming-together of ideas.