Virginia Broersma: Dithyrambic

The paintings of Broersma occupy an enigmatic space where anthropomorphic gestures collide with classical genre painting. Her bent, twisted and twirling forms weave the figure and the environment together into a seamless pictorial event. Executed in a manner that is both haptic and subtle, Broersma's painterly vocabulary mixes a reserved sensualism with dithyrambic operations. As such, her unique take on classical themes like 'the bathers' and 'the odalisque' challenge not only traditional ideas of beauty and design, but they explore the shifting space between figurative naturalism and the (post-)modern preoccupation with formlessness.

As such, Broersma's work avoids being read as a display of figurative pathos or another return to painterly 'heroism'. Instead, her images develop a dialectics of dissonance based on revealing and concealing, veiling and unveiling, determined mark marking and improvisational actions. These dynamic qualities, which represent forms coming in and out of being, also reveal a second set of questions concerning the phenomenal quality of what is being pictured. That is to say, a closer reading of Broersma's images quickly reveals a 'catalog' of pictures that stand twice removed from the subjects they portray. Of course, this is the case not only because painting is always already a form of mediation, but because the subjects in her source material hint at museum lighting techniques and the staged quality of the cultural imaginary in the era of hyper-mediation.

By making us aware of the split between the affect of 'staging' and the rhetoric of display, Broersma's work asks us to question not just how we think about classical themes as a reflection of socio-political and gendered interests, but also how iconic images are constructed as a total experience that extends well beyond the confines of what is 'pictured'. In other words, it is not just the aura of the image that serves as the raw material for Broersma's art practice, but rather, an engagement with the very techniques that are used to produce the 'quality' of the iconic for public consumption.

Thus, Broersma is not just another history painter of sorts, or someone who is interested in painting figurative morphologies, even though both of these concerns are central to her art practice. Rather, what we find at play in Broersma's imagery, beyond a certain painterly opulence, is that her images court an indefinable space that consists of endless questions about canonical works and their conditions of presentment. This paradoxical doublebind - of reworking historical or academic themes in order to make them more porous and less identifiable - is what gives Broersma's project a unique sense of purchase in the contemporary moment.

Composed of inerrant indices of the iconographic, her paintings work to reconfigure the status attributed to the image as a cultural artifact by directly addressing the crisis of terminal metastasis known as pluralism. Not only that, but Broersma's oeuvre challenges the cult-like 'status' of the image by sampling techniques and imagery from the most over-determined styles of picture making and then making- them-over into new models of plastic expression.

What we witness in such moments is the apotheosis of the 'grand manner' as it becomes subject to the mutations of improvisation over and against the auratic techniques of exhibition design as well as the 'quality' of mechanical and/or digital reproduction. Most importantly however, Broersma's work takes up this position as a process of open-ended play, providing a polyvalent reading of history painting that is a rare and honest achievement in a period of art production that often derides the codex of historical themes as retrograde or simply démodé. In Broersma's theater of pictorial pleasures, the themes of modernity take on a new vitality, not just for engaging with the past, but for opening up new avenues in thinking about the pictorial problematic in the early twenty-first century.

Bio: Virginia Broersma (b. San Diego, CA) received her BFA in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA in 2004. Recent exhibitions include a solo show at Fermilab Art Gallery in Batavia, IL and group exhibitions at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, CA and at JAUS, Autonomie, and with 5790projects in Los Angeles, CA. Upcoming exhibitions will include a group show that will be traveling to the Palazzo della Provincia de Frosinone in Italy, and to the Oceanside Museum of Art and the Riverside Art Museum in Southern California. Broersma has been the recipient of a several grants including funding from the California Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Puffin Foundation and was awarded a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago, IL, which she received in both 2010 and 2011. Broersma currently lives in Long Beach, CA.

 

 

 

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Becca Shewmake: Assembler Clouds

The works of Shewmake collide the unmentionable with the intentional, resemblance with semblance and the graphic with the haptic. Consisting of highly stylized, layered surfaces, Shewmake's paintings are rich in both affect and allusion. Moving between the abstract and the figurative, her anamorphic characters float, merge and simply cohabitate in a manner that creates a sense of psychological unease. These rather precarious pictorial relations are further highlighted through the use of asymmetrical pairings and unequally weighted compositions. The contrast between tension and playfulness in her work develops out of an implied narrative that acts as a place of projection and desire for the viewer.

Working with a scatological vocabulary that celebrates the pitiful, the shabby and the embryonic is what allows for Shewmake's imagery to open onto diverse readings, readings that range from solemn empathy to abstract allegories. Whether seen as modern refuse, postmodern refusal, or contemporary refugees, Shewmake's hybrid figures are often cast in bas-relief from the environments they inhabit. By bringing together varied strategies from color field painting, neo-expressionism and gestural abstraction Shewmake's pictorial vocabulary creates a fusion of effects that range from the clinical to the emotive.

Extending a tradition of cartoon-like figuration beyond the manic images of George Condo or the psychosexual figures of Carroll Dunham, Shewmake's works ask us to consider the possibility of subtler narrative devices. Neither overwrought nor underworked, her pictorial sensibilities move between attraction and repulsion without needing to insist on an aesthetics of the non-descript. Rather, her idoscyncratic imagery emerges from a deft hand and a mood of thoughtful repose. This approach to feeling one's way through the figurative impulse allows the viewer to settle into a space of imaginative conjecture, and ultimately, of active reception.

Whether seen as a commentary on modes and models of painting, or as a visual anthropology of the figurative impetus, Shewmake's work makes us more aware of how it feels to be a subject of expression in an age of subjective compression. Her oeuvre might even be considered to be a form of notetaking, or a catalogue of sorts, about the status of the subject in the age of accelerated capitalism, where a fleeting impression, a minor indication or an affected contour is enough to put us in touch with what remains of the human condition in era that is often 'characterized' as post-human.

From this point of view, Shewmake's paintings could be seen as representing an uneasy form of realism that serves as a timely meditation on the contradictions of figuration's past, present and future. If anything, they are certainly emblematic of thinking about figuration as a verb tense, or even as a dangling participle. The idea of the figure as an intractable event is what makes Shewmake's contribution of special import in field of phenomenal and psychological impressions. As such, Shewmake's work makes more of an impression for not letting its viewers off with a sense of resolve, but rather, for opening up a myriad of questions that might be thought of as visual gestation, or of thinking about figuration itself as the muse of perpetual inquiry.

Bio: Becca Shewmake received her Master of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Long Beach in 2013, and her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota in 2005.  Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the Midwest and California, including the DeVos Art Museum in Marquette, Michigan, The Soap Factory in Minneapolis, MN, and the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, California.

 

 

 

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Bessie Kunath: Free Normcore

The works of Kunath challenge how we think about interpretive modes of making as well as theoretical models of knowing. With past bodies of work like "auction items", and "everyday scenery", the fine line between commerce and aesthetic commentary is held in abeyance. But this is not to say that Kunath's work is absent historical references, or that it aims at merely repositioning the mundane. Instead, what we are presented with is a repurposing of the transient elements of culture in a manner that activates a variety of social, material and aesthetic presuppositions.

In Free Normcore, a term that further extends the claims made on behalf of the de-industrialized fashion movement, Kunath brings together a selection of 'free' and found objects for exhibition that have been rejected from commercial trade. By abutting cultural dejecta with programmatic premises, Kunath's works are able to occupy a space between aesthetic interventionism and the anti-aesthetic urge that puts both positions in question. Simultaneously reductive and random, Kunath's chromatic recasting of found materials underscores how notions of value, fragility, and outmodedness can challenge the insularity of interpretation that haunts the hermeneutics of meaning production.

In this way, Kunath's works openly embrace the productivity of ambiguity by lightly effecting found materials, as well as highlighting various forms in an open-ended and provisional manner. Thus, by challenging the rhetorical devices of re-presentation, and making selective interventions in domestic and discarded objects, we find that the threat of overdetermined meaning is constantly decentered by the encounter between artist and object, spectator and object, and culture placed in a broader context. Within the bounds of Kunath's projects however, there remains a subtle hinting at the larger architecture that frames the contemporary art world, given over to us through the use of sculptural objects as a type of edifice that is everywhere implicated in our current culture of disposability. In this way, we can say that ecological and social responsibility are part of the strata of expectations that attend the productivity of the art object, and Kunath's practice as an artist in particular. What is revelatory in Kunath's work however, is how the substrate of the common object can become a language that signs the present moment in a myriad of unpredictable and unforeseen ways, making a piece of cast-off commerce into a morphological experience of collected meanings that are as prescient as they are untimely.  

Bio: Bessie Kunath lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She holds an M.F.A. in Studio Art from University of California Santa Barbara and B.A. in Art and Education from the University of San Francisco. Kunath has actively participated in exhibitions in San Francisco, Orange County and Los Angeles. Kunath has been curating art exhibitions as well since 2005 and is a member of LA-based collective, Manual History Machines. 

 

 

 

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Tessie Whitmore: Space Face

The uncanny cacophony of cult-like objects that make up Whitmore's art practice create a space where nostalgia and interventionism challenge our 'ready-made' expectations. This 'mixed' status carries across her paintings, collages and errant idols in a way that allows us to put performativity and worship in question, and not just in the white cube, but also in the greater world of ritual behavior. Moving between counter-culture symbols and the motifs of abstract art, Whitmore's work collides the formal and the spiritual in a mode of artistic shamanism that embraces paradox and contradiction. Throughout her various bodies of work we find the emblematic designs of the new age movement colliding up against the iconic purchase of high modernism, allowing us to reflect not only on the melancholia of the post-historical age, but on the constant slippage between two disparate types of 'cultural' production.

Whether directly engaged in a performance, or re-presenting footage of a certain happening, or even making a space for viewer participation within her installations, Whitmore's art practice asks us to engage in thinking about how presence operates in the twenty-first century. By bringing everyday experiences into a place of alter-like reverence, and using common materials and processes to produce a meditative aesthetic, Whitmore's pieces have the ability to transfix the viewer without relying on a transcendental signified. Repetition and reduction, as well the dynamic use of image, sound and language, all work to create a space in which aesthetic experience connects us to questions about cultural as a form of resistance.

Whitmore's newest works push these dialectic antagonisms even further by bringing a heightened sense of absorption together with a deep historical engagement that examines the notion of 'belief' writ large. By colliding baroque motifs with a wholly immersive aesthetic, the gallery space is transformed into an arcane study in cultural iconography. Bringing the idea of the total work of art - or a complete installation - together with aspects of minimalism, color field painting, sacred geometry and secular mysticism, makes us ever more aware of the kinds of aesthetic conflicts that Whitmore traffics in. Caught somewhere between romantic disavowal and a hidden desire for transformative experience, we find that the duplicitous desires that drive Whitmore's art practice just might provide the curative effects and ecstatic experiences we need most in a culture of intensive commodification and near instant co-option. One might even say that the most poignant aspect of Whitmore's project is that it allows for the redemption of contrasting modes of experience by letting the ephemeral and the transcendental comingle is a space of equal repose.

Bio: Whitmore studied at Claremont Graduate University, MFA 2012 and California State University Long Beach, BFA Drawing and Painting 2009. She is a 2011 recipient of the Albert B. Friedman Grant Award and the 2013 Artist in Residence at Coastline Community.  She was included in Mas Attack II, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA, GLAMFA 2012: Greater Los Angeles Master of Fine Arts Exhibition, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA, andBOOM Southern California MFA Invitational.  She recently has been curating shows with her collective Manual History Machines including The Familiar Unfamiliar, Wonder Valley, CA and Are Friends Electric I at Fellows of Contemporary Art and Are Friends Electric II at Claremont Graduate University receiving the 2014 Curators Lab Exhibition Award.

 

 

 

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Davin Kyle Knight / Michelle Jane Lee: Proximate Mediations

 

Davin Kyle Knight

The iconographic import of abstract art has undergone a series of diagnostic interventions in the printed and painterly images of Davin Klye Knight. Few contemporary works play with so many different forms of registration as Knight's most recent series. By actively moving between a wide variety of paper types, multi-layered forms of editing, and the duplicitous use of technology with handmade interventions, we find that Knight's pictorial vocabulary invites a forensic type of looking. In this way, Knight's images are like a theater of the uncanny, everywhere giving us doppelgänger effects through the multiplication of diachronic and synchronic operations.

Composed from drawn, collaged and post-production techniques, Knight's works also involve repurporsing his own personal collection of art tools in order to activate multiple readings of '(de)standardized cultural use'. By hacking the history of abstract painting through a multitude of filtering processes, Knight's images highlight the slow matriculation process that sees culture moving from the age of mechanical reproduction into an era of seamless re-mediation. And yet, such a transition is not always a clear resolve, and it does not leave us with a secure definition of what a painting is at the opening of the 21st century. In fact, anything but.

This sense of tension is activated in Knight's pictorial practice by putting the categories of authorship and intentionality in abeyance. The space between collage and drawing, progression in a series and pure improvisation, or digital and painterly effects permeate his eclectic compositions. Even the use of traditional art materials and commercial techniques begin a slow collapse as the viewer investigates Knight's contiguous surfaces. It is here that the diagnostic process comes into full play as we encounter the future anterior of abstract painting, caught somewhere between the complexity of technological enculturation and the reclamation of modernist sensibilities. Perhaps it is only out of such a conflicted territory that we can even hope to make a diagnosis of the present state of culture. Much more importantly however, are the many ways in which Knight's art practice stands out as a significant project in helping us think about the problematic status of image making in the contemporary moment, something for which his recent works should be roundly applauded.

Bio: Davin Kyle Knight is a mixed media artist who lives and works in Los Angeles. He holds an M.F.A. in Studio Art from Claremont Graduate University and a B.A. in Studio Art from Western Washington University. He was the recipient of the CGU Art Fellowship (2010 & 2011), Helen B. Dooley Art Fellowship (2011) and the CGU President’s Art Award (2011). Knight’s work has been exhibited in several West Coast cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego.

 

Michelle Jane Lee

The works of Michelle Jane Lee are visual cryptograms that invite us to participate with them on a number of different levels. Her images are process-based works that are not reducible to a strict set of operations, minimalist works that are not merely the result of systems thinking, and while they tend to be geometric in nature, that does not mean they are necessarily essentialist. Every time we encounter one of Lee's delicately mounted drawings, which have the presence and power of any image that sits alongside a substrate, we are met with a series of ciphers that draw us deeper and deeper into the quite contemplation of Lee's hybrid forms and processes.

Her titles, often taken from romantic pop songs, are the first cue that this is not merely a minimalist program. The fact that the coded systems Lee works with are not hermetic, but are based on translating text into image, provides another hint that we are encountering a different kind of aesthetic project than historical precedence provides for. Even more telling is the fact that Lee's color choices are specific to a moment of personal remembrance, a quality that links her pallet to a phenomenology of 'felt' qualities even while activating certain color codes common to the culture unconscious. This dual inflection of the semiotic and sentimental is not lost on anyone willing to linger a little longer before the impressions that emerge from Lee's optically active surfaces. The insistence on touch, a certain carefulness in the consideration of process, and even a subtle sense of narrative are all provided for by Lee's emphasis on pushing select contrasts in pictorial experience.

All of this testifies to a certain trust that Lee has in her audience to make contact with both sides of the work, the emotional and the conceptual. Even the intimacy of scale provided for by her images invites a kind of intensive reflection by asking the art going public to have a singular encounter that relies on the necessity of placing oneself close to the image. It is here, within the intimate space of viewership, that the process of deciphering a series of encoded indices begings to reveal an art practice that is deeply committed to working through the concerns of twentieth century abstraction as well as developing a set of paradoxical interests that are decidedly different from the aesthetic programs of the past. From such a perspective we can say that the proliferation of proximate historical referents that are never absent of the personal dimension circumscribe the kinds of encounters Lee's work trades in.

In the final analysis however, it may be the many ways in which Lee creates a distance from the act of visual consumption as mere spectatorship that is the works abiding politic. Moreover, Lee's pictures are also a manifest contribution to how we think about the the politics of presence and presentment in contemporary drawing practices, as each of Lee's images is not only something which one is drawn to but which also feel as if they were drawn just for you. 

Bio: Michelle Jane Lee spent her childhood in Seoul, Korea, lived in Chicago and studied at The School of the Art Institute (of Chicago.) Lee participated in the Yale University School of Art: Norfolk residency and has shown in cities across the US including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City as well as in Copenhagen, Denmark. She currently lives and works in LA.  

 

 

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The Status of Portraiture

While portraiture has long been seen as a sign of cultural 'status' and class distinction this survey of Los Angeles portraiture examines the varied approaches being taken up by today's painters with regard to rendering a likeness, not only of a seated subject, but of the subject of portraiture itself. These disparate approaches to re-imagining portrait painting not only include formal innovations but they also question many of the traditional assumptions of the genre. By challenging historical conventions such as naturalism, stability and easy identification of the subject, all of the painters in The Status of Portraiture challenge us to think differently about what constitutes a portrait in the 21st century. Conflating interior and exterior states with different personal and theoretical concerns the painters in The Status of Portraiture give us a new series of motifs for thinking about access to the image of another, and in so doing, perhaps even another route into thinking about ourselves. 

 

 

 

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Hampton / Iadevaia: Saccharine Salad

 

Steve Hampton

Over the course of the last decade Hampton's paintings have cycled through a series of motifs that are both identifiable and obscure, process-based and patterned, aggressive and demure. In fact, his oeuvre has a mixed constitution throughout, referencing themes as diverse as still life, landscape and even textiles. But what is central to his art practice is how all of these themes are implicated in the bifurcations engendered by action painting, or the asymptomatic relation between process-based abstraction and the empire of signs that make up 'cultural' discourse.

In fact, one might say that his works highlight a dialectic dissonance between radical re-appropriation and endemic dis-identification that relies on a vocabulary of undecidability, indiscernability and indetermination. Series like "Power Ballads" and "Greatest Hits" point to the hyper-reified condition of the painterly object while other bodies of work, like "Painting Lite" and "Acting Out", hint at the larger problematic of consumability as a self-constituting condition. Each of these positions is engaged in a dissembling play of sign and signifier that makes hyper-reflexivity appear to be the common condition of contemporaneity.

More recently however, Hampton's work seems to inhabit a post-dialectic stance that embraces mourning as an implicit strategy of the modernist enterprise, where the perpetual overturning of previous models of production points toward an endemic loss of meaning incurred by the cult of 'progress' and endless forms of 'innovation'. But how is this type of historical melancholy addressed in his works? What hidden presuppositions subsist beneath such a program and what is at stake in Hampton's challenge to the hyperbolic revolutions of received wisdom and its critical purchase?

First, we can say that Hampton treats painting as a 'live' medium inasmuch as he engages with the painterly sign as a symbol of flux. This is evidenced in what he refers to as a language of "swaths, spills and slides" that permeate all of his various projects. Of course, the conflict that adheres to these time-based processes often opens onto a series of doublebinds. Not only do such gestures produce the index of an absence that is also a type of presence — or the working of a type of work that has already past, and shows itself in this passing as a gesture — but they also give us a form of denatured authorship which hides prescriptive measures. Put another way, Hampton's painterly denotations play off the function of the oblique with regard to indication and/or intervention by never revealing the biases of a system, style, or a given language. Instead, his process-based gestures are insistent, emphatic and enigmatic — acting more like disruptions than determined distributions of a given material.   

Next, it is important to underscore how the temporal quality of Hampton's marks are deployed over and against the stability of other signs, be they from the history of art, the world of industrial production, or even different forms of 'craft'. In this regard, we can say that his adoption of varied themes and ideograms beyond his regular vocabulary of 'sliding' signifiers is directed at upending genre distinctions, affective distinctions, and even the partisan distinctions attributed to 'fine art' and the greater world of art commerce. His is a project that abuts painterly marks of a rather transitional status against a mish-mash of the iconic and the derivative — where new derivations emerge from the interaction between these incommensurable paradigms.

Last but not least, it is Hampton's engagement with the greater world of image production, (as well as how it is given over to us by 'type and kind'), that points to how our regular ciphers of interpretation can be challenged vis-à-vis the active conflation of different modes of 'abstracting'. By mixing traditional materials with craft elements like glitter, decals, fake gemstones, etc., Hampton's work problematizes both the production of value and the process of valorization as epistemological and ontological coordinates.

This is achieved through a myriad of strategies such as how (1) Hampton uses different painterly strategies to mimic commercial signs like home decor; (2) or in how he deploys paint as a blunt thing — unpainted, laid on, slide down, pushed by gravity — where 'process' is used to hold expressivity at a bare minimum; (3) or even in the dynamic way that Hampton's painterly expositions elide every effort at reduction, (be it essentialist, expressive, or programmatic), by always giving us a theater of fragmented and partial processes.   

And yet, among these kaleidoscopic techniques, one may presume that there is a hidden nostalgia for the sign to carry its full meaning, for it to be absolutely self-supporting, or that the play between surface and support in Hampton's work is there to provide us a brief respite from the endless flow of images that dominate contemporary life. But even if this were to be the case, there is no sense of rest or security in Hampton's active compositions, polyvalent themes or transitional forms. His is a kind of virtuosity, both mannered and simulationist, that combines the most irreconcilable of trajectories — be they modern, postmodern, or otherwise. The shear duplicity of his compositions questions the ease and naturalness with which we receive the (re)mediated image as a source of valuation, re-valuation, and even auto-valorization.

In fact, one might even say that every effort aimed at reaching the 'zero degree' of meaning in painting is overturned by Hampton's recent work inasmuch as it marries the iconographic function of wallpaper with the emotive touch of impressionism in an effort to enact a radical emptying out of critical nomenclature. Or, to be a bit more concise about its operative effects, one would underscore the ways in which his images start with painted patterns, and then re-appropriate these marks through industrial models of reproduction, while everywhere juxtaposing the two as a model traumatic equitability. Whether by equating art with commodity production; or textiles with historical motifs from high art; or readily identifiable gestures with the cult of personality; or even memory and mourning with marketability; his art practice is one that aims to allegorize the effects of a circumspect loss of meaning that attended the birth of modernism, and which shows no signs of slowing even today! 

If we could point to three moments that help us place the trajectory of abstraction as an asymptomatic process with regard to (modern) reification, (postmodern) auto-valorization, and contemporary modes of critical (in)validation, it would have to be the following: (1) Baudelaire’s defense of 'Art for Art Sake', (2) Ad Reinhardt's declaration of 'Art as Art', and (3) Hampton's evidence of a painterly, patterned and otherwise kitsch strewn surface that declares the possibility of "Art forsaken for Art's sake." In other words, his practice as an artist is premised on the radical de-reification of the idiom of painting — both hopeful and, at times, pessimistic — but always committed.

Bio: Steven Hampton is a painter, educator, and art historian who lives and works in Los Angeles. He was awarded the Karl and Beverly Benjamin Fellowship while at Claremont Graduate University, where he received his M.F.A. in 2006.  In 2011, Steven earned his Master's degree in art history from the University of California, Riverside, where he wrote his thesis on kitsch and "Bad Painting." Recently, Steven has participated inShangrila (Joshua Tree), Painting on Edge II (DEN Contemporary), The New Cool School (White Box Contemporary), Summer of Abstraction (Orange Coast College), and The Subterraneans (Torrance Art Museum). 

 

Raymie Iadevaia

The works of Iadevaia have carved out a special niche in the artworld for their gaudiness and theatricality. Neither kitsch nor high abstraction, neither installation works nor flat works, neither painting nor sculpture —Iadevaia's works are a hyperbolic mix of divergent aesthetic registers. Simultaneously attractive and repulsive, and everywhere inviting to the touch, his objects would be ever more intimate if they didn't court a precarious sense of fragility — or perhaps, they are that much more intimate for it. And yet, for all their disparate qualities, we wouldn't be mistaken to say that Iadevaia has been cultivating an oeuvre of hybridity based on exalting the 'misbehaving object', the 'partial object' and a full panoply of paradoxes that adhere to the conditions of objecthood.

While his earlier work was more immersive, often consisting of an aesthetic experience that reconstructed the exhibition space, Iadevaia's recent work has taken a turn away from creating the 'total' work of art by examining the totality of investments associated with materiality. His recent pallet has hints of Matisse, Bonnard and even Howard Hodgkin, while his sculptural sensibility is somewhere between the scatter-art of the 90s and the intuitive agency of Jessica Stockholder — and yet, what emerges in the end is not reducible to these influences, nor is it caught up in the same kinds of aesthetic questions. Against high modernist essentialism and postmodern reappropriation, Iadevaia's work sets in motion a radical dialectic that side steps all attempts at reduction, integration or de-codeability.

Be it a kind of slippage between the high and the low, the notion of interior and exterior space, or the difference between refined and raw materials, Iadevaia's work everywhere resists setting meaning to rest. Instead, it proposes an active, and even aggressive engagement with the terms and conditions of its own proposals. Where his art proposes to be an object in a gallery it nevertheless continues to look more domestic and even commercial; where his work proposes an exterior experience of optical and tactile pleasures, it still points back toward interior states and subtler motivations; where the kind of objects he produces present themselves as caught up in a form of hyper-reflexive gaming, Iadevaia's work still manages to be accessible and even relies on a certain sense of charm and humor. In other words, the dialectic tension in his work is based on emphasizing polarities of interest rather than simple dichotomies.

As far as interpretive models of production go, Iadevaia's work fits well within what has become known as the 'cinematic mode of production', not only for the faux set-design aesthetic that he engages with from time to time, and not only for the techniques he uses in constructing the work, but for how his works are situated within, beside or outside the cultural imaginary of 'good' design. In other words, his works often disrupt the feeling of belonging to this or that locale by presenting us with second level simulacrum that denaturalize our relation to the given, i.e., the 'scripted spaces' and aesthetic dispositions of culture at large.

In contrast to Frank Stella's late work, which is not an unimportant precedent in thinking about Iadevaia's own efforts, we might say that the problem here is one of letting work make its own place, rather than "its own space". And this might prove harder than one thinks if 'place' is taken to mean that which is circumscribed by cultural values and tropes of every type and kind, and most especially, with regard to 'every type and kind' of art practice. This is the territory in which Iadevaia's works might be 'placed', and it is also how his art practice finds its purchase in the contemporary moment — by negotiating the hyper-reified conditioning of sensibility through various forms of purposeful divestment, disjuncture and indeterminacy. It is also through such practices that we find the cinematic mode of production transformed from something rather mundane and automatic into something rather autocratic and even dare we say, sublime.

Bio: Raymie Iadevaia was born in Newport Beach, California. Recent exhibitions include, Boom 2012 at d.e.n. contemporary in the Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood, Protostellar at Studio Serrano, Los Angeles. In 2006, Raymie was a selected artist in a group exhibition in Sierre, Switzerland, after a three-week residency at Ecole Cantonale d'Art du Valais. Currently Raymie is a candidate in the MFA Program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

 

 

 

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Michelle Carla Handel / Cole M. James: I DO NOT DENY THEM MY ESSENCE

 

Michelle Carla Handel

Handel's sculptural works are engaged in a grand theater of anthropomorphic gestures. One might even say that her works are caught up in a series of dialectic relations that alternate between the lumpen and docile, and the active and erect. Often dominated by fleshly tones and textures, her organic forms are known to elicit a wide range of bodily responses, from pleasure to discomfort, and even a certain sense of playful innocence. But what belies their weighty corporeality is a certain psycho-sexual charge that depends not so much on non-referential means as it does on the articulation of pre-symbolic memes, i.e., those types of forms which are not easily identified within the confines of language but which populate our affective capacities for understanding nonetheless. As such, the types of partial objects that make up Handel's growing oeuvre often participate with notions of becoming, mutation and entropy. Yet if we were to stake a claim on indentifying a type of language that would be complementary to her work, it would have to be something like the pleasures accorded to dialogic indetermination. By creating forms that have an enigmatic status, her works simultaneously invite and defy qualitative associations, acting like something of three-dimensional Rorschach test.

But for all their earthen and naturalist qualities, Handel's forms have not abstained from the use of color. When a chromatic flare appears in her work it often serves to highlight the tension between the natural and the artificial, the biological and the cultural, or material reality and its simulation. In this regard, Handel isn't shy about letting you know her works are informed by a interest in psychology and the kinds of supernormal stimuli that are regularly exploited by the culture industry, such as our sweet-tooth, our sexual urges, and the natural functions of desire. Even more important however, are the many ways that these notions connect with something that subsists beneath our experience of exteriority — something which isn't properly unconscious, but which isn't altogether different from the emotive capacity of our organs. This is, perhaps, why many of her sculptures could be mistaken for organs without bodies, or organs that are bodies unto themselves.

In this regard, Handel's sculptures could be placed in opposition to Deleuze's critique of Freudian psychology. One might even argue that her forms return us to an innate awareness of the 'other' site of consciousness — a kind of inner space who's inexplicable effects collude in the production of our outward emotions. If you've ever experienced real organ pain, even on a minor level, then you know it has little to do with the function of repression or signification, but moves far beneath such registers, having no less a profound effect on our senses and our emotional well-being. In this way, Handel's truncated forms also resist a Lacanian interpretation by delving into the space where symbolic identifications are first acquired. They are, for lack of a better word, something like 'gestational figures' that demarcate an originary lack of identifactory means. Furthermore, this lack of ascription is directly related to the trauma of imposing signification on any form whatsoever during early development.

If we take this interpretation to its natural endpoint, then Handel's sculptures seem to stand the Freudian-Lacanian nexus of interpretation on its head by giving us a world of forms that rely on a deeper resonance between the inner space of material interaction and the exterior space of perception, such that no form is ever truly reducible to its 'other' — be it linguistic, material, representational, abstract, etc. From the same vantage point, it's also worth mentioning that no form is ever truly free of such systems of codified understanding either. But this split between physiological and logic interlocution is exactly what Handel's works seem to problematize. Much like the paradoxes that adhere to the philosophy of mind, where subjectivity is irreducible to its biochemical processes, Handel's sculptures return us to a philosophy of the body, such that we are not just our innards or our emotions, but an interaction that transverses the space between abstract materiality and the feelings it engenders.

In other words, her works fall beyond the trinity of Freud-Lacan-Deleuze (Oedipus, revisionary Freudianism, and Anti-Oedipus). As such, they create a demand for a new type of interpretation, one that is perhaps a bit closer to the works of Jenet and Pigeat. More to the point however, they reflect the two greatest insights of contemporary brain science: (1) that physical and emotional states are hardwired in the same part of the brain, and (2) that most of what determines subjectivity takes place in early childhood development between the ages of one and three. Following such insights, Handel's works seem to jack directly into a pre-symbolic matrix of meaning that aims to reveal something about our most intimate emotive responses — responses that even we resist knowing. But in what does this consist, or how do such feelings subsist beneath the thin vernier of language? Handel's organ-like sculptures point to the fact that pre-Oedipal relations constitute the very conditions by which we will be given over to the experience a symbolic world, not to mention that we are condemned to be given over to worldly signs through fragments that constantly force us to renegotiate our symbolic assignments.  

Or, to put it somewhat differently, the polymorphous quality of her forms point to the denatured space of subjective assignment, which is to say, to the demand of culture to make things signify vis-a-vis occultation. And yet, Handel's use of an informal or abstract aesthetic resists this urge by highlighting a space of contingency that is always already implicit in the making and unmaking of meaning — or the formalization and naturalization of signification as-such. In this way, Handel's works ask us to engage with a world that is one step removed from either cognition or signification. In fact, they point toward a wholly different entre into understanding inter-subjective relations and different types of becomings. They do this by operating under the sign of affective perception rather than linguistic or material assignment, and they remind us that the contemporary moment is no less circumscribed by the metaphysical problems of attribution than by our own innermost feelings, which might ultimately prove to be one and the same thing.

Bio: Michelle Carla Handel was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and raised in Houston, Texas. She received an MFA in Fine Art from Claremont Graduate University in 2011. Recent Los Angeles exhibitions include a group show, ‘Constructing Fantasy’, at the the Beacon Arts Building; ‘Hungry Me, Tender You’, a two-person show with Josh Atlas at RAID Projects; inclusion in BOOM, GLAMFA, and Co/Lab in 2011; solo show ‘Strange Skin’ at WEEKEND; and two-person show with Eve Wood at Garboushian Gallery. She also curated 'Odd Ghosts and Unlikely Dancers', a two-person show featuring works by Phyllis Green and Bessie Kunath on exhibit at WEEKEND Gallery through September 2012. Currently her large scale sculpture, ‘Big Yearn, Let Down’, is on display at the Torrance Art Museum. 

 

Cole M. James

The paintings of James are stringent and sensual, abstract but not entirely non-representational, and quite political while still being irreducible to the political dimension. So how are we to account for such paradoxes? First, her paintings are constructed in one go. They are not reworked, worked over, or struggled through. In this regard, they demand of the producer absolute virtuosity and commitment, as well as a prolonged stage of contemplative planning and numerous studies. But James's rigorous aesthetic is itself, composed of lush materials of every kind that glitter and dance across the surface of her canvases, which is to say, they are as stringent as they are sensual — almost an absolutist model of abstract expressionism.

Second, James's paintings are undeniably abstract, but her selection of forms often points back toward naturalistic referents, such as tree branches, figures, fruits and the like. More importantly however, they often display the structure of a loose knit anthropomorphic mobile, which supports many different regimes of material identification: craft and kitsch, figure and ground, nature and artifice. With just a glance at James's work, we are quickly reminded that early twentieth century abstraction often consisted of pictures that had been abstracted from nature, or that pointed back to the feeling of a naturalist referent. Even though James's paintings work against this type of pseudo-naturalism, they still engage with the same problematic by pointing to the artificiality of such constructs, both at the level of materiality and subjective 'expression'. In this way, one can say that her works are abstract without being non-representational, or rather, that they problematize the presuppositions that attend such distinctions in the first place.

Third, her works are political without overtly announcing themselves as-such. In this regard, they fall well within the idiom of abstract expressionism while still being anti-reductionist, anti-essentialist, anti-'all-over', anti-truth to materials, and even anti-expressionist in the sense of avoiding any allusion to Jungian archetypes or existential angst. We might even say that James's paintings present us with a content that is irreducible to the individual or a given program, but which is nonetheless circumscribed by concerns about how identity is constructed through painting and its various modes of presentation. This is what makes her work political in a way that exceeds the traditional category of 'political' or 'activist' art. Her paintings are more about the epistemological conditions of reception than ontological arguments related to presence, authorship or fixed meanings.

Such a reading only provides us with some initial insights James's art practice. A more intimate relationship with her works reveals a highly selective use of materials and a diverse ecology of references. In James's imagery, colors are treated by name, and there is a meticulous cataloging of every type of product that goes into each piece. More often than not, her color choices tend to consist of those cast off or discounted colors that inspire the feeling of chromatic dissonance or an aesthetics of the disabused, and even of outright rejection. Even more important are the small moments in her compositions when the natural and the synthetic find themselves abutted, producing a relation where one texture or color is implicated in the production or identity of another. In fact, one might even say that her overall project is that of creating a self-othering or hyper-differentiating modernism.

In such an oeuvre we are confronted with an allegorical model of abstraction that relies on the politics of the démodé in standing over and against the bias's associated with the mythos of heroic painting. In fact, we might say that James work could serve as a model of subversion that operates within a strictly demarcated field of interventions, creating a space that relies on valorizing the counter-memories of a tradition that is perpetually forced to the fringes of established taste and cannonization. In this regard, her use of disparate patterns, prefab decorations and a variety of framing devices point toward abstraction's forbidden pleasures, and in so doing, her paintings ask us to examine how we think about the production of aesthetic difference.

Or, one could go a step further here and propose that her works aim to deterritorialize aesthetic experience by providing a space of contradiction that upends the dialectic oppositions proposed by the history of abstract painting and its attending structures of valuation, be they class based, gender biased, institutionally sanctioned or otherwise normatively constructed. From such a perspective, James's art can be seen as resisting the dominant narratives of abstract painting by repurposing the affective qualities of perception, and in so doing, her work allows for a new understanding of how identity functions within the field of image production.

Bio: Cole studied Philosophy and Fine Art at Cal State San Bernardino before attending Claremont Graduate University where she received a MFA in Painting & Installation. She has received the LBGT Graduate Fellowship, Outstanding Minority Graduate Fellowship,  Alfred B. Friedman Grant, Walker Parker Artist Fellowship, Mignon Schweitzer Award, and the Cal State Innovations in Painting Award.  Some of her most recent exhibitions include a solo show at the Robert V Fullerton Museum and as well as several group shows in Los Angeles, New York & Seoul Korea.

 

 

 

*****

 

Eric Schott / Jayson Ward: Tessellated Flow

 

Eric Schott

At first glance Schott's paintings appear to be quite straight forward, insisting on an extreme clarity of both design and intent. Here there are few traces of the hand, even fewer of improvisation, and a kind of brute repetition that is hard to contest. But on a second take we find something else reveals itself. The patterning in Schott's systems is not pure repetition, but a repetition with differences, mirroring effects and optical twists. Both restrained and self-conscious, Schott's work is not just an extension of traditional geometric painting, but something else altogether.

In fact, his work takes more from Art Concrete than his So Cal forerunners. In this regard, his non-objective approach to image making is not necessarily related to notions of the absolute, essentialism or even Op-art for that matter. However, his pictures do engender a type of looking that is slightly accelerated from the norm, bouncing the eye from one side of the canvas to another through discrete shapes, vertices and graphic pathways. And one would be remiss not to mention that the reductive nature of his work is more conceptual than his Ab-Ex forerunners, relying on discrete reversals in logic, a semblance of game theory, and inverted geometries. And his particular vision of 'the absolute' in painting is paradoxically related to the fragment, producing what feels like slices of a bigger system yet unknown.

In other words, Schott's particular form of hard edge painting is constructed around producing a resonance with ages past, or even a looping effect that returns us to contemplating the presuppositions that have structured abstract painting over the course of the twentieth century. The grid, systems logic, reduction, and even a quality of virtuality all permeate his oeuvre, but in the sense of forming pictures that have a mixed or hybrid constitution. Not bound by the ethos of any particular school of painting, manifesto, or the rhetoric of auto-didactic measures, Schott's balanced coloration and active geometries invite us to look longer and to commune with his pictures by seeing an image of abstraction's non-linear history through rectilinear means.

Bio: Eric Schott, a native of southern California is a painter engaged with contemporary hard-edge geometric abstraction who completed his MFA at Claremont Graduate University this spring, and his undergraduate studies at California State University, Northridge where he won the Bensen Painting Award in 2010. In addition to his solo thesis show in February he has been involved with groups shows at Andi Campagnone Projects, the dA Center For the Arts, 50 Bucks Gallery in Pomona, Sam Maloof Foundation in Alta Loma, and at Objct Gallery in Claremont. Recently, he was awarded the Karl and Beverly Benjamin Fellowship from Claremont Graduate University.

 

Jayson Ward

The paintings of Jayson Ward are a series of sharp contrasts. Crisp geometric forms rendered quite delicately, well-known places depicted in the abstract, and naturalistic colors placed in a virtual space are all hallmarks of his art practice. In so many ways his paintings are about a kind of implacable quality that can only be described as a kind of virtual impressionism. Starting out from satellite imagery and elevation mapping programs, Ward has generated a new form of landscape painting that relies on a sense of simultaneity, topological reduction and optical filters. In this regard, his particular approach to landscape painting is set over and against the traditional dictates of local, mood and atmosphere.

Originally more concerned with mapping techniques and the notion of abstract painting as a kind of cartographic process, Ward's recent work has taken a turn toward radical reduction and an elegant simplicity of means. A deft sense of touch has replaced his formerly plastic aesthetic, a new dedication to the painterly act has replaced his earlier collage work and a broader dialog around the geo-political dimensions of image making has replaced more hermetic and/or local concerns.

In many ways, what is now most central to Ward's art making practice is picturing the technological sublime. In a time where the landscape is surveyed by armed 'predator' drones, eye in the sky surveillance and every other possible means of rendering the world in 'real time', the common condition of humanity has become that of a watched thing. What is usually missed in this dialog is that such a transformation of visual information also implies a new series of commitments in how we think about the problematic of landscape painting. Ward's paintings make us acutely aware of how dramatic this shift in perspective can be because his images are produced from a view that stands far above the ground, or rather, his paintings give us a new way of thinking about figure-ground relations in an age of naturalistic abdication.

 

Bio: Jayson Ward has degrees in both Geography and Studio Art from the University of North Carolina and the University of California Irvine. His work has been selected for exhibitions by such art world luminaries as Sarah C. Bancroft from OCMA and the critic and curator Juli Carson. He has shown at Catalyst gallery, The Twelfth Floor Gallery and Autonomie. He is going to be in a group show curated by Natalia Lopez that deals with Antarctica and topology this coming Fall.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Painting on Edge I & II

Painting on Edge is a small survey of new trends in Hard Edge painting, or what might be better called, painting with edges, lines, stripes and bands. Unlike the ideologically bound practices of modernism and postmodernism, the work in Painting on Edge shows a new openness towards the fabulation of Hard Edge painting without a readily identifiable ethos. If there have been three high moments in the history of Hard Edge painting so far — its founding here in California, its mutability as a program of making from late Ab-Ex through Minimalism and its eventual critique by Neo-Geo — then today we see an entirely new set of sensibilities at play in the genre.

            This is perhaps best represented by the artists in this show that openly mix the gestural and the graphic, patterns and process, and systems and topology. While all of the works in this show attempt to rework the geometric tradition in one way or another, there is nothing dogmatic or orthodox about their approach. As such, the artists in Painting on Edge are not just challenging traditional boundaries, but their work sits on the edge of many boarding discourses, caught somewhere between essentialism and transcendentalism, power and design, a rigorous application and the production of aesthetic delight. At a time when cultural production carries so much baggage from the twentieth century, the artists in Painting on Edge show us another way to travel light in heading for places unknown, where the journey of making is a delicate balancing act between absolute precision and unlimited permissions.  

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

David French / Melanie Moore: The Unbearable Lightness of Form

David French

French's work is informed by a deep engagement with Baroque forms. The fragment, the ruin and dynamically twisted shapes permeate his entire oeuvre, which is a kind of grand theater of psychosexual anthropomorphisms. The seamless fabrication of his sculptures echoes the Baroque fascination with virtuosity while his choice of synthetic golds, royal purples and saturated reds allude to the power of inorganic objects and class politics.

Implicit in French's folding and curvilinear shapes is a different kind of story about the base matter of creation and the play of creative contingency. The spiky abstractions of blowfish-like forms, swirling organic motifs and hard earthen topologies all hold equal sway in French's art practice. Over the last few years however, he has become more engaged with the rhetorical devices of prestige. In such a move, the formal aspects of Baroque aesthetics are married to the politics of the present by evoking the privilege accorded to high-end commodity forms. Some of French's most recent works have made use of rapid prototyping techniques that create the feel of a techno-Baroque aesthetic, or what the theorist Norman Klein calls an Electronic Baroque that evades all traces of the human touch.

This shift in French's work charts a path that is as much about the evolution of forms as it is the politics of cultural production. Caught between seduction and simulation, his works point to a history of forms and colors that take as much from pre- and post-modern art as they do the ethos of high modernism. By combining computational and industrial fabrication techniques with a radical sensualism, French's work makes us rethink the potential of material embodiment in a way that is as rare as it is beautiful.

Bio: David French was born in England and earned his MA in Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has exhibited his work in Tokyo, Brussels, Istanbul and Los Angeles. French has been commissioned to create work for public projects as well as private homes. He was presented with a commendation for the Public Art Project of the year by Huntington Beach's Allied Arts Board. His work can also be seen this month at D.E.N. Contemporary in the Pacific Design Center. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

Melanie Moore

The work of Melanie Moore revolves around themes both organic and cosmic, formal and natural. Hers is an evolving art, one based on the germination of hidden and secret processes. As a sustained meditation on macro and micro-logical processes, Moore's abstract paintings often resemble cellular mitosis, embryonic growth, or the nebulous becomings of celestial bodies. Everywhere we find evidence of divergent permutations, sudden mutations and the slow gestation of trace forms in the process of unfolding.

Moore's work was previously invested in time-based processes and dissection of abstract forms. She achieved this through different strategies of taxonomy, often painting on multi-layered transparent panels that could be recombined to form a single work. As a virtual vivisection of gestural spills, pours and selective interventions, theses early works subdivided action painting into specific acts by highlighting the temporal dimension of gestural imagery. Over time, these additive strategies gave way to a dialog that was more overtly concerned with the rhetorics of display and disparate knowledges of application. This gave her work a new sense of complexity and a certain distance from expressive models of abstract painting that are still very much in vague today.

Most recently however, her art practice has begun to capitalize on the power of singular forms and iconic images. Often highlighting just one or two floating forms, and sticking to a reduced pallet dominated by grays, black and silvers, Moore has chosen to focus on those elements which have become the hallmark of her artistic process. These qualities might best be described as a subtly of touch, a deft sense of compactness and an intimacy of scale appropriate to the work. Dynamic, delicate and amorphous, her paintings evoke an art of wonder — one which is focused on the natural world around us as well as those worlds that regularly escape perception. This is both the nature of their purchase in the present and their enduring contribution to the idiom of abstract art. 

Bio: Moore received her Masters in Fine Arts from Claremont Graduate University and her B.A. in Studio Art from the University of California, Irvine. She has recently shown in "All the worlds riches" at 2325 Artist Space, "Speculative Materialism" at Andi Compognone Projects and "Habits of Mind: Armory Fellows Show" in the Waterworks building at Colorado One. She works and lives in Los Angeles. 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

Max Presneill / Scott Marvel Cassidy: You Sunk My Battleship

Max Presneill

The works of Max Presneill are about the contradictions of time, space and culture, or rather, they aim to problematize how these notions can be 'pictured'. Or, to be a bit more concise, his practice as a painter is a kind of discourse on the post-historical condition. Not only is his oeuvre composed from images that are culled from different symbolic traditions, but his process involves recomposing and decomposing various genres, idioms and techniques, add infinitum. Ravens and the Sphinx, Capitan Kirk and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Billy the Kid and Prometheus, all dance across Presneill's canvases, not so much as the main attraction, but as strange attractors — mediated and remediated until they are subtracted from their original referent. As such, they are a type of meditation on loss, missed encounters and the irreducible quality of doubles, déjà vu and twin-effects.

One would be wrong however to assign his pictures to the status of being Sysiphusian myths, allegories of labors lost, or as being metaphors about the existential condition of 'man'. Surely, these might have some place in thinking about Presneill's works, but what is much more incisive about his practice as a painter is the sense of uneasiness that one encounters both in his aesthetic choices and the enigmatic quality of the characters he chooses to engage with. In sampling from the history of painting, the internet, magazines, personal effects and hallucinatory affects, Presneill's works chart a space between popular motifs and high art by way of personal inflection, diagrammatic selection and perpetual resurrection — the eternal return of the same as different — and occasionally, as a kind of radical in-difference.

In fact, his use of mythical characters and readymade motifs is not so much a way of identifying with archetypes as it is a means of highlighting figures in transition — or the space between artistic translation and the opacity of signifiers. In this regard, Presneill's allegories are nothing less that orchestrated catastrophes. At once prescient and contemporary, they are idiograms of a type of retro-futurism; a detourned history; or even a detoured narrativity that constantly subtracts itself from the coordinates of easy accessibility. Even his autobiographical works are a collection of so many memento mori — images that are as much about the passing of time as they are a kind of time that refuses to pass, of time at a stand-still, or time as the pile up of history. One might even say that everything which once seemed to make for comfort, and which presents itself as a well-curated and knowing construction in Presneill's paintings is not necessarily that. Rather, they are pictures which pull away from you the closer you get to identifying their historical markers; they pull away a step further when you think you can trace their lineage and context; and they take on their full reserve and enigmatic splendor when their most oblique aspects occult themselves from easy adequation or identification. In this way, they produce not only the trace of living in a post-historical world, but they also enact it by heading for a destinations unknown — a future imperfect.

Bio: Max Presneill is a Los Angeles based artist and curator, originally from London, UK. As an artist he has shown throughout the world including New York, London, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Sydney and Tokyo and is represented by Durden & Ray, Los Angeles, as well as the Garboushian Gallery, Beverly Hills. Besides the show at Autonomie his work can be seen in solo shows at the New Bedford Art Museum in Massachusetts, from May 15th, and at the Garboushian Gallery opening on June 29th, as well as at the Hong Kong art fair in May with Gallery Lara of Tokyo.

Scott Marvel Cassidy

The works of S. M. Cassidy are something of an essay on the totemic powers of objects and observation, seclusion and signification, artifact and artifice. His paintings often have specific narrative allusions as well as a specificity of execution that belies his love of observational painting and real objects. Many of his works are composed of collections of one sort or another — objects both aged and ruined, flawed and banal, nostalgic and fantastic. In such arrangements we are always alerted to the inherent timecode of outmoded things, and even of how our life is constructed around the world projected by things. In this regard, Cassidy's art practice seems to call to a future antérieur by engaging with the remains of the day.

Paintings of screen shots from the computer, sculptures of cassette tapes and cast records, reworked drawings of geek culture and ironic caricatures all collide in Cassidy's oeuvre as a series of idiosyncratic narratives. Yet his images also partake of that which we know all too well — star wars toys, album covers, cowboy boots, etc. — which can all be taken as signs of the everyday, of Americana writ large, or are something like a catalog of mass artifact. Yet what is most striking about his work is how these images are feed through a specific set of choice distortions that echo both worlds lost and maybe even a world yet to come.

There is an undeniable tinge of melancholia and obsession in Cassidy's techniques, but it is of a nature that serves to inform his subjects all the better. In a time of art that aims to be overtly self-reflexive, and sometimes even comically so, Cassidy's works serve up something a little more accessible and perhaps even little more authentic. His pictures are an act of delicate preservation grounded on an ethic of irrepressible investment and desire. Everywhere in his paintings, drawing and sculptures we are confronted with Cassidy's deepest interests, all of which are activated by his dedication to the descriptive act itself. Caught between so many parallel narratives, Cassidy's works set out for the past by addressing those objects of the present that still have a conflicted sense of presence. Such works are a rare insight into a world that has become all too transparent and readily consumable.

Bio: Scott Marvel Cassidy has shown most recently shown his work at Las Cienegas Projects, Schmidt Dean, Anna Meliksetian Projects and Circus Gallery. He was in LA Weekly Biennial and has done residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Me.di.um., Yaddo and The Macdowell colony. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Jason Ramos / Jorin Bossen: We're All Sensitive People

Jason Ramos 

Ramos's practice as a painter is hard to properly categorize in a climate where self-reflexivity has been all but naturalized. Its not that Ramos's work attempts to skip over the postmodern condition — loosely defined as an inability to identify with the theater of representation — but that his pictures try to extract something of the personal from public image production. Of course, this notion itself, takes for granted the idea that all images now have a 'public' life of sorts that reaches from the digital family album to the new facebook timeline. In this regard, Ramos's work transverses the public/private dyad by imbuing all of his source material, whether digital or photographic, with a kind of subjective candor that emerges from the act of interpretation.

For Ramos, this occurs in any number of ways. It happens through the process of selection and editing, through living with images in the studio and by playing with the varied historical priorities attributed to picture making. While the above concerns are associated with any kind of image based art practice, for Ramos, painting is about evoking a kind of intimacy with the image that activates unconscious associations, personal mythologies and even the fleeting quality of the moment. As such, Ramos's pictures are a kind of open source event that digs into the history of mark making, everywhere conflating the strategies of impressionism and expressionism, realism and bad painting, bay area influence and Leipzig school techniques — all with an eye toward investigating the conflicted nature of contemporary life. This shows itself in Ramos's ability to shuffle through a heady mix of historical idioms — such as the group portrait, vanitas, and self-portraiture — while everywhere reinventing the terms and conditions of genre-based pictorialism.

Whether or not such a project is viewed as a way to personalized public referents and found material, or as a gesture toward publicizing a private pictorial world that is all his own, Ramos's images are an opportunity to engage with painting as a type of thinking that occurs through picture making. Toward this end, Ramos's new body of work plays with additive and subtractive processes, stark and wispy contrasts, the reversal of figure and ground relations, and the sharp division between natural and irradiated colors. His images are a kind of polyphonic investigation into materials and memory that only hint at a semblance of internal logic after the fact. Informed by the play between context and content, Ramos's pictures capture something of that ever elusive and uncanny feeling that Freud called the enigmatic, but which we also might call a poetics of the idiosyncratic.

Bio: Jason Ramos is an artist, a curator and a teacher. He maintains a painting practice at RAID Projects, where he also serves as proprietor and Director. He is also the assistant curator at Torrance Art Museum and part of ARTRA curatorial. He has shown in group exhibitions nationally and internationally and was formerly represented by the co-operative gallery initiative Durden and Ray.

Jorin Bossen 

The recent works of Bossen are not about nostalgia. They are certainly images from the past, and specifically from the cinematic past, but they are not romantic ideals. Of course, to say this means that they are not treated in a finished manner; that they avoid the typical tropes of illustration; and that they are not necessarily handled in a  sympathetic manner. In this way, Bossen's practice as a painter is a rare blend of modernist simplicity and postmodern reflexivity, everywhere letting us know that the image is a construction that is itself, about another construction. The first of these gestures issues from a degree of unfinish in Bossen's work, the second, from the selection of a heroic modernist archetype — the American cowboy.

But the insights provided by Bossen's paintings, which place the construction of identity on equal footing with the construction of the picture plane, go far beyond being a hermetic proposition. Playing with a reduced pallet, a generic 'type' and a clarity of means allows Bossen to pin point something critical in the cultural unconscious during this election year. The cowboy is an allegorical figure that is writ large across the politics of the present moment, sustaining not only the mythos of Reagan (the actor), but also Bush Jr., and the failed campaign of Rick Perry. One might even go so far as to argue that the republican's inability to recapture the authenticity of the cowboy resulted in the recent political quagmire that beset the republican nomination.

And in many ways, it is this same notion that permeates the work of Bossen, which plays with the style of a cultural construction by reducing it to just that, a depersonalized image re-presented as the artifice of ideology. It goes without saying that Bossen's work enacts a return of the repressed by conjuring up the boogey 'man' of identity politics, but this is not to simply valorize male machismo. He has, in some way, made our appraisal of the masculine image that much more clinical by going one better than either Fischl or Salley, reaching out for a true zero degree of expressivity. But what remains truly significant about such an endeavor is that his paintings point to the lack of a substantive replacement for the ontological status of 'the masculine'. In this regard, Bossen's work is engaged in a type of pictorial anthropology that makes us question the tropes of yesterday while calling into question the representational forms that continue to over-determine the political present — and perhaps even, the problems of tomorrow.

Bio: Jorin Bossen is an MFA Candidate at Claremont Graduate University. His work has been exhibited in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.. His artwork was recently featured on the cover of New American Paintings, number 53. 

 

 

*****

 

 

David Michael Lee / Michael Kindred Knight: Quitient Space 

 

David Michael Lee

Known as an innovative curator, an influential art instructor and a notable figure in So Cal abstraction, Lee's work is informed by a myriad of influences, experiences and methodologies. Among his many bodies of work the Herb paintings stand out as an exemplary instance of Lee's commitment to working in a series, to his love of geometric abstraction and to his unique treatment of painting as a type of sculptural object and as an optical experience. Having developed out of a role of hemp fabric inherited from his father, and from which the series takes its namesake, the original impetus behind these works was to produce an elegant number of organic abstractions about growth and decay, permanence and transition. Beginning in greens and yellows applied to a black ground, Lee's earlier compositions suggested the use of a kind of flatten geometric space which could accommodate the traditional rules of perspective while calling into question the relationship of the viewer to 'nature', the nature of objectness and even the construction of objectivity.

Often composed from two or more horizons, the shifting dynamics of his falling and sliding forms suggest a conflicted sense of spatiality by highlighting the contradictions that adhere to perspectival systems and the experience of color. This is evidenced in the play of high key and muted tones, slick forms and rough grounds and the use of bevelled edges on a deep substrate. Experienced as interlocking or impossible geometries, or as an essay on the tension between structure and form, Lee's modular works suggest a kind of minimalist refrain, a non-essentialist take on the tradition of hard edge painting and a disruption of the Cartesian idiomatic. These three distinctive traits — as well as the floating quality of his shorn surfaces — problematize the sense of space attributed to the geometric tradition(s) that valorized flatness and the 'truth to materials'. And yet, neither an overdetermined program nor a reductionist ethos underpin Lee's work. Instead, we find a focus on absence and presence, the interchangeability of positive and negative shapes and a series of forced relations that is itself about forcing us to rethink our bodily relation to the activation of space and authorial intention.

Lee's newest works, which tend to project rich colors over a dark ground, carry off something of a neo-baroque sensibility while also returning us to a place of pure virtuality. In this regard, his most recent pictures are not so much a space of computational rigor as of punctured and paradoxical forms. One might even call them geometries of inquisition, not only for their implicit anti-Platonism but also because they expand our notion of geometric expressivity over and against the rhetoric of discursive positions. Afterall, Lee's work is dedicated to a kind of recombant aesthetic that valorizes both the power of the modular and the singular while letting the idea of the incomplete stand-in for a politic and a working method that resists all attempts at closure. While being indebted to the ideologues of design that extend from the Arts and Crafts movement to the Bauhaus to Art Informal and even certain members of American Abstract Expressionism, Lee's work still sets out for new ground in picturing an inbetween space of desire and dissonance based on the idea of the infinite as a place of instability, or of the absolute rendered in a manner that is irresolute. Such is the nature of Lee's contribution to how we understand the contested field of experience we have come to call 'the contemporary'.

Bio: Born and raised in Southern California, David Michael Lee had been active in the Orange County art community for the past 15 years. Before finishing his M.F.A. from Cal State Fullerton as a resident of Grand Central Art Center, he had completed his B.A. from Columbia College Chicago. Presently, Lee works as the collections manager for the "Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art" at Chapman University, where he also teaches drawing and design. He also works as the gallery Curator/Director for Coastline Community College's Art Gallery where he teaches courses in curatorial practice and art history.


Michael Kindred Knight 

However inviting and accessible Knight's paintings might seem, to anyone who has encountered them in person, they are contradictory and complex pictorial events. At first glance they appear to be a unique marriage of postmodern syntheticism and modernist organicism — being as playful as they are analytic and as ironic as they are 'invested'. Upon a second take however, one quickly notices that these architectonic pictures are not so much about essentialism or parody. If anything, they present us with a series of questions about painting as an artificial construct or even as a dialogic design. One could even say that in Knight's last few bodies of work the conditions that frame the pictorial sublime have been transmuted into a kind of post-human space built on the use of artifice and the disruption of certain codes of mark making. Neither strictly landscape based, nor 'pure' abstraction, Knight's pictures inhabit an inbetween space that is as much about unhinging the relationship between sign and signified as it is undermining the logic of any given historical program.

If we were to attempt to define his painting practice in positive terms, we could say that Knight's pictures are genre bending — a dynamic re-synthesis of past idioms. Within Knight's works one might come across the pallet of Halley or Schutz, the lost horizon of Hodgkins or Mitchell, the geometric naturalism of Diebenkorn or Feitelson, the push and pull effects of Hoffman or Albers and even the subtle sense of light attributed to Scully or Guston. And yet, Knight's works are irreducible to these influences because they come from a place that is more informed by our experience of the present, and especially a present dominated by the feeling of oversaturation. It is an amazing trick which his works perform, being not so much a cartography of the landscape as a vivisection of art historical motifs and different compositional stratagems. In fact, in the wake of postmodernism, we might call his pictures temporal topologies or inerrant indices of a post-futurist, post-historical, post-avant-guard aesthetic. Afterall, Knight's pictures are not so much about deconstruction as reconstruction — but more specifically, a form of reconstruction that doesn't ignore all the sutures, scares and trauma of confronting the affective skin of history that is abstract art.

However, in Knight's new work something slightly more nuanced is emerging, something we might even see as being a little more cosmetic if we take the idea of embellishment to be a delicate science of integrating formal relations. Indeed, the cosmetic is not shallow, but a deployment of carefully applied techniques that make the play of revealing and concealing into a public affair. And in Knight's newest works, deft and delicate decisions abound, providing us with a greater sense compositional nuance, a greater degree of naturalism and even a gentler orchestration of the sense of passage from one form and color to the next. This is not to say that his pictures aren't rigorously indebted the plastic problems of painting, only that that the sense of plasticity that permeates his most recent works is just now verging on that forbidden territory of twentieth century abstraction — the construction of the beautiful as an entree into the sophisticated.

Bio: Michael Kindred Knight holds an M.F.A. in Studio Art from Claremont Graduate University and a B.A. in Studio Art from Western University. His work has been shown in several west coast cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles. Michael has been the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, including the Claremont Graduate University's President's Art Award, the Karl and Beverly Benjamin Fellowship in Art, and the Walker/Parker Memorial Fellowship. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. 

 

 

 

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Nick Aguayo / Marcus Perez: You do this to me and I do this to you

Nick Aguayo

Aguayo’s work can be thought of as something of an essay on the function of the emblematic in abstract art inasmuch as his work consists of redressing the use of basic geometries, the application of bold colors and the deployment of various systems of arrangement. And yet, for all this, Aguayo’s work doesn’t resemble the feel of its modernist forerunners in touch, taste or program. There are no allusions here to essentialism, no remarks about the status of marks, and no determined effort to achieve the feeling of ‘organic unity’. If anything, Aguayo's work ossilates radically between a kind of neo-primitivism, a kitschy form of outsider art and the recent turn toward 'provisional' aesthetic experience. 

However, it is also worth noting that Aguayo's engagement with the improvisational urge is everyewhere informed by his last few years of work which have largely consisted of making collaged paintings out of his previous paintings. In this regard, Aguayo's homespun use of bricollage relies on the permanent and unending recycliblity of idiograms — a strategy that seems to permeate mass culture at large. A key difference however is that his methodology feels more like a personal mix tape rather than a massified remix of abstraction's greatest hits. This shows itself in a certain sensitivity of selection, a deft sense of touch and even a longing for sentimental and authentic experience.

But does this kind of subjective approach to abstraction end up returning us to the site of a pictorial crisis greater than the problematic of modern experience, or even the impasse of postmodern painting, i.e., the end of any sense of teleos for ‘pure’ pictorialism and unmediated experience? And does Aguayo’s endless reworking of his own materials and emblmatic forms represent an even greater type of hermeticism than that which we might attribute to modern aesthetics or postmodern polemics? And if this is indeed the case, than his art practice might be rightfully called hyper-modern or even supra-modern — the example of an abstract art based on the idea of an exquisite corpse. Not painting as a zombie medium per say, but as the production of painterly events based on grafting together modernism’s remains through a cosmetics of conscription — or even art as the remains of the day or as what remains of self-invention and a certain will-toward-inscription posited as an intermmidable process of reinscription/deinscription. If we follow this line of thought to its natural end Aguayo's work appears not so much to be a type of painting about reappropriation as it is about self-appropriation; not so much about collage as it is decollage; and not so much about resemblance as it is dissemblance, transformation and the migration of motifs.

If these are the various trajectories at play in Aguayo’s work than his most recent shift in orientation also offers up another sweeping challenge to how we understand the idiom of abstraction. Aguayo has finally begun to make a new aesthetic out of his own vocabulary of interchangeable motifs. His recent works simulate some of the taped, torn and edited effects of the previous collage works, only such aesthetic ticks are now acknowledged as part of the process of making itself. One could even say they talk about the painterly process as a means of delimiting the pictorial field of exchange. Playing with this kind of auto-referential practice evidences something of a mixed display of the emblematic made banal, of timeless geometries debased or of a cartography of symbols set to work against each other. Such productive contradictions allow us a space of contemplation to think about the presuppositions of the present and the possibilities of engaging with a different form of aesthetic hermeticism. And yet, in Aguayo's work yesterday's imagery remains tied to the present, the instance and the artifact and as a means of demarcating the terms and conditions of contemporaneity.

Bio: Nick Aguayo received his B.A. from UCLA in 2007 and his M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine in 2012. His work has been included in GLAMFA at California State University, Long Beach, The Armory Center for the Arts and INMO gallery. Aguayo's work was recently featured in New American Paintings # 97. He currently lives and works in Irvine, Ca.

Marcus Perez

Perez’s work presents us with a direct confrontation with the ground and/or the grund of painting. But this consideration of the ground is itself twofold, or rather, it is a dialogue circumscribed by a kind of slippage between foreground and background and the doublebind of a discrepant use of materials. In painting, the ground is afterall, a thing in-itself, an open substrate and a pourous breathing surface. And yet, the ground also refers to the act of preparation. To have or produce a ground is also to prepare a ground. A ground is not given. The ground is what gives itself as groundless, ungrounded, the void, or simply, the unmade. 

With titles like "To give an account and another" and "And another still", Perez’s work also points back to the defining motifs of modernity — the elimination of the subject in art — and even the reduction of the world of visibility to its subjective traces. Such a radical pairing down of means leaves us questioning the values of modernism writ large, and especially the idea of medium specificity as a type of preparation, both for understanding the conditions of action painting and the active subject.

And yet, Perez’s pictures also seem to be about the idea of abstraction posited as a stain in the Lacanian sense of the term — as the thing which is at play in intersubjective (dis)identification — first by mimicry and second by entrance into the symbolic order, (two gestures which ultimately amount to one and the same thing). In this way Perez’s work can be seen as a kind of visual essay on the traumatic real, or on those conditions of suspended presentation that mark a gap in the symbolic order — a space that opens onto the event of subjective reflection. As such, Perez's pictures return us to the question of how we understand modern autonomy and its twofold determinations: 1) the autonomy of the individual from cultural conventions, and 2) the autonomy of the medium from its historical uses — only this duality is challenged in Perez's work because it is about the very inconsistent consistency of structuration itself.  

Working with the ground as a preparation, or rather incorporating it’s preparedness into the active dialog of painterly presentation, allows Perez’s canvases to show us the stage where the abyss of freedom was played out over the twentieth century as a tabula rasa. Moving between extreme reduction and an uncanny sense of absorption, Perez’s works illicit a kind of visual questioning that comes after post-painterly strategies and before minimalist stratagems, but which feels informed by both in equal measure. If anything, his works are a reminder that the failure of the subject to coincide with itself, (both the subject of painting with its materials and subject of expressionism with authorial intent), reveals the very suture that strives to foreclose any discussion of the subject as-such. Rather, the subject of Perez’s works come close to articulating what Adorno called non-identicality by presenting us with a series of characters that actively distort the substrate (ground). This occurs not only through the introduction of a medium without preparation but also as a result of the warping of the fabric around the constituent elements of painting. In this regard, Perez's imagery disrupts the idea of autonomous art by presenting the mark as an act that both (pre)figures and fractures its own ground, ultimately pulling the terms of how we think about medium specificity right out from under us.

Bio: Marcus Perez recieved his M.F.A. from the University of California Irvine in 2011, and his B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Perez has recently shown in Speculative Materialism: Abstract Art and Its Conditions at D-Block Projects and AC Projects as well as Nothing Comes from Nothing at La Cienega Projects in Culver City. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

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Richard Galling / Chris Kuhn: Arranged

 

Richard Galling

Rethinking Ritual Experience and Roman Aesthetics:Notes on the recent work of Richard Galling

By Grant Vetter (2011)

Galling’s new works are not necessarily ‘about’ the history of painting, nor are they ‘after’ history in the sense of performing a symbolic rupture, break or scission at the level of material means. They are not even what many art theorists now refer to as works that inhabit the post-historical condition. Although it is true that they play through the history of twentieth century abstraction, or rather that they play across it, substituting a surface effect for an ideological program, a texture for a historical model of ‘taste’ and a deft sense of touch for the parodic play of postmodern reflexivity, all this makes little sense if one is not familiar with Galling’s last few bodies of work and the changes that have occurred therein. These ongoing shifts can be loosely charted through three overlapping transitions.

One could say that Galling first entered into the practice of painting as a ‘portraitist’ of abstract forms. Over time he cultivated a selection of motifs that dissimulated other pictorial milieus, ultimately producing pictures that are internally at odds with the implicit logic of their own hermeticism. These new pictorial arrangements were often given over to discrete mutations, derivations and what might otherwise be called discrepancies that are diachronically and synchronically mismatched — images of a kind of systematic inconsistency. In short, his earlier works were not so much a foray into unrestrained hybridity as a farcical form of non-objective realism that took prior forms of abstract art as subjects of the present, and even as subjects of (re)presentation.

However, a second movement in his oeuvre began to emerge over the course of the last few years. His allusions to the past, to the play of sign and signifier in modern and postmodern painting, and even his dedication to the reproduction of abstract  forms became a bit looser, for lack of a better word. This passage in the development of his artistic practice was not so much focused on the notion of slippage or indeterminacy, but instead, on the idea of pictographies that seem to float, not literally of course but optically. Galling’s works from this transitional period were more like an event of shimmering chromatic lattices spent across the production of so many pristine surfaces. This occurred not only because Galling often gessoed and sanded his canvases and hard board substrates until they took on the quality of pearlescent marble but also because the passing of time had engendered a certain sense of virtuosity in how he lays paint down on the canvas, sets a particular stroke and fixes the indexical quality of a rather supine material. Through series after series Galling’s imagery became both more subtle and fragile, like the surfaces of sixteenth century still life painting pushed so closely into the viewers space that they began to resemble an altogether depthless surface. In this period of experimentation Galling seemed more focused on hiding his considerable skill beneath the pleasure of affective qualities rather than redressing history with a capital H.

Yet in his most recent series of works (seen here) something new emerges entirely, and it emerges from the ritual of painting itself — even giving us an example of what the Italian theorist of aesthetics Mario Pernolia calls ‘ritual thinking’. But how are his works an example of this epistemological shift — how are they involved in courting a post-academic, post-avant-guard, post-paradigmatic play of signification? And how do these pictorial events present us with a model that ceases to ‘practice’ the fine arts altogether — if such a thing is even possible? Or, to put it a bit more simply, what is the status of the ritual act in Galling’s painting outside of its post-political, post-ideological function?

Of course, the answer here is not at all simple. Galling’s recent works speak about a break between sign and signifier in the history of painting that has become a condition of contemporary experience itself, and his works often achieve this by prohibiting a motif from becoming a mere replication (realism), a simulation (imitation) or a model of reenactment (program). We see this most decisively in the redistribution of colors, the interchangeability of painterly signs, and in the defamilarization of ‘types’ and ‘kinds’ of abstract symbols. In Galling’s work a decorative element from Matisse is not (re)painted in the same way as its original author, nor even in an ‘authorial’ manner, or even in an identifiably mannered way. Through Galling’s iconographic distortions a recognizable gesture is not negated or synthesized but instead remains struck-through while being left intact, or even slightly obscured as a model of painting imperfect. Galling’s work is not planned per say, it is not assuming the value of a given program, it is not even gesturing toward the fading horizon of twentieth century art. Instead, it is conjured — a type of painting that might be described as pure disidentification based on prior models of inscription without conditional apriori’s. In other words, Galling pictures rely on a practice of making that is dependent on the tools at hand, the relation between tool and hand, and the appearing of what appears.

Yet how is this type of process linked to ritual thinking? It is a kind of painting that follows the univocity of Roman aesthetic experience rather than the Grecian dichotomies of beauty/ugliness, truth/falsehood and real/fake. As Mario Perniola has noted, the ritual life of Roman culture “starts beyond the opposition of truth and falsehood,” everywhere producing works that aim for “a repetition so precise that it erases the prototype the very moment it preserves it.”[i] But most importantly, and with special regard for understanding the impetus behind Galling’s images, the art of Rome “offers the example of a ritual without myth” which reconnects to our contemporary moment in moving beyond metaphysics, and most especially the metaphysical presuppositions that subtend twentieth century art.[ii] If one needs further proof of this recent turn in Galling’s work then one need only examine the sense of otherness engendered by his adoption of the subterranean pallet of Lascaux — a move that is even more primitive than primitive in not making a fetish of primitivism as a school of thought. Instead Galling’s paintings are a kind of arche-writing meant for a ritual with no gods left to worship, but which emerges from the ritual act of painting nonetheless.

In fact, if Galling’s works teach us anything about the moment of contemporary painting we are living through — what the critic Terry Myers has elsewhere called an ‘indisciplinary moment’ — it is that we can practice the craft of paintings no more because there is nothing left to practice, no state sponsored academy, no pre-given formulas and no progressive argument on behalf of the teleos of painting and its given methodologies. In, after or before — or even betwixt and between — the post-post-historical condition offers us only this, a space in which to conjure the image wherein history is not absent but never fully present either. Instead, it is struck-through, struck-out, struck-down, posited as a cancellation destined for reruns, or perhaps the better comparison in this instance is that of a set of computer files that cannot be entirely deleted. In Galling’s paintings the history of art is only present in the ether — the trace of a past milieu cast against the indiscernible horizon of the present. In such a condition we all find ourselves searching for a new set of rituals to describe contemporary experience. Galling’s work is one such endeavor and also one to which we should all pay head, least we miss the passing of the present in the experience of the now.

[i] Mario Perniola, Ritual Thinking: Sexuality, Death, World. (New York: Humanity Books, 2001) 97, 98.[ii] Ibid. 104.

 

 

 

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Elana Melissa Hill / Simon Hughes: Hypersurregionalism

 

Elana Melissa Hill

Hill’s art practice is an exercise in cartographic thinking and process based painting. Playing through the pictorial history of abstract means and representational meme’s, Hill’s particular brand of imagery is reminiscent of Turner’s turbulent seascapes but with a postmodern twist. In Hill’s work the hand of the artist is almost altogether missing, allowing weathered surfaces to congeal into inerrant forms of naturalism. This particular methodology departs from the environment itself — urban or natural — by literally capturing some of the textures, colors and various modes of inscription that issue from Hill’s open air studio. Even when she chooses to introduce a recognizable pictorial motif, like a palm tree or a city skyline, it almost always suggests a kind of visual slippage between the real and the artificial, the natural and the inorganic, a fullness of form and a flattened out silhouette. 

As a mix of western modernism and eastern perspectivalism her hybrid compositions play across a broad spectrum of identifactory markers. Hill has described her images as “palimpsests of other’s imagined ideas”, as “an assembly of anachronisms” and as “huge living bodies where electricity, sewage, water, gas, humans and other resources are pumped through the dense flesh of cement, metal and dirt.” Caught between post-apocalyptic narratives, the visual tropes of sci-fi cinema and discrete topologies of the everyday, her layered pictures offer us a trace of the present as an image of the cultural imaginary.

Like some of the most challenging contemporary voices in landscape painting today, Hill’s pictures are a catalog of unstable and fluctuating ideas about local, and especially about image production in So Cal. However, her newest body of paintings departs from the cinematic format that has defined her last few years of production — a shift that has allowed her work to take on a greater sense of complexity with regard to improvisation, material impressions and the power of suggestion. As a fluid cartography of process, pentimenti and place, Hill’s paintings offer us an allegory of experience that reflects the fluctuating horizon of contemporary life. Whether seen as a mindscape or a landscape, such pictures are indelibly marked by the iconography of regionalism, or even by a kind of a supra- or hyper hermeticism that comes as much from Hill’s recent return to square shaped canvases as it does from her dedication to mapping a sense of passage through the denatured landscape.

Bio: Elana Melissa Hill holds an M.F.A. from Claremont (2011) and a B.A. from the University of Irvine (2007). She has recently shown in the "Emergent 12" at Object Gallery and "La Cosa Nostra" at Galerie Rheeway. Hill was the co-founder and director of Catalyst Gallery at UCI from 2005-2007 and is currently the program director of ReVISIONS of LA, the monthly drawing program at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). She lives and works in Los Angeles. 

Simon Hughes

Through a subtle vocabulary of implacable aesthetic effects Simon Hughes has been examining Canadian themes, political myths and the natural phenomenology of his birthplace for more than a decade. While his production has often consisted of large scale watercolors, the practice of drawing and painting have also figured prominently in his approach to diagramming the social landscape of the great white north. Icy expanses, color streaked skys, native inhabitants and architectural models are all passed through a series of visual ciphers in Hughes work that are as charming as they are irreverent. Whether working to disarm our relation to indigenous politics or the presuppositions of modernism, Hughes's imagery suggests other possibilities than the traditional narratives proposed by the canon of American art history.

In fact, one could say that Hughes artistic practice is something like an imaginative psychogeography of urban tales, non-standard histories and alternative myths. Recently, his work has focused on rethinking the themes and discourses that adhere to American and Canadian modernism, although Hughes's treatment of these varied stratagems is subtly subversive, and sometimes, outright heretical. Hughes often restages the motifs of action painting in the slow and methodical medium of watercolor — reducing the iconic gestures of 'high art' to a pleasant, if not, diminutive size. If this weren’t already paradoxical enough, Hughes even invites the occasional naïve collaboration, further undermining any sense of the grandiose or the heroic. In so doing Hughes's pictures ask us not only to rethink the dominant dialogues of North American art, but they also serve as an example of dia-log-ic pictorialism that takes logs and lodges as key motifs in a new form of regionalism.

Yet what is often missed in these mixed cartographies is Hughes’s focus on the productive use of kitsch. His work unhinges the central themes of modernism not so much by their treatment or thematic double coatings as by the transmutation of pictorial motifs into another world — and even into the order of the commodity divine. Modernist cubicals for indigenous people, popular stickers placed inside works about medium specificity, and collaged psychoanalytic imperatives are all imposed on the frozen symbolism of the Canadian landscape. This enigmatic and minimal series of references often seems to congeal into a form of cartoonified colonialism — providing us with images about social appropriation and geopolitical expropriation that are still very accessible. Perhaps one could even see Hughes’s images of ‘the great white north’ as something of a metaphor for the great white washing of Northern American history — its peoples, its myths and even its varied modes of existence.  In this regard, Hughes work carries a sympathetic tone toward the politics of indigenous peoples by making modernism into a children’s book of sorts, or a fairly tale gone awry.  Undoubtedly, Hughes's oeuvre could even be seen as a running commentary of sorts on the conflicted status of intercultural aesthetics: European and American, American and Canadian, Canadian and indigenous, indigenous and commercial. Such a heady mix of themes requires some reflection, but in Hughes's work the hyperbolic mix of characters, motifs, and cultural thematics always proves to be as pleasurable as it is rewarding. That is perhaps the joy we find in entering a topsy-turvy of hypersurregionalism.

Bio: Simon Hughes lives and works in Winnipeg, Canada. He holds an MFA from the University of California, Irvine and a BFA from the University of Manitoba. He has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as the Manitoba and Winnipeg Arts Councils. His art practice encompasses painting, drawing, film and video. Recent group exhibitions include the Canadian BiennialIt Is What It Is at the National Gallery of Canada and RE:Cycle at the Sweeney Art Gallery , University of California – Riverside. Simon's work is currently on view in Sète, France as part of My Winnipeg, a touring exhibition organized by La Maison Rouge in Paris.

 

 

 

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Gabie Strong: The Exegesis of Entropy

Gabie Strong’s work has a breadth and range that is hard to summarize in a few short sentences. Over the course of the last decade she has produced a large body of photographic works that challenge the unconscious acceptance of military motifs as a naturalized part of the American landscape, she has been engaged in rethinking critical issues around architecture and architecture education, and she has expanded the boundaries of radical performance/sound art with the collective Lady Noise. However, in her most recent body of photographs Strong has achieved something that is unique even within her own oeuvre, she has managed to make the post-urban landscape into a image of socio-psychological necessity. Her treatment of the everyday, the banal and even the abstract, have come to stand in for what Slavoj Zizek sees as the crisis of western culture — an inability to properly mourn the west as an Empire in decline. Strong’s subtle cartographies of texture and place, image and imagination, mythos and materiality, all contribute to creating a sense of psychological unease around zones of trespass and operational congress. But what is especially uncanny about her imagery is how such places can be made to seem inviting, natural, or even quite accessible.

Her overture is a kind of exploration of limited places of access that are supposed to safeguard cultural traditions, constitutional promises and the security of the nation state. And yet, in Strong’s work, they produce a palpable sense of melancholia, a tinge of regret and loss, and even a moment of thoughtful repose that issues from the failures of American exceptionalism. While Strong's work always presents us with a series of furtive pictures of the present, it is much more likely that we are looking back on pictures that are ‘about’ the past set in the present tense — images birthed ex nihilo from the futurity of a world gone awry. This kind of recursive gesture mirrors the writings of the French philosopher Paul Virilio and the retro-futurism of texts like Pure War — where destruction by automation and the drive toward automaton consciousness are envisioned as the final destination of instrumental rationality.By courting a kind of productive ambiguity, her discrete topologies of the denatured landscape work to dismantle the binaries of urban/rural, realism/abstraction and poetic/documentary forms. Playing with a sense of contradictory fictions and real simulations, Strong’s investment in place can only be described as a complex topology of tropes that resist easy identification. Her specific brand of iconography resonates with the speculative fictions of Octavia Bulter and Philip K. Dick while picking up different theoretical concerns from Henri Lefebvre, de Certeau and Foucault. Everywhere in Strong’s work, we can see intangible allusions to the psychodynamics of power and space; conflict and place; action and trace.

Strong’s work is perhaps the first step in helping us toward understanding the conflicted and interlocking crisis’s we face today — a photographic Kubler-Ross method of negotiating the de-militarized landscape and its various forms of capture and conscription. The question is whether or not we will have the wear-with-all to work through the implications of Strong’s pictures — to confront the five stages of mourning that are so intimately tied to a military-industrial-complex driven by means rather than ends. This is perhaps what is captured by the title, the Exegesis of Entropy — our common need to resist the forms of social control all around us that have gotten out of control — the endemic acceleration of perpetual catastrophe: economic, militaristic, social, geopolitical, etc. Such a project highlights the conflicted status of the contemporary moment as well as providing a critical model for understanding the power of documentary fictions

 

 

 

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Katie Herzog: Literaturewurst

The projects of Katie Herzog are actively engaged in rethinking contemporary forms of information distribution, alternative models of archivization, the traditions of librarianship and how artistic interventions communicate both inside and outside the confines of the fine art world. Her most recent project, Literaturwurst, takes up a process of appropriation that was originally proposed by Dieter Roth, but with a contemporary twist. Unlike Roth, Herzog will be taking requests from the general public, rather than her own tastes and measures, in an effort to remake the edible book as a delicacy of absurdist aesthetics. Challenging the politics of literary representation and judico-legal inscriptions, Herzog will be soliciting title requests which she will retrieve on-line for book titles to be downloaded and repackaged for a different kind of consumption. (Submit requests at: molesworthinstitute@gmail.com) 

Whether her book sausages are seen as seasoned writings, food for thought or nourishment for the mind, Herzog’s works redress the functionality of copyright laws as a series of expropriative restrictions. In an age where the ‘general intellect’ has been subsumed by big capital, Herzog’s performances present us with a different set of preparations for offset printing — where outmoded economies of exchange can be transformed into new forms of artistic and textual perceptivity. As libraries are transformed into media centers and hard-bound books are displaced by e-readers, might not all texts soon become displaced subjects — or even subjects without a literal place, i.e., an ensemble of disembodied literatures? Can we think of Herzog’s works as gesturing toward a different means of imbibing literature, or honoring the text as a form of transubstantiation — or even creating a new means of embodying the performative as an instance of ingested utterance?

In counter-distinction to the last major Literaturwurst project, which was a collection of 20 volumes of Hegel’s life works rolled into a series of book sausages, Herzog’s (de)commissioned texts return us to the Benjaminian notion of the outmoded, i.e., of the general commutability of terms based on an immanently historical medium in decline. Or, perhaps her project takes up another key theme from Benjamin’s overture — the notion of a dialectics at standstill — where new regimes of knowledge distribution and design have yet to emerge from the fading light of the literary age. Or, following on the irreverent attitude of any number of modern and postmodern interventionists, (Dadaist, Actionists, Fluxists, Situationists, etc.), Herzog’s work could be seen as acknowledging the mystical moment of sovereignty which takes real knowledge to be non-knowledge, unknowingness, and even transcendence. Thinking about textual appropriation in the form of a sausage is even something of a dietetic metaphor for the machinations of dialectic digestion — a post-historical allegory about repackaging (art) history’s ruins for the anthropocentric appetite. In short, Literaturwurst gives Hegel’s movement of the Spirit a material twist, a movement from below — and even a case of theoretical indigestion, historical reflux, and a touch of aesthetic heartburn. This is the horizon of aesthetic consumption against which such projects announce themselves, not only as a moment of levity, but also as a radical engagement with the confines of the present as always already implicated in the pre-sent. 

First Performance: Opening night, October 6th, 7:30pm-9:30pm.

Second Performance: Ciclavia Bicycling day, October 9th, 10am-3pm.

Third and Final Performance: Closing night, October 29th, 4pm-8pm.

You can give Katie a book title of your choosing at one of the above performances at Autonomie or by email at molesworthinstitute@gmail.com. It can be any title, and a few websites are listed below to help facilitate the process. You can also choose any title beyond those listed on these sites. There is no cost and you can retrieve your book sausages at the closing reception in October 9th between 4pm and 8pm.

 

 

 

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Hollis Cooper: Invirtuality

The paintings and installations of Hollis Cooper are invested in the haptic and the optic construction of space in a way that privileges neither while questioning both. Her compositions act as a recursive loop that joins the digital and the painterly in a series of complex mediations between memory, found materials and innumerable acts of aesthetic transduction. Cooper’s works remind us that ‘the virtual’ is not just a hypothetical construction, but that we encounter the production of virtuality all around us as a series of visual tropes, cultural memes and rhetorical devices. Much like her immersive environments we find ourselves encircled by the digital aesthetics of cinematic seductions, scripted spaces and technologized environs — or what many theorists now refer to as a culture of remediation. By folding different digitized spaces together — spaces from internet chat rooms, videogame backgrounds and various forms of theoretical architecture — Cooper’s work engages in a kind of radical geometricism that points to the instability of ‘the virtual’ as a well defined local. In fact, her painterly installations insist upon a type of shifting presence that is determined by the interplay of the viewing situation as well as the orchestration of technological motifs, nexus effects and (de)constructed systems of representation.

One could even say that Cooper’s hyperbolic vivisections of architectural and computational space show us how the virtual is commiserate with Deleuze’s interpretation of the term —where the virtual is conceived of a series of potentials within the real that are irreducible to the structures that condition their appearance. Rather, Deleuze provided us with a vision of the virtual as a paradigm of compossibilities that unfurl and unfold all around us in anti-systematic, anti-linear and anti-teleological ways. Such a notion of mixed topologies; of visual events taken as so many forking paths; and of the type of dynamicism that issues from the (neo)baroque theatrics found in Cooper’s imagery could all be thought of as allegorical effect of the anti-Cartesian urge — or even as a model of Deleuze’s devout anti-Platonism. In many ways Cooper’s artistic practice could be characterized as a type of cartographic cataloging that takes emergent properties and proliferating mutations as its given subject. 

In her most recent works however, even these pictorial anomalies find themselves displaced by so many generative derivations — giving rise to a spectrographic language that can only be described as Baroqucoco — or as embodying a hybrid disposition toward the use of different motifs and the logic of embellishment. Cooper’s newly extended vocabulary is not so much about the artificiality of architectural systems as it is about capturing the texture and trace of vituality in all of its various incarnations. Such a cacophony of visual paradoxes makes us question how we think about the structuration of space while the phenomenal complexity of her works asks us to activate our perception of the living present in order to map its constructed measures as naturalized artifacts. This is perhaps, what it means to be in-virtuality, or within an aesthetic experience that subtracts from the known what we think we have always already known before.

Bio: Born in 1976 in Jackson, Mississippi, Hollis Cooper grew up in New Orleans and Houston before moving to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and finally California. She received her undergraduate degree with high honors from Princeton University, a Post-Baccalaureate certificate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate University. In 2006, she was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant Award by the CGU Art Department, and in 2007 was selected for the Drawing Center's Viewing Program in NYC. Her work has been featured/reviewed in publications such as New American Paintings, Art Papers, and Alarm Magazine, and has been included in shows in galleries and museums throughout the United States.

 

 

 

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Nina T. Becker / April Friges: Erasing Traces

Nina T. Becker

Becker’s art practice often revolves around the themes of absence, mourning, trauma and the irreducible quality of time. In her most recent series of photographic works she introduces us not only to the trappings of the cinematic mode of production but also to the apparatus of capture associated with economimesis (the aesthetic presuppositions of political economy). Both enigmatic and formless, the rooms depicted in this suite of images are known as ‘psyches’ or ‘coves’. Spread throughout the Hollywood infrastructure, these types of places are regularly reconfigured to accommodate simulated fantasies and special effects props. The illegibility of their local, their uncanny position as non-descript places and the evacuation of Cartesian coordinates works to undermine any sense of temporal and spatial specificity. Instead, such images confront us with the traumatic real of remediated culture, i.e., with the non-place of pure vituality that acts as a substrate for the projection of commercial desires. In this stark and surreal presentation of the repressed order of production we find that the obscene core of remediated culture is also a real place; that it can be visited; that it has a texture and location — but that it is still a place without a proper name. And yet, Becker’s photographs provide us a fleeting glimpse of an 'open space’ that highlights the difference between systems of symbolic meaning that circulate within the domain of white-cube-like production. That is the nature of their strategic intervention into the space(s) of the cultural imaginary as well as their enduring contribution to how we understand the contemporary moment.

April Friges

Friges’s photographic practice is everywhere informed by different economies of experience: economies of habitation, of liquidation, of transference and of transformation. Her previous series have focused on creating documents of suburban compression rather than urban sprawl, of calling forth factory memories rather than factory production, and of situating homes in transit rather than homesteads in foreclosure. In each of these projects, as well as her newest series of works, Friges’s engages with the ethic of what remains, i.e., with the specificity of architectural forms and how they are informed by so many points of social interlocution. However, in her most recent body of work she also gives us a portrait of structuralist photography turned on its head — not so much documents of a style in time but of architectural motifs that are out of time — expired, conscripted and repurposed structures. In such a series of photographs we are made to question not only what forms subsist beneath the willful transformation of a familiar food chain but also what persists in an economy of disposability, decay and redistribution. Functioning as a subtle cartography of the commonplace, Friges’s images allow us to investigate the temporal division of before and after through so many indices of visual and structural displacement. Through varying degrees of indexical similitude we can locate a subject that is almost indiscernible at first glance — visible only through a few architectural ticks, instances of mixed or remodeled signage and the discrete attenuation of franchised building caught up in a process of erasure. That the structuralist idiom has to be rethought in an economy of accelerated consumption seems obvious, but that post-structuralist stratagems could be posited alongside socio-economic concerns, historical concerns, infrastructural concerns and even the process of enculturation — that is a decided challenge to the carrying capacity of the image.  Friges’s photographs certainly serve as the high watermark of such an enterprise.

 

 

 

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Alison Rash / Chris Trueman: The Suspended Literal

Alison Rash

Alison Rash's paintings and drawings juxtapose radically different motifs from the history of abstract art such as geometric patterns and gestural marks, formless illegibility and opaque inscriptions, linear elements and dynamic negative shapes. Psychological intuitions, systemicity and the meaning imbued in everyday objects serve as a jumping off point for her recombant compositions. Rash's open sensibility, both playful and rigorous, reminds us that genre based discourses like craft, geometricism and action painting are not necessarily mutually exclusive endeavors. Her specific form of abstract pictorialism negotiates an in-between space of webbed meanings and networked sources that not only demands time and contemplative reflection but also resists commodifying style at the cost of substance. The composed conviviality of her most recent body of work challenges us to rethink the presuppositions of automatic writing as an archetypal methodology - releasing us from defining the aesthetic unconscious in retrograde terms.

Alison Rash holds an MFA in Studio Art from Claremont Graduate University, an MA in Education from Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology and a BA in Art from Pepperdine University.  Her work was recently shown in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Milan.  She was awarded the Walker/Parker Memorial Fellowship and Claremont Graduate University Fellowship and was a Dedalus Foundation Nominee.  Rash lives and works in Los Angeles.  

Chris Trueman

The works of Chris Trueman collide motifs from the history of abstract art with more contemporary forms of mark making. As a vivisection of gestural, architectonic and graphic elements Trueman's visual mash-up's present us with the irreducible feeling of serendipity and deja vu. The visual paradoxes in his work often consist of pushing deep space forward, adding a palpable sense of dimensionality to gestural marks and making accidents appear planned. These types of dialectic contradictions are informed by the presuppositions of modern and postmodern art while courting a type of hyper-self reflexivity that exceeds the conditions of twentieth century abstraction. We see this evidenced in Trueman's newest body of work which mixes the look of stencils, sprayed techniques and taped off passages with a reversible sense of figure/ground relations and somber color harmonies. Trueman has described this recent transformation in his work as issuing from the use of "equilibrium canceling diagonals", "slippery images" and "provisional" stratagems.

Chris Trueman graduated with an MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 2010.  Recently his work was included in the exhibitions: "Speculative Materialism" at D-block Projects in Long Beach and "About Paint" at Carl Berg projects in LA. Trueman has also shown his work extensively in exhibitions at venues in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Milan, Italy. While at CGU he was the recipient of the Ann Peppers Foundation Fellowship, a Claremont Graduate University Merit Fellowship Recipient and received the faculty recommended Dedalus Foundation Fellowship Nomination. Trueman’s work was included in the 2010 New American Paintings MFA edition (87). 

 

 

 

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Ashley Landrum / Nano Rubio: The Levity of Translation

Ashley Landrum
Landrum's practice as a sculptor relies on mirroring and moire effects that activate perception through shifting layers of allegorical information. Her sculptures are often constructed using metallic scaffolding, painterly substrates, fabricated surfaces or any number of welded materials. These items might be super-added to shimmering fabrics, delicate textures and taught systems of suspension that invite a type of looking that is simultaneously pleasurable and restricted - or even pleasurable in its restrictions. Moving between the discourses that surround transversal painterly spaces and deconstructed sculptural affects, Landrum's work offers us a contained interaction that isn't overtly about its status as-such. Instead, her pieces play with a mixed genealogy of historical and contemporary precedents that challenge the ways in which we consider the sculptural object, its phenomenological precepts and its epistemological comport. The fluctuating boundaries of  Landrum's works evidence a rare instance of complexity that exceeds the common conditions of historical measure and dialogic interlocution - a sure mark of their purchase in the present.

Nano Rubio  
Rubio's abstract paintings unfold a logic of performative designs and gestural actions that display an incongruent topology of time-based inscriptions. Often reading as different lines of code - linear, scrapped, squeegeed and imposted - his works operate as a virtual catalog of conflicted cartographies. Playing with stark oppositions between light and dark space, rich and muted color, and theatrical figure/ground relations, Rubio's aesthetic program courts a distinctive neobaroque sensibility centered around issues of translation and transference. By working with an expanded vocabulary of non-traditional tools Rubio's images produce forms of misidentification that renew the radicality of process-based work through fracture and virtuosity. Such paintings represent a profound mediation on the dialect relation of self and systemicity, affect and dictation, performance and interruption. In such an inquiry, every form of visual refrain marks a new relation to systems of information display that extend from the programs of seventeenth century painting to the digital worlds of today.

 

ARCHIVE: PRESS RELEASES (Selections: Text only)

 

EXPLUSION: PAINTING AS PROXY ACT AND ACTION

Artists in the Show: Michael Diaz, Chris Kuhn, Caroline Hubbell, Ryan Eckert, Megan Johnson, Thomas Knight, Larry Madrigal, Brandi Read, Chloe Torri, Mary Williams, Lester Monzon, Rema Ghuloum, Maysha Mohamedi, Laurie Nye, and Jacob Melchi.

One can be expelled for plagiarism, for breaking rules, for unusual behavior and for nearly anything that the reigning authorities find contemptible. In the art world this could be critics, institutions, or the general public. Even painting itself became an object of contempt during the 60s and 70s when it was largely declared to be a "dead" medium. Its most recent rap on the knuckles came in the wake of zombie formalism, when the artworld decided that a certain kind of made-to-order, or made-too-easily formalism, came to prominence in the marketplace almost overnight due to the precarious practice of "art-flipping" --- something that was a highly speculative practice at best. This school of "drop-cloth" abstraction was quickly expelled from any place of enduring relevance in what was the largest quantifiable loss of auction house value in the early 21st century. It constituted nothing short of a radical expulsion of value, form, and gesture taken for content. 

Nevertheless, painting has continued on in different states, re-inventing itself with each new decade, usually under the guise of so many “returns”, be it under the moniker of "a return to figuration", "a return of the real", "a return of beauty", etc. Or, sometimes painting sneaks into the limelight through the auspicious use of neo’s, such as neo-expressionism, neo-geo, etc. But what continues to define painting beyond these various programs and strategies is the many different ways that it can be both an object by proxy, creating other realities into which the imagination can venture, or that it surfaces can rely on creating an impact on the viewer through acts or actions, essentially relying on paintings tactile and affective qualities in order to elicit a response. It goes without saying that much of the best painting today and historically, is often some amalgam of these two approaches.

Nevertheless, it is between these two poles that the debate about painting --- both figurative and abstract --- has continued on for more than a century, with one side favoring the optical qualities of the medium while other side has placed a decided emphasis on painting's potential to act on our sense as a haptic experience. For most of the 20th century, being in one camp or the other could result in being expelled from the reigning zeitgeist. The figures that worked in the inbetween spaces however, like Phillip Guston, Joan Brown and Lydia Benglis, all ran the risk of having their career run out of town by the critics, or simply exiled from relevance. It's no exaggeration to saw that, at times, they lived under the constant threat of expulsion. 

Eventually this ethos broke however, and painting was expelled from the dictates of "high modernism" and the equally critical era of "high theory" that punctuated the end of postmodernism. Painting today continues to flourish by way of its alliance to a kind of permanent disobedience. In fact, a short list of expulsions is the only thing that gives us a sense of the space of paintings changing commitments: first, painting was expelled from "standard formats" at the end of modernism; than it was thrown out from "the wall" during much of postmodernism, often spilling out onto the flooring pushing up against institutional confines; with the passing of time, painting even ventured further away from purely painterly qualities vis-a-via the many sculptural propositions that were incorporated into painting practices during late postmodernism; and finally, painting was expelled from the strict confines of "medium specificity" to freely mix with other genres, and so painting began to venture out into the world at large through site specific projects, hyper-textual references, and cross-disciplinary practices during the era of high pluralism. This is the short history of paintings violations, infractions, and revolutions, all of which have no implicit teleology save a vast and growing diversity of memes and themes. 

As a result of this short genealogy of painting in the expanded field, we can say that painting takes its place in the world as an object of emblematic identifications unknown. It is that sublime endeavor which stopped serving the academy so long ago that it barley knows how to identify with authority, despite what many critics might have you believe. Painting no longer courts the term “high art” anymore than its competing genres, and it is rarely accompanied by manifesto’s, the establishment of new ism’s, or even a foundational sense of the supposed limits of the medium. If anything, painting is now a thoroughly delimited object of inquiry.

Another way of saying the same thing is that painting has finally been thrown out of the artworld so many times, that its status might best be described as a series of repeated “expulsions” from different critical frameworks and epistemes, and it might be that this rather vexed state of affairs is actually what gives painting an enduring purchase in the present. Thus, the works on display in Expulsion: Painting as Proxy Act and Action are not visual expositions in any traditional sense, but rather, they play with the notion of an "aesthetic of explusion" that might best be defined as what circumscribes the ever expanding world of sense-making after the great debate over "proper" painterly sensibilities and proxy acts for painting that constituted paintings many misadventures in 19th and 20th centuries.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Cosmogyny

Artists in the show: Hannah Irene Walsh, Paige A. Turncliff, Lisa Von Hoffner, Rachel Goodwin, Mario Munguia Jr., Madison Pennisi, Daniel Funkhouser, Mary Williams and more artists TBA.

It seems as if there has always has been a belief in two worlds, that of the seen and the unseen, of the visible and the invisible, of the known and of the occult. But contrary to the subversive overtones that are used to conceal worlds of experience beyond that of everyday consciousness, occultation simple means “hidden”. It is not, by necessity, a nefarious or otherwise dubious connotation to say that something is simply concealed. Quite the opposite in fact. For those artistic initiates and creative seekers who want to go into realms heretofore unexplored, the term occult alludes to any process that allows something which was previously obscured to be brought out into the light of understanding, or of re-evalation posited as revelation. In this way, occultation is very close to what the esoteric writings of Martin Heidegger called the ontological-primordial play of concealing and revealing, or of bringing something "into the light" in two distinct senses, i.e., of things revealed in both the outer and inner worlds of experience.

The notions of cosmology and cosmogyny are intertwined in a twofold conundrum of ontic and ontological experience as well. Afterall, many of the great occult traditions share a singular notion about the "Ontos", which is that of “the sacred marriage”, or of having traits of both the male and the female in oneself as the ground of being prior to any division, be it biological, cultural, etc. Sometimes this “sacred marriage” is called the “transmutation of the elements” in alchemy, the going-under of “dark night of the soul” in psychology, the discovery of “the philosopher's stone” in philosophy, and so many other names throughout the world's many esotic traditions. Cosmology and cosmogyny might also be viewed as one such dichotomy, placed somewhere between representing the "generative" and "gestational" principalities that are always already married within all creative acts. Afterall, both of these "genus" conditions are still being theorized today in relations to all of existence, without either term holding any sense of primacy. 

In other words, the fusion of opposites which is often characterized as the "supreme occulted truth", or really as an occulted axiom that aims to overcome the originary division of forms, is itself, something that is paraded around as the highest grade of the mason, the guru, the magnus, and the master who has "attained" the deepest non-dual insights. But today, science too is after the truth of what brought the universe into being before dualism. By contrast with the ritual and material practices associated with the occult arts, we can say that all outward, exteriorized, or reified dogmatic truths focus on the opposite goal, i.e., that of heightening the antagonism of identifications associated with good and evil, light and dark, and difference as-such. This is what caused both Nietzsche and Crowley to condemn modern reigion as the birthplace of "herd morality", "reactive consciousness" and the inversion of life affirming values. 

But where is this most obviously on display in our culture today? Sadly, it is in the larger than life mythos created by misogyny, for which Cosmogyny could offer a much needed corrective. Even our modern religions still seem to miss these rather obvious exclusions and hierarchies in having created a series of godheads who are often absent any female counterpart, be it Yaweh, Allah, Buddha, etc., and by proxy, they also lack any gestative element in their allegories of creation. This makes them all-or-nothing religions, or "all-is-One" systems of belief without any remainder, suppliment, etc. The ancients however, rarely made this same mistake. They tried to keep extreme misogyny somewhat separate from cosmology. In fact, in many of the pre-modern traditions the gods tended to be many, plural, and even diverse in their interests within the same cosmologcial constallation.

The uncanny parallel here with the rise of modern art and modern monotheism is that both belief systems became essentialist, acting in a neo-fudamentalist manner by eliminating everything but “the truth to materials” and the “truth of the text”; the rhetoric of “purity” and the rhetorical devices of conversion; the teleological drive toward flatness and the flattening out of all the gods into the one “Father who art in heaven...". Of course, Freud had already noted this tendency in his book Moses and Monotheism, which is to say that creative story-telling has underwrit the whole of modern culture... religion included. Consequently, the notion of Cosmogyny as a progessive outlook is premised on upsetting forms of absolutism and in rethinking the supposed place of the “Father who art in heaven..." with "the Father who Art...", a rather malignant cultural meme based on self-sufficiency in being a vision unto-himself, for-himself, and by-himself for all eternity. In other words, monotheism is both a postulated absudity and a logical paradox: the creation ex-nihlo of an ultimate subject who appears from nowhere but govens all. 

Here it is important to mention that the artists involved in Cosmogyny do not represent the first serious attempt to point out these aesthetico-ethico-religious contradictions. Rather, their work is informed by an important tradition of sacrilegious contestation that is intimately wed to aesthetic contemplation. Afterall, this twofold tendency of modernism and monotheism to be exclusionary, elitist and thoroughly fundamantalist is not something that was lost on the many modern artists who recognized that the will toward strict absolutism, cut off from embracing the full spectrum of human experience, is itself the real tragedy of the modern age. It forms the chasm of a symbolic deficeit we are still trying to cross today, with great gains and loses all around us.

First evdienced through the vast influence of theosophy on everyone from Mondrian to Kandinsky; the “spiritualist” obsessions of the Surrealists; the new age visions of Hilma of Klint and Malevich; the darker intimations of artists like Felicien Rops and Austin Osman Spare; and even Josephin Peladan’s Salons of the de la Rose + Croix; all of this circumscribes the origins of the avant-garde not as an advancing perspective, or an obsession with “the new”, but rather, as reclaiming and integrating the past, including the influence of wholly anti-modern tendencies. In other words, art also had the "sacred marriage" that is germane to creative acts hidden, occulted, or masked during the rise of modernism. Because of this, there is and continues to be two modernisms --- a concealed modernism and a revealed one --- or rather, a modernism about advancing "visionaries" and a modernism that is about the play of revealing beyond what the eyes have to offer vision. 

In our contmeporary moment however, Cosmogyny picks up where these modern traditions left off, bringing radical aesthetic practices into the 21st century through the use of alters, pin-ups, puppets, paintings, plays, appropriations, and projections both real and imaginary. One can see the work in Cosmogyny both as response to our current religious and political pressures as well as an occulted conflict between our illusions of morality and identity. Adopting certian postmodern strategies like parody and pastiche, we can say that a heightened sense of self-awareness informs much of the work in the show, and that humor is often used as a tool of disarmerment in rethinking the ontic-ontological divide of representation.

But where Cosmogyny exceeds and even challenges these postmodern prescendents is in its effort to reclaim the battelground of desire. One could even say that it is romance that forms the crux of the collective project that is Cosmogyny, and which substantiates its varied pictorial cosmologies. The desire for the other, "the Other", the One, Ontos... all of this is stood on its head by the work in Cosmogyny. Instead, dualism, division, and the duplicitious are all made to pay dividens throughout the aesthetico-politico stagings of Cosmogyny as a newly minted vision of Dante's Divine Comedy, albiet, in the form of childern's theater, a detourned video lounge, cheeky characterizations of the art press and much more. It is an exhibition of amor, of the artist's loves, and of endless consumation against the prejudices of consecration.

So please Join us for a night where the theater of existence will be dramatized on the one evening where all of culture takes part in the play of inverted symbolism, inerrant archetypes and irreverent masquerades. Help us celebrate Halloween, that other word which also carries an occulted meaning hidden within it's etymology --- where the supposed “hollowness” of the parade of carnivalesque figurations --- is actually donned in order to let the inner deamon of us all out to play in the world for a bit. Like all forms of festival wherein the unspoken aim is nothing less than letting the Jungian shadow-self mingle with our everyday personas, so too, the opening night of Cosmogyny invites the transmutation of all forms, both the sacred and the profane, the beautiful and abject, high art and mass culture.

 

 

 

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The Fate of Landscape Painting

Artists in the show: Laura Spalding Best, Cam DeCaussin, Camila Galofre, Sarah Hathaway, Travis Ivey, Megan Johnson, Virginia Katz, Jonathan Marquis, Abbey Messmer, Emily Ritter, and Devon Tsuno.

Landscape painting has always been tied to the question of fate. The pastoral landscape was comforting, conquered and subdued, signaling that the fate of humanity was in a position superior to that of nature, or ultimately, that is was closer to being in a pictorial dialogue that reflected the benign hand of a benevolent godhead. In contrast with this explicitly religious outlook, the experience of standing atop sublime vistas or facing nature's most extreme forces eschewed perspectives that threatened the safety of the human subject, and were often depicted using pictorial motifs associated with trans versing unimaginable distances. It is no coincidence that this interpretation of the landscape rose to prominence at the birth of the Enlighten, when humankind traded the picture of creation with a caretaker for so many images of paradise lost. Of course, these were strictly pre-modern notions of our fated condition of confronting the landscape, largely because it was taken for granted that there was no other means of natural habitation, save that of struggle. In fact, there was no way around the landscape as a fated relationship of tumult and toil until the invention of trains, planes and automobiles. As a consequence of these modes of transportation, along with widespread industrialization, the genre of landscape painting lost its perceived relevance as our relationship to the environment became one that was defined by greater and greater degrees of distantiation over the course of the last century. 

After being exiled from relevance for more than a few generations, landscape painting has made a rather triumphant comeback by embracing the themes of earth-art, land-art and eco-art, but transmuting the central concerns of these genres into pictorial dispositifs. Once again, we are trying to picture the landscape, but not as caretakers or conquers. Instead we are confronted by the landscape in its aggregate and interconnected effects. Which is to say, that what was assumed to be inert matter has now become increasingly active and what was thought of as a bounded material has become a dynamic form of earthen animism. In short, it seems that since we've displaced enough of modernism's by-products into the atmosphere and the ground below, planetary life has now entered into a reactionary phase, or even a classic reaction-formation, with regard to the irrevocable inheritance of the modern era.

Or, to go one step further, one might even say that we now live in the period of Gaia-in-revolt or even planetary anti-modernity if you will. Indeed, we might only be experiencing the first rumblings of the consequences that have come about by way of ignoring our interventions and accelerating investments into the literal and figurative idea of the landscape. Modernism was, afterall, defined by thinking about the concrete reality of materials put in service of a set of increasingly abstract pictorial conventions, which is to say, it abandoned the means to think about the x an y axis of representation with any degree of genuine complexity. Flatness and anti-illusionism became the call of the day, and postmodernism was only just beginning to recover the depth of field we once had, or a farsightedness which, when abandoned, also represented the loss of depth associated with our cultural concerns about the landscape. And so, in the early 21st century, we still find ourselves waking up from a kind of cultural slumber with regard to the problematic of creative-destruction and cognitive dissonance that defined the modern era tout court.

But the artists in The Fate of Landscape Painting bring a renewed look at the landscape without any sense of productive or painterly indifference. The work of Travis Ivey plays with the dichotomy of romantic naturalism and constructed aerial views by assembling pictures from discarded commercial goods as well as traditional materials. Camila Galfore gives us a picture of the landscape painted in ghosted contours, combining the orthographic feel of eastern landscape painting with the techno-vibrancy of our contaminated life-world. Devon Tsuno provides the punctum of picturing the landscape by passing it through saturated chromatic scales cast against so many iconic motifs. Abbey Messmer paints with a method that is part dreamscape, part improvised reconstruction --- where the place of the human subject is put in question --- especially with regard to the feeling of a well-defined Cartesian space. Cam Decassin's paintings are perhaps even more telling in this regard, as they often hint at a post-Hopperesque world, one where what's left of the nuclear family is otherwise occupied indoors, or wondering amongst the constructed naturalism of suburban sprawl. Sarah Hathaway's more expressionistic approach gives us pause to reflect on the last vestiges of a world without us, where affect and effect make up the boundless play of beautiful and conflictual forces. Both Virginia Katz and Jonathan Marquis's works explicitly confront the themes of climate change by marshaling the ability of art materials to highlight how environmental conquest is circumscribed by both entropic and accelerationist tendencies. Emily Ritter's installation points to how the problems of accumulation, degradation and debris can be made into a literary corpus, or a exquisite encyclopedia of the ruins of the day based on using rhetorical devices of display.

Together, these artists address The Fate of Landscape Painting in a different manner than their premodern or modern predecessors. They come not to bury the dead presuppositions of modernism but to exhume its exhausted remains, and possibly, to retrieve the potential of a genre cast aside for almost an entire epoch. They come to resuscitate its lost potential, and to make its fate into something more than what the logic of post-industrial capitalism and planned obsolescence might allow. In fact, in their able hands The Fate of Landscape Painting has a brighter future for foregoing the retrogressive tropes of démodé romanticism and instead, facing up to the demands of the day, or what many now call encountering the catastrophic condition that is comprised of living in the age of the anthroposcene. This term, which denotes an era forever marked by human impact on the carbon record gives us the contours of a new turn in the logic of the epoch, where the appreciation of creation and the abandonment of "mankind" have been replaced by examining the consequences of our collective impact today. Thus, the work in The Fate of Landscape Painting is a harbinger of things to come, and questions the viewer to think deeply again, and not just about the value of an image, or a genre, but the values of western culture in total. And because of this, The Fate of Landscape Painting still has a bright future today, tomorrow, and for many many years to come. It seems, that for this generation, it is even fated to be so. 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Emily Ritter: Habitual Consumption

Emily Ritter's work is performative, accumulative, and subversive for engaging in a politics of anesthetization around what many people would consider to be an act or actions that are habitually associated with the greatest degree of disinterested feelings, i.e., the regime of disposable objects. And yet, the idea of the "disinterested gaze" is exactly what the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant considered to be most germane to the act of aesthetic contemplation. It is here that we find Ritter's work performing something quite unexpected with regard to what Jacques Ranciere has termed 'the aesthetic unconscious', or even Jameson's notion of the 'political unconscious', especially if we take them to represent the place where praxis and dissensus meet. Splitting the difference between Jameson's and Ranciere's terminology involves looking at the place where unconscious actions break with our encultured consensus trace in order to produce a new kind of critical import, one which becomes operative at the very moment that we are overloaded by cultural by-products that are perpetually produced "on-demand".

Indeed, it is here, where Ritter's earlier series, like "Wildly Captive", act in a transversal manner that crosses figurative cartoons with a kind of literal carbon footprint, or rather, a creative carbon-handprint, in the form of a culturally legible art practice that is also a means of socio-political praxis. Thus, "Wildly Captive" enacts a type of cultural commentary about anthropocentric positions in the palatable form of cartoon-like imagery, where consensus emerges from the ease of consumption associated with comic book iconography while what is depicted evokes a general feeling of disensus with regard to how we see the world around us. Ritter's next series goes a step further in adopting serial imagery for "Consumption and Cycles" that points to the many ways in which we are pressed to contemplate the repressed, not only in the form of imagining the recyclability of the self in a culture awash in product-branding, but also in the fact that it is getting harder not to see the face of our species as the poster child for a terminal mode of economic production. In this series, it could be said that humanity holds the general space of product placement and above all, we are the warning label for the environment.

In contrast to these earlier projects Ritter's more recent work places the theater of her own waste on display, allowing the series entitled "Habitual Consumption" to break the disinterested spell of consumer driven dilettantism by way of Brechtian means. In this instance the routines of daily life become the fourth wall that we all must break-through in order to change our relationship not only to the environment, but also to consider the possibility of life becoming art, or of a new arts of living... or at the very least, of how to enact the very real art of conservation and attending considerations. To put it another way, aesthetics here is a measure of our "interested" contemplation rather than our "disinterested" behaviors; it is a matter of thoughtful acts rather than careless actions, and it depends as much on the categories of aesthetic contemplation as it does consumer motivations. And all of these concerns are held out before us in a series of objects of irreconcilability, which, when taken together, are something like Ritter's collected editions of memento mori, with each new volume being about not just about the idea of death, but of the death-drive associated with living life as-if we inhabit a disable life-world. 

In this way, the artist's own books of consumptive accord, or rather, the gathering together of these pages of (un)natural discord, hold our attention at the edge of what we could comfortable call the commercial gaze. As documents they have a structure that is not wholly unlike that of flip-book style animations, but what they animate is an active consideration and condensation of the very pace of consummation that goes hand-in-hand with living in the era of "all-too-late" capitalism. And yet, what they seek to address is how the consequences of capitalism getting to any "later" stage in our economy of overproduction, without coming to terms with addressing the realties of externalities may come back to haunt us on a global scale. Whether or not we can reverse what many consider to be one of the unfortunate outcomes of ends-means rationality, of endlessly fulfilling supply-and-demand, or even of continuing to encourage permanent growth as a "naturalized" dialectic of capitalist revolutions is something that will be fought over in the coming years on the terrain of both aesthetics and politics.

What might be missed in such debates however, is that the philosophy of disinterested aesthetic pleasure was birthed alongside Adam Smith's idea of the "invisible hand of the market", and that the major inward turning metaphor of both Kant and Smith is one of blindness to our acts and actions. Kant, afterall, produced a transcendental philosophy related to a blindly thinking about pictorial means-without-ends while Smith produced a blinded thinking about thinking of means-as-an-end-in-themselves, where the (un)natural by-product of self-interest is staged as the hero in a story about socio-economic development that stretches from living in the state-of-nature all the way to our present capitalist system. Of course, both of these outlooks now appear to be something like unconscious defense mechanisms against having to consider the real world outcomes of capitalist competition. Creative-destruction is not a blind man’s game, but thinking about it along the Kantian-Smithian axis has certainly proved to be a blind man’s bluff, or much more simply, it is the kind of double-blind contradiction that Ritter's work actively seeks to expose.

And it is from this perspective that her projects place us on the flipside of capitalist accumulation in the form of producing "flippant" texts of environmental expropriation. But they are not at all flippant in the sense of being a joking gesture or a coy refrain. Instead, they are objects of contemplation in as much as they try to introduce us to a wholly new sense of object relations who's antecedents of interpretation resonant more with the philosophies of Klien and Kristeva - or of the effects of the partial-object and the affects of melancholia - rather than any overarching sense of release into the realm of "purely disinterested" pleasures. Or, one could go a step further and say that Ritter's objects are a perfect rejoinder to all of the Object-Oriented philosopher's who have had a tremendous influence in the humanities in the last decade with regard to rethinking our relationship to the environment and nature writ large, alla Timothy Morton, Levi R. Bryant, Graham Harmon, et. al. 

And it is from rethinking the relationship between these these contemporary perspectives on art making that Ritter's Object-Oriented books could be said to disorient our well-regulated cartographies of consumption. They do this by placing a new categorical imperative on us of the kind that Kant could not have imagined, because it is imperative to read and retrace the impetus behind our ecological impact as the outcome of so many "interested" parties. In this way, we can say that Ritter's work is an artistic practice that gives us object that functions as a type of picturing - a picture that is equal parts diary and display - and which allows the "unthought" to emerge into the field of so-called "disinterested pleasures". This is not only how Ritter's work picks up where Kant's third critique never thought to go; or how she has taken the remains of the day and turned it into a serial measure of object relations that address the leading concerns of our time; or even how Ritter has done all this through the lens of self reflexive-critique split between questioning the agency of one's own actions and the act of aesthetics becoming an agent-for-change. Rather, her project operates across all of these valences and more.

This is because the real twist in her oeuvre is that her works are a documentary trace of "casual" consumption rather than "motivated" buying; or they focus on "disposable" interests rather than consumer "pleasures". As such, Ritter’s works underscore what remains truly "unthought" in the consummation of consumption given over to us as both what allows us to buy and carry products home, as well as what lives on as the by-product of our everyday culture of convenience. In this way, her art practice acts an anthropological record of our consumer civilization, and most especially of the kind of waste that is generated at point-of-purchase sales, transit kiosks, or even just packaging in general.

As a consequence, Ritter's record of debris-via-domesticity begs its viewers not to become docile consumers of "disinterested" measure. In fact, one could say that with each new project Ritter manages not only to measure the losses and gains of Western Civilization, but to take a more interested approach to thinking about the so-called "civilizing impulse" as it applies to the cultish status attributed to impulse-buying. After all, capitalism was set up alongside the ideology of secular materialism, where being up on the latest trends or participating in the most recent "fad" is its own kind of cultural communion. Only nobody counted on how the near religious acceptance of what goes with the Eucharist of sales has yet to find any transubstantive equivalent in the modern world, save maybe, recycling. And so, the possibility of this very division between fallen base materials and redeemable, recyclable, and reusable matter might one day qualify what is considered to be defining difference between cultural by-product and culture-as-such, ultimately inverting the Kantian paradigm from what has no use value to what created endless surplus value.

Cast in this light, one could even say that Ritter's most recent series, "Infertile Obsolescence" represents the event-scene of our generation with an even greater emphasis placed on the weight of our everyday actions. Afterall, Ritter's critique is undoubtedly at its most poignant when she intertwines the idea of both planted and planned obscene, or of planned obsolescence as an idea which is perpetually implanted in us, by conflating the two in the form of a collaged aesthetic that challenges the disinterested gaze of profit and exchange absent any concern for environmental accords. Indeed, Ritter's true radicality lies in this: that her work is the kind of artistic practice that we hope to see taken up by a new generation of artists with the same seriousness and level of commitment, where rethinking everyday praxis involves picturing our acts and actions on the "world-stage", and that this might becomes a central concern not only in art, but in all forms of cultural production. If this is indeed the chasm we have to cross today, then Ritter's work is certainly showing us a way to turn the tide against the 18th century version of art as the disinterested play of the faculties, and what a greater concern might look like for what comes out of our factories. Thus, Ritter's interventionist approach has profound implications for how we think about the unconscious drives of western "development", where art can has a significant role to play in consciousness-raising about the entire chain of production beyond the product itself. Hers is a project that sketches a genuine way forward in reclaiming our collective planetary futures, a contribution to art that is itself, of no small measure. 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Jonathan Marquis: Earth Eaters

The works of Jonathan Marquis stand out as having a rather singular quality about them in the arena of contemporary art today. Whether drawing is mobilized as a documentary form, or abstraction is utilized as a type of process-based realism, or even if the dynamics of installation art appear to be motivated by the naturalism of the world outside the wide cube, one could still say that the diversity of methods associated with Marquis's art practice demonstrate a kind of virtuosity that is rare in the field of cultural production. But more importantly however, is the fact that when one walks into a gallery space composed by Marquis's works, one not only gets the feeling of being in a total work of art but even of becoming part of the composition itself. And, it is usually the composition of a living work of art, often made of porous materials that serve as a composite picture, or even a type of "picturing" of analogous operations at play in the world all around us. 

All of these considerations are often held in a state of tension that can be attributed to colliding a series of historical notions about how art functions in the expanded field of praxis and meaning production. There is first, the idea that in Marquis's work, we encounter something like the image of the journeyman, which is to say, evidence of a skilled craftsman in many different mediums. In this regard his work is the very best of what working in the "post-studio condition" represents today, i.e., that of being an artist who not only uses form in service of content, but who's selection of materials becomes content, rather than merely remaining part of an art practice that is defined by genre specific limits. The second sense in which Marquis is a journeyman is that the word itself carries a heavy set of connotations by being linked with terms that are as diverse as manufacture, technical know-how, and even specialization. You will see this kind of interplay exercised between mediums amongst Marquis's most challenging exhibitions, where every piece acts in service of creating deeper connections, always without any one piece stealing the show. And the third sense in which the figure of the journeyman might be said to apply to Marquis's selected motifs is in how his aesthetic inclinations place us within worlds of meaning and making that rehearse art historical themes from the last few centuries without being reducible to their original referents.

By drawing new associations out of familiar structures through so many time-based operations, Marquis's works aim to take us on a journey past the world of abstruse reifaction and toward a confrontation with the real contradictions of our contemporary life-world. That is most in evidence in Marquis's oeuvre where art often functions as record of acts and actions; of time spent and journeys made; of trace elements and material enclaves --- all of which are coordinated in a way that helps us to rethink the gallery space as a place where the conditions of history are circumscribed by varied and even conflicting notions of aesthetic experience. Touching on different times and places, Marquis's work engages with the period of the Enlightenment as he negotiates his way through working with the vistas of the sublime; from abstraction Marquis samples the best strategies for making from both the monumental and the provisional; and from video art it could be said that Marquis's working program underscores an attenuated sense of suspended passage that is defined by the split between the slowness of natural time and speed of cinematic temporality. 

Beyond these particular instances of genre specificity there is the way that Marquis's use of medium specificity upends the confines that are regularly attributed to both object and producer. This is most decidedly on view in Marquis's work when he engages with the rather Kleinian desire to have an audience ingest the elements of art production, only he moves beyond the horizon of formal interactions established by Yves Klein's patented blue, which was used as an object to drink, to get dunked in, to manufacture and finally, to polemicize. Instead, Marquis's critique of consumerism hinges on the creation of a "Glacier Icecream" that carries the enfolded meaning of creating a shared space between subject and object as well as its obverse, which would be a kind of subjective utterance, or a provocation for the "i" to scream about being asked to ingest the remains of one of our most valuable natural resources.

Or, we might look to how Fontana's focus on the incisive power of the cut in the canvas --- a cut into the real and against representative measures --- appears equally inverted in Marquis's work. Whether by wounding the imagistic real in the form of discrete snippets, or floor to ceiling slashes in digital prints, or even the aggregate effects of wounded and scratched surfaces atop a material substrate, Marquis wants us to closely examine the various substratum that organize our all to often closed and seemingly complete conception of what is going on in the world today. In other words, he wants us to scratch, tear and puncture our way to the real... by any means possible. And, of course, to overlook the presence of Flavin's iconic mode of illumination, which often sits adjacent Marquis's leaned, balanced and otherwise sliding material bodies in the gallery space, would be to miss both their dynamic interplay with, and across, other bodies in the space of the exhibition as well as the intertextual play of allusions to the atmospheric changes going on outside.

And yet, what seems most essential to the way that Marquis work operates is in understanding how the discourses which once traded representational means for medium specificity in the twentieth century can be reclaimed in the twenty-first without having to abandon the varied histories associated with aesthetic achievement. That is to say, while the twentieth century saw the greatest proliferation of personal forms of expression, maybe ever, during the modern age, they were in large part a kind of collective acting-out over and against the brutal process of sublimation associated with industrial labor.  Juxtaposed against this background, the twenty-first century appears to be something like a period of ablation, or an era where the melting away of our illusions about the expropriation of body, the self and the environment has finally thawed, along with the pursuit of the "the new" in art. If anything, this is our cultural sea-change and Marquis is one of the most interesting expeditionary artists trying to cover this once hidden territory as the very moment that it emerges as a new ground level paradigm. 

As such, his inversion of the visual tropes of modernism and even postmodernism for that matter, both of which still hold to authorial intent or its subversions as the status quo of criticality in art production, are here put in question vis-a-vis Marquis's working program of viewing the senses as a form of extraction that is co-extensive with the very act of perception itself. Thus, we can say that to depict perceptions, or to transpose our deepest intimations about a subject is always already a shared act in Marquis's work, just as his oeuvre can be considered part of a new generation of artists that have taken up the charge of rethinking the consequences of phenomenology beyond Husserl and Ponty's deductions. This post-anthropocentric view is one that places the object's we encounter in strange exchange without perceptive privilege, or what many now call a more object-oriented approach to understanding the flat ontology of roles we all share in an interconnected world. We are all now, for lack of a better word, active-agents in a world of shared consequences.

And of course, Marquis is fully aware of these consequences in relation to living in one of the least sustainable climates in the continental U.S., where our growing cities have become "heat-islands" and our mountain preserves might not just be a national reserves of sorts but, ultimately, what preserves our nation in the end. Thus, we can say that Marquis's work addresses both the peaks and valleys of art history as well as what it means to live life in the afterglow of peak oil, with so many growing valleys left dry by erosion and rapid climate change stretching out before us. Visualizing this new notion of "the catastrophic sublime" that imagines living in a world without us is one of the monumental task of our times, and Marquis's work does not shy away from the need to rethink such relations, whether they revolve around the dialectics of earth and self, consumption and subsumption, organism and cosmos. We are afterall, now living within the horizon of a global village this is just as much about being in dialogue with the fellow villagers as it is the globe we live on. This is becoming the dominant paradigm by which we are all fed, nourished and kept alive on the small blue planet that we inhabit together somewhere in the backwaters of the Milky Way, as so many Earth Eaters.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Abstract Miniatures

In the past few decades there has been a lot of discussion in abstraction about the unmonumental, the provision and the ‘new casualism’ of ZoFo (Zombie Formalism). By contrast, the works included in Abstract Miniatures ask us to question how abstraction in a minor key can be more opulent, dynamic and complex than the iconic forms of high modernism. Like looking through a microscope at, Abstract Miniatures aims to see how can the smallest gestures open onto a larger set of theoretical and conceptual concerns, such that a reduction in scale is not conflated with a reduction in meaning production. 

As a survey of the very best abstraction here in Arizona and California, Abstract Miniatures also acts as a snapshot of a generation of critical formalists with a diversity of interests beyond simply being invested in abstraction for the sake of abstraction. References to the history of art and culture are at play as much in the works in Abstract Miniatures as narrative devices, process based systems, re-appropriative acts and conceptual programs. 

Thus while the works in Abstract Miniatures are certainly smaller in scale it does not mean that they are necessarily equated with the fragment, the piece-meal or the unfinished but rather, that a smaller painting can open onto a larger world of concerns by implication and intimations. As such, this survey is an entre into thinking about scale not as a restriction but as a way of reframing the discourse of abstraction by being hyper-attentive to the valances of preparation, perception and the intentions of artistic production. 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

NASTY WOMEN / NOISEY WOMEN / KNITTING WOMEN / NAKED WOMEN

Artists in the show: (Nasty Women) Ashley Czajkowski, A. J. McClenon, Kristen Schneider, Hannah Irene Walsh, Malena Barnhart, Regan Henley, Sammie Aasen, TBA, (Noisy Women) Aesthetically Sound, Althea Pergakis, Chelsea Claire, DJ [Sin]Aptik, Jessica Dzielinski, Elizabeth Parsons, Erika Lynne, Gabbie Washinton, Lana del Rabies,  (Knitting Women) Audra Carlisle, Chelsea Lyles, Emily Longbrake, Molly Koehn, Shannon Ludington, Stacey Kampe, Shannon Ludington, and Chelsea Lyles, (Naked Women) Briana Noonan, Charissa Lucille, Kit Abate and Sirrena Griego.

Join us at Fine Art Complex 1101 for our contribution to the Nasty Women exhibitions happening across the nation when we host Nasty, Noisy, Knitting, Naked Women on inauguration day, January 20th from 6-10pm. This all women line-up of experimental sound artists goes well beyond industrial, aggrotech, EBM, power noize, rhythmic noize, punk, metal and goth to create soundscapes that are unlike anything you’ve heard before. The mix of video artists included in the show are among the most challenging and provocative artists working in the Valley today. The selection of photographic works from the founding members of the arts magazine Femme Fotale are showing pieces that are inspired by their newest issue about the nude, entitled Leafless. All of the groups are supported by the performative knitting action of members from the Fiber Arts Network which has come together to collaborate on the women's initative to knit pussy hats for the inauguration protests as well as our happens here at Fine Art Complex 1101. 

Running counter to the all-too-predictable noise of Republican rhetoric, this sister show to exhibitions being held across the nation seeks to make the unheard heard, to upend all conservative expectations, and stand out against the background of silence that has accompanied many of the egregious statements made about women this past election cycle. While experimental sound art is known for being a bit of boys club, the sound artists in this show embrace an open politic to the shared interaction of sound, space and the affective capacities of the body. By contrast, the video works included in the show examine the cultural biases, expectations, and the implications of what it means to be a "women" in the early twenty-first century. The photographic exhibition in the main gallery provides another point of access for thinking about issues related to the female body, beauty, nature, strength and vulnerabilty. Between the two sound stages there will be a listenting lounge where kniting and works from an open call by PHX SUX will be on view. 

In the spirit of equality all the artists in the show will be given equal time and space to perform, and all donations for the evening will go to Planned Parenthood to help support the fight for women’s reproductive and health rights across the nation.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Parables of the Virtual

Artists in the show: James Angel, Lori Fenn, Tovah Goldfine, Mike Jacobs, Lily Montgomery, Dewey Nelson, and Ben Willis.

Since the publication of Baudrillard's Simulations and the rise of simulationism in art we have come to accept virutality not only as part of our culture, but also as an increasingly important part of e-commerce, dating, information networks, systems analysis work, scientific projections, health care diagnostics, etc. In other words, we almost no longer know where the virtual ends and the real begins because they are mutually implicated in every aspect of design, art and culture. But just because we are well past our entre into dialogs about the virtual, and nearing its supposed high point with what scientists call the moment of the singularity, this doesn't mean that its naturalization is something we should accept as the status quo. In fact the relations between the virtual and the real are always shifting, or as Deleuze said, the virtual is a line divided by points, and each of these points represents the possibly of a growing divergence with the actual, making potentiality the hallmark of what we call virtuality today. 

And it is in this spirit that we examine the works of seven of the valley's most prolific purveyors of virtuality in film, video, dance, performance, painting and sculpture. Whether addressing the submersion of the figure in denaturalized settings, patterns, geometries, or cinematic distortions, Parables of the Virtual seeks to ask questions about how representation functions at the crossroads of concrete referents and immaterial references, both of which are bound by so many different projections of a future anterior to our own, and which seems to have become wholly self-generating as well as infinitely reproducible the world over. The virtual is, afterall, that common substrate of interactivity in all of its given forms, making it the central dispositif of globalization. 

As such, some of the works in Parables of the Virtual look at the dissonant effects of the production and reproduction of iconicity while other pieces play with the symbolic import of more traditional forms of sign, system and meaning production. Figures and the idea of their disappearance play a central role throughout the exhibition as does the intensification of artifice, color and technological colonization. Genres as different as figuration, abstraction, landscape painting, video art and printmaking are brought together in an effort to understand how artists are pushing those mediums to the edge of their legibility, ultimately playing with mixed media or the post-medium condition as a 'status' that is generally representative of the paradigm of virtuality in art production today. 

In other words, Parables of the Virtual proposes that a leveling of medium specificity may also create a conflicted sense of reciprocity between everything real and its mirror image in another medium. Thus, the idea of living a simulacra existence and of the categorical imperative to dive head first into irreal worlds of ever greater depth and complexity is what is at stake in thinking through the implications of contemporary aesthetic experience. Regardless of whether such developments are actually a sign of genuine progress, or simply a symptom of infinite degradability, escapism and diatribes about the utopian impulse, they are now part and parcel of the culture of connectivity. As such, the artists in Parables of the Virtual are addressing some of the central concerns of aesthetic experience today. Despite how conflicted the terrain is that surrounds the idea of the virtual, or how overwrought the debates have become about affect and experience, what the artworks in this exhibition offer is an update to the discourses around dematerialization set forth by Arthur Danto in the eighties, and which continue to gain momentum even today, not to mention the many projected futures we call tomorrow. These images and discourses are not only pictures of a doppleganger reality, but in fact, they are religious experiences of our projected transcendence beyond the human condition. That is why they might be called so many Parables of the Virtual. 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Lisa Von Hoffner: Afterglow

The works of Lisa Von Hoffner enter the discourse of fine art by producing a very conflicted notion of space, or rather, they gain their critical purchase by playing with affective delights, subverting bodily pleasures and upending historical references. But how do these seemingly impassable contradictions show themselves in her work? The first, and perhaps most obvious way, is evidenced in how Von Hoffner collides motifs from Opt-Art, the Light and Space movement and Neo-Geo with figurative elements from the baroque period, mainstream illustration and what one might refer to as a 'glitzy' Vegas aesthetic. The second critical element in Von Hoffner's project is that it provides us with a sense of aesthetic distance about themes that have held a place of prominence in the western canon for centuries, such as the idealization of beauty, proportion and mathematical design. This can be seen in the many ways that her figures are 'posed' in various states of undress, moving through her circular framing devices like so many archetypal muses spotlite on stage, and in particular, on a highly artificial stage that reveals the conventions behind the scopophelic impulse. Third, the gestures and compositional choices Von Hoffner makes aim at a critique of pop aesthetics and the drive toward the commodification of form, and especially of forms that are both naturalistic and abstract. Her work does this by exploring the hermeneutics of desire, the encircling of visual entrainment, and the rhetorical use of adornment. In other words, Hoffner's pieces address the idea of style-as-such, or the codification of genres, schools of thought and even certain rendering techniques, ultimately creating a panoply of visual paradoxes that issue from a sense of unlimited permissions. 

But whether Hoffner's figures are given to us in the act of applying makeup, pealing off their clothes, wandering through virtual environments, or simply challenging the politics of presentment, all of Von Hoffner's images ask questions of us. This is because they are engaged in a dialectics of revealing and concealing, of shimmering surfaces and artificial inlays, of radical abstraction and uneasy realism, where we are left to decode the implicit connections between dissonant categories of form. And the proliferation of these hybrid constructs, which even extends to how Von Hoffner has reformatted the gallery benches, all seam to beg the question: has digital realism subsumed naturalism, and is this condition progressive to the point of erasing the corporeal realities of the body, not to mention the use of more traditional pictorial techniques associated with the conventions of painterly embodiment? 

As a response to this much larger set of issues we can say that Von Hoffner's interventions appear to lean in the direction of a kind of self-reflexive repose that makes us stand back to examine the uses and abuses of the figure as both a sign and symbol. This is not only because her format of choice is that of a circle, which is a hermetic allusion to the ouroboros, to cyclical entrapment, to self-devouring tendencies, and to what Freud called the dialectic relationship between repetition and compulsion. And, this isn't just because Von Hoffner often adorns her exhibits with faux teardrops and neon encasements that recall the lurid draw of red light districts the world over, not to mention the pain and alienation suffered therein. And, it's not just because Von Hoffner uses arrow-like geometries to point our attention skyward as well as toward the floor below, ultimately equating the space of the gallery with a kind of materialist purgatory built on examining the drives that circumscribe the libidinal motivations associated with pictorial representation and the re-appropriation of bodies, desires and the dialectics of display. Of course, Von Hoffner's work provides us with a foray into all of these realms of experience, but what is unique to her project is that she does this by playing with so many in-between states where the entire exhibition space is equally activated and wholly resplendent with dancing points of light, feverish chromatic intensities and skin, skin and more skin. 

And yet, throughout all of these pictorial passions, the real question put forward to us by Von Hoffner's project has to do with understanding the growing levels of abstraction that the female body is subjected to in the early twenty-first century. This is perhaps most directly on display in Hoffner's abstract works which function like glowing gold and silver surfaces, or even as broken mirrors and interlocking puzzle pieces, all of which allow us to reflect on the condition of the artwork in terms of what Melanie Klein referred to as the function of the 'partial object'. And in Von Hoffner's work these partial objects are spread out everywhere, on the floor, leaning against the wall, and even staged within the trappings of theater decor. But more importantly, these material referents point to their psychological correlaries, which is to say, to the piecemeal construction of the psyche as a metaphor for objects relations that include the self, the other and expropriation of intersubjective relations. 

Not only that but the halation of glowing neon lights, which attends the abstract works as well as the figurative pieces, only points to the further fetishization of art and the body in the early 21st century. Of course, all of this makes us think that when we enter an exhibition by Von Hoffner that we too are slowly becoming subjects of the 'geometric condition' and the sense of values accorded to capitalist measures, which are anything but equatible. That is because her paintings comment as much on the return to figuration today as they do the neo-aestheticism of the late eighties and 'the return of beauty' in the early nineties, when art became an industry of projected future earnings marketed to the collector class as a way to diversify their portfolio options. In fact, one could say that Von Hoffner's paintings offer us a kind of immanent critique of those commercial conventions as well as the more traditional themes that have dominated figurative painting for the last few hundred years. 

In this way, Von Hoffner's work points to how the body is perhaps more deeply encoded and overcoded with sign systems, markers, tags, etc., than at any other time in history, and that one of the best ways to understand this phenomenon is through the historical conventions associated with figurative painting. This is because, we are all, in one way or another, constantly inserting our own image into social networks of every imaginable kind, be they work related, for dating, for documenting our day, our likes, our dislikes, our chat room appearances, our blogs, etc. We are all becoming curators of our own image as an object of our personal history, which we paint in rather broad strokes by transforming the record of our lived experiences into the digital footprint of our lives. Rendering a likeness is now a real-time event just as using a filter or making a few adjustments to the image has become a post-painterly practice. Thus, we can say that if the age of mechanical reprodcution allowed the image to become a 'carbon copy' of its former self, engendering a loss of aura, than Von Hoffner's work functions as a paradoxical attempt to bring the singualrity of the image back to a place of prominance by embracing technology, ultimatley juxtaposing what Walter Benjamin would have called an outmoded meduim with the most advanced techniques of the digital age. Only the form of the auratic that Hoffner's work addresses is not just specific to our time but it is transhistorical in the sense that her work embraces thinking about how the female form has often been depicted emerging from a lumnious ether, from disrobed and otherwise disarmed subject positions, or simply how the feminine body has acted as a palette and a surface for so many patriarchial projections.

Consequently, we can say that Hoffner's work serves to underscore the fact that the phantasmic construction of femininity has always been subject to the dictates of the virtual since time immemorial, only now it is circulated at a much more rapid pace with variations on every size, type and body shape. In fact, it was Lacan who highlighted the variegated ways that the construction of 'the feminine' consisted of the greatest possible repressions precisely because femininity was the subject of greater symbolic investitures, and it is exactly these kinds of cultural constructs that clearly make up Von Hoffner's appointed target(s). In this way, her works provide us with a space in which to examine notions like allure, glamour, beauty and different types of bodies in a pluralistic context that feels both cross-cultural and meta-historical. 

While other artists like Kehinde Wiley have done something similar inasmuch as Wiley's images make connections between the implicit language of hand gestures in Renaissance painting and the explicit character or throwing up 'gang signs' today, Hoffner's work goes a step further in its continuity with images that are both past and present. Her work actively seeks out and engages with a more far-reaching set of connections between the body socius, the designs of beautification, and the process of subjectivation. This is because, in adopting motifs from different genres of fine art, and mixing them with a kind of iconography that echoes the recent proliferation of nudes in the work of other contemporary artists like John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage and Jenny Saville, Hoffner is actively producing a series of radical displacements between real and fictional experiences. And, it is this kind of aesthetic intervention that points to the growing problem of evidencing greater and greater degrees of remove from embodied exchange with each passing generation. 

Removed from what exactly is the obvious question here but the answer isn't so easy. Removed from real life participation, from authentic relations, or from the idea of presence as the possibility of genuine connection? Perhaps? Or, from self-alienation, aesthetic expectations, and the conflagration of community as 'living' otherwise than what we see projected at us in print, film and commericals? Perhaps. Or, from the endless series of negotiations we call 'living in the real world', in 'real-time' or simply co-habitating as the act of sharing real space together? Perhaps indeed! But all we can really say is that at least this much is clear about Hoffner's work. These are undoubtably the valences around which her imagery operates inasmuch as as the very degree of artifice in Von Hoffner's pieces also suggests that the real remove she is playing at in her work is that of sensate being subtracted from the figurative idioms and the abstract motifs of contemporary life. In other words, Von Hoffner's work adresses the many ways in which we can live at a remove from ourselves as we become subjects of display in the era of remediation, avatars, and so many virtual or 'cosmetic' selves. And of course, her work points to the fact that these kinds of systemic changes in the culture of connectivity are not without an attending loss of dignity, especially when we begin to think about what should be seen and what should remain unseen. The dyads of the personal and the impersonal, the public and the private, the accessible and the inaccessible are now inscribed in what can only be called a permeable barrier that grows ever thinner in the era of big data.  

Even so, it is not without the use of a deft had and a committed conceptual comport that Hoffner plays our own presuppositions about figurative art against the implications of viewership, visual consumption and the new world of self-documentation. We live in an age of instantaneous portraiture practices, and Von Hoffner's project acts like a status update between the aesthetic discourses of so many futures that are now long past and our present obsessions with the cult of the self, celebutants and the idea of being famous for being famous. Von Hoffner's paintings do this ever so effortlessly, without her work falling prey to becoming raunchy or risqué, which is what allows us to say that she is an emerging artist who is on par with the best working figurative painters in the world today. Not only that, but it is only a matter of time before her confrontation with the cultural imaginary and its symbolic textures will garner Von Hoffner's work a wider audience as well as greater recognition amongst her peers. 

Afterall, her images engender a sense of devotion from those who love painting that sits at the crossroads of craft, concept and complexity. That is really what it means to be a devotee of the painted image, and of the spectacular images of the body served up by 'culture' at large from one epoch to the next. We are lucky to have Von Hoffner's works as an ongoing catalog of such changes, of the pressures not only of culturally constructed identities but also of the kind of performativity that gender roles prescribe as a language of presentation and desire. And for that, we owe Von Hoffner a gift of thanks for making the otherwise irrepressible into something wholly re-presentational, and by proxy, into a way of thinking about the relations of the self as a series of di-critical operations in image production. This is, without a doubt, the very condition that circumscribes all human relations because we are dialogic beings, and the way Von Hoffner captures that fact in her reflected and refracted surfaces provides a moment of dialectic contradiction that allows us to think through the implications of visibility in all of its manifest forms. That is the singular achievement of her oeuvre so far, to have given us a picture of pictorial ideation as a suture that combines the logics of representation and abstraction in equal measure, which is a defining theme of living in an era of permeable memes. 

Not only that but the halation of glowing neon lights, which attends the abstract works as well as the figurative pieces, only points to the further fetishization of art and the body in the early 21st century. Of course, all of this makes us think that when we enter an exhibition by Von Hoffner that we too are slowly becoming subjects of the 'geometric condition' and the sense of values accorded to capitalist measures, which are anything but equatible. That is because her paintings comment as much on the return to figuration today as they do the neo-aestheticism of the late eighties and 'the return of beauty' in the early nineties, when art became an industry of projected future earnings marketed to the collector class as a way to diversify their portfolio options. In fact, one could say that Von Hoffner's paintings offer us a kind of immanent critique of those commercial conventions as well as the more traditional themes that have dominated figurative painting for the last few hundred years. 

In this way, Von Hoffner's work points to how the body is perhaps more deeply encoded and overcoded with sign systems, markers, tags, etc., than at any other time in history, and that one of the best ways to understand this phenomenon is through the historical conventions associated with figurative painting. This is because, we are all, in one way or another, constantly inserting our own image into social networks of every imaginable kind, be they work related, for dating, for documenting our day, our likes, our dislikes, our chat room appearances, our blogs, etc. We are all becoming curators of our own image as an object of our personal history, which we paint in rather broad strokes by transforming the record of our lived experiences into the digital footprint of our lives. Rendering a likeness is now a real-time event just as using a filter or making a few adjustments to the image has become a post-painterly practice. Thus, we can say that if the age of mechanical reprodcution allowed the image to become a 'carbon copy' of its former self, engendering a loss of aura, than Von Hoffner's work functions as a paradoxical attempt to bring the singualrity of the image back to a place of prominance by embracing technology, ultimatley juxtaposing what Walter Benjamin would have called an outmoded meduim with the most advanced techniques of the digital age. Only the form of the auratic that Hoffner's work addresses is not just specific to our time but it is transhistorical in the sense that her work embraces thinking about how the female form has often been depicted emerging from a lumnious ether, from disrobed and otherwise disarmed subject positions, or simply how the feminine body has acted as a palette and a surface for so many patriarchial projections.

Consequently, we can say that Hoffner's work serves to underscore the fact that the phantasmic construction of femininity has always been subject to the dictates of the virtual since time immemorial, only now it is circulated at a much more rapid pace with variations on every size, type and body shape. In fact, it was Lacan who highlighted the variegated ways that the construction of 'the feminine' consisted of the greatest possible repressions precisely because femininity was the subject of greater symbolic investitures, and it is exactly these kinds of cultural constructs that clearly make up Von Hoffner's appointed target(s). In this way, her works provide us with a space in which to examine notions like allure, glamour, beauty and different types of bodies in a pluralistic context that feels both cross-cultural and meta-historical. 

While other artists like Kehinde Wiley have done something similar inasmuch as Wiley's images make connections between the implicit language of hand gestures in Renaissance painting and the explicit character or throwing up 'gang signs' today, Hoffner's work goes a step further in its continuity with images that are both past and present. Her work actively seeks out and engages with a more far-reaching set of connections between the body socius, the designs of beautification, and the process of subjectivation. This is because, in adopting motifs from different genres of fine art, and mixing them with a kind of iconography that echoes the recent proliferation of nudes in the work of other contemporary artists like John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage and Jenny Saville, Hoffner is actively producing a series of radical displacements between real and fictional experiences. And, it is this kind of aesthetic intervention that points to the growing problem of evidencing greater and greater degrees of remove from embodied exchange with each passing generation. 

Removed from what exactly is the obvious question here but the answer isn't so easy. Removed from real life participation, from authentic relations, or from the idea of presence as the possibility of genuine connection? Perhaps? Or, from self-alienation, aesthetic expectations, and the conflagration of community as 'living' otherwise than what we see projected at us in print, film and commericals? Perhaps. Or, from the endless series of negotiations we call 'living in the real world', in 'real-time' or simply co-habitating as the act of sharing real space together? Perhaps indeed! But all we can really say is that at least this much is clear about Hoffner's work. These are undoubtably the valences around which her imagery operates inasmuch as as the very degree of artifice in Von Hoffner's pieces also suggests that the real remove she is playing at in her work is that of sensate being subtracted from the figurative idioms and the abstract motifs of contemporary life. In other words, Von Hoffner's work adresses the many ways in which we can live at a remove from ourselves as we become subjects of display in the era of remediation, avatars, and so many virtual or 'cosmetic' selves. And of course, her work points to the fact that these kinds of systemic changes in the culture of connectivity are not without an attending loss of dignity, especially when we begin to think about what should be seen and what should remain unseen. The dyads of the personal and the impersonal, the public and the private, the accessible and the inaccessible are now inscribed in what can only be called a permeable barrier that grows ever thinner in the era of big data.  

Even so, it is not without the use of a deft had and a committed conceptual comport that Hoffner plays our own presuppositions about figurative art against the implications of viewership, visual consumption and the new world of self-documentation. We live in an age of instantaneous portraiture practices, and Von Hoffner's project acts like a status update between the aesthetic discourses of so many futures that are now long past and our present obsessions with the cult of the self, celebutants and the idea of being famous for being famous. Von Hoffner's paintings do this ever so effortlessly, without her work falling prey to becoming raunchy or risqué, which is what allows us to say that she is an emerging artist who is on par with the best working figurative painters in the world today. Not only that, but it is only a matter of time before her confrontation with the cultural imaginary and its symbolic textures will garner Von Hoffner's work a wider audience as well as greater recognition amongst her peers. 

Afterall, her images engender a sense of devotion from those who love painting that sits at the crossroads of craft, concept and complexity. That is really what it means to be a devotee of the painted image, and of the spectacular images of the body served up by 'culture' at large from one epoch to the next. We are lucky to have Von Hoffner's works as an ongoing catalog of such changes, of the pressures not only of culturally constructed identities but also of the kind of performativity that gender roles prescribe as a language of presentation and desire. And for that, we owe Von Hoffner a gift of thanks for making the otherwise irrepressible into something wholly re-presentational, and by proxy, into a way of thinking about the relations of the self as a series of di-critical operations in image production. This is, without a doubt, the very condition that circumscribes all human relations because we are dialogic beings, and the way Von Hoffner captures that fact in her reflected and refracted surfaces provides a moment of dialectic contradiction that allows us to think through the implications of visibility in all of its manifest forms. That is the singular achievement of her oeuvre so far, to have given us a picture of pictorial ideation as a suture that combines the logics of representation and abstraction in equal measure, which is a defining theme of living in an era of permeable memes. 

Bio: Lisa Von Hoffner is a contemporary figurative painter from Philadelphia. She received her BFA in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2009 and her MFA in painting at Arizona State University in 2016. In 2015 she was selected to partake in an artist-in-residence program in Joutsa, Finland where she invoked the richness of contemporary Finnish art to edify her work. Lisa has exhibited extensively in the States and abroad while maintaining representation under Beacon Arts Gallery in Stone Harbor, NJ. Lisa was recently selected as one of only 40 artists out of nearly 1,000 applicants to be published in the New American Paintings MFA Annual.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

RJ Ward: Apocalypse A-Go-Go

The recent video works of RJ Ward use different cinematic tropes as their raw working material, which is than transposed into various forms of real-time digital abstraction. Often alluding to lost horizons, targets and grids, Ward's images appear to be in dialogue with painting and the moving image in equal measure. Stretched and contorted, Ward's anthropomorphic pallet issues from slowly twisting and voided referents while his compositional choices make a direct allusion to the distortion of space and time. High key colors emerge in a seemingly spontaneously manner from so many nondescript scenes of iconic film sequences, often giving us the feeling of images run at half or quarter speed. Playing with the erasure of so many itinerant plot points, Ward's video work is both a détourned gesture about absorption-as-distortion as well as a self-referential play of memes that have trafficked in the world of fine art and avant-garde cinema over the course of the last century.

Both entrancing and mesmerizing, Ward's interventions harken back to the experimental work done in the late 60s and early 70s which relied on manipulating celluloid images frame by frame. Only Ward has updated this approach to match the constraints of the digital age, making his remediated montages into something of a hyper-self-reflexive loop. When we watch Ward's video works, we are, in a sense, watching a recursive history of formalism and film given over to us through so many psychedelic effects. And, it is not lost on today's abstract painters, that the blur itself, has become a dominant motif in much of contemporary paintings since Richter, or that the course of the twentieth century has been one of increasing vertigo rather than balance and order. Which is to say, it is not only the human world of finance and politics that has become increasingly abstract, but that all life on earth now contends for its place to exist in and amongst the subsumption of capitalist imperatives. But it is not just the theme of abstract motives or the acceleration of disasters that defines Ward's compositional sense but rather, his embrace of op- effects, hard edge lines, and day-glow colors that serve to provide an inerrant sense of visual punctuation to his artistic projects.

But what does Ward's recycled cinema tell us about our relationship to re-appropriation, détournement, sampling, remixing and revisiting famous works of historical measure? What does the nearly synaesthetic experience provided by his projects tell us about the twists and turns of narrative constructs in the greater culture of contemporary fine art and film production? What did the politics of liberation and revolution that stretched from French New Wave film to the present, tell us about the matrix of cinematic and post-painterly art practices we find ourselves surrounded by today? And most importantly, is Ward's work properly post-historical inasmuch as it is a form of digital painting or a psycho-geography of filmic sequences that seem to run Godard in reverse, like unearthing what Freud called so many lost or displaced screen memories? And if so, is Ward's archival impulse, or rather, his impulsive archival interventions, caught up in a dialectics of the repressed and the irrepressible, the auteur and the artist as author, the single still frame and the reversibility of the real-time image?

Undoubtably, Ward's work is all of these in smaller and greater measure. His is a trompe l'oeil effect based on capturing the bravura and cinematic scale of high modernism as so many images of transit, transposition and superimposition. It is, what the art critic and film theorist Richard Dienst would have called a 'still life in real time', an ipso-facto replay of the image machine that not only went on producing pictures because the spectacle of it all had become a value unto itself, but also because the ineluctable modalities of montage became the ground of valuation in the art world and mass commerce alike. And, this idea of self-reflexivity, or of value as a system of relational signifiers, has only become that much more free-floating in the era of hyper-capital.

This next to that, one moment against another, one artist overcoming the cult status of a deified director, as well as the never ending debates about medium specificity and post-studio production... all of this has something to do with the 'production value' of art as a montage of sorts that is forever split between the rear and front-garde, in both industry and the industrialized practices of producing fine art. In other words, Ward is giving us so many allegories about the nature of avant-garde practice rolled into divisionist segments, targeted projections, abstract gestures, graphic zips, essentialist geometries and contorted compositions, such that we begin to lose any stable sense of pictorial perspective. And this, in a sense, is the very condition we are all confronted with in the age of remediation, where we no longer think of the readymade as an original thing to be manipulated but as an object of previously encoded meanings and infinitely degradable data transfer. Unlike film and the photograph, which carried the trace of the real within an analogue world, the digital age is a period of unrestricted reproducibility. As such, we are all living in an era of reproducible referents without end, where works such as Ward's play with transference not just as a type of pictorial technique but also as a manifestation of counter-transference that offers us another set of projections for analysis.

In this way, Ward's contribution to the contemporary moment is to have given us a fusion of figure and ground, of style and content, and dare I say, of a kind of jouissance in seeing the cinematic image flattened out and stretched to the very limits of recognition, ultimately working two dimensions of experience against each other in a dazzling display of chromatic theatrics. Part special effects, part visual paradox, Ward wants to create a riddle about presence and place that the viewer has to unfold within the temporal constraints of what is offered up as a sample, a slice, a cut and even a delicacy of cinema vérité or what might be more aptly referred to as cinema variable. Of course, such a selection and condensation of experience leaves us with more than a few questions about the destiny of the mediated image. And perhaps, that is the contemporary purchase of Ward's works, which are engaged as much with affective pleasures as they are warped forms and reconfigured spaces. Ward's pieces are, after all, a meditation of sorts on inhabiting space, both in avant-garde practice and in the greater world of the abstract imaginary.

Or rather, we could say that his most recent works are a means of charting the abstract imaginary of artistic production that was co-extensive with the rise of the society of spectacle and which still holds sway over our culture today as we enter a period of total absorption, scripted spaces and immersive aesthetics. Only Ward's use of images from a film icon like Godard begs the question of how we can get back to the real in an era of inverted perceptions, where virtual participation has begun to supersede corporeal relations, where interactions have been replaced by transactions and where meeting face to face is being commuted into interfacing. Here, Ward's images present us with an allegory of dissonant registers, of time-lapse and looping effects gone awry, and of the power of the image as it tarries between disintegrative and representational affects. In other words, Ward's works are a kind of commentary on Western culture as it turns to face it own image in the early twenty-first century, a century that has to contend with dissociative affects as much as it does integrative editing, and where the pictures we are left with may be the measure not only of our time, but of how time was constructed in the aesthetic dimension of art discourse that was once known as avant-garde art practice. 

Bio:  RJ Ward received a BA in Film/TV from UCLA and an MFA in Studio Art from UC Irvine. He’s a synaesthetic researcher and the founder of film/sound collective Barbwire Cloud. He has worked as a screenwriter at various film studios and TV networks, as a musician/composer and an FM radio DJ. He’s shown his video and sound works at the Room Gallery, LA County Museum of Art, Laguna Beach Museum, Art Ark and many other venues. 

 

 

*****

 

 

Geometry in the Expanded Field: 8 Propositions

Artists in the show: Rachel Goodwin, April Friges, Brian Thomas Jones, Michelle Jane Lee, Mark Pomilio, Traivs Rice, Gregory Simoncic and Denise Yaghmourian.

"Let no one enter here who is not a geometer." - Plato

"Geometric art has served to hide the fact that the modern deployment of the geometric is stranger than the strange myths of traditional societies." - Peter Halley

"The revelation that particle interactions, the most basic events in nature, may be consequences of geometry significantly advances a decades long effort to reformulate quantum field theory..." - Natalie Wolchover

As virtual worlds become increasingly immersive, geometric art has expanded into the space of the gallery to become an equally interactive experience. While geometric abstraction in the first half of the twentieth century revolved around a discourse of purity and essentialism, and the postmodern moment of Neo-Geo reacted against this transcendental gesture by pointing to how geometry is always already inscribed in one cultural narrative or another, today's geometric artists see geometry as part of the world. Whether confining us, confronting us or being something we simply make use of, geometry is implicated in almost every part of day-to-day living.

Virtual geometries of connectivity, communication, and architecture information interpenetrate the hard geometries of domestic, public and corporate spaces in equal measure. As such, Geometry in the Expanded Field asks us to experience the complexity of the contemporary moment by examining the ways in which geometric figures permeate various school's of thought about artistic production, including sound art, light and space, video art, re-appropriation art, land art, photography, and abstract painting. Only in this exhibit, many of these previously exclusive idioms are mixed together, allowing for the emergence of a new complexity at the level of both form and content.

But even while engaging in a theater of conflicted registers, the works in Geometry in the Expanded Field still underscore the power of form to direct attention, to focus perception, and to unite a multitude of contradictions. Toward this end, this group show of new works challenges our ability to receive and interpret forms that are still considered to be engaged in the discussion of classical, ideal, and even 'eternal' forms. Furthermore, recent discoveries in quantum mechanics even presuppose that geometry may be the sole basis of all particle physics as well as an entre into how we understand both the visible and the invisible world.

Following on these recent revelations, the works in Geometry in the Expanded Field give us the possibility of moving beyond polemics about the purity of form or culturally inscribed narratives to engage with a realm of more direct questions about order and disorder, which geometric art is uniquely suited to address. Of course, it is the geometric impulse in art that renews the promise of such inquiries by providing us, not with examples or explanations, but with new expressions given over to us as objects of contemplation. As such, we are never really beyond the 'geometric moment' in art, but instead, find ourselves 'eternally' subject to a series of mathematical investments in the field of aesthetic ideation.

 

 

 

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Rossitza Todorova: Transluminal

Rossitza Todorova is undoubtedly a multi-media artist. She makes use of mediums as disparate as painting, drawing, sculpture, found objects, printmaking, artist books, and even an occasional foray into installation-based projects. Her work is about creating dynamic cartographies that include references to the landscape, the passing of time, memory, the constructed environment, and the collision of motifs that are both architectonic and gestural. This wide array of approaches is not undertaken just for the sake of developing a virtuoso hand with different types of mediums, but because however fixed or stable any image may appear to be in her art practice, Todorova is actually mapping different kinds of activity, whether visual, psychological, or even biological. And it is this nexus effect, or the intertwining of varied concerns, that motivates her use of different material supports. How Todorova got to the place where all of these elements interact to form part of a greater whole revolves around the question of time, torsion and transversal relations. That is because these are the themes that have been the driving force behind her work for more than a decade, and which also inform how we understand her latest installation piece, "Transluminal", which is a dynamic synthesis of Todorova’s past concerns and present interests.

But in order to grasp the trajectory of Todorova’s art practice it is important to begin by looking at her earlier series of black and white drawings, which are labeled “Dust to Dawn” and “Windscapes”. Through these exploratory works Todorova found not only what would become a subject of deepening inquiry with each passing year, but she also created something like a working method for capturing the evolution of forms in motion and the process of terra-forming in particular. Highly impressionistic and somewhat abstract in nature, these drawings hint at the interpenetration of forces, the superimposition of nature and culture, and they openly embrace the use of stark contrasts. Both visually compelling and conceptually rigorous, these interrelated series talk not just about regional concerns, but they do so in a way that is quite unexpected.

This is because it’s obvious that these early images are not abstractions of big city skyscrapers, and they don’t carry a semblance of oceanic forms or forested regions either. And yet, their identity doesn’t serve so much as a marker for the Midwest or even the Southwest per say as much as they hint at the kinds of transformations that occur in the landscape as we pass through it with a backward looking glance. If anything, Todorova's drawings act as a travel log of sorts, or a kind of Rorschach test that gives the gestalt impression of how new construction projects are raised, and old forms melt into the horizon, crumble with the passage of time, or are simply reclaimed by the desert floor. They are, in a sense, process-based drawings that aim to capture the re-appropriative effects of urbanization as a series of topological transformations that distort our memory and our ‘felt’ sense of time and space.

Thus, when Todorova began her third sustained series of works, aptly titled “Peripheral Space”, it was no surprise that she kept all the graphic punch of her these first two series but introduced a new vocabulary of rich color and nuanced textures. These features make up the other side of our spectrum of embodied experience and represent an expansion of affective means and timely themes. With this bold new departure in her work saturated elements pushed up against spindly wire-frame forms, printmaking processes mixed with every other imaginable medium, and the sense of space Todorova was working with suddenly become more compressed and sedimentary, almost like digging through compositional debris. The layering of forms from this period of production in her art practice speaks more about the idea of growth as a process of unforeseen mutations then say, evidence of ‘city planning’.  This is perhaps, because her juxtapositions are abutted, or even overlaid onto one another in a way that creates a kind of visual duplicity, or a series of dual markers, that are not unlike what the architectural theorist Charles Jencks called ‘double-coated’ meanings. In fact, it is not just Todorova’s formal improvisations which are so impressive, but the many ways in which they are implicated in the construction of forms that are always already caught up in a dialogue about the city center and its periphery, apexes and outliers, high rises and flat thorough fairs.

Thus, having achieved a pictorial language all her own, Todorova only further complicated her relationship to regionalism and city sprawl by overlaying her compositions with a few additional elements. This is perhaps most clearly on view in “Tumblers” where Todorova not only lets gridded hand-cut forms spill across her canvasses, but, she also introduces three dimensional elements into her work in order to ask questions about design and preservation, formatting and presentation, the flat picture plane and the pop-up quality of constructed elements. As such, it is hard not to look at these works or her book projects --- which turn the modernist grid into a flexible form of origami --- and connect them with the advent of ‘new systems’ thinking in architectural design.

This is because Todorova asks us to engage with distributed systems for weight and balance that mirror many of the new modes of building associated with parametric, blob or emergent architecture systems that have disrupted the modernist city skyline. Even Frank Gerhry is notorious for taking inspiration from crumpled up pieces of paper to build massive structures and some of our most noteworthy postmodern museums. Only here, Todorova’s works invite us to think about the same play of form in our own environment, and perhaps, in a way that has more to do with Greg Lynn or Peter Eisenmen’s aesthetics than someone like Gehry.

Afterall, Todorova deploys the grid and its ability to tumble, torque and turn-about as an interactive system of architectural structures, making “Tumblers” her first series of baroque fusions between painting and sculpture, atmospheric space and hard edges, rigoured compositions and spiraling geometries. Not only that, but in these works, the ground of the painting has become something of a literal ground upon which architectural elements are ‘framed up’ so to speak. In this sense, her artist book projects and “Tumblers” aren’t so much a thing to be read as they are objects of pure ideation and participatory relations, where the fixed nature of the pictorial has been displaced by a sense of movement, time and variation. Or, if we want to make a more explicit reference to the politics of the landscape, we could say that Todorova’s painterly grounds have been co-opted for the expression of further ‘developments’.

Thus, when Todorova begins making a full scale installation piece like “Prospecting”, she isn’t just talking about the idea of re-appropriating the landscape as an abstract process connected with conquest and capitalism. Instead, her installation makes equal use of digital mapping techniques and the aesthetics of virtual reality in order to give us a more human experience of how these technologies feel against the shifting silhouettes of the desert landscape. In other words, Todorova is gently intertwining different ideas of time, history and profiteering in order to help us think about how the present emerges from the intersection of environmental interventions as well as the aesthetic discourses of art, architecture and design.

This is perhaps the great purchase of a piece like “Prospecting”, which openly acknowledges how increasing gentrification, real-estate investment firms and big business play a concrete role in the reconstruction of our ‘social infrastructure’ and our psychic space. Thus, “Prospecting” plays with the history of investitures that make up the enterprise we call ‘culture’ by overlaying the aesthetics of virtuality onto the ideological bound space of the white cube. One could even go so far as to say that just as land developers draw lines in the sand to divide up different public parcels, and governments draw up lines to demarcate geo-political territories, Todorova applies this same degree of abstraction to her subjects and spaces, ultimately allowing us the opportunity to think through the attending contradictions of habitation on both the local and global scale.

But of course, Todorova’s reflective forms act as a kind of meditation and/or mediation about these ongoing transformations, implicating the viewer within the activity of the architectural gaze. In her installations we see through forms, we see ourselves reflected in different forms, and we participate in the absorption of surfaces activated by light as well as its absence. This is the critical punch behind her work which courts a dialectics of diachronic imagery that stands over and against the reductive logic of expropriation in any or all of its manifestations. In this way, we can say that Todorova is developing an artistic program that plays with the idea of creating architectures of awareness.

And so, it should come as no surprise that following a work like “Prospecting” Todorova began to play with shaper contrasts in both form and content. In series such as “Folding Time” and “Fold and Cut” she has introduced the projection of crystalline stones and black interloping forms to create a diamond like web of material and conceptual contradictions. These include a passing sense of celestial bodies, the cast shadows of mesh geometries, and even a reworking of that most ancient of forms, the pyramid. But all of this is done under the auspicious dictates of a kind of technological design that issues from the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. So rather than reaching into the immediate desert in which we are located, Todorova instead introduces the highest level of dialectic dissonance in these recent projects because the ancients also professed an obsession with the stars, with gemstones, the passing of cycles, and the existence of monumental structures. The question of what endures, of the symbolic import of representing time, and even of making built monuments that are created with the aim of resisting erosion and other entropic effects allows us to see how Todorova’s work is not just an incisive commentary on the values attributed to two very different civilizations, but also, on how power and structure inform the creation of modern and ancient cultures alike. These are the folds and cuts that are introduced into the notion of time by Todorova’s uncanny use of triangular forms that echo the pyramids spread out over the surface of our planet, and many of which, have even been discovered lining our ocean floors.

There are many other interpretations that are also a good fit with her works too. One could of course, go on here to provide a Deleuzian read of how these two pieces play with haptic and optic qualities, or better yet, how they are one of the best representations of the play of territorialization and deterritorialization we have by a multi-media artist today. And, we could also draw comparisons with twin projects in other cities, like the psycho-geographies of Franz Ackermann, Julie Merhetu and a whole host of other artists who are introducing us to new ways of thinking about representing time, space and structure. Or, one could provide a more historical reading of her works and their relationship to automatic drawing, the history of abstraction and the landscape, and even permutations in how we think about temporality in artistic practice and how it is represented in three dimensions, four dimensions, and beyond. And while this would certainly be informative, one can already see how all of the influences, paradigms, and ideas mentioned above are not only on display in these works, but throughout her entire oeuvre. And while she still has plenty of room to grow, to challenge herself, and to re-invent her artistic practice time and time again, there is something that sets Todorova’s particular working program apart from the artists mentioned about, and it is something very specific.

A great deal of the abstraction that happens under the moniker of psycho-geographies, from the situationists forward, is focused on the critique of the type of enclosures that are created all around us by culture. Of course, here the word culture refers to what Guy Debord would have called the society of hyper-spectacle, had he lived to see the rise of interactivity and social networks, and which Deleuze rightfully deemed to be the advent of control societies. Only here, in the desert, with Todorova’s work, we are treated to something else entirely in terms of detourned forms. And what that shift in emphasis consists of in Todorova’s varied projects really emerges out of a deconstructionist ethic toward form, aesthetics and culture, and as such, it is set along ‘other’ lines than the projects mentioned above. These are lines, that as Jacque Derrida himself might say, are supplements to the international discourse of dialectic cosmopolitanism that trades on every greater architectonic inversions, more and more stylistic skins, and a kind of hyperbolic formalism that often makes today’s ‘star-hitects’ into victims of their own success wherever some of their most controversial building projects appear to be caricatures of their own civilization. That is to say, what is now permitted as being sensational architectural design, which is quite admittedly made of disposable forms, frontage and an aesthetics of framing devices, is itself somewhat of an ahistorical aberration in building techniques.

Not only that, but many of today’s most noteworthy architectural styles seem to emerge out of a neo-Platonic realm that is an absolute expression of increasingly levels of abstraction alone. In other words, instead of serving as a type of archetypal modeling for emergent relations in the natural world, the gestural sweeps of todays most written about building projects belong more and more to the simulated worlds of video games and virtual realities, i.e., an irreal world of computational design. Another way of saying the same thing is that while today’s reigning schools of architecture and architectonic painting are entering a high moment of ever greater ‘complexity and contradiction’, these hyperbolic investments in a type of formalism freed of any constraints concerning utility or essentialism are not grounded in thinking much beyond the horizon of the times we live in, or what the philosopher Hans George Gadmer would have called the hermeneutics of understanding as a historical mode of investigation. In other words, hyperbolic formalism mirrors the unpredictability of hyperbolic capitalism, and the spiraling forms that are the dominant motif behind this new aesthetic in folding architecture and folded forms in post-postmodern painting tend to mirror the spiraling effects of our economy, our ecosystems, etc. In other words, as a motif, ‘the fold’ has as much to do with the density of enfolded forms as it has to do with the unintended consequences of their chaotic expansion.

That is why, when Todorova ventures from the themes of urbanism and development, into looking at the relationship between time and nature, not to mention the new valorization of varied structures and folding forms, she isn’t just leaving us a trace of the artistic impulse or accelerating the drive toward aesthetic improvisation that was the concluding denouement of twentieth century formalism in both art and design. There is too, in her work, a serious question about chronos in the largest possible sense of the term. In this way, her project is very close to the argument made by Marc Auge about the growing construction of ‘non-places’, or ‘timeless’ homogenous, non-descript environments that replicate the aesthetics of massification and industrialization the world over.

In other words, the acceleration of the building of forms allows Todorova the opportunity to make a series of acute aesthetic interventions as a means of asking questions about the present. Her most recent work, "Transluminal", could also be seen as referring to this phase of rapid ‘construction’ in our culture as being something akin to a ‘transluminal phase’, which refers both to describing points that meet at regular intervals in a cycle, (on a graph where a sine wave would cross zero), and transluminal energy, (TEQ) which is a kind of quantum model that describes how physics could move faster than light. It isn’t lost on us that both of these definitions converge when we think about the aesthetics of building in what is otherwise considered to be a culture of disposability that represents both the zero degree of waves of formal ‘development’ within the logic of late capitalism as well as constituting a trend we need to escape from at somewhere beyond the speed of light.

Thus, with “Transluminal”, we are entreated to think about the dialogic contradictions of living in this time and in this place, as it is evidenced in the mixing of motifs like the hourglass, desert sands, projected filters and connective structures. But of course these structures also stand in for a series of strictures in Todorova’s work too: the hour glass as a keeper of nature and time, but also as a space that symbolizes how we are running out of time; projected gems as a way of symbolizing wealth and power, but also, the ill-effects of fetishizing empty signifiers; the infrastructure of pyramid like forms that gesture toward a history of the most stable structures that have ever been erected, but also serve to remind us that the folding models of architecture that dominate our time are diametrically opposed to the durability of post, lintel and block construction. Even the rise and fall of Todorova’s diamond moons, which actually function like so many black suns punctuating the horizon of lost civilizations, provide us with an inerrant reminder of folly and wobble, tilt and axis, and birth and death, all of which have a symbolic import of the greatest possible measure.

This is because the symbol of the black sun is esoterically understood as being something of a doppelganger of sorts, a negative image of the positive emanation of our material world, or what we would today call the sign of a parallel universe where the laws of our world function in exact, but inverse measure. Only, Torodova has given us a view of this phenomenon by using the revolving image of a black gemstone sun that is perpetually turned over by the outmoded technology of a slide-changing carousel. This too, has its significance, as the rotating in and out of images could be seen as standing in for the transvaluation of the same symbol by different civilizations. Afterall, the black sun is as much a sign of the power that the eclipse held as an object of fascination for much older cultures as it is a symbol of transition, transformation and something that reorients us toward looking skyward even today. But what we miss about this phenomenon is that the same hysterical manifestations that haunted the ancients still persists under the gemstone sun of Todorova’s lunar cycle too.

In this way “Transluminal” is about seeing though the substantive forms and beliefs of our times, just as trans-illumination refers to light passing through a solid substance to illuminate it from within. As such, we can say that the impulse behind Todorova’s chosen motifs all hint at using the values of the past to evaluate the present as well as the eclipse of spiritual values that accompanied the rise of industrialization and materialism in particular. The black sun as a power within what Jung called the archaic or collective unconscious has been transmuted in our times to carry the same connotations of frenzied buying on “Black Friday” and momentary insanity following stock market crashes like we had in the past on “Black Monday”. Of course, both of these “Black Swan” events still give rise to sacrificial trampling’s, the first in pursuit of door busting deals while the second occurs when the Bull market goes bust, often leading to more than a few suicidal leaps from tall buildings as financial fortunes are driven right off a cliff into the abyss of worthless portfolio options. It would seem the lunary impulse, from which we take the word lunacy, hasn’t waned so much in our culture as it has simply collectivized its expression by other means. In this way, we can say that “Transluminal” also trades on the most well know definition of the term, which is that of being a lumen, or a unit of measure that describes how much light is cast across a certain area. But one can be sure that the use of so many inverted formal propositions in her work also refers to the moments when we lose all sense of measure, and struggle to regain it, both on an individual and collective level. Beyond this, her choice of title also seems to have something to do with how much light the past can cast on the present, and how we can confront the dark sun of our times as a an aberrant system of belief, or an episteme that has many unfortunate consequences if we take it to be the only valid world-view.

Thus, with each particular choice, Todorova asks us to think about the superstructure of civilizations throughout time, and the hierarchy of motivated aspirations that kept them moving forward, or which allowed them to vanish, sometimes without a trace beyond their architectural contributions and their celestial record keeping. And in this way, Todorova’s certainly presents us with an art of high symbolism, but it is a type of symbolic value that trades on the fact that it might be high time to confront the digital modeling techniques of the present with the artifacts of the past, and especially those structures that have yet to fade from view. They are always there, as a layer of pentimenti just sitting underneath the surface of civilization, building up as a serious of tensions and counter-currents, like deep oceanic influences that only show themselves on the crest of rippling waves, like so many sand dunes in our desert life. But below the organic is the architectonic, in the form of shifting plates, and below that, deeper tensions still. The hot molten core of our planet is like the hot core of the symbolic commitments of any given civilization inasmuch as they provide a hard edifice that surrounds a center of activity that remains completely hidden, fluid and for all intents and purposes, is highly unstable.

And Todorova’s art is layered in this same way, because she asks us to question the seismic shifts of modernity and the building pressures of postmodernity, not to mention the reigning ethos of pluralism, as a mean of shifting through the problems of abstraction and perception here in our desert of sedimentary remains. Afterall, Todorova’s recombinant structures are about just that, the time that remains in the largest possible sense of the term, and what happens after a civilization reaches its greatest heights, or the high point of its totemic values, be they pyramidal, hierarchical, horizontal, networked, or otherwise. Perhaps that’s why so many of her projections resemble dark moons set against the stark white of the gallery space, or why she keeps bringing a sense of natural time back into dialogue with virtual spaces, or why Todorova mixes ancient iconic forms with modern folding meshes. It would seem, that all of this is done in order to give us a sense of forced perspective about how these elements misalign in the present unless we are willing to take a sideways looking glance at how anthropomophic our ideas about 'value' really are, or, at least how relative they can appear to be from one generation to the next, or even, from one civilization to the next. And of course, it goes without saying that some of the dramatically warped structures that appear throughout all of Todorov'a work allude to this not just by projecting radical juxtapositions, but by using suggestive transpositions of form and content that are never quite what they seem to be when we first encounter them. In this way, it’s safe to say that Todorova’s work is an immanently contemporary example of how artifact, artifice and aesthetic experience can collide to create a series of new meanings about so many interpenetrating topologies of contemporary life, and that our ability to think critically about the meaning of place and space is not just set against our immediate desert horizon, but against a much greater landscape of meanings that includes the great cultures of other desert civilizations that have continued to eclipse one another throughout the ages.

Bio: Rossitza Todorova, Tempe, Arizona based artist was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, raised in Reno, Nevada. She moved to Arizona to pursue her Master's of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, School of Art at Arizona State University. Since graduating in 2013, Todorova, has been stockpiling inspiration -- when she's not working at ASU Art Museum, teaching as an adjunct professor at ASU's School of Art, or creating new works. Rossitza Todorova's work is exhibited internationally. Her drawings and prints are in the permanent collections of the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe, University of Arizona Art Museum in Tucson, the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, and the Painting and Sculpture Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as numerous private collections. Todorova’s work has been published in “500 Artists Books: Volume 2,” “Studio Visit: Volume 25,” as well the “Fresh Paint Magazine: Volume 4.”

 

 

 

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Hollis Cooper: World Without End

The paintings, installations and video works of Hollis Cooper are invested in the haptic and the optic construction of space in a way that privileges neither while questioning both. Her compositions act as a recursive loop that joins the digital and the painterly in a series of complex mediations between memory, found materials and innumerable acts of aesthetic transduction. Cooper’s works remind us that ‘the virtual’ is not just a hypothetical construction, but that we encounter the production of virtuality all around us as a series of visual tropes, cultural memes and rhetorical devices. Much like her immersive environments we find ourselves encircled by the digital aesthetics of cinematic seductions, scripted spaces and technologized environments, or what many theorists now refer to as a culture of remediation.

By folding different digitized spaces together — spaces from internet chat rooms, videogame backgrounds and various forms of theoretical architecture — Cooper’s work engages in a kind of radical geometricism that points to the instability of ‘the virtual’ as a well defined local. In fact, her painterly installations insist upon a type of shifting presence that is determined by the interplay of the viewing situation as well as the orchestration of technological motifs, nexus effects and deconstructed systems of representation. The introduction of moving elements, of new framing devices, and an open dialog between the structures that define her work all point to the permeability of forms and even the repurposing of institutional elements. 

One could even say that Cooper’s hyperbolic vivisections of architectural and computational space show us how the virtual is commiserate with Deleuze’s interpretation of the term, where the virtual is conceived of a series of potentials within the real that are irreducible to the structures that condition their appearance. Rather, Deleuze provided us with a vision of the virtual as a paradigm of compossibilities that unfurl and unfold all around us in anti-systematic, anti-linear and anti-teleological ways. Such a notion of mixed topologies; of visual events taken as so many forking paths; and of the type of dynamicism that issues from the neo-baroque theatrics found in Cooper’s imagery could be thought of as allegories of the anti-Cartesian urge.

Only, we might even go so far as to say that her latest works provide us with a contemporary version of Plato’s cave as we find ourselves transfixed in a wholly different context for thinking about the allegories of modernism as well as the architectural inheritance of postmodernism. Only, instead of being mesmerized by the false shadows cast on earthen walls we are entreated to contemplate the projections of super-modern affects within the most virtual of all modern spaces, the white cube. In many ways Cooper’s artistic practice could be characterized as a type of cartographic cataloging that takes emergent properties and proliferating mutations as its given subject. And yet, with the evolution of her work even these pictorial anomalies find themselves displaced by so many generative derivations, ultimately giving us a spectrographic language that represents a hybrid disposition toward the use of painterly and digital motifs which are themselves, subject to the logic of multi-dimensional embellishments.

Such a cacophony of visual paradoxes makes us question how we think about the ways in which space is structured while the phenomenal complexity of her works asks us to activate our perception of the living present in order to map its constructed measures as naturalized artifacts. In this way, Cooper's use of different rhetorical tropes, folding structures, plaint graphemes and hypothetical forms plays with the supermodern urge, or what many theorists not refer to as an altermodern perspective, that helps us to reassess both the inheritance of the twentieth century while still pushing up against the boundaries of what technologies allows us to do in the twenty-first. Cooper’s work has been written about as being in dialogue with Marc Auge’s notion of non-spaces, which are the reproducible, malleable and disposable type of architecture of mass industrialization. Only Cooper’s installations allow us to reflect, or even genuflect, before these structures, which are the forms that have become the stock and trade of globalization as an architectural dispostif.

This is why the critical purchase of her work is in asking questions that stretch from the slowest of working mediums in art, painting, to the most rapid type of image production possible, real-time hypercubes. In the stretch between these two medium specific conditions we find our own perception of the present being warped by the infinite possibility of projected designs and the torque of time and space as a manipulated medium. And this too, is not without a certain contemporary resonance with recent developments in the slowing down, freezing, and speeding up of light, not to mention the invention of a warp drive by NASA. If we really are becoming a supermodern culture, than Cooper’s oeuvre not only attests to this, but it asks us to think about the consequences of variability within several different trajectories of art practice from high modernism all the way up to, and including, many of the topological projects that define post-postmodern aesthetics. And for this, Cooper’s contortions of the space-time continuum continue to be a marker of contemporaneity in fine art practices today.

Bio: Born in 1976 in Jackson, Mississippi, Hollis Cooper grew up in New Orleans and Houston before moving to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and finally California. She received her undergraduate degree with high honors from Princeton University, a Post-Baccalaureate certificate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate University. In 2006, she was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant Award by the CGU Art Department, and in 2007 was selected for the Drawing Center's Viewing Program in NYC. Her work has been featured/reviewed in publications such as New American Paintings, Art Papers, and Alarm Magazine, and has been included in shows in galleries and museums throughout the United States.

 

 

 

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Landscape at Escape Velocity

Artists in the show: Kerstin Dale, Edgar Cardenas, Thomas Locke Hobbs, William LeGoullon, Leah Lewman, Ann Morton, Darryl Naito, and Buzzy Sullivan.

The landscape has become a site of increasing conflict in the early twenty-first century. From the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the tsunami that caused the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in 2011 to last week's announcement that Los Angeles is due to have a major earthquake in the next few years, it seems that thinking about the landscape, as well as the need for escape, is a constant theme in today's headlines. The speed at which we can run from the effects of global warming, however, may have already reached terminal velocity. On a planet of limited resources, where several recent reports about environmental degradation have suggested that we are well ahead of curve in reaching the planetary tipping point where ecological equilibrium will become harder and harder to restore with each passing year, we find that time has now become the dominant concern in thinking about the present crisis. From the melting icecaps to the cascading collapse of ecosystems, and even the idea that we are now well into the 6th great extinction of all life on planet Earth, it is not hard to understand why we find a whole new generation of artists who are invested not only in the landscape as an object of timeless contemplation, but as an event scene of immediate consequences for the times we live in. 

Whether looking at the effects of light, water and atmospheric pollution; or war and personal narratives of power and struggle; or even how the history of landscape photography has been used to generate narratives about the 'manifest destiny' of western exploration and exploitation; the artists in this exhibition make us more aware of a wide range of critical issues effecting the environment today. By using photography, weaving, activism, printmaking and any number of material interventions, the works included in Landscape at Escape Velocity demonstrate a renewed interest in the politics of the 'natural' and the constructed environment, as well as the many ways that these two concepts are never really mutually exclusive. Afterall, we are always already invested in a perspective, which is to say the use of a 'framing device' that is never free of ideological implications or the kind of material and cultural histories that inform how we 'read' the decisions that are made about inclusion and exclusion whenever we being to think about 'picturing' the landscape. Only now, it seems as if it is the landscape that is returning the favor by putting humanity out of frame in an era of increasing environmental disruption, if not outright devastation. 

As such, the works in Landscape at Escape Velocity ask us to reconsider what kinds of interventions can be made that will continue to participate in consciousness raising about the environment calamities that seem to be taking place all around the world. The dominant theme in such an exhibition is whether a sense of collapse is a foregone conclusion in a culture that is drowning in narratives of distress and destruction, or whether another future is still possible. A key subtext behind much of the work included in Landscape at Escape Velocity is whether it is really the environment we are seeking to escape or the kind of cognitive dissonance that hyper-capitalism institutes in relation to overproduction and planned obsolescence, i.e., whether what we really need is a new cultural narrative about sustainability and the consideration of 'externalities', of which the landscape is but one instance in relation to our current mode of production. 

If anything, the survey of images presented in Landscape at Escape Velocity attest to a future anterior by showing us how personal, political and socio-economic narratives can be reframed in such a way that the need to escape may not have to be our only option. Rather, the term escape might offer us a much needed reprieve, or a momentary 'break' from the machinations of everyday life, where critical reflection can help to mitigate some of the worst effects of the current crisis. Toward this end, the selections included in Landscape at Escape Velocity show us some of the most prescient practices in contemporary art that seek to address the environment as nothing less than the defining genre of our era.

Bio: Edgar Cardenas was born in California, raised in Wisconsin, and educated in New England and the Southwest. He studied Psychology at Gordon College (BA), Industrial/Organizational Psychology at University of New Haven (MA), and Sustainability at Arizona State University (Ph.D.). While at ASU, Edgar focused on the intersection of art and science for addressing sustainability challenges. The culmination of this work resulted in both a written dissertation and a solo thesis exhibit at Night Gallery. He believes the next creative mashup should be between art and science so he maintains a serious practice in both spaces. 

Edgar’s work investigates the ecological, cultural, and technological subtleties of human/environment relationships. As an interdisciplinary artist, he works in multiple visual mediums, making decisions based on the conceptual relevance of the materials to the project. Most of his projects become a fusion of photographic, video, and sculptural mediums combined with the written word. Edgar has exhibited internationally at both art and science venues and has been published in art and science journals as well. He is also a member of the – invitation only – Art Photo Index. 

Bio: Kerstin Dale’s current work is based on her concern for the ecological changes in the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, versus the population growth of the desert southwest.  Water—its absence or presence, its memory—is the prominent feature in her artwork. She aims to elevate the role of water, by using her art practice to highlight the utterly essential nature of water, pay homage to the gift of water, and to mourn its loss. Her exhibition record includes exhibitions at Conrad Wilde Gallery, Tucson Art Museum, and Prescott College Art Gallery. Her work has been supported by a Contemporary Forum Grant from the Phoenix Art Museum. Kerstin received her BFA from the University of Arizona, and her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kerstin currently resides in Flagstaff, AZ.

Bio: William LeGoullon is an artist and curator raised and currently based in Phoenix, Arizona. Since receiving his BFA from Arizona State University in 2009 where he studied under Mark Klett and William Jenkins, he has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally including exhibitions in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Fort Collins, Santa Barbara, Seattle and Belgrade Serbia. His work has earned him a variety of awards, recognitions, and publications. In 2011 LeGoullon was awarded a Contemporary Forum Emerging Artist Grant from The Phoenix Art Museum and exhibited in The Arizona Biennial at The Tucson Museum of Art. The following year he was awarded a Public Art Commission by The City of Phoenix - Office of Arts and Culture as part of the Seventh Ave. Streetscape Project. His next solo exhibition is planned for January 2016 at Modified Arts Contemporary Gallery in Phoenix, where he will be exhibiting photographs from his body of work titled (Un)Intended Targets.

Bio: Leah Lewman is an artist and student currently based in Tucson, AZ. She is an MFA candidate in Studio Arts at the University of Arizona. Her current work focuses on the visual and ecological contrasts between the natural desert landscape and the manmade structures imposed upon it. Leah is originally from Ellicott City, Maryland, and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Painting in 2013 from Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD. Lewman has participated in over a dozen exhibitions in the Maryland area, including the 2012 National Juried Exhibition, featuring juror Ethan Karp of the OK Harris Gallery in New York. She received several awards for her undergraduate thesis work, including the Fulton School of Arts Purchase Award and the Roth Honors Thesis Prize. Lewman was also invited to present her work at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in 2013, located in La Crosse, WI. Since coming to the Southwest, she has been in several exhibitions including a group showing at Exploded View Gallery, and a solo show of her works in the Graduate and Alumni Gallery at UA, entitled “Detachments.” She’s received several scholarships as a graduate student, including the Barbara Rogers Scholarship for Painting, the Anne Moreton Memorial Scholarship, and the Sarnoff Art Supply Scholarship. She also maintains a position as Teacher of Record at the University of Arizona. 

Bio: After a 35 year professional career as a graphic/environmental graphic designer, Ann secured her MFA in 2012 from Arizona State University. Currently, she is a practicing artist and educator at Arizona State University and Paradise Valley Community College in metropolitan Phoenix. Her work has been shown and recognized nationally and internationally. A few highlights include The Collective Cover Project, selected in the juror’s top five in the 3D category at ArtPrize 2012 and awarded the OxBow Residency; Street Gems, a social enterprise initiated in 2012-ongoing, engaging individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness to make jewelry and flowers from discarded plastic; and Ground Cover, a socially engaged public art project that was selected by the Americans for the Arts, Public Arts in Review for 2014 and received the Arizona Forward Crescordia award in 2014. Currently Ann has a solo exhibition showing at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft through January 2106 that includes The Collective Cover Project and a new social project titled “What Happened Today?”. 

Bio: Darryl Naito is an artist born from Los Angeles with his degree in printmaking from Arizona State University. He won the Congressional Art Competition for the 25th district in California back in 2010 with the first print he pulled, and his work was indicted into the Special Reserves of ASU’s Diablo Printmaker’s Guild after he graduated. His work has been featured as far as Chihuahua’s H. Congreso del Estado Chihuahua and the Cannon Hall in Washington D.C. and as close as ASU’s Night Gallery.

Bio: Buzzy Sullivan is a photographer from Missoula, Montana. He received his BFA from Oregon College of Art & Craft and is currently a candidate for an MFA from Arizona State University. His work has been collected and shown internationally. His most recent Solo exhibition, Between Horizons, is on view at the Buckley Center Gallery at the University of Portland through January 2016.

 

 

 

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Erika Lynne Hanson: wave

The works of Erika Lynne Hanson are composed from a symbolic language that is bound up in historical references to the landscape while being completely contemporary in its own right. Woven together from so many abstract indices that slide between signifying pyramids and mountains, sequins and suns, horizon lines and patterned designs, Hanson's art practice asks us to question not only the relation between signifier and signified, but also how we think about the process of encoding information. In this sense, Hanson's work brings fiber-based art into dialog with computational schemata by using a densely layered system of references that mix video projections and installation strategies with more traditional mediums in order to produce a polyvalent aesthetic. 

Whether adopting tongue and cheek titles for her different bodies of work, like "Apparently it has something to do with smog", and "Ultimate expanse in which everything is located", or her smaller "Excerpts" series, which function like quick sketches made in a sewn medium, Hanson's work isn't without a touch of irony. But of course, it only takes a moment to notice how this strategy provides a certain ease of access to the heavier themes in Hanson's oeuvre, which include allusions to acidic sunsets, impending earthquakes and melting icebergs. As such, Hanson's hand-produced objects are something like a woven history at world's end of the passing changes in our environment and the mounting crises we hear about on the nightly news. Only the critical purchase of Hanson's various bodies of work is having shown us how these passing flashes, or flash points of crisis, can be stilled as an object of contemplation in one most sustainable and environmentally friendly mediums in contemporary art. 

Much like Walter Benjamin, who claimed that outmoded mediums had the greatest possibility of revealing the paradoxes of the present, Hanson knows how an often overlooked medium, like fiber art, can be used create a productive sense of displacement. Of course, Benjamin thought this was because every medium that fell into disuse was a sign not just of a failed product line, but also of a greater world of innovation and progress. In other words, it was not just the loss of surplus value that made something feel outmoded, but an attending loss of aura that existed because of our collective longing for the well advertised world of the future that object was pictured to be a part of. And it is this very possibility of an alternative way of thinking about the art object, and our collective destination as members of a global village, which is often foregrounded in Hanson's installations and singular works. Of course, the easy critique to spot by Hanson here is an implicit criticism of the global village and globalization by way of an artistic medium that is often thought of as a vernacular of the 'village', or craft aesthetics per say. But the depth of Hanson's use of the outmoded is really put on display through so many objects that are seen sitting on stilts, being held out from the wall on unstable looking supports, or being ever so subtly balanced, stacked and suspended to bring a sense of suspect relations to the ideology of the white cube and its products of manufacture. 

Of course, an even closer look reveals that all of these polemics about arrangement and resisting easy commodification are actually well crafted references to the instability of both the natural environment and our collective sense of 'value' in the contemporary artworld. Perhaps this is why Hanson goes to great pains to continually point beyond the academic discourses of fiber art to include real world problematics in an otherwise stationary and meditative medium. One can be sure that every chance relation, and discrete orientation, in Hanson's installations are just as thoroughly thought out as the pallet of her woven works, making for a perfect hermeneutic in terms of the relation between part and whole. 

Thus, when we are with Hanson's work we are just as much in her realm of references as we are in the world; just as much inhabitants of the woven object as the fiber-optic; just as much in a place of modernist self-referentiality that is about the truth of materials as the hard truths we face about the consequences of modernism's detached and abstract relationship to nature. As such, Hanson's images operate like something of a bridge between our collective past and an imperfect future by allowing us to see that the bridge may not be stable beneath us, but perhaps it is still passable if we look closely enough, and focus intently enough, on the issues of our time that really matter. 

And for that, we owe Hanson not only a great debt for the timely nature of her interventions, but for bringing us so many screen images of the present that are not entirely unlike what Freud called screen memories. In fact, Hanson's imagery works to change the terms of engagement traditionally associated with 'screened' imagery, which is to say, with our relationship to those lost images that we willfully forget in order to save the present constitution of our ego driven culture. Only her works attempt this not by buoying up our collective sense of ego, but instead, by directly confronting the super-ego injunction of the culture of capitalism and the destructive effects of consumerism in order to reveal the traumas which are hidden in the physical and psychological landscape of the present. This is the true mark of Hanson's contemporaniety, and it is one for which she is to be loudly applauded, and entreated to present a encore performance for having made textiles function in a performative refrain.

Bio:  Erika Lynne Hanson creates weavings, videos, and installations that connect diverse materials, histories, and places.  Hanson received a MFA from California College of the Arts, and holds a BFA in Fiber from The Kansas City Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited in various locations including Los Angeles, Kansas City, San Francisco, New York, and Houston. Hanson is a Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Art fellow and has participated in residencies such as Real Time and Space in Oakland CA, and The Icelandic Textile Center in Blonduos, IS. In 2012 she CO-Founded 1522 Saint Louisan experimental project space in Kansas City. Hanson is currently Assistant Professor of Fibers/Socially Engaged Practices at Arizona State University.

 

 

 

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Sean Deckert: Refelctive Properties

Introduction: The Vibrant Pulse of Sean Deckert's Video Work. 

Over the course of the last decade Sean Deckert has been creating photographic works that capture something of our changing relationship to energy on a personal, global and cosmological scale. By using recombinant methods, such as time-lapse exposures, a sense of simultaneity and pictorial superimposition, Deckert has made a dynamic catalog of work that addresses the role that photography can play in documenting what exists at the limits of the visible, and even the invisible. 

While this small survey of Deckert's video work focuses on a selection of pieces from 2011, the general development of his oeuvre is reflected in these video vignettes in any number of ways. As a meditation on transitory states and transformations in the environment, these documentary shorts act as a critical rejoinder to his photographic projects, making them an important contribution to his artistic program in their own right. But above all else, they have been brought together here for what they say about the present, and what kinds of insights they offer us into the larger spectrum of vision and visionary experiences.

 

Part One: The Despotic Cause of Dyspnea.

Our point of departure for understanding Deckert's foray into videography is a short work called Dyspnea, which means breathlessness. Composed from a series of still images that are animated using stop-motion effects, Deckert's aesthetic is retro-futuristic inasmuch as it takes the look of an older technology and makes it new again. Using a pulsating rhythm, Dyspnea brings the dry and reductive pallet of Georgia O’Keeffe together with the stylistic inflections of neo-expressionism, balancing the striking qualities of both of these idiograms with a focused intensity that harkens back to the early films of the surrealists. Given to the viewer as an image that feels like it projects itself outward in the form of a hypnotic solar pulse, Dyspnea can be seen not just an iconic image of radiant energy, but also as an allusion to the enduring heat of the Sonoran landscape, where being conscious of the sun and its effects is as much a part of daily life as breathing. 

Of course, the sun is also thought of as a symbol of higher consciousness, being equally implicated in the practices of solar worship, certain forms of shamanism, and in hermeticism as a representation of the heart beat of our planetary system. And yet, Deckert's Dyspnea really seems to function as a modern cipher for the multitude of meanings we attribute to the sun as desert dwellers by giving us a cinematic glyph, or an animate gif, that allows us an opportunity to view the un-viewable. Afterall, the central object of our solar system is something we cannot behold with the naked eye, and this fact gives the trance like quality of Dyspnea a touch of the ineffable by beaconing us to stare deeply into the unfathomable depths of an immeasurable force. As such, we can say that Deckert's work provides us with the image of a celestial body that our culture is returning to once again as an object of contemplation because it represents a nearly inexhaustible source of energy at a time when our natural resources seem to be running dry.

 

Part Two: The Symbolic Import of Joining Two Horizons.

By comparison, we find that Deckert's second video, Joining Two Horizons, alludes to the site of another natural "body", or at least, to a body of water that could serve as the vision of an oasis in the Arizona desert. Only the vanishing act performed by this mirage concerns the fact that not only does this body of water not exist anywhere near our current local, but it is actually located halfway around the world in the Middle East. This makes Deckert's Joining Two Horizons into a dialectic study in contrasts when compared to our current water crisis in the Southwest, which may eventually turn us into a "Dead Valley" rather than a Dead Sea. By providing us with a study in affective textures and embodied experience, we are drawn into thinking about the socio-political implications that are associated with this particular body of water as well. Much like our Grand Canyon, the Dead Sea is a repository for so many projected meanings, which is why it was considered for inclusion as one of the seven wonders of the world in 2011, making Deckert's piece a rather timely intervention in terms of connecting two disparate locals vis-a-via the geo-politics of wonderment. 

Done while the artist was on residency in Israel, this video piece shows Deckert enter the frame of the camera only to take up a position which could be likened to that of a floating yogi sitting at the crossed horizon of heaven and earth, arms outstretched, connecting "that which is above with that which is below". Whether thought of a sacred symbol of this very same hermetic axiom, a religious symbol for "the man of the cross", the Piscean symbolism of the end of an age or as a reference to another set of symbolic commitments altogether, Deckert's work returns us to thinking about the commencement of primordial symbolism, i.e., all the forms of religious belief that make this particular part of the world an ongoing source of religious tension and conflict. As such, Deckert's use of his own body, or of the figure of the artist as the observer, pays homage to an unforgettable place and a specious sense of space in much the same way that Dyspnea focuses the constant rhythm of cosmogenesis as the living breath of all of existence. In this way we can say that sky and earth, or sun and water, are the valances that set Deckert's dialectic operations in motion.

 

Part Three: The Uncanny Moment of Eupnea.

Thus, when we encounter Deckert's third video work, Eupnea, which provides us with an infrared image of the slow expansion and contraction of our own 'inner sun' by way of imaging the human heart, we should not be at all surprised to find ourselves contemplating the hidden meanings associated the spectrum of light and the human body, which is itself, largely composed of water. By using infrared technologies to give us a synthetic image of the 'breath of life' and/or 'the living waters of the spirit', which are traditionally brought together in the sacred symbol of the glowing heart in Christianity, Deckert reveals the many ways in which chromatic symbolism is also a living reality of sorts, even if only in the abstract. Whether one thinks about the colors produced by visible light as carriers of meaning related to the Kabalistic sephiroth, the color symbolism of the energy vortex's associated with the Chakras, or any system of sacred symbolism for that matter, Deckert manages to once again provide us with a living, breathing image of the missing material correlate behind such systems of belief. 

In this way, the video piece known as Eupnea is an uncanny way of making the heart visible in a manner that is not unlike the Kirlian photography of auratic and/or energetic effects, only Deckert's infrared imagery give us a picture of the chromatic composition of the human heart in real-time. Thus, Eupnea, which means to breath at a normal pace, may in fact be the clearest picture we have on record of the transcendent reality of the heart-center of corporeal life. And in this series of video works, this very real heart-center could be said to mirror the heart-center of our universe depicted in Dyspnea, and the heart-center of our world religions that serves as the backdrop for the figurative symbolism in Joining Two Horizons. In many ways, we could say that Deckert is providing us with the photographic evidence of a contemporary trinity of sorts, one that exists somewhere between thinking about the universe as a vital life force, the land of religious conflicts over what exists in the heavens as well as here on Earth, and the immanent experience of the heart as an immediate spiritual and physical reality, i.e., the house of the inner monad, or the 'coloring' of our mortal character. 

 

Part Four: Technocracy and Tachypnea.

If this is indeed the case, then Deckert's Tachypnea, which offers us an intimate inner view of the cityscape by providing us with an infrared image of a widow that looks into the closed world of our constructed environment, follows on this trinitarian outlook by pointing to the fact that the monadic essence of a thing was really Leibniz’s theory of how the eyes are a window to the soul. Only here we can say that the geometries presented in this fourth piece, while being refractory and angular, do not play so much with readily identifiable architectural motifs as with the form of the diamond, which is the classical symbol for the inner unbreakable aspect of the soul, or what the ancients called the inner daemon. 

And of course, it follows that in talking about corporate architecture we are also speaking about another pressure filled and soul hardening substance, for which the diamond acts as a perfect metaphor, not simply because of the unbreakable pace of corporate existence, but because the pressure of corporate life also produces an inner hardening of the figure we call 'modern man'. Afterall, what better image is there of the demiurge in modern times than the diamond/daemon of corporate architecture, which not only houses the inner life of technocratic culture, but which acts as the inner energetic impulse of our society, or the heart center of our political economy. Thus, we can say that in the journey of inner and outer space, Deckert has moved us from the center of our cosmos, to the central place of religious conflict, to the center of the human magnetic field, and finally, to the energetic center of society. And all of this is accomplished by way of a series of visual meditations that aim to hold our attention by imaging time, and by imagining the distance traveled from the origins of our solar system to our present form of civilization and its attending conflicts.  

 

Part Five: What Remains Hidden by the Light of Day.

So when Deckert makes a turn to providing us with a series of Street Views of downtown Phoenix, which act as documents about the accumulation of heat in our urban landscape, he is once again retuning us to the question of energy, time and cyclical influences. This is because these works capture how our built environment is caught up in a vicious cycle of perpetual overheating that mirrors our larger concerns with global warming, showing us how a local problem is reflective of a larger crisis. By enfolding micro-political concerns with macro-political conseqeunces, and even cosmological themes, Deckert's images confront us with a rather precipitous match of form and content. What begins with a kind of breathless awe at creation, or a reference to the breathless consumption of air by fire, seems to conclude with pictures of humanity holding its collective breath about the effects of its own creations on the earth and water, giving us a hermeneutic outlook on the connected nature of four classic elements of existence. 

But what is most interesting about Deckert's later video's, which came out of the artists own investigations into claims about how urban structures don't manage to cool down enough at night before beginning to heat up again the following day in Arizona, is how Deckert's independent research allows us an entre into thinking about the real world consequences of our actions as a real-time problematic. This is due to the fact that in all of his video pieces, Deckert continually returns us to the material site of conflict, be it solar, religious, human, concrete or otherwise, to show how material reality has become a spiritual concern in the early twenty-first century. 

 

Conclusion and Consequences: Cosmography as an Art Practice.

Thus, we can say that if the sun was the starting point in Deckert's cycle of work during 2011, and the dead sea his place of connection between the sky above and the watery Earth below, then urbanism became the heart of his late interventions by always playing in concert with the concerns of the human heart as a metaphor for our greater humanity and our common place of cohabitation, not to mention being the site we are most likely to experience constriction, complications and the need for direct material interventions. By bringing all of these intersecting themes together in unexpected ways, Deckert's work provides us with the widest possible perspective in thinking about the conflicted nature of the present. We might even say that Deckert's video works are a kind of document about so many emanations of consequence, and sites that might otherwise go unseen.

But as with all of Deckert's projects, both in video and photography, we are allowed to bath in the afterglow of our all-too-human preoccupations, while confronting an uncertain future about the implications of overproduction and environmental degradation. And for all of this we can say that Deckert's work is a sign of the times pictured as a period of absolute consequence; a real-time reflection on transcendental contradictions from cosmogenesis to the laws of thermodynamics; from the diaristic to the thermo-realistic; from religious symbolism to urbanism as a kind of architectural embolism; and that with each new body of work Deckert only deepens his commitments to seeing past the surface of things and right into the heart of the matter. 

In this way, we can say that Deckert's work takes us on a journey that collapses our registers for thinking about visible and invisible phenomenon, or animating forces and concrete realities, such that the measured and hesitant breath of contemporary living is no longer quite so hidden from view. This is not only a rather timely contribution to contemporary art, but it also marks a rather incisive intervention into the signs and symbols that circumscribe the language of the cultural imaginary, be it postmodern, modern or premodern.  And for that reason, Deckert's collection of video works provide us with a kind of still space for reflecting about the very greatest forms of measure, be they infinite, finite or purely immanent.

Bio: Sean Deckert is a visual artist based in Los angeles. He Gradauted from the Katherine Herberger Insitute for Fine Arts at Arizona State University in 2012 with a Bachelors in Photography.  He received the 2012 Contemporary Forum Emerging Artist Award from the Phoenix Art Museum. His work has been featured in Photo District News, Arid Journal, Art Ltd., Visual Art Source and the State Press. He has exhibitied at Phoenix Art Museum, SF Camerawork, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, ASU Art Museum Combine Gallery, Tempe Center for the Arts, Eye Lounge and Northlight Gallery. He currently maintains a full-time art practive in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

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Molly Koehn: Eventually, everthing will collapse.

Molly Koehn’s art practice consists of working with the uncomfortable, the comedic and the artist as a figure of concern. What is uncomfortable in Koehn’s work is that she returns us to looking at the immediate problems in our surrounding environment with a fresh eye, whether in the urban terrain or the greater world of ‘nature’. What is funny, or a bit cheeky about her pieces, is the way Koehn uses titles and formal interventions to provoke her audience into contemplating what many theorists now refer to as the effects the ‘anthroposcene’, or of human-centric endeavors to re-appropriate different forms of life and natural resources. And both of these strategies make Koehn’s expanding art practice --- which straddles the line between fiber art and installation-based projects --- into something like a cartography of limited-time engagements. In fact, one might even argue that Koehn’s art practice is most decidedly focused on the issue of time, the passing away of forms, and the mounting crisis about whether or not we have enough time left to reverse the degradation of our planetary ecosystems.

Earlier pieces by Koehn, like “Good as new”, are composed of hand-woven ikat dyed tencel, which is a type of colored cloth that she has used as a visual Band-Aid of sorts by placing it on top of over-painted graffiti markings in the urban landscape. Only, Koehn has made her designs to match the mismatched color corrections in what are otherwise, badly done clean up jobs. This is a gratuitous gesture of sorts inasmuch as it overlays the aesthetics of urban decay with a second set of interventions that point to the lack of consideration accorded to the 'quick fix' of simply using whatever is on hand. Koehn's paradoxical relationship to the deployemnt of aesthetic 'corrections' in the cityscape shows itself in the way her peices mimic this mismatch of colors by introducing a difference in material grounds, woven pallets and an attempt to conceal a visual blemish by way of so many absurdist gestures. Nevertheless, “Good as new” is a proposition that aims to create an artistic pun of sorts, or that makes us take a moment to reflect on the notion of erasure, both within the horizon of urban life as well as in the larger need for humanity to 'tag' their environment as a sign of ownership. Thus, Koehn’s pieces address the idea of creating territory, and the drive toward territorialization, as an impulse in western civilization that extends from grandiose notions like 'Manifest Destiny' all the way down to everyday street life. Furthermore, a project like “Good as new” represents a concerted effort at consciousness raising about the need for ‘care’ in the urban environment and its attending conflicts, be they personal, aesthetic, socio-economic, or properly political.

Other pieces like “At least we’re trying” and “Structural dissent” take an opposite strategy by introducing the aesthetics of rust into a blanket-like quilt of the artist’s own design. Only here the organic nature of so many rust stains are set against the geometries of pristine white patterns, which serve to highlight the contrast between naturally occurring processes and intentionally constructed designs. It is, of course, impossible to miss a critique of sorts in works like these, because they actively trade on upsetting the values of the fine art world inasmuch as they are evidence of a ‘stained’ object that resists the reigning logic of reification by adopting the appearance of damaged goods. In this way, the rejection of the rhetorical positions attributed to standard strategies of display, and of ‘cleanly’ presented objects in particular, are here disrupted by Koehn’s nonchalant draping of hand-woven cotton onto a pedestal, or by her simply having a part of this cloth gathered to one side, spilling out onto the floor in an asymetrical manner. But however haphazard such interventions may appear, they are really a means of redirecting our attention to another set of values that exists beyond the gallery walls, and which Koehn in deeply engaged with as a means of thinking through the attending conflicts of ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’, not to mention decay and degeneration.

It is these same kinds of strategies, which is to say, the ways in which Koehn mobilizes a set of dialectic contrasts, that inform her projects with eucalyptus leafs as well. A first intervention with these rather tough fibrous forms consisted of delicately cutting somewhat ironic phrases into individual leaves, which are then forensically pinned to the white walls of the gallery in a way that forgrounds the contrast between nature and culture, organic forms and hard surfaces, or simply growth and commerce in the largest possible sense. Of course, the selelction of phrases like “Save the planet, okay?” being cut into healthy green leaves, and “I’m pretty green” being cut in colorless brittle ones, allows Koehn’s program of tongue and cheek gestures to achieve a greater dialogic play between form and content. And yet, this dialectic contest is itself subverted, or rather, extended to greater lengths by the inclusion of leafs that exhibit lines like “Maybe we’ll all be okay” and “why try”, which evidence a more sanguine outlook. But of course, Koehn’s work with eucalyptus leafs goes a bit deeper than that. Her sculptures, which show how eucalyptus is as enduring a form in our urban landscape as concrete blocks, and her installation of an entire room of eucalyptus leafs in her solo exhibition “Desolation”, also act in service of a greater idea. This idea is that the eucalyptus leaf can also be seen as something of a symbol for how European colonization, and its attending preoccupations, have created many of our current environmental problems. And just like eucalyptus leaves --- which harm birds, steal water from surrounding plant life, act as fuel for forest fires, and function something like nature’s street litter because there are so few organisms that are actually able to consume them in the U.S. --- the problem of displaced forms, peoples, and plant-life all represent a 'growing' problem. And the idea of dealing with issues that are endemic to local, region and global concerns, or which have a geopoltiical dimension, are really the centerpiece of Koehn's symbolic gestures.

Of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that projects like “Colonize” and “Eat the good, leave the bad” have Koehn embroidering maggot like forms on top of eucalyptus dyed silk, or that we are treated to a display of the same creepy-crawly worms forming a pattern of convergence on top of cotton dyed with rust stains. This is because both of these projects point to the fact that nature has always had its own systems for dealing with infection and decay. That both of these bodies of work are constructed on circular motifs shouldn’t be overlooked either, because the circle can be seen as a symbol for the hermetic nature of the fine art world as well as greater ideas about the circle of life and cycles in nature. In fact, the circle is also an allusion to a celestial globe and the orobouros, which is the hermetic symbol of the snake eating its own tale. Thus, it is no coincidence that this allegorical figure about the self-consuming powers of life, death and regeneration is the archetypal form upon which these two projects are displayed. That both of these series are anti-aesthetic in the sense that little woven worm-like figures are bound to make your skin crawl, even from across the room, follows from Koehn’s general program of challenging the notion of easy consumption. And that beneath Koehn’s concern with living organisms is an abiding interest in the decolonization of value attributed to the houses of high art and their aesthetic distance from worldly concerns isn't lost on the causual viewer either. And that is because this method of creating a strategic sense of critical distance is foregrounded in her art practice by playing with the psychology of perception, the play of misrecognization, and by mixing concrete forms with a rather organic working program. Thus, the immedaite confrontation with gestalt effects, and the use of natural materials as 'stand-ins' for living forms that cover, crawl, and matriculate throughout our streets and nature in the widest sense of the word, is really what Koehn is after by extending this same project under the title of “Invasion”, because she wants her work to stand over and against the ethos of 'disinterested' values that invaded fine art world in the early eighteen century, and which, quite unwittingly, still hold sway in western culture today. Or at least, we don’t have to be shy about saying this is the general outlook that informs her aesthetic propositions.

Thus, when Koehn brings together a piece like “Eventually, everything will collapse”, she is not only referring to the bell jars that have fallen to the floor in the galley space, or the unstable supports which have been fixed precariously to the wall. And she is not just referring to the admixture of concrete and earthen elements that are held together in the jars, which are a defining motif throughout her work and an obvious allusion to the conflict between nature and culture. And Koehn is not simply referring to the dichotomies of display and situation, preservation and loss, systems of containment and entropic collapse, even though these are the dynamic themes that circumscribe her entire oeuvre. While all of this is something that even the casual art patron can appreciate, the hard pill to swallow here is that Koehn is offering up a critique of western civilization as it has fomented what is now referred to as the sixth great period of mass extinction. In other words, "Eventually, everything will collapse" is about the fact that we can no longer preserve the conflict between nature and culture, and it is presented in the form of pickled contents that stand-in for the inability to stock up rations in a survivalist manner. From Koehn's perspective there is no weathering this storm, because the change in the weather is the problem, and not the storm per say. As such, Koehn's critique can be seen to be totalizing, or, if that term makes a certian reactionary portion of the fine art world uncomfortable, than one could just as easily say that Koehn is engaged in critical practices of ‘cognitive mapping’, following the definition of the term given by Fredrick Jameson, which is simply that of creating critical cartographies of concerns about our world, however large in scale or limited in scope they may be.

But make no mistake, Koehn wants you not only to be a little taken back by some of her works but even a bit repulsed, and not just at the affective qualities of her objects, but at the effects of globalization and even 'civilization'. And that’s not just because her projects are what many in the fine art world would refer to as being anti-aesthetic; or because she is using the slowest hand-woven medium as a means of communication in an age of instant information transfer; or because her projects aren’t caught up in polemical positions so much as they are propositions that are informed by situational and relational problematics. While these are certainly the concerns that her art practice engages with, what really makes Koehn’s various projects unsettling is that her critique may not be just about ‘cognitive mapping’, but rather, about cognitive dissonance as a generational predisposition, both inside and outside what we refer to as the art-world. She is, in a sense, mapping the unmappable by working with repression and the representative function of art to create psycho-geographies of the present. In other words, her works are about the key issues of our times that have created both a generational divide and a divided subject, and that subject is the history of achievements associated with western civilization and its 'artistic' discontents. Dada, Fluxus, and Happenings are as much forefunners to her project as feminst art practices, land art, and re-appropration art, only Koehn has transmuted their concerns using the meduim of fiber art in a way that brings the interwoven concerns of an increaingly interconnected world together with everyday actions and interventions that resonate with the wider problems of plantary life. As such, Koehn's art practice has made an indelible contribution to thinking about the problem of time and the untimely in art, which is to say, she is building an oeuvre based on working with the remains of the day in the hopes of building a better tomorrow. 

Bio: Molly Koehn in an environmental artist in her second year Arizona State University pursuing her MFA. She received her BFA from Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS, in 2013. Her most recent accomplishments include receiving two national awards, the Handweavers Guild of America Scholarship and Surface Design Association's Creative Promise Award. Both include publications of her work in their respective journals.

 

 

 

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In Advance of Identity

Artists in the Show: Julia Gonzalez, Daniel Funkhouser, Daniel Kanu, and Clarita Lulic, and Lisa Von Hoffner.

Following the 'performative turn' in relational aesthetics and coming after the heyday of identity politics in art practice, the question of identity takes on a new relevance today inasmuch as artists continue to inquire about what is asked of a subject in advance of identification. Or, to put it more simply, we could say that identity is what comes before the idea of identification with the self or the other, i.e., identity is what structures our interactions, our expectations and our way of being in the world. Of course, in the contemporary context, we find artists are addressing the idea of identity at a time where subjects are tracked and marketed to through predictive analytics, consumer profiles and cultural stereotypes. And so, the focus of identity politics has become merged with the critique of political economy to the degree that both seek to address what escapes this vicious circle of market driven interpellation and socio-political codification.

In this sense we are always before and after the question of identity to the degree that identity is never a resolved set of qualities or a fixed system of signs. Identity is that which is always already in excess of a name or a 'norm'. The search for identity signifies a process that is simultaneously personal, cultural and political. It involves the notion of perpetual struggle, both through the process of subjectivation and individuation. It is around these two poles, which are never truly separate, that the philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that the quest for autonomy and equality would be sought as so many 'techniques of the self'. The unstable ground on which these terms are defined for each new generation is as varied as the projects put forth by different artists at different moments in history. Yet, quite invariably, the best challenges to hegemonic and normative strictures are often set against socio-economic, racial, sexual and gendered ideals with a capital I.

Perhaps the more radical question to advance however, is who has the power to define 'normativity' through the suppression of difference; who has an agenda to promote by way of pollsters and political action committees; and who has an image to defend by stereotyping and codifying the infinite multiplicity that is the human experience? And in the area of aesthetic discourse, what means allow us to re-open the question of identity toward new and unforeseen horizons, or at least beyond what is given to us by the culture-at-large. This kind of politic circumscribes the works on display "In Advance of Identity" by providing a direct confrontation with thinking otherness as existing somewhere between the imagistic, the imaginary and the wholly abstract. As such, this survey of works by 4 Arizona artists challenges many of the expectations provided for by an identifactory-industrial-complex that consolidates the distributed effects of socio-political entrainment as entertainment.

In such a light, we find the question of identity needs to be not only something we try to live in advance of, namely, in advance of a system of manufactured desires, but that we also need to advance in terms of rethinking aesthetic and cultural 'values'. Without new and timely perspectives about identity politics we are in danger of losing the very possibility of embracing the most diverse and varied forms of subjective and/or intersubjective relations. In other words, identity politics is always implicated in revolutionary praxis, or at the very least, in the question of human liberation. Toward this end, the spirit of contestation that fomented the cultural revolutions of the 60's continues to provide us with a means to rethink the evolution of enculturation as well as where it might be taking us in the age of globalization. This is where the question of identity is connected with the greater concerns of cultural production in terms of periodicity, which is to say, where it must be fully lived and experienced against the times we inhabit. And perhaps, this is the new politic of identity politics in the early twenty-first century, one that is clearly on view in the works included "In Advance of Identity".

 

Julia Gonzalez

Bio: The art practice of Julia Gonzalez deals with the contradictions between living in a society of mass produced images and the plurality of forms that nature produces. The CMYK series in this exhibit mixes motifs from mechanical reproduction with photographs of the artist's portrait in order to produce a picture of the inner tension between marketed persona's and personal preferences. In this way, we can see how the contrast between optical reproduction techniques and the haptic qualities of the body work to focus the viewer's attention on the precarious space of personal freedom and the possibility of autonomy in contemporary culture today. Julia Gonzalez is a recently earned her Associates from Chandler-Gilbert Community College and her B.F.A in printmaking and photography from ASU. She has exhibited in Arizona at Night Gallery, Gallery 100 and has been part of several juried exhibitions. She works with the Arizona State Photographers Association and currently resides in Arizona.

 

Daniel Funkhouser

Bio: The works of Daniel Funkhouser consist of mind-bending and gender-bending explorations of media that present us with so many allegories of the self. Funkhouser's pieces operate as a form of duplicitous documentary evidence about the precarious position of identity and its attending presuppositions. Equal parts mythos, persona, and personal inclination, Funkhouser's playful portraits invite us in with a subtle surrealism and chromatic opulence that allows the viewer to negotiate these extremes of expression as a reflection of their own conflicting interpretative registers.

Bio: Daniel Funkhouser has a B.F.A. from Arizona State University and completed his thesis work at Barrett Honors College. He has exhibited widely, and was a member of the Eye Lounge art collective and the performance art group Treasure Mammal. He was awarded "Best Selfie" by the New Times and Art Scene Queen in 2015.

 

Daniel Kanu

Bio: The works of Daniel Kanu use multiple mediums to engage the viewer in thinking about issues of race, identity, politics and socio-economic stereotypes. By mixing visual tropes from the mass media with art historical references Kanu's work challenges the viewer to think about the social history of art and cultural production. Moving between printmaking, assemblage and collages techniques Kanu's pieces speak about the patchwork quality of subjectivity and the impossibility of reducing human experience to a set of cultural 'norms'.

Bio: Daniel Kanu has won several art competitions including the 2007 Congressional Art Competition. He Has exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum, the Desoto Art League, and the Urban League of Greater Dallas where he was awarded best in show. He also took 1st place in National Society of Arts and Letters, Greater Arizona Chapter Printmaking Competition. Kanua is a graduate of The University of Texas at Tyler, where he received his B.F.A. and a recent graduate of Arizona State University where he received his M.F.A. in printmaking.

 

Clarita Lulic

Bio: Clarita Lulic's work explores the dialectic tension of inter-subjective relations. Through photographs and sculptures Lulic plays with the language of happenstance and conflict by emphasizing the ways in which we inhabit domestic and gendered roles. Her most recent body of work takes an allegorical turn by presenting us with material propositions that act as a stand in for those unspoken conflicts that structure the routines of cohabitation and the expectations that accompany sexual difference.

Bio: Clarita Lulic has exhibited in London, Sao Paulo, Kyoto, and Arizona. She was the recipient of a US-UK Fullbright Postgraduate award scholarship as well as winning an individual grant from the Arts Council of England, a North East Photography Network Development Bursary and most recently, a completion grant from the Foundation for Art Resources. She was the winner of the Emerging Photographers award in 2011 from Magenta Flash Forward and won the National Media Museum Photography Award in 2010. Lulic has a B.A. from the University of Northumbira and just completed her M.F.A. from the University of Arizona.

 

Lisa Von Hoffner

Bio: The works of Lisa Von Hoffner are a meditation on the passive subject of consumer desire and the active gaze of the phallocentric imaginary. Part illustrative titillation, part geometric configuration, Von Hoffner’s women signal the idea of red light district aesthetics coming to the world of fine art. Her delicately rendered figures serve to remind us that the history of pictorial pleasures in the West represent a long series of naturalized gendered biases that are anything but ‘natural’. Whether placed in consciously posed gestures, or operating as melancholic wanderers in a kind of digital or virtual space, Von Hoffner’s paintings challenge us to reconsider the geometry of desire that accompanies the society of hyper-spectacle we call affective capitalism. 

Bio: Lisa Von Hoffner is a contemporary figurative painter from Philadelphia. She received her B.F.A. in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2009 and is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at Arizona State University. In 2015 she was in an artist-in-residency program in Jousta, Finland. She has exhibited extensively in the U.S. and abroad, and is currently represented by Beacon Arts Gallery.

 

 

 

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