Closing after this long weekend is the Power Plant’s sprawling summer exhibition, Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art. Curated by Andrea Andersson and Nora Burnett Abrams, this multi-sensory feast for the eyes, ears, and mind is a testament to the variety and richness of artistic and poetic approaches to language undertaken by conceptual artists and writers since the 1960s.
The month of May belongs to Agathe de Bailliencourt, who will have two solo shows, Eintritt in Toronto and Sheer in New York, plus a site-specific projection onto The New Museum, concurrently on view. Eintritt means “joining” in German (de Bailliencourt is French but currently based in Berlin) and this post joins together images from both of her painting exhibitions as well as selected past projections and site-specific installations. The images are strikingly distinct, yet demonstrate de Bailliencourt’s continuing interest in the expressive mark of the hand (particularly her graffiti-inflected splashes and scrawls), as well as her ongoing engagement with architectural form, space, and especially movement/directionality delineated through the use of decisive gestures, layered textures, and vibrantly contrasting colours.
Opening tomorrow at MCA Denver is Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art, a wide-ranging exhibition that features the work of over fifty artists and writers including Carl Andre, Fiona Banner, Erica Baum, Christian Bök, Marcel Broodthaers, Ryan Gander, Michelle Gay, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, Gareth Long, Michael Maranda, Seth Price, Kay Rosen, Dexter Sinister, Andy Warhol. Presenting works from the 1960s to the present, the exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, installation, video and works on paper which explore the artistic possibilities of language.
Last fall we posted a brief review of The Last Silent Movie, Susan Hiller’s extraordinary audio artwork comprising some 24 extinct or endangered languages from across the planet. Featuring words, stories, entreaties and lullabies in Potawatomi, Klallam, and Ngarrindjeri among others, Hiller’s work effects a sense of wonder at the sheer diversity of human tongues, as well as the sobering realization that for many of these unseen speakers, their language, along with much of their wisdom, history and culture, will likely die with them.
The eight works in Michael Voss’ well-edited exhibition, Paintings with Names, appear small, unassuming, even – dare we say it? – sweet. But their playful informality and seeming modesty of ambition belie a singular engagement with the very essence and act of both painting and naming. Since 2000, well before Raphael Rubenstein proposed the term “provisional” to describe a recent wave of abstraction with a “casual, dashed-off, tentative, unfinished, or self-canceling” quality (Art in America, 2009), Voss has pursued an intuitive, exploratory, even arbitrary approach which is tempered by his slow, questioning, and contemplative habit of working on several paintings at once. The result is a family of abstract images which relate compellingly to each other, even as they claim real and imagined territories all their own.
It’s the beginning of April, and in honour of Max Ernst’s birthday (April 2) and National Poetry Month, we thought we’d do a little feature on Ernst, key figure in the history of Dada and Surrealism, and Dorothea Tanning, prolific artist and late-blooming poet who also happens to have been Ernst’s fourth wife.
A dashing and charismatic pair, they met in New York in 1942, when Ernst was still married to Peggy Guggenheim. Four years later, upon his divorce from Guggenheim, Ernst married Tanning in a double Beverly Hills wedding with Juliet Browner and Man Ray. Settling first in Sedona, and then the south of France, Ernst and Tanning continued their innovative and ever-evolving artistic practices, encompassing painting, collage, printmaking, sculpture, filmmaking, costume and set design, book illustration, and writing.
In recent years there has been an unprecedented rush into online contemporary art sales, a formerly taboo practice among gallerists accustomed to a fair amount of opacity in their dealings. My, how things have changed, with well-known commercial galleries such as David Zwirner and White Cube, not-for-profit spaces including Artists Space and SculptureCenter, and even museums such as the Whitney and the New Museum unashamedly making works available through Artspace and other online venues. Last week, The Armory Show announced an exclusive partnership with Paddle8 to present artworks for collectors to preview, reserve, and purchase in advance of this Thursday’s opening. Following in the footsteps of the online-only VIP Art Fair, The Armory Show is hedging its bets that having an online presence will extend its reach into new markets far beyond the tri-state area.
While in New York, we stopped off at the Museum of Arts and Design to see Swept Away: Dust, Ashes and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design. Part of a series of exhibitions that “explore the intersection of traditional or unusual materials and techniques as viewed through the lens of contemporary art and design,” Swept Away features painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, performances, and installations which confront “the ephemeral nature of art and life, the quality and content of memory, issues of loss and disintegration, and the detritus of human existence” through the incorporation of fugitive and often discarded materials.
By our calculations, The Thing Quarterly launched a full four years ago, with a hand-wringing window shade bearing silkscreened text by Miranda July. Each issue of The Thing, conceived as an object-based periodical, is the brainchild (or red-headed stepchild, depending on your aesthetic inclinations) of a different invited artist, writer, musician, or filmmaker, including the likes of Trisha Donnelly, Jonathan Lethem, Doo.Ri, and James Franco. Charged with the task of marrying a useful object with text, contributors have created, among other things, a bamboo cutting board with text seared into its surface (“Crying Instructions” by Starlee Kline), and a hefty rubber doorstop bearing a letter to Billie Jean King written by the artist’s much younger self (untitled, by Anne Walsh). The editors, Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan, are visual artists themselves, and the most interesting of the things they have produced walk an elegant or provocative line between literature, fine art, and functional object.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been thinking especially hard about art. So hard, in fact, that recent encounters with art that foregrounds the physical experience have been a hugely welcome relief from all that heady cogitation.
The first such encounter got us out of our chairs and walking up stairs as part of Derek Sullivan’s recent Power Plant show, Albatross Omnibus. Comprising three industrial-sized stepladders and 52 print-on-demand artist books suspended from the ceiling, Albatross Omnibus conceptually echoes Yoko Ono’s well-known 1966 installation, Ceiling Painting (YES Painting), whereby viewer initiative and participation is required to experience and complete the performance of the exhibition. However while Albatross has similarly playful, meditative, and uplifting moments, Sullivan’s books collectively embody a much more idiosyncratic and energetic profusion of words, images and ideas rather than a singular (albeit profound) experience. This is not to say that Sullivan’s work is superficial; in fact the many humourous concrete texts and visual koans which make up the body of Albatross belie a deeper love and engagement with the history of reading, print, and the book itself. Steering a ladder through space, ascending the steps, and stretching up to page through each slim volume in turn, one enacts a physical experience of the pre-digital library, wherein books occupy positions, not always easy to reach, in a specific place and time. At a moment when books are rapidly beginning to disappear into the cloud, we are reminded not only of the sheer pleasure of touching and turning a page, but also of the importance of preserving and protecting the printed format as one of the still-unsurpassed achievements of human social, political and cultural expression.