Natee Utarit. Contemporary Thailand dressed in Florentine Renaissance

Natee Utarit. Contemporary Thailand dressed in Florentine Renaissance

The work of Thai artist Natee Utarit (Bangkok 1970) reveals a singular attitude and a figurative language which significantly differentiate it from the artistic production in Southeast Asia today. Having studied at the Silpakorn University, founded by an Italian artist of the Florentine academic school, Utarit, like the Thai artists of his generation, learns a formal foreign language (local academic education provides the teaching of  European art history), which is also a vehicle for a different cultural heritage, in this case the Western Christian one. Together with the traditional style and genres of European painting (historical painting, portrait, landscape, still life), the artist also learns the meaning of the religious symbols and icons of the Reneissance and begins to question the themes and characters they represent, focusing in particular on the similarities between western and Thai-Buddhist imagery.

Natee Utarit , In the Name of God, 2016

From this comparison the artist generates his stylistic code: the search for a native identity and voice within the foreign styles learned (imposed) by the colonizers. Utarit’s visual stories are complex and unexpected allegories, they are born from the combination of various elements. Ancient and modern objects, iconographies of the Christian and Buddhist tradition, historical and contemporary figures, Western and Asian, are combined in impeccable and perfectly balanced compositions, which give life to new scenes and to an artistic formula which is at the same time very personal and astonishing.

Natee Utarit , Nescientia, 2014

Utarit, however, is a “virtuoso” of the style more than of the content: under the skillful artistry of the Thai painter lies a world full of current themes and it’s up to the viewer to choose whether to decipher them or not. The pictorial surface is captivating, with its colors, smooth brushstrokes, infinitesimal details and the splendor of its forms, catalyzing attention to the point of being ineluctably distracting. Only a motion of awareness in the viewer can lead him back to the traces of the underlying meaning, which in Utarit constitutes precisely the soul of the painting. The artist takes strong, decisive positions that unfold moment by moment in the pictorial pieces he produces. He talks about the human condition, about the ethical drama which is related to the collapse of certainties.

Natee Utarit, THE INTROSPECTIVE, 2016

The artist expresses his personal opinion on the existence, on God, goodness, greed and caducity. He criticizes contemporary society and stages its cultural crisis, in particular the crisis of Thai society (Illustration of the Crisis, 2010, series), but also of the contemporary art system (Altarpieces, 2014-2016, series). Taken from this latter series, the painting When Adam Delved and Eve Span, Who Was Then the Gentleman ? 2014, constitutes an exemplary model of the artist’s aesthetics and ethics. Eva appears huddled near what should be a spinning wheel (but that subtly recalls the wheel of Duchamp, leader of Western conceptualism) and the poverty of her and Adam strongly contrasts with the sumptuousness of the garments worn by the central characters, two men of obvious Caucasian origin, surrounded by symbols of western cultural and artistic tradition.

Natee Utarit, Allegory of the Beginning and Acceptance, 2015


One of the two characters holds a map of Southeast Asia while a dark-skinned and Asian-like  dwarf plays an accordion. Here the splendid and “error-free” painting of Utarit aspires to unmask the cultural yoke that still affects Southeast Asia today, which is represented as a court Jester whose mere function is to delight the West. The words that give the title to the work therefore seem very accurate, they are taken from a famous sermon by the priest John Ball, inspiring personality of the English peasant revolt of 1381, which underline the condition of freedom and purity proper to Adam and Eve, when there weren’t servants nor masters, when God gave mankind free will and, with it, the equal right to exist. Since Ball is a wandering priest, and therefore outside the canonical religious system, the artist pushes his message even further: he proposes a parallel between the organized religion of that time and the art system of today, which reveals itself as a harbinger of hierarchies, unfair relations and unjust arbitrariness. What Utarit seems to ask to his viewer, through the use of cultured and stratified works in which the plurality of references  look as a compositional rule, is, in the end, the time to deepen the knowledge of the different existing cultural realities, inside and outside his polyptychs.

Lavinia Pini

Erik Bulatov: free to decide.

Erik Bulatov: free to decide.

Erik Bulatov’s father always believed his son would become an artist, on what basis he would think so it is not known but the prophecy has come true: at almost eighty-five years he is one of the most famous russian artists worldwide. Russian or Soviet: difficult to say, because since he was forty Erik has been living outside his native country. Today Bulatov prefers to live in Paris, which he says his wife likes for its calm and balanced lifestyle in line with their current attitude. While the country was struggling to recover and rebuild itself after the terrible events of the 1940s, young Erik completed his studies in the most prestigious artistic institute of Surikov and soon after, twenty-five years old, he looked for a paid job. He had two special friends: Oleg Vasiliev and Iliya Kabakov, future “giants” of contemporary art.

Erik Bulatov

Their relationship became a long and happy friendship, allowing them to make a common front against the grey servility of the regime. They were not rebels, but they fought their “quiet war” in their ateliers, where few trusted friends could have access to see the “fruits” of their clandestine work. Ilya Kabakov as a result of his studies in the publishing field, collaborated with the few state publishers, and it was him who invited Vasiliev and Bulatov to enlist as illustrators for children’s literature. Distant from the Communist Party and its ideology, they were not considered fit to deal with educational books, so they were assigned to illustrate fairy tales for children or folk tales of the many ethnic groups of the Soviet Union. In thirty years of work as editorial illustrators, the two friends have decorated more than a hundred books: Bulatov was responsible for the drawing part and Vasiliev for colors. Working a bit for the State (but avoiding propaganda) and a bit for themselves (without any hope of being able to present their works to a large audience) the artists remained almost immune from the reality that surrounded them and from the Diktat of the regime.

Erik Bulatov, Farewell Lenin

Erik Bulatov, Horizon, 1971-2

They belonged to the so-called “Sretenskaja” group and at the end of the Sixties they sometimes performed in the café “Siniaya ptitza” (The Blue Bird). The artist Grisha Bruskin told the anecdote of when Bulatov, suffering from a backache, had to have massages in a clinic in Gursuf, and while lying on the bed tried to admire the beauty of the Crimea coastline just outside the window, but a bright red handrail in the background stopped him to fully enjoy the landscape. After numerous failed attempts to crawl on the bed sheet, in hope of getting a better view, the resignation arrived in the sacred sentence “That is our life too!”. On this episode he got insipiration for the painting “The Horizon” in which a red ribbon of solemn festivity blocks the landscape covering the horizon. What Bulatov wanted to express is that Soviet people are blinded by ideology: to become a work hero, a worthy son of the Soviet homeland, a man does not see the true purpose and beauty of life and the world around him. Bulatov achieves emotional contrast using the most lyrical landscapes of his motherland as a background and aggressively covering them with parade banners.

Erik Bulatov Freedom is Freedom II

Erik Bulatov ,Train

The big characters of the slogans which are displayed everywhere, in Bulatov’s works are similar to the bars of a prison: in the painting “Glory to the Communist Party of Soviet Union” (СЛАВА КПСС) the gigantic letters look like fresh blood almost completely covering the blue sky, ultimate symbol of freedom, letting the message of eternal slavery shine through. The message was so clear that even the most insensitive were able to perceive its anti-Soviet quality to the point that in 1975 the work was forbidden in the USSR. In 2008 the same work was bought by Philips for 2.5 million dollars, making Erik Bulatov the most evaluated Russian painter. The works of Bulatov demonstrate to the viewer the coexistence of different worlds and their interaction: the real world, the tangible world, opens up in the imaginary realm and the painted world. The gate between them is invisible.  The effect is one of participation and confusion of boundaries. It is reality free from impositions where one approaching enters an illusory world, but just getting away will make one free from any infatuation. Freedom of choice: this is the main motive of the art made by the “last of the Mohicans” of the Sixties, of the first delicate protest of these artists friends sharing destiny and closeness of thought.

Vlada Novikova

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Tarot Garden

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Tarot Garden

by Lorenza Zampa

Niki de Saint Phalle’s esoteric sculpture garden based on the Tarot cards, located in Tuscany, Italy. An astonishing project started in the late seventies and ended when Niki passed away in 2002.

Some parts of the 20 year long venture stand out in particular, starting from the beginning of the project when Niki de Saint Phalle was hospitalized in St. Moritz, in 1974, due to a pulmonary abscess caused by the excessive contact with polyester, raw material of her works. It’s there she finds Marella Agnelli Caracciolo, who she had previously met in New York during the fifties, and is able to explain and describe her the idea of a sculpture garden inspired by the 22 major arcana of the tarots. Marella is immediately enthusiastic and finds her a piece of land in Tuscany, in Garavicchio, so that Niki could start working on the kaleidoscopic Tarot Garden in Capalbio (Grosseto). From an unfortunate event, such as the prolonged convalescence of the artist, a majestic and ingenious project was born. And this was undoubtedly the sign of a fate that became benevolent to Saint Phalle.

What strikes is also how Niki was able to involve a large and varied group of people in creating her park, including locals such as the postman Ugo Celletti, who was responsible for building the small stone paths which outline the itinerary among the sculptures and «a true poet» – as Niki defined him – and master in the art of arranging the iridescent glass fragments, put on the bare bodies of the sculptures made of steel and concrete.

The symbolic and enchanted space comes to life and becomes a place to be fond of. Especially Niki, obviously, is very attached to her sculpture garden, so much that, in 1983 (after 5 years from the beginning of the project) she decides to move and live inside one of them, The Empress, that she defines as the «womb of her mother». Eventually in 1988 she moves again, this time in her new loft apartment she had built herself still inside the garden, in order, according to her, to “escape” from the Empress. At this point the artist is one with her creation and starts to feel the terrible weight of the all-embracing relationship.

The monumental and architectural sculptures that were shaped by the artist and her team, even thought they are adorned with a delicate and chromatic phantasmagoria of the countless mosaic tiles and appear a bit naif, are also powerful and obscure entities that judge silently whoever looks at them or walks through them. The suspended atmosphere that one can feel inside the Garden makes the visitors aware that silence is, in fact, a primary condition for every initiatory journey.

«The Arcana», as Jodorowsky said, «are structures that immediately promote fertile conditions». Fertile as the soft and sinuous bodies of the Tarots of Capalbio which represent the peak of Saint Phalle’s artistic research that started during the first half of the sixties with the first Nanas which marked the definitive break with her recent artistic path.

Among the most fascinating sculptures of the Garden we find The World, the last of the major Arcana: here an egg, symbolic common element in art history – we could mention for example the ostrich egg, sign of maternity and rebirth, hanging by a thread over the heads of the characters of the Sacred Conversations painted during the 16th century, worth mentioning is the Pala di Brera by Piero della Francesca – doesn’t appear over the heads of the characters but it’s instead placed underneath as a base for the feminine figure that stands on top of it on its left leg. There is also a colorful striped snake that wraps the golden egg and comes out from the curvy thigh of the mysterious woman. Is this the legendary cosmic snake that according to an ancient pagan myth holds tight in its coils the shell of the primordial egg that gave birth to life?

That’s hard to say. The word “orbit”, referred to the path of celestial bodies, in that case would come from orbes, the Latin word for the coils of the snake. But even the origin of the game of Tarots and its etymology are uncertain. It seems that the word “Tarot” belonged to several ancient cultures, both in the west and in the east, it is possible that it might come from the ancient Egyptian (tarot = tar+rot “royal”+“path”), or that has Tatar origin (tarot from tan-tara meaning zodiac) or even from Sanskrit (tarot as a combination of tat = “the whole” and tar-o = “fixed star) or Hebrew (tarot from tora meaning “law”); alternatively it could be of Latin derivation (from rota = “wheel”, or orat = “talk”) or also from Chinese (from tao = “the path to excellence”). We are indeed talking about ancestral knowledge with common roots.

Going back to Capalbio, the planning of further works in the Garden stop abruptly with the death of Saint Phalle as she left written in her will. And this is something else that we need to remember if only to underline the poetic essence of the artist’s stance, strict but right. Niki conceived a magical place, she built it and opened to the public still maintaining it uncontaminated and this was, is and will be her personal dream of a lifetime.

Lorenza Zampa

All images > Niki de Saint Phalle: The Tarot Garden

Photo, Fabrizia Di Palma © XIBT

Contemporary spaces around the entropic dynamics of everyday life

Contemporary spaces around the entropic dynamics of everyday life

by Alice Zucca

The human being has an innate inclination to catalog, classify, label anything, from the books on a shelf to the different tasks that are part of our daily schedule, to the objects placed on the top of a desk. Using the word “system” to indicate any portion of a material space, entropy, basically, represents the “degree of disorder” of said system. So: if the “disorder” increases we will have an increase in entropy as well, vice versa a decrease in “disorder” will result in a decrease in entropy itself. We tend to “put in order”! Or rather, we try to reduce entropy! Nature, on the other hand, seems to follow a diametrically opposite pattern: the wind and rain that crumble the rocks, reducing them to grains of sand, the earthquakes that destroy buildings are all events that obviously lead to an increase in entropy. So, does nature tend to chaos and disorder while we work to achieve harmony and precision? In reality, things are not quite like that. A radical perspective change is needed in order to approach the analysis of concepts that escape any attempt at observation that is conditioned by self-referential criteria. The indispensable prerequisite is the conscious acceptance of the limits deriving from the intrinsic imperfection of the human being. Then, it becomes possible to understand that the disorder, to which the inevitable triumph of entropy seems to lead us, is in reality a sublime order of infinite degree that simply transcends our ability to understand. The myth of novelty, as often pursued in the past, has died. What remains is the amusement that comes from an accumulation of experiences and a critical conscience that is filled with educated quotes, which serves as the chaotic setting of a lot of art of our time and implicitly is also a side effect that influences its access and the fruition of modern media which empowers – and guilty deforms – collective and individual memory.

In information theory, entropy is intended as a measure of predictability of a communication, or indicates that a message is open to a plurality of possible interpretations making it difficult and not immediate to understand. When there’s a feeling of losing control the human being is lost and tries to fight chaos to ensure tranquility and physical and psychological stability. The categorization of reality (of natural events, of climatic changes, of atmospheric dynamics, of the moods and of the rhythms generated by machinery in operation) takes place to achieve, through an elaborate analysis and synthesis process, a sort of measurement of the degree of disorder on the basis of which we define an acceptable equilibrium.

Levi Van Veluw, “The relativity of matter” 2017, Photo Giovanni Romboni

The entropic processes that dominate our daily lives can be seen in this sense in the silent darkness of Levi Van Veluw’s “The relativity of matter”, an experiential, intimate and claustrophobic installation with which the Dutch artist explores the theme of disorder and order. An actual room of a lone collector. We find ourselves thrown into an obsessive space, a multitude of icosahedrons in series neatly arranged on shelves, contrasting with a plane loaded with a myriad of objects of various shapes scattered without a precise order. A chair and a desk then allude to an absent protagonist who maniacally tries to have control of the universe through the stubborn attempt to classify matter. An attempt destined to fail due to the infinite variety of forms that matter itself is capable of taking.

Levi Van Veluw, “The relativity of matter” 2017, Photo Alice Zucca

The human brain acts in the same way. The idea that the brain is constantly committed to do an “inventory” of reality, classifying everything it perceives so that it can be labeled and homologated in a category, is true. Just as nature abhors emptiness, so the brain abhors chaos. Learning the most basic skills, the study of the most complex subjects, collecting memories, our whole existence is based on the ordering of information. That is the result of the unintentional and incessant commitment of our mind to the cataloging of reality, classifying everything that is perceived, so that it can be assigned a label and put it in a category and where it can be finally recognized.

Zimoun, 375 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated, cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm, 2017 video Alice Zucca

Starting from these assumptions, with his sound sculptures, articulated devices based on industrial objects of daily use that radiate the space with information that are mechanically produced by the naked materials of which they are composed, Zimoun explores mechanical rhythms and the acoustic consequences of their presence in space.

Zimoun, 375 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated, cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm
Zimoun 2017 – Photography by Zimoun ©
Courtesy the Artist

Especially peculiar is the choice to accompany the titles of his works with a meticulous and detailed list of materials and mechanical components used to achieve the ultimate formation of the composition; thus imposing on the observer a further stretch of imagination, which leads him, in the impossibility of foreseeing what happens in the multitude of random sound information received, to assume the role of accomplice of the artist in completing the cataloging / ordering of the work itself, despite the confusion of the random acoustic buzz of natural phenomena.

Zimoun, 375 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated, cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm, 2017 Photo Alice Zucca

Perhaps we should simply admit that, due to the limited perception of our senses and the limited analytical capacity of our mind, we as human beings, in the presence of the most precise, accurate and perfect order possible, would still end up considering it pure inextricable chaos.

Tomás Saraceno and the algorithms of infinite possibilities.

Tomás Saraceno and the algorithms of infinite possibilities.

The installations by Tomás Saraceno have the anguish of the trap and the safety of the nest. The work of the Argentine artist, who lives and works in Berlin, is also inspired by the world of spiders. There are many species of arachnids and all of them have something in common: they are aggressive, lucid, agile and without mercy. Yet in Saraceno’s installations, one perceives pleasure and calm. This is also what happens in the exhibition Algo-r (h) i (y) thms on display at the Esther Schipper Gallery in Berlinfrom November 16 to December 21. The artist built a structure that recalls a web, made of ropes of various sizes. The visitors are invited to enter the network and diverge within it. When a visitor touches, plucks or even caresses the strings, thanks to the tiny microphones mounted on the different ropes, they produce frequencies similar to those of micro and macroscopic scientific phenomena: from reproducing the signal of courtship of spiders to the melodies of the electrons of galactic nebulae. When more people touch the strings, the huge spider web resounds with synchronicity.

Tomás Saraceno, 610 MHz (MACSJ2243.3-0935 / Radio Halo), 2018 Algo-r(h)i(y)thms, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2019 Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin Photo © Andrea Rossetti

The universe of spiders is further explored on the “” website, a living comprehensive archive developed by his team at Studio Tomás Saraceno, and through the “Arachnomancy App” a digital tool used to not only interact with the Arachnomancy cards that were presented in the artist’s recent installation at the Venice Biennale but that has also the aim to collectively map spider extinction. Being deaf and often blind, arachnids interact with the surrounding world through vibrations transmitted by the movements of their web. Only on very rare occasions they communicate with other spiders. For example during mating, motherhood and, rarely, to share a prey. In general, the only contact they have is with the victim, even when this is another spider. That’s because they are also cannibals. Algo-r (h) i (y) thms, title of the exhibition, has an ambivalent meaning; the combination of the words in Greek refers to multiplicity, to the concept of entanglement in physics, and to a possible and harmonious coexistence of different elements; but an “algorithm” is also a mathematical procedure for simplifying a complex system. In some ways it is associated with a form of control of few over many. The term Algo-r (h) i (y) thms can also be intended as the union of the words some (Algo) + rhythms – meaning different and various rhythms to be played in an orchestra which is the universe reflected in the diverse sounds that are present in the installation of which the visitor is the maestro.

© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2018 *
* Tomás Saraceno, Webs of At-tent(s)ion (detail), 2018, Installation view at ON AIR, carte blanche exhibition to Tomás Saraceno, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2018. Curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel. Courtesy of the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin.© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2018

In Saraceno’s works, dimensions of the organic and inorganic, human and non-human coexist, building unpredictable rhythms and trajectories as in the On Airexhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel. Saraceno is also taking part in another project: Areocene, “an interdisciplinary artistic collaborative community that seeks to devise new ways of sensitivity, reactivating a common imagination towards an ethical collaboration with the environment and the atmosphere, free from carbon emissions”.

Tomás Saraceno, Aero(s)cene: When breath becomes air, when atmospheres become the movement for a post fossil fuel era against carbon-capitalist clouds, 2019
Installation view of Acqua Alta: En Clave de Sol, 2019 at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, titled May You Live In Interesting Times, curated by Ralph Rugoff.
Data livestream kindly provided by Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree, City of Venice.
Courtesy the artist; Aerocene Foundation; Andersen’s, Copenhagen; Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
/ Los Angeles; Pinksummer Contemporary Art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin.
© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2019

At the Venice Biennale 2019, May you live in interesting times, curated by Ralph Rugoff, two new installations presented in the Giardini and in the Gaggiandre of the Arsenale, offered a common space to exercise sensitivity towards the intertwining of all things; The Spider / Web Pavilion 7: Oracle Readings, Weaving Arachnomancy, Synanthropic Futures: At-ten (t) sion to invertebrate rights !, a room in which a series of webs float above tarot cards specifically made for the occasion. Aero(s)scene: When breath becomes air, when atmospheres become the movement for a post fossil fuel era against carbon-capitalist cloudsis an installation composed of a sculpture On the disappearance of clouds, and Acqua Alta en clave de Sol, a sound installation where the elements of water, earth, and air become an integral part of the work. 

Tomás Saraceno’s research reaches from biology to architecture,from art to astrophysics, adhering to an almost Renaissance idea of the art of universal knowledge. After studying art and architecture in Buenos Aires, Frankfurt am Main, and Venice, Saraceno settled in Frankfurt in 2005 and then moved to Berlin in 2012. His studio has a series of departments that deal with the research and development of various projects. Among others, Saraceno has also exhibited at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires (2017), at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2016); and at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2011). What is most fascinating about Saraceno’s work is the possible coexistence of opposites and the construction of an agile and independent alternative system to our reality, which eludes the discomfort of confrontation, the evolutionary power of crisis as well as the betrayal of anguish.

Elda Oreto

Tomás Saraceno, Aero(s)cene: When breath becomes air, when atmospheres become the movement for a post fossil fuel era against carbon-capitalist clouds, 2019 Installation view of On the Disappearance of Clouds, 2019 at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, titled May You Live In Interesting Times, curated by Ralph Rugoff. Courtesy the artist; Aerocene Foundation; Andersen’s, Copenhagen; Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles; Pinksummer Contemporary Art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2019
Tomás Saraceno, Algo-r(h)i(y)thms, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2019 Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin Photo © Andrea Rossetti

Walead Beshty: tangible transparencies

Walead Beshty: tangible transparencies

Walead Beshty´s artwork takes on the archetype of a traveler as they acquire meaning in their journey around the world. The somewhat damaged outcomes of his work are co-produced through largely globalized systems that concern the crossing of borders. These include packaging standards, global distribution methods and border control systems.

FedEx® Large Kraft Box ©2008 FEDEX 330510 REV 6/08 GP, International Priority, Los Angeles–Tokyo trk#778608512056, March 9–13, 2017

If you read the above as a shipping document, you are not mistaken. Indeed, this descriptive fragmented sentence is both a shipping label and the name of one of the artworks in Walead Beshty’s most iconic series, FedEx Glass Works. A living project, comprised of several laminated see-through glass boxes of different sizes and dimensions displayed next to their corresponding FedEx shipping box in which they were transported. The names/labels which can run three lines long serve as both a historical record of the artwork’s journey and a linguistic manifestation of the relational aesthetics embedded in Beshty’s art practice.  Certainly, if one could sum up the wide range of Walead Beshty’s artistic oeuvre in a few words then “tangible transparencies” would be a fitting definition.  Whether it is via “flat”  outputs like his photograms or three-dimensional artefacts like the FedEx boxes, Beshty’s work is a reflective poetic acknowledgement of the entire creative process.  His full disclosure of the creative output doesn’t regard just the relational aesthetics during the set-up and display stages but also accounts for the materiality and the procedural development of the object creation. His photograms may be viewed as an artistic investigation of the medium itself.  They reflect his interest in the material components of photography rather than in the final image and its composition.  They are made by exposing photographic paper to light using predetermined set of rules which Beshty changes and adjusts while in the darkroom.  He explains “I think of it kin to game or gambling where a game is important not because of the outcome … parameters of that game are what make that game significant or create possibilities and I am more interested in these forces and how these forces can play out”.

Beshty’s photographic examination of the medium can be traced to a long lineage of experimentation starting with Man Ray’s rayographs in the 1920s and continuing with Beshty’s contemporaries such as James Welling and Liz Deschenes. However, unlike them, Beshty does not limit his artistic inquiry of medium materiality to photography alone. In his recent works which were displayed at Regen Projects gallery in Miami in 2018, Beshty experimented with ready-made sculptures and copper. He explains that “a meandering set of questions found a kind of form within an art context for me.”  These questions revolve around the same persistent theme of his practice, that is the analysis of the creative process and material transparency. Why and how do things appear the way they are to us? What is the relationship between an object and its frame or support structure? Stemming from the belief that all the forms of reception and production are fluidly integrated, Beshty’s latest artworks attempt to compose a narrative to showcase “how objectes were integrated into the systems that generated them”. For example, in his 2014 Transparencies photograms, Beshty exposed photographic film to airport security x-ray machines obtaining unplanned blue colour variation planes. It was the journey of the reactive photographic paper to its surrounding environment that shaped the outcome.  

Similarly, the high reactive quality of copper is what prompted Beshty to use it in his 2017 Surrogates modular artwork and subsequent metal sculptures thereafter.  He explains, “what initially intrigued me about copper was the way it was so reactive to its physical circumstance … reflective and mirror-like … it casts an image of its surroundings as it absorbs the effects of those surroundings”. Beshty’s unwavering fascination with the materiality of the object, its production process and its contextual reception continues to be the driving factor of his artistic inquiry.  He may work across different forms from photography to performance art (Mirrored Floor Works, 2009) and he may produce artworks of different sizes, shapes and colour, but the essence of his work always remains the same.

Hania Afifi



Jordan Wolfson is considered a post-internet artist, He was hailed as the Jeff Koons of the millennial generation who took inspiration from the contemporary information and consumer society. Born in the early 1980s, he achieved commercial success and collaborated with one of New York’s most notable art galleries, David Zwirner. His work attracts attention due to the formal solutions he uses his style of practice. Furthermore his objects wisely focus on themes that are crucial in this era and these days of social changes. Primarily, the comparison between Jordan Wolfson and Jeff Koons seems to actually reflect the commercial nature of their works. Both make use of various media in different unorthodox ways. Thanks to robotisation the sculptures gain very futuristic features. This means that seemingly prosaic objects like a doll or a mannequin become avantgarde and get the ability to move according to programmed guidelines. The creatures declare maxims that are important for Wolfson, while pop songs by artists such as Nicki Minaj or Lady Gaga play in the background serving as an ambiguous composition of polyphony that involves both media and contexts.

Jordan Wolfson, Detail of Colored sculpture, 2016
Mixed media, Dimensions variable with installation
Courtesy: the artist, David Zwirner

Jordan Wolfson creates a narrative with theatrical situations. This is what happens in the Colored Sculpture installation, in which a puppet with red hair and digital eyes, guided by a machine, communicates a bombastic monodrama which sounds like a threat. The artist’s recorded voice could suggest that he identifies with the characters he has created, although, as he claims, there is room for interpretation. In the situations he creates, the artist plays a supporting role which is definitely a  marked by strong emotions and extremism more in general.

Jordan Wolfson, (Female figure), 2014, installation view, David Zwirner, New York. © Mixed media. Overall dimensions vary with each installation. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York. Ph: Jonathan Smith

Percy Sledge’s song “When a man loves a woman” resounded in the white gallery walls during the MANIC / LOVE / TRUTH / LOVE exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Teijin Auditorium in Amsterdam in 2016. It was played from time to time and provided the background to an abstract expositional situation, with the raw sound of the puppet falling on the floor that was intertwined with the words. The whole act was complemented by the aforementioned monodrama of a boy whose appearance recalls a mixture of American icons such as Huckleberry Finn, Howdy Doody and Alfred E. Neuman. It sounded as follows: 

Two to kill you, three to hold you, four to bleed you, five to touch you, six to move you, seven to ice you, eight to put my teeth in you, nine to put my hand on you, ten to end inside you hair, eleven you’re right over my shoulder, twelve your mouth full of coffee, twelve I knew you, thirteen I killed you, fourteen you’re blind, fifteeen you’re spoiled, sixteen to lift you, seventeen to show you, eighteen to weigh you, spit earth! 

It can be assumed that the computer-controlled sculpture yells these words strictly to the machine itself that incapacitates him. The function is to reproduce an act between the two entities as if they were in a toxic relationship that has been programmed to resemble difficult and drastic love.

Jordan Wolfson, Riverboat song, 2017-2018, Sixteen (16) monitor video wall, 8:24 min,color, sound Dimensions vary with installation, Courtesy: the artist, David Zwirner

The sixteen channel video installation titled Riverboat Song is an extension of the story presented in Colored Sculpture. This time the character moves to a digital environment in which the song “Work” by Iggy Azalea is the main background. The character performs sensual dance moves in the rhythm of the song telling about the complicated path to the singer’s success: I’m not hating, I’m just telling you I’m tryna let you know what the fuck that I’ve been through. The red-haired boy is wearing black heels, it can be assumed that they are the same Loubotin’s that Azalea herself is singing about. They are something that gives confidence to both characters. They manifest the status of a busy and successful artist. Then his body begins to change. The sensual nature of the movements is transformed into vulgarity, huge breasts and buttocks grow out of the character, but quickly detach from the body and become a separate creature. At the very end, the character also loses his face. At first, the entire video may look like randomly selected scenes. However, they are full of symbolism that is not explicitly stated. Wolfson’s visual manifestation encourages people to search for their own contexts. One of the most important scenes are those directed directly at the viewer. The character is not afraid to speak to the observer directly: I’d like you to love you more than anything. And do as I say: Be strong empowered, sexy, stylish and sassy.

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Liu Wei

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Liu Wei


Liu Wei’s artistic stance can be very briefly summarized by saying that the idea of art should not be intended as a creative action but rather as a “product” of extrapolation. Wei extracts from what already exists, new ways of interaction and fruition, capsizing the perspective and allowing us to see reality from a different angle. In doing so, Liu Wei experiments with several ways of expressing himself through the various disciplines of figurative art, producing his works by using diversified physical supports, in constant research for the best approach which would let him convey his message in the most efficient manner. He challenges us, provoking us to investigate our ability to grab the essence of reality, suggesting that our very attempt to comprehend it might disturb it due to the effort we put in trying to understand. The artist works with everyday objects which he re-elaborates and reorganizes converting them into complex installations. This process is never the result of pure chance, instead it is thoroughly thought out and consciously contextualized in a semantic stratification with the aim to deliberately induce in the viewer an instinctive and unavoidable reaction.  When it comes down to reproducing reality the key features of Wei’s work point inevitably to architecture and urban planning, in his analysis he has a positive opinion of the city as a space full of vital energy but he criticizes the structure and organization of life in urban areas. Growing up in Beijing during a period of strong urbanization, he was a witness of the uncontrolled expansion of the Chinese capital city and he found himself spontaneously driven to make buildings and cities as subjects of his works identifying them as a concrete and effective model for reality. 

Liu Wei, Purple Air 2016 No.1, 2016, Oil on canvas, 300×300 cm , © Liu Wei, Courtesy  Long March Space

In the “Purple Air” series, geometric shapes and digital lines recall vibrant urban landscapes, here Liu Wei makes use of digital techniques. The digital world is an infinite set of zero and one, which can be anything and its opposite, where everything already exists. Therefore, here, the choice has to be considered the only creative action possible. This is not meant to diminish or limit the artistic creativity since the digital realm offers a virtually unlimited number of options and, as the artist himself says, “this makes it more real, because life is a constant choice”.  The investigation of reality and existence are the keystone of his research, so urbanization and its consequences establish themselves as a fundamental part of Liu Wei’s art. 

Liu Wei, Discovery, No.17, 2006, Lightbox Dimensions variable © Liu Wei, Courtesy Lehmann Maupin 

In his 2006 series called “Property of L.W.”, here the artist, through the application of a label which recalls the title of the series, claims property of the debris coming from buildings which were demolished following the hectic urban growth which affected the city of Beijing amongst others. Taking inspiration from the practice of Duchamp’s ready-made objects, he goes a step further, also approaching a social connotation. Through labeling the objects with his name he wants to expose the fast obsolescence of goods in the age of consumerism and the human labor which is closely intertwined with it and it’s subjected to the same fate. Liu Wei’s art takes the ordinary, the usual, what is familiar and we gather almost unaware, and turns it into something to view from another perspective, detached from the eye of the common consumer but still linking it to the reality surrounding us which remains his preferred field of action.

Liu Wei, Panorama No.3, 2015-2016, Oil on canvas, 300×180 cm , © Liu Wei, Courtesy  Long March Space

Liu Wei’s work cleverly mixes fantasy and rationality. Comparing the unruly chaos of the contemporary urban landscape with the strict order of rigorously controlled political and social structures to accomplish a peculiar standard of artistic transposition. His multifaceted compositions (of digital lines, geometrical structures, found objects and so on) inevitably end up always evoking the urban layout of the contemporary city and the values, laws and feelings regulating the life of the inhabitants that animate it. And it is from the urban context and its being intertwined with the life of men, that his compositions arise, transporting the observer in the midst of a lively daily environment full of architectural structures and stimulating social interactions.

Liu Wei, Panorama No.2, 2015-2016, Oil on canvas, 350 x 800 cm, Installation view, Al Riwaq, Doha, 2016
Photograph: Wen-You Cai, Courtesy  Long March Space

Liu Wei’s paintings in fact depict architecture and urban life but, according to the artist, this is not a theme that he intentionally decided to explore, but he does so because buildings and cities are the model of human existence in itself. He transfigures urban architecture to describe anthropic life by using the buildings of the city to represent a model of the human condition. The large amount of objects found and used by Wei such as wood, various metals, water pipes, fixtures and other waste, is used to create large-scale structures that connect to the surrounding landscape becoming an integral part of the place where they come from. There is an evident creative correlation between the physical mass of objects and the function they had in the context from which they were extrapolated. In this perspective, it is easy to understand how the study of the development of the urban landscape leads the artist to inevitably analyze complex socio-political topics. According to Wei, art and politics are not connected in an abstract manner but they are concretely linked and always affiliated to the human existence, conditioning our lifestyle and our reality.

Liu Wei, Love It, Bite It No.3, 2014, Ox-hide, wood, steel, dimensions variable, Installation view, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 2015 © Liu Wei, Courtesy  Long March Space

Love it! Bite it! is a miniature representation of a city with some of the most representative buildings of western society. It is built entirely from dogs chews and eloquently expresses the artist’s critical position regarding wealthy in society. Each building appears as decadent, evoking a sense of total destruction. When the artist happened to see his dog licking an ox’s ear (the ox’s ear in China is a metaphor for authority) he thought of removing from the city all the buildings that represented a symbol of the power. He compares man’s desire for power and with the dog’s desire to chew in order to present his spectacular and grotesque view of the world. The 25 buildings, from the Pentagon to St. Peter’s Basilica, from the Colosseum to the Guggenheim, from Tiananmen Square to the United States Capitol in Washington and the Tate Modern, are evocative emblems of political, cultural or military power. By showing us these buildings the artist encourages our disorientation, they are famous symbols of power deliberately made with fragile and malleable materials, they have their details distorted as if they were to crumble together with what they represent. The result is an impressive, emblematic and decadent post-apocalyptic scenario.

Alice Zucca

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Sohei Nishino

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Sohei Nishino

by Alice Zucca

“Cities amplify themselves, repeatedly. They emerge and disappear while they continue to integrate themselves”. It’s this consideration that motivated Japanese photographer Sohei Nishino to start his journeys from place to place and create his impressive panoramic series, made of thousands of photographs combined, half way between a map and a diorama. Sohei’s experience is not just a mere transposition of topography into collage, Nishino exacerbates the concept of topographic mapping, extending it to different aspects of the existent, to the experience of men in space and in time, integrating his personal point of view. 

Sohei Nishino, Shangai, 2004

In making his urban panoramas he doesn’t differ much from the modus operandi of ancient cartography – Sohei himself admits being influenced by the observations made at the beginning of the 19th century by Japanese cartographer Inō Tadataka and considers them the frame of reference for the beginning of his artistic research. The rigorous precision of satellite photography was not available to ancient cartographers. Therefore the distorted perception of spaces, derived from an exploration of the territory where the perspective of the observer was inevitably limited at ground level, led to an aleatory reconstruction during the mapping process. The final representation wasn’t truthful to the real proportions of the space analyzed but gave more importance to what was useful for the exploitation of natural resources or for commercial exchanges, more in general, to what served men for their understanding and experiencing of the world around them, consequently enhancing social activity.

Sohei Nishino, Rio de Janeiro, 2011

In the work of Sohei Nishino the planimetric view comes from his interpretation and aims to give an overall view of different levels (geographic, social, and emotional), of what’s visible and not visible that shape, model and animate our cities. The artist elaborates his concepts adding up details constituting a transgression from the exact planimetric rules which need to be scrupulously followed in order to analyze the spaces realistically and transpose them into the language of cartography: it is a conscious disobedience which overturns the functional role of the map.

Sohei Nishino, The Po, 2017 Courtesy MAST Foundation, Bologna

While working on his recent piece The Po”, Sohei claims to have found in the element of water the driving force of the world, something inextricably connected to the human existence. Nishino “flies” over the longest river in Italy, the Po, which being 650 km long, runs through 4 regions of northern Italy, providing water to those lands which helped the industrial fabric of the country to thrive. Sohei’s artistic research is not limited to the mere transposition of geography in the form of collage, it’s much more than that. He started his journey on the mount Monviso, at the border between France and Italy, and travelled for 45 days, from Turin he followed the river towards the Adriatic sea. During his itinerary he was able to experience the cultural and political environment of these places, meeting the locals who live in the area, fishermen, children, woodsmen, mixing with them and creating a portrait of the human presence near the bed of the river in an image which is able to picture the land, time and memories. A combination of 30 thousand photographs reproduces the essence of the river, a result Nishino was able to achieve after a meticulous and very long process.

Sohei Nishino, The Po, 2017 Courtesy MAST Foundation, Bologna

He works alone, in a sort of solitary ritual he develops the films in a darkroom, hundreds and hundreds of rolls which he then places onto contact sheets and subsequently cuts to shape, one by one. It’s an infinite and repetitive action which makes him recall his personal experience through the memory of the places he visited, their history, society, buildings, and the people he met who resurface united in their own uniqueness in the general view of the whole picture. The photographic process for Nishino is the unit of measurement between himself and the world – in the same manner a map fulfills its  purpose – and his practice of reconstruction of reality and memory means that every physical movement – both during the production and the elaboration of the project – is strictly connected to the micro and macro perspectives in the depiction of the existent. The different perceptive qualities of the space in our environment don’t alter the space itself, but they intrude our way of experiencing it, making us feel it, from time to time, as a familiar or an alien place. 

Sohei Nishino, San Francisco, 2016

It seems clear that the geographic transposition, which is the product of the emotive reconstruction of the places analyzed, in the end is realistic in its essence, even with its surreal quality that enables us to have a broader view of the spaces during their transformations, enhancing the connections between the human activity and its surroundings, relations that inevitably get lost in the turmoil of the different points of view which are the cause of individual and deceptive perceptions. We could take as an example the points of reference of a child, forced to experience reality from below, determining a peculiar viewpoint that is incompatible with the angle of view of an adult who observes the same reality from above. This is a very interesting aspect if we consider that our perception is therefore always fundamentally illusory and that photography in itself, as a tool, questions our knowledge of reality.

Sohei Nishino, NYC

Misleading perspectives then, where everything is hiding behind something else, in a stratification of visible and invisible levels of the urban landscape and of the assumptions of the people populating it. The map of a city which exists but it’s invisible, where the speculative imagination has to alleviate the lack of descriptive intents of the conventional means of representation of reality. The I-Land and Yama series well represent this shift of reality to the mnemonic imaginative. 

Sohei Nishino, YAMA

Working on Yama, Sohei climbs a certain mountain for a period of time, studying it and photographing fixed points documenting the change of vegetation over time. The result is the collage of an ideal mountain which exists but at the same time doesn’t exist in reality. Nishino with his shots captures its transformation and eventually its perception during the different time periods, it is always the same mountain but it’s depicted in its life cycle.

Sohei Nishino, YAMA

In I-Land, an evolution of Nishino’s diorama maps, the Japanese artist recreates an ideal city from scratch, using photographic fragments from various urban spaces, it is, in fact, a reconstruction of a particular city of personal memory, obtained through the interaction and the relationship between memory and reality, a series of past experiences that recall sensations which come from experiencing certain places that are still alive in our thoughts and in our memories.

Sohei Nishino, I-LAND

Furthermore every imaginary place on one hand echoes and sublimates our perception of everyday life, on the other hand highlights and keeps track of the multifaceted and varied reality that we pretend to understand and rule but incontrovertibly transcends our comprehension, leaving us often stunned and disoriented. Sohei’s maps, like every map, document information about space, but he travels mainly “through time” in search for an unknown past or a possible future transfigured into somebody else’s present. Moreover every thing that exists intersects the imaginative, influencing the intertwined relationship between reality and subjective perceptions, always misleading and intrinsically unreliable. 

Alice Zucca

Martine Gutierrez: Fashion indigeneity.

Martine Gutierrez: Fashion indigeneity.

Gender sensitive, Latino, Queer, Martine Gutierrez’s work is all of this. Born in 1989 in Berkeley, California and raised in Vermont, she is of Guatemalan origin, those same origins that characterize and influence a large part of her work. After studying at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Gutierrez begins to examine through the use of various media the relationship between being indigenous and her own image, and she does it through the tracks of gender and ethnicity. As she herself said in an interview,“being black and transsexual is very cool today”; Aware ofthis aspect, Gutierrez takes advantage of it to extend her controversy against the prevaricator, that western world that superficially misappropriates the expressions of Latin culture, almost as if they were an exotic fashion.

Martine Gutierrez, Masking, Plantain Mask, p52 from Indigenous Woman, 2018. © Martine Gutierrez; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

To carry out this type of criticism, the artist uses her own personal mythology, appropriating the language and means of the fashion system. In autum 2018 Gutierrez presented atthe Ryan Lee Gallery Indigenous Women, a project which had kept her busy for four years. The work is presented as a glossy magazine entirely conceived and created by her, for this endeavour the artist has taken on the role of editor, photographer, stylist, model and director, carefully studying the language of advertising. The world of fashion and pop culture have always had a certain charm on Gutierrez, and in fact for Indigenous Women she makes extensive use of the aesthetics of fashion magazines to communicate her artistic research. The cover is a not so subtle tribute to AndyWarhol’s Interview Magazine, and in the 146 pages various photoshoots are featured in which the artist’s image is always protagonist together with her “dolls”, always displayed and positioned carefully in the shots.

Martine Gutierrez, Demons, Queer Rage, Growing Up Bites, p64 from Indigenous Woman, 2018. © Martine Gutierrez; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

The criticism of the western “white” world is eloquent in photographs such as White wash Ad, where at the center of the composition there is a white bar of soap and on its packaging the inscription saying: “100% purebleach… because sometimes white is right”, or in Queer Rage, P.S. Your parents are nuts in which a Barbie and a rag doll, typical of Latino cultures, appear as if they are in a comparison. In the photographs dedicated to beauty face masks, another Western beauty obsession, Gutierrez pays tribute to Irving Penn and Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings, covering the features of the faces with plants and food elements.

Martine Gutierrez, Demons, Yemaya ‘Goddess of the Living Ocean,’ p94 from Indigenous Woman, 2018. © Martine Gutierrez; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

In the artist’s work there is also a reference to the Latina muse par excellence, Frida Kahlo, who immediately comes to mind by looking at the photographic self-portraits. Furthermore in a series of Indigenous Women, Demons, Gutierrez personifies several pre-colonial Aztec deities, such as Tlazolteotl (goddess of lust), Xochiquetzal(goddess of beauty), Chin (divinity associated with homosexuality), whose iconographies are well suited to communicate the opposing concepts of duality and gender fluidity; that same fluidity that is emanated by the photograpic advertisement for the perfumeDel’Estrogen, which recalls Greed by Francesco Vezzoliand, if we want to go back even further, Duchamp’s Belle Haleine. Gutierrez took part in the Venice Biennale 2019, exhibiting in the Central Pavilion and in the Giardini with her work Body en thrall, a series of photos mainly in black and white taken from Indigenous Women, in which the male element is complementary and placed in the shadow enhancing the image of the artist. Martine Gutierrez currently lives and works in Brooklyn and is represented by Ryan Lee Gallery in NewYork.

Dolores Pulella





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