JEAN-FRÉDÉRIC SCHNYDER at EVA PRESENHUBER, NEW YORK

JEAN-FRÉDÉRIC SCHNYDER at EVA PRESENHUBER, NEW YORK

EVA PRESENHUBER, NEW YORK

Until April 19 2020

COVID-19 UPDATES > open by appointment only until further notice

Schnyder began producing experimental objects in the late 1960s within the context of pop art and has since gone on to create a broad oeuvre encompassing photographs, sculptures, paintings, objects, and installations. Conceptually and radically open in his artistic process, each series of works he creates leads to a new experimental arrangement. Accordingly, Schnyder does not simply adhere to an overarching concept, but rather meticulously focuses upon his subject, thereby coming up with ever-new concepts. The result of this unique openness is an oeuvre full of discontinuity; some of his approaches are so different from each other that they seem to be all but mutually exclusive.

In this exhibition, Schnyder gives us an overview of his paintings from the 1970s up until 2000, and shows the room-installation Hüter der Schwelle (Guardians of the threshold) from 2014. In the 42 predominantly small-format pictures, which the artist has arranged especially for this presentation, one can witness surprising continuities and breaks in Schnyder’s work, which offer a glimpse into his thinking process. 

The only large-format canvas on view, Stillleben (Still Life) from 1970, is one of Schnyder’s first paintings. It was initially shown in 1971 at La Biennale Paris together with the pictures Akt (Act) and Landschaft (Landscape). This exhibition was a sensation in more than one way. Just two years earlier, Schnyder had displayed conceptual objects in the exhibition When Attitude Becomes Form at Kunsthalle BernTherefore, paintings constituted a new medium for the artist, and displaying paintings in Paris meant going against the grain, as the medium was considered passé in the early 1970s. The Paris show was indeed not attuned to painting, so much so that Schnyder displaying paintings was interpreted as a unique conceptual statement, even though the works were not created under the guise of a concept, but rather reflected the artist’s genuine interest in a medium he was beginning to discover for himself. Many important aspects of later works can be found in Stillleben (Still Life). 

Stillleben, Akt, Landschaft (Still Life, Act, Landscape) represent the three most common motifs in art history. This interest in existing and common practices is typical of the artist. It is almost impossible to discern a stylistic development within Schnyder’s oeuvre; style never being an aspect of the painter’s individual development, but rather a means the artist draws upon for each painting or series. For this reason, his works are stylistically highly heterogeneous. 

From 1982 to 1983, Schnyder created his first series of plein air paintings: the Berner Veduten (Vedute of Bern), encompassing 128 paintings. At the time, the artist had no studio, which is why he adopted the tradition of plein air painting and began to work outdoors in Bern and surrounding areas. Drawing upon veduta motifs typical of the works of painters like Ferdinand Hodler, he again turned to the commonplace. However, he did not act as a copyist, being primarily interested in the process of painting itself. The landscapes are precise; he did not exclude a single pylon or vapor trail, which might have been removed from a romantic landscape. Inversely, Schnyder not only discovered new details in the landscapes but also in the paintings he referred to. Thus, he over accentuated artistic effects such as the corona of a sunrise in a work by Hodler, thereby reflecting the beholder’s own vision of art history.

In his subsequent plein air studies, Schnyder intensified and expanded this focus on art history and the Swiss landscapes depicted. His Bänkli-Bilder (Pictures from Benches —five of which are on display (So liebt Gott die Welt, Bei Kerzers, Stürmische Winde aus Nordwest, Das Prättigau bei Grüsch, Milten bei SchleintheimThus God Loves the World, At Kerzer’s, Stormy Winds from the North-West, The Prättigau near Grüsch, Milten near Scheinheim)—were all painted from the vantage points of different public benches. In this group lies an irresistible logic typical to Schnyder’s approach:

on the one hand, the painter does not have to choose a specific section of the landscape; on the other, these are exactly the perspectives that hikers and those walking encounter daily. Moreover, a large selection of benches allows for an encyclopedic capturing of his subject. It is part and parcel of Schnyder’s exact practice and his photographic vision that the view, which might have been unspoiled before the bench was installed, is not untouched by the time the painting was produced.

The precision and totality with which Schnyder captures his motifs lead to an ambiguity, which does not stem from an ironic attitude, but an exact perception of reality. His perspective brings something repressed to the fore like pylons or motorways, which do not fit into the archetype of romanticized Swiss landscapes but have become an accepted part of these landscapes. 

In his studio works, which include figurative and abstract pieces, Schnyder carves out this difference between the pictorial and the symbolic order. This is most obvious in the abstract Studie XVIII (Study XVIII) in which a canvas primed in green bears an also green relief spelling the letters ROT, German for red. ROT is not red.

In this extraordinary way, Schnyder projects theoretical discussions onto the canvas itself. His interest in practical solutions lets him create certain archetypes, such as a torso featuring color as the body of painting, or one of the golden rules of painting—“Fett auf Mager (fat over lean)”—painted over a canvas he did not paint himself but bought. Schnyder’s solution of how to paint another classic motif, flowers, is to draw upon a static system of pixels reminding one of early digital aesthetics as well as of color field paintings of the beginning of the 20th century. These floral paintings seem so lucid that they amount to a color theory one can perceive with one’s senses.

The paintings are accompanied by the 22-part lamp installation Hüter der Schwelle (Guardians of the threshold), which consists of banana cartons bearing holes resembling faces, but also reminiscent of typical box handles. Thus, an everyday object becomes a form. Schnyder and his family moved around Switzerland often and, in the course of these relocations, accumulated many boxes. In 2012, Schnyder decided to use the boxes as material for his sculptures and, in doing so, repurposed every part of this moving good from the cardboard to small metal brackets. The notion of reusing materials and giving them new life can also be seen in certain of Schnyder’s abstract paintings, where he saves leftover pigment from other works and then applies them with a scraper in a burst of riotous color.

The installation and the 42 paintings on display are so diverse that their assembly does not seem to make sense at first sight. However, the logic exists precisely in the fact that single works and series are the results of a rigidly methodical process, while the whole goes far beyond these systems. In the series themselves, insanity has found its system while Schnyder’s work defies any kind of systemization.

Jean-Frédéric Schnyder was born in 1945 in Basel, CH. He lives and works in Zug, CH. His first solo exhibition organized by Eva Presenhuber at Galerie Walcheturm in Zurich took place in 1993, followed by another in 1996. A solo exhibition at Galerie Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber took place in 1999. At Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, Schnyder has had solo exhibitions in 2004, 2010, and 2019. In 2018, Eva Presenhuber, New York showed the body of works Am Thunersee in a solo exhibition. Schnyder contributed to the La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, IT (2013); La Biennale Paris, Paris, FR (1985 and 1971); Documenta 5, Kassel, DE (1972); and Documenta 7, Kassel, DE (1982). Recent solo exhibitions have taken place in international institutions including Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, CH (2014); Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, CH (2013); Ca’ Corner della Regina Venice, Venice, IT (2013); Le Consortium, Dijon, FR (2012); and The Swiss Institute / Contemporary Art, New York, US (2011). Group exhibitions in major museums include Zeitgeist, MAMCO – Musée d´art moderne et contemporain, Geneve, CH (2017); Das Fotobuch und seine Autoren, Swiss National Library, Bern, CH (2015); Drawings from the Ringier Collection Chapter I, Villa Flora Winterthur – Sammlung Hahnloser, Winterthur, CH (2015); and Ferdinand Hodler, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, CH (2014).

Tillmann Severin

Photo: Matt Grubb, Installation view, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Eva Presenhuber, New York, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York

Tuan Andrew Nguyen, A Lotus in a Sea of Fire

Tuan Andrew Nguyen A Lotus in a Sea of Fire

James Cohan, New York

28 February – 03 May, 2020

Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s work explores the power of storytelling through video and sculpture. His projects are based on extensive research and community engagement, tapping into inherited histories and counter-memory. Nguyen extracts and re-works dominant, oftentimes colonial histories and supernaturalisms into imaginative vignettes. Fact and fiction are interwoven in poetic narratives that span time and place.

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
The Boat People (still)
2020
Single-channel video, 4k, Super 16mm transferred to digital, color, 5.1 surround sound
Ed. of 5 + 2 AP

The centerpiece of the exhibition is The Boat People, a single channel video installation displayed alongside hand-carved wooden sculptural objects. Set in an unspecified post-apocalyptic future at the precarious edge of humanity’s possible extinction, the film follows a band of children led by a strong-willed and resourceful little girl. Calling themselves The Boat People, they travel the seas and collect the stories of a world they never knew through objects that survived over time. The group replicates the objects they discover in wood as a way to piece together a history they are trying to understand. They then burn the carvings and scatter the ashes in the ocean to set the objects free. The little girl, who we discover is the last woman on earth, comes face to face with a mysterious statue head buried in the sand on the beach. They engage in a dialogue that explores concepts of a future and a past world through an existential lens. This dialogue, both literally and figuratively, brings the dead object to life again.

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
The Boat People (still)
2020
Single-channel video, 4k, Super 16mm transferred to digital, color, 5.1 surround sound
Ed. of 5 + 2 AP

The video centers itself around a series of objects found in and around Bataan, Philippines and anchors itself to the multiple layers of history in wars, migration, and perseverance contained in the land itself. Several of the beautifully hand-carved and charred wooden replicas that populate the video are displayed in the gallery. Ritual burning has a long and complex history throughout Southeast Asia, both in the Philippines and in Vietnam, where today people burn paper currency and votive replicas of contemporary luxury items—houses, cars, smartphones folded from paper—as an offering of good fortune to their dead. In The Boat People, fire is used as a metaphor for remembrance, creating a porosity between the realms of the living and the dead. It acts as both an agent of destructive change and of transformative liberation. 

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
The Arrival of The Boat People, 2020

Nguyen is interested in objects that have survived through time: objects that humanity has created, and in turn inherited. His work parses both the stories objects contain and our memories of the objects themselves. In The Boat People, the children discover and engage with artifacts from a refugee crisis, a world war and its attendant atrocities, and some of the earliest human migrations. They encounter Japanese machine guns, American-made gas-masks, a memorial to a World War II massacre, refugee boats, the hands and head of a Quan Yin, the female buddha of compassion, and a kampilan, a traditional Filipino blade that resembles the famous sword the hero Lapu Lapu used to slay Magellan. When the children recreate these objects, their actions highlight the nature of the replica, of the copy as a reflection on the authenticity of experience and the transference of memory. 

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
Not The Smell of Napalm, 2019
Hand-carved gmelina wood
23 in. high (58.4 cm)
Wooden base: 13 x 12 x 2.5 in. (33 x 30.5 x 6.4 cm)
Pedestal: 30 x 30 x 4 in. (76.2 x 76.2 x 10.2 cm)

The coastline of Bataan has borne witness to waves of migration and the movement of people both reaching for their freedom and of people seeking to take that freedom away from others, and carries the physical traces of all these journeys. The ocean that abuts this coast is a space of transition and of opposition. It is into this ocean that the children scatter the ashes of their totemic objects, in order to set them free, rendering the ocean a repository for memory. 

The Boat People was co-produced by Bellas Artes Projects and James Cohan, New York. 

Tuan Andrew Nguyen received his BFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1999 and an MFA from The California Institute of the Arts in 2004. In addition to several awards in both film and visual arts, including an Art Matters grant in 2010 and best feature film at VietFilmFest in 2018, his work has been included in international exhibitions including the Asia Pacific Triennial 2006, Whitney Biennial 2017, and the Sharjah Biennial 2019. In 2006, Nguyen co-founded The Propeller Group, a platform for collectivity that situates itself between art collective and advertising company. Accolades for the group include the grand prize at the 2015 Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur and a Creative Capital award for its project Television Commercial for Communism. Besides a major travelling retrospective that began at the MCA Chicago, the collective has participated in international exhibitions including The Ungovernables [2012 New Museum Triennial], 2012 LA Biennial, Prospect3 [2014 New Orleans Triennial], and the Venice Biennale 2015.

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sarah Charlesworth, Sherrie Levine

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sarah Charlesworth, Sherrie Levine

Paula Cooper Gallery, NY

29 FEBRUARY – 04 APRIL , 2020

Paula Cooper Gallery announces an exhibition of works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sarah Charlesworth, and Sherrie Levine, curated by Sherrie Levine, the exhibition brings together three related approaches to conceptual image-making, (post-)modernism, and the genre of the still life—understood both as a depiction of everyday inanimate objects, foods or flowers, and in a broader sense, as a formal representation of a specific time and place through its cultural artifacts.

Sherrie Levine, Salubra 3, 2007, oil on mahogany and wall paint, 14 parts: 27 x 27 in. (68.6 x 68.6 cm), overall dimensions variable; painted rectangle on wall 65 in. (165.1 cm) height, length variable

Beginning in 1959, Bernd and Hilla Becher pursued a project of systematically documenting industrial architectural forms—an objective that took inspiration from the precisionist approach of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) artists August Sander, Karl Blossfeldt, and Albert Renger-Patzsch of the 1920s. Post-war Germany’s ubiquitous cooling towers, gas tanks, blast furnaces, and grain elevators—remnants of a fevered industrialization—provided the Bechers with the raw matter for their “typologies,” an effort to visually organize and render comparable the unique details of each structure and the intricate relationship between form and function. For the artists, these typologies were conceptual categories based on the general ideas used to sort a large body of information. “We didn’t really see it as artists, we saw it as something like natural history,” Hilla Becher noted in 2012. “So we also used the methods of natural history books, like comparing things, having the same species in different versions.” In the twilight of the industrial age, this loving census of steel and cement structures charts the outlines of a still life of modernity.

In 2006, Sarah Charlesworth produced her Concrete Color series—still life inspired photographs of precisely ordered dishes of hand-mixed paint. Set against white or gray backgrounds and completed with lacquered frames, the images visualize classical theories of color as well as contemporary tools in digital photography. “I’m interested in the idea of using art materials, the medium, as the subject and really examining the formal elements of art-making as content,” the artist noted. In Munsell Tree and Ostwald Triangle, Charlesworth reproduces early twentieth-century color systems, respectively theorized by the American inventor Albert H. Munsell and the German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald. In RGB Cube, she punctuates the eight corners of a Necker cube with various pigments—a nod to Gestalt psychology and the study of spatial interpretation in visual representation. Within other works, such as CYM Gray and Color Patch, Charlesworth embeds a Kodak Gray Scale or Color Control Patch that is mirrored in the configuration of the potted paints. Reflecting and questioning commercial tools and standards, the works reveal the constructed nature of photography—a conceptual investigation that Charlesworth pursued throughout her career.

Sarah Charlesworth, Dress Macleod (Lewis), 1982-1983, black and white print, mounted with color adhesives and lacquered frame, 33 1/4 x 25 3/4 x 1 1/2 in. (81.9 x 65.4 x 3.8 cm)

Sherrie Levine’s Salubra 3 reference color charts produced by renowned architect Le Corbusier for the Swiss wallpaper company Salubra in 1931. Published as an interactive design guide, Le Corbusier’s collection included twelve ‘Clavier de couleurs,’ or ‘Color Keyboards’—each consisting of a different combination of the forty-three ideal tones in his suite. The architect believed that specific shades produced specific effects and could thereby alter a person’s perception of space. Identifying functions that could be applied to different shades—including psychological effects, weight, depth, perception, and unity—he created the color palettes, or keyboards, to reflect each of these. The fourteen monochrome panels of Salubra 3 represent Le Corbusier’s third color keyboard. Levine’s postmodern revisiting of Le Corbusier, a kind of über-realistic still life, proposes a heightened, sensuous experience of the architect’s chromatic range, while also laying bare for reappraisal the utopian ideals at the core of High Modernism and the International Style.

Michael Williams at Gladstone Gallery / NY

Michael Williams at Gladstone Gallery

Gladstone Gallery, New York

29 February – 25 April, 2020

Williams’ work highlights both the banality and extraordinary nature of contemporary life, and the works in this presentation continue the artist’s careerlong interest in visualizing these complex subjects. His multifaceted, masterfully constructed compositions collage text, symbols, animals, and figures that require a new mode of reading in order to understand the meaning behind each narrative he depicts. To divine Williams’ works, the viewer visually unpacks obstructed layers and image fragments to find concrete signifiers that are actively constructing and deconstructing themselves. Though there may be hundreds of layers in one of Williams’ paintings, the process of printing flattens the picture down to a single plane, removing any physical evidence of the artist’s complex approach to each composition. The multilayered nature of these paintings is readily apparent in a work like “Struck Set,” which depicts a disheveled dining room table with chairs out of place, broken plates, and red wine spills. In this composition, Williams also includes his own paintings from this exhibition on the walls of this imagined room, suggesting conceptual and narrative through lines between this group of paintings. In addition to demonstrating Williams’ compelling ability to visualize narrative events and concepts, this exhibition also reveals the artist’s dark sense of humor and continual investigation of the role of the painter in a post-internet world.

Painting, 2020
Inkjet on canvas
120 1/8 x 75 1/4 inches (305.1 x 191.1 cm)

For this exhibition, Williams presents a series of large-scale inkjet paintings that continue his exploration of the possibilities and complications inherent to making and understanding a painting in the digital age. The works on view are composed entirely in Photoshop with the use of a digital drawing pad. By rendering these works in the format of flattened inkjet prints, Williams questions the action of painting as a physical extension of the body. Utilizing the full potential of these new processes, Williams makes paintings that can also function formally and move the conversation beyond what defines the analog versus the digital. Through a series of compositions that incorporate both familiar and new subjects, Williams demonstrates his singular approach to artmaking.


Michael Williams was born in 1978 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He has been the subject of numerous major solo and groups exhibitions at institutions such as Le Consortium, Dijon, France; The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Canada; Secession, Vienna; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Ballroom Marfa, Texas; and the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow.

Mircea Suciu, Universal Fatigue

Mircea Suciu, Universal Fatigue

Blain|Southern, NYC

Until 22 February 2020

‘A characteristic of my work is frailty, not regarding the subject but the relationship between the surfaces that constitute the ensemble of the whole picture.’

– Mircea Suciu

Universal Fatigue is Blain|Southern’s first exhibition with Romanian artist Mircea Suciu. Fragments of appropriated and found imagery provide the subjects for new paintings that demonstrate a relationship between representation and abstraction.

Noumena (2)
2014
Oil, acrylic and monoprint on linen
80 x 59 cm
Courtesy Zeno X Gallery.
Photographer: Peter Cox

Part of the Cluj School, Mircea Suciu (b. 1978, Baia Mare, Romania) is regarded as one of Romania’s leading artists. During his formative years he witnessed the country’s tumultuous transition after the only violent overthrow of a communist government in the 1989 revolutions. Describing himself as an image creator rather than a traditional painter, Suciu mines and references art history and contemporary imagery, reducing down the elements and adding colour coded symbolism. He has ‘his own complex way of making things in which painting, photography, drawing and print all cooperate while playing their individual parts’ .

Study for High Anxiety (after Velasquez)
2017
Oil, acrylic and monoprint on linen
80 x 80 cm
Courtesy Zeno X Gallery
Photographer: Peter Cox

Inspired by his former studies on the restoration of Baroque paintings, Suciu has developed a process he calls ‘monoprinting’. A photographic image is split into a grid of A4 surfaces, each one printed onto an acetate sheet onto which a layer of acrylic paint is applied. The paint acts as a ‘glue’ that adheres to directly to the canvas and once dry, the acetate sheet is peeled off. The result is a transference of the printed image with associated faults and imperfections which Suciu then ‘restores’ by re-painting with oil and acrylic paint. Sometimes, as with works in the Disintegration series, he overlays the image multiple times using various colours until he creates a surface that is barely recognisable from the original. As a final stage the whole image is repainted. This multi-layered process creates compositions of reinvented images which allude to history, memory and eventual dissolution of all things.

1988
2014
Oil, acrylic and monoprint on linen
50 x 50 cm
Courtesy Zeno X Gallery
Photographer: Peter Cox

KIM GORDON, The Bonfire

KIM GORDON, The Bonfire

303 Gallery, NYC

Until 22 February 2020

In a series of new works on canvas, Gordon presents a world of safety and familial intimacy surreptitiously undermined by insidious, unseen forces. Photographs of a group of revelers huddling around a beach bonfire are softened and overlaid with digital framing marks around the human figures, suggesting surveillance technology or facial recognition software. These images are emblematic of a new reality where no moment goes uncaptured, and where even the most ordinary events are packaged and sold, like an Airbnb listing promising a branded experience of intimacy. Gordon amplifies this phenomenon, referencing iconography from the world of music as it dovetails with youthful rebellion. The various crops and crosshairs allude to the logos of both Black Flag and Public Enemy, two groups emblematic of questioning authority and rising above structural oppression. Gordon’s emphases seem to echo their animosity, drawing the very same lines as our tyrannical tech overlords, yet with the express purpose of reasserting control of our own dominions.

Kim Gordon
The Bonfire 3
2019
Print on canvas with acrylic medium
54 x 72 inches (137.2 x 182.9 cm)
KG 583
Kim Gordon, Installation view: The Bonfire, 303 Gallery, New York, 2020
Photo: John Berens
Kim Gordon, Installation view: The Bonfire, 303 Gallery, New York, 2020
Photo: John Berens

Also on view will be “Los Angeles June 6, 2019,” a film in which Gordon walks around Los Angeles with a guitar, utilizing handrails, plants, traffic implements, public sculpture and light poles as various accomplices in a performance that quite literally uses the city as a sounding board. Gordon assumes the role of interloper, unfazed by her happenstance audience while navigating the corporate territory of public spaces. Ironically, these scenes were surely also recorded by the various mechanisms of surveillance on the streets of LA, adding another layer of undisclosed viewership into the work’s dissemination. We may know we are being watched, but it is up to us to transcend.

Kim Gordon, Installation view: The Bonfire, 303 Gallery, New York, 2020
Photo: John Berens
Kim Gordon, Installation view: The Bonfire, 303 Gallery, New York, 2020
Photo: John Berens

Kim Gordon
Los Angeles June 6, 2019
2019
Video installation with one channel of video (color, sound), eight monitors, three resin stools
16:06 minutes
Edition of 1 with 1 AP
KG 607

Kim Gordon studied at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and has continued to work as an artist since. Her first solo exhibition presented under the name ‘Design Office’ took place at New York’s White Columns in 1981. Recent solo exhibitions include “She Bites Her Tender Mind,” Irish Museum of Modern Art Dublin (2019); “Lo-Fi Glamour,” The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2019); Reena Spaulings Fine Art, Los Angeles (2018); Manifesta 11, Zurich (2016); and “Noise Name Paintings And Sculptures Of Rock Bands That Are Broken Up,” Deste Foundation, Athens (2015). A two-person show with Rodney Graham was presented at Dijon’s L’Académie Conti in 2017. For the past thirty years Gordon has worked consistently across disciplines and across distinct cultural fields: art, design, writing, fashion (X-Girl), music (Sonic Youth, Free Kitten, Body/Head), and film/video (both as actress and director). Her first solo album “No Home Record” was released earlier this year on Matador Records.

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures

MOMA, NY

until May 9, 2020 

The Museum of Modern Art announces Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, the first major solo exhibition at the Museum of the photographer’s incisive work in over 50 years. On view from February 9 through May 9, 2020, in The Paul J. Sachs Galleries in The David and Peggy Rockefeller Building, Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures includes approximately 100 photographs drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition also uses archival materials such as correspondence, historical publications, and oral histories, as well as contemporary voices, to examine the ways in which words inflect our understanding of Lange’s pictures. These new perspectives and responses from artists, scholars, critics, and writers, including Julie Ault, Wendy Red Star, and Rebecca Solnit, provide fresh insight into Lange’s practice. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures is organized by Sarah Meister, Curator, with River Bullock, Beaumont & Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, assisted by Madeline Weisburg, Modern Women’s Fund Twelve-Month Intern, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Daughter of Migrant Tennessee Coal Miner Living in American River Camp near Sacramento, California, November 1936

Toward the end of her life, Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) remarked, “All photographs—not only those that are so-called ‘documentary,’ and every photograph really is documentary and belongs in some place, has a place in history—can be fortified by words.” Organized loosely chronologically and spanning her career, the exhibition groups iconic works together with lesser known photographs and traces their varied relationships to words: from early criticism on Lange’s photographs to her photo-essays published in LIFE magazine, and from the landmark photobook An American Exodus to her examination of the US criminal justice system. The exhibition also includes groundbreaking photographs of the 1930s—including Migrant Mother (1936)—that inspired pivotal public awareness of the lives of sharecroppers, displaced families, and migrant workers during the Great Depression. Through her photography and her words, Lange urged photographers to reconnect with the world—a call reflective of her own ethos and working method, which coupled an attention to aesthetics with a central concern for humanity.

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma, August 1936

“It seems both timely and urgent that we renew our attention to Lange’s extraordinary achievements,” said Sarah Meister. “Her concern for less fortunate and often overlooked individuals, and her success in using photography (and words) to address these inequities, encourages each of us to reflect on our own civic responsibilities. It reminds me of the unique role that art—and in particular photography—can play in imagining a more just society.”

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Farm Family, 1938

The exhibition begins in 1933, when Lange, then a portrait photographer, first brought her camera outside into the streets of San Francisco. Lange’s increasing interest in the everyday experience of people she encountered eventually led her to work for government agencies, supporting their objective to raise public awareness and to provide aid to struggling farmers and those devastated by the Great Depression. During this time, Lange photographed her subjects and kept notes that formed the backbone of government reports; these and other archival materials will be represented alongside corresponding photographs throughout the exhibition. Lange’s commitment to social justice and her faith in the power of photography remained constant throughout her life, even when her politics did not align with those who were paying for her work. A central focus of the exhibition is An American Exodus, a 1939 collaboration between Lange and Paul Schuster Taylorher husband and an agricultural economist. As an object and as an idea, An American Exodus highlights the voices of her subjects by pairing first-person quotations alongside their pictures. Later, Lange’s photographs continued to be useful in addressing marginalized histories and ongoing social concerns. Throughout her career as a photographer for the US Government and various popular magazines, Lange’s pictures were frequently syndicated and circulated outside of their original context. Lange’s photographs of the 1930s helped illustrate Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices (1941), and her 1950s photographs of a public defender were used to illustrate Minimizing Racism in Jury Trials (1969), a law handbook published after Black Panther Huey P. Newton’s first trial during a time of great racial strife.

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, March 1936

This collection-based exhibition would not be possible had it not been for Lange’s deep creative ties to the Museum during her lifetime. MoMA’s collection of Lange photographs was built over many decades and remains one of the definitive collections of her work. Her relationship to MoMA’s Department of Photography dates to her inclusion in its inaugural exhibition, in 1940 which was curated by the department’s director, Edward Steichen. Lange is a rare artist in that both Steichen and his successor, John Szarkowski, held her in equally high esteem. More than a generation after her first retrospective, organized by Szarkowski at MoMA in 1966, Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures uses both historical and contemporary words to encourage a more nuanced understanding of words and pictures in circulation.

SANDY SKOGLUND: WINTER at Ryan Lee Gallery / NYC

SANDY SKOGLUND: WINTER at Ryan Lee Gallery / NYC

RYAN LEE GALLERY, NEW YORK
UNTIL 7 MAR 2020

Skoglund describes Winter as “a study in perseverance and persistence, an artificial landscape celebrating the beautiful and frightening qualities of the coldest season.” In the photographic image, a man, woman, and child punctuate an icy blue scene. They are inside of an iceberg, perhaps, surrounded by its craggy walls. Standing pensive with hands in the pockets of their winter coats, only the child, a red-headed girl, looks out toward the viewer. The trio is joined in this fantastical setting by a cluster of three snowflake-emblazoned owls and a female figure that seems to have frozen mid-slumber. The imagery evolved from Skoglund’s interest in similarity and difference among snowflakes. Her fascination with the appearance of correspondence versus the reality of difference extends from earlier investigations of the liminal territory between the natural and the artificial, or order and chaos.

Sandy Skoglund, Winter, 2018. © Sandy Skoglund; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

Through her constructed imagery, Skoglund explores the space between what the human eye and the camera can see. Since the late 1970s, Skoglund has beencelebrated for her panoramic installations—entire environments that she meticulously designs, constructs, and then re-visualizes photographically. Skoglund likens Winterto “a very slow shutter speed on a camera. Time stands still but also inches forward.”

Sandy Skoglund, Winter (framed), 2018. © Sandy Skoglund; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

Relentlessly inventive, Skoglund challenges herself to experiment with new creative technologies, always insearch of the medium best suitedfor her message. For Winter, which was part of a larger project on the four seasons, years of experimenting with various forms of clay modeling and 3D-printing led to the ultimate inclusion of digitally-cut metal snowflakes bearing ultraviolet cured ink, and the computer-sculpted figure and owls. A selection of photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, including Radioactive Cats (1980), will also be on view.

Sandy Skoglund, Winter, 2020. © Sandy Skoglund; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

James Casebere: On The Waters’ Edge

James Casebere: On The Waters’ Edge

Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

December 13 – January 25, 2020

In this arresting new series of images, Casebere continues his ever-evolving exploration of form at the intersection of architecture, sculpture and photography. In previous, well-known bodies of work, the artist depicted buildings and interiors based primarily on extant structures; this series, however, is distinguished by a marked change in Casebere’s conceptual approach. To create these salient new images, Casebere became the architect, often designing and building the structures he produced and then photographed.

Over the course of forty years, James Casebere has developed a unique and increasingly complex language of “constructed photography” in which he builds structural models, which he then lights and photographs. Based on art historical, cinematic and architectural sources, his table-sized constructions are made of simple materials and pared down to essential forms. Throughout his practice, Casebere’s images have expanded to accommodate his exploration of different aesthetic and technical challenges. For instance, Casebere’s previous series of images, inspired by world-renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán, embraced modernist architecture’s use of space, color and light to create images that engendered warmth, meditation, and reflection. In this new body of work, Casebere continues with a nod to the influence of Barragán, but also architect Paul Rudolph in his visionary mid-century modern Florida homes and later shift to Brutalism. In these images, Casebere re-imagines both the context and the content of the original structures.

The works in this series are hybrids of public/private spaces. Geometrically designed edifices rendered in a rich and vibrant palette; these buildings appear simultaneously concrete and abstract; they are open, even unfinished buildings of the sort that provide sanctuary, such as beach houses, cabanas, bathhouses. Neither utopian nor dystopian, these images are meant to inspire an appreciation of pure beauty coupled with a twinge of uncertainty. Indeed, in these unmoored, flooded pavilions, Casebere sees human ingenuity in the face of global warming. Acknowledging the imminent unknown future these pictures embody, he also insists that we “can’t afford to throw our hands up in…resignation.” In fact, Casebere acknowledges that these structures are about tenacity, adaptation, ingenuity, and perhaps, optimism, describing them by saying, “there is such a playful atmosphere to them. It feels like an expression of the indomitable human spirit. These things could be rising out of the water like the first creatures to emerge from the sea and live on solid ground.”

James Casebere is the winner of the American Academy in Rome Abigail Cohen Rome Prize Fellowship for 2019-20.  In addition, he has been the recipient of three awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, three from the New York Foundation for the Arts and one from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His work is featured in international museum collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Goetz Collection, Munich, Germany; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Mukha Museum, Antwerp, Belgium; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Los Angeles County Museum; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, amongst many others. In 2016, Casebere was a New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame Honoree and the subject of the important survey exhibitions: Fugitive, at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, curated by Okwui Enwezor; Immersion, at Espace Images Vevey in Switzerland; and After Scale Model: Dwelling in the Work of James Casebere, at the BOZAR/Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium. James Casebere lives and works in New York.

James Casebere’s photographs will be featured in the forthcoming group exhibition Paradise Lost – Gazing at Contemporary Urban Civilization and its Metaphor at the JUT Art Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, on view December 21, 2019 – April 5, 2020.

All images > courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery, New York and the artist.

Paul P. / Slim Volume

Paul P. Slim Volume

Queer Thoughts, New York

November 7 – January 18, 2020

On the occasion of his 20th birthday in 1926, Stephen Tennant requested to be photographed by a young Cecil Beaton. The photographer set his model in front of a backdrop of silver foil, pivoted his naked torso in a way as sly and signaling as a wink, and took the picture. Tennant was already admired as a poet, having published a slim volume, yet nothing concrete would follow it. In a subsequent decade Cyril Connolly would explain, ‘whom the gods wish to destroy they first call promising.’

In Paul P.’s exhibition, Slim Volume, a photocopy of Tennant’s portrait is featured in a small collage on notepaper, which hangs alongside works from P.’s ongoing repertoire of oil paintings, drawings and sculptures. The premature brilliance of Tennant’s oeuvre failed to advance beyond an endless string of promises for poems that never appeared, or sketches for novels never written, and yet his indolence, pretense, and superficiality made him a human directory of queer gestures and inflections. Like the person of Tennant himself, P.’s collage offers a codex for the indirect modes of presentation and signification that inform the artist’s work, such as the relay of affinities across time, the filigree that encodes inclinations, and the oblique queer reasoning that doesn’t necessarily require the effable and the plastic to perform its seditious role. P.’s meticulous and enduring aesthetic project excavates forms of fantasy particular to eras of criminalized homosexuality, such as dandyism and the early gay erotic industry, which, although outdated, remain useful examples of resistance.

The ongoing body of painted portraits that define much of P.’s practice are appropriated from gay erotic magazines produced during the years bracketed by the beginning of gay liberation/Stonewall, and the advent of the AIDS crisis; a period of provisional freedoms. The models, Janus-like, look forwards and backwards from their original position in time; back to the transient wellspring of homosexual aesthetics and innuendo, and forward to AIDS and other future tragedies, wherein aesthetic energy may lose or regain its unruly value. The artist re-imagines their faces to contain both the foreknowledge of their potential destruction and ulterior, ancient queer motives. Despite the origin of P.’s images as explicit materials of desire, the transactional alliance between model and artist leaves behind an implicit history of negotiation, fragility, impermanence, and revolt from conventional narratives. Other oil paintings describe laundry hung to dry in the closed, colored stucco alleys of Venice neighborhoods, and a yellow monochrome painting describes an area of light itself; all roundabout analogies, devices for further picturing ephemerality. Bed sheets moving in the breeze in a city known in the 19th century for unraveling the English and North American consciousness into permissiveness and violent sensualities, is today yet another symbolic echo.

P.’s sculptures, a folding screen and stool constructed from a transparent lattice of ash wood, similarly allude to the interface of the artist and model; not the click of the camera, but the societal forces precipitating their meeting, the cusp of the experience, and after, the traces left behind. The sculptures function allegorically, and their slender, rakish image belies the exacting precision of their construction. Like the ill-fated figure of the dandy, whose inverse logic exposed the hostility of a predominant moralism, P.’s sculptures suggest that withstanding perennial external pressure may sometimes yield a paradoxical fortitude.

Completing the exhibition are three ink drawings of the facial profile of a statue of Pan, drawn from life in the Musée d’Orsay; an erotic figure whose classical guise has granted safe passage through time. Reclining on his belly, goat legs splayed, he teases bear cubs with pieces of honeycomb. His hand raised before his lips, forefinger and thumb touching and pinkie extended, in a delicate and selective gesture that seems to display the delight of the eternal faggot.

All images > courtesy of Queer Thoughts, New York


PUBLICATION LISTED IN THE ITALIAN PRESS REGISTER BY THE SASSARI COURT OF LAW WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER 447/2017.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: ALICE ZUCCA

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