Tokyo Pop Underground at Jeffrey Deitch

Tokyo Pop Underground

Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles

November 23, 2019 – January 18, 2020

Until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Japanese language did not have a word for fine art. The word bijutsu was constructed, combining Chinese characters bi, for beauty, and jutsu, for craft. This hybrid term reveals the unique trajectory of Japanese contemporary art, different from the foundations of contemporary art in the West.

Tokyo Pop Underground, curated by Tokyo gallerist Shinji Nanzuka, explores the complex history of Japanese contemporary art from the 1960s to the present through the works of seventeen artists who emerged from pop and underground culture. 

Shinji Nanzuka explains that “originally in Japan, most of what is referred to as art are practical items, developed together and in integration with popular culture.” He cites examples from calligraphy to folding screens, paintings on sliding paper doors, lacquerware, netsuke, and the Ukiyo-e prints that served as posters and commercial portraits. He also mentions art historian Naoyuki Kinoshita’s study of intricately realistic handicrafts such as iki-ningyou, life-like dolls that were made for exhibitory performances. Nanzuka’s mission in this exhibition is to present contemporary artistic commentaries on this Japanese artistic heritage.

Deviating from the mainstream current of “art for art’s sake” when he opened his Tokyo gallery in 2005, Nanzuka decided to focus on artists whose works at the time were not considered to be art. Artists like Keiichi Tanaami, Harumi Yamaguchi, and Hajime Sorayama, whose works are now celebrated in the international art world, were looked down upon as producers of commercial and popular art. Nanzuka saw them as prime exponents of the idiosyncratic nature of Japan’s culture and history.

Another reason that Tanaami, Yamaguchi, Sorayama, and Toshio Saeki did not receive recognition until recently is the radical intensity of their practice. The expressions of sex and violence in their work are statements of anti-authority and anti-uniformity. The aggressive portraits of women painted by Harumi Yamaguchi show her engagement with the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. Sorayama’s sexualized robots predict a dystopian future.

There are strong links between the underground Japanese culture from which many of these artists emerged and the American graffiti and skateboard subcultures that were embraced by Japanese youth. Haroshi, one of the younger artists in the show, constructs his works entirely from wood sliced from skateboards donated by friends and professional skateboarders to compose a collective portrait of his enlarged, international community.

The artists in Tokyo Pop Underground reflect the strains in contemporary Japanese culture as it rebuilt itself after the ruins of war and confronts numerous natural disasters. Their work reflects what Nanzuka describes as “the crazy cross-cultural exchange” between the West, the East, and the Far East, shaping a new international artistic language. Reckoning with these central themes for over six decades, legendary artist Keiichi Tanaami presents new works in conjunction with Tokyo Pop Underground. His work has recently featured in The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern, London, and International Pop at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. In the gallery, Tanaami’s recent production further articulates the artist’s relationship with the U.S. as both an invader of Japan during his youth and source of attractive pop culture.

The artists participating in Tokyo Pop Underground are:


Makoto Azuma
Haroshi
Namio Harukawa
Hiroh Kikai
Akiyoshi Mishima
Masato Mori
Tetsuya Nakamura
Yoshiro Nishi aka Yoshirotten
Toshio Saeki
Koichi Sato
Hajime Sorayama
Keiichi Tanaami
Makoto Taniguchi
Hiroki Tsukuda
Kazuki Umezawa
Harumi Yamaguchi
Yuichi Yokoyama

Installation photos Elon Schoenholz courtesy Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles

Jimmy DeSana and the Sex Appeal of the Inorganic

Jimmy DeSana and the Sex Appeal of the Inorganic

The bodies in Jimmy DeSana’s photographs are posed with objects. These objects are not simply props for human eroticism: rather, it seems as if the object is using the body for its own satisfaction, as if the bodies are not there for the sake of our enjoyment as viewers but rather for the things that are the agents of their poses.

Jimmy DeSana, Extension Cord, 1979

Sometimes the poses suggest the arched body of the hysteric in the photographs that were taken at the hospital of La Salpêtrière in Paris towards the end of the 19th century. What is uncertain and perhaps unknowable is the extent to which the supposed hysterics who were the subjects of these photographs staged their attacks for an audience, a master, or the camera. Who exactly is manipulating whom? DeSana’s photographs don’t quite equate to pornography or glamour shoots, nor to Warhol’s passive-aggressive manipulation of his subjects. It feels more as if the photographer has been invited in to commemorate some phantasy of the one who is posing or is working with a friend to do something a bit bad together. Rather than publicity or glamour, there is a sense of collusion in the privacy of the home or the apartment, with the effect that an imagined domestic ideal is disrupted.

Jimmy DeSana Gauze, 1979

In the classic Freudian account, the fetish is supposed to put a stop to the anxiety of castration, the eye halts on something adjacent to the lack, like hair or a shoe. This is to inscribe fetishism within a gender binary on the basis of having or not having. But what of a fetishism that doesn’t fit this model? A fetishism not predicated on lack but on the production of enjoyment in sameness? The objects in DeSana’s photographs are not occlusions of lack, not metaphorical but rather metonymic, together with bodies one thing beside another, one thing touching another. Caught, by the photograph, ​in flagrante​.

Jimmy DeSana Lipstick, 1985

DeSana’s photographs have tended to be seen in relation to the American archive of low grade 70s pornography, suburban self-portrayals, punk imagery and so on. But we could also place his work in the context of European surrealism, the tableau drawings of Pierre Klossowski, and above all the photographic scenes of Hans Bellmer’s doll. A moment involving some kind of perverse pleasure is frozen. What is the significance of this ‘freeze’? It is, surely, the moment of fascination when time becomes timeless. In traditional art the transformation of the temporal into the timeless is achieved through form. This idea is sometimes applied to sanctify the pornographic as art. However, this does not seem to be DeSana’s way. Rather, what we see is a frozen moment in a performance shared between bodies, clothes, prosthetics and objects.

Jimmy DeSana Purse, 1979

What justifies halting that moment rather than any other? It is, surely, fascination. It is the viewer who is bewitched and brought to a standstill ​by ​what is given to be seen. We realise that in such moments it is not so much information or knowledge that we want of the image, but that moment of fascination that interrupts the flow of the performance and rivets us. Think of the body of the sexually ambivalent young male florist in Rachilde’s novel ​Monsieur Venus (1884) that is initially draped with artificial flowers that he has made so skilfully. The eroticism is displaced to the inorganic object that mimics the organic. So when Raoule de Venerande touches the ‘golden floss’ of the ‘real’ hair on Jacques’ chest, it excites her just as if it were artificial.

installation view at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London

Some of DeSana’s photographs show scenarios with connotations of masochism. For Mario Perniola, writing on the novels of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in his book ​The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic (2000, trans. 2004), ‘What masochism and neutral sexuality have in common is the will to give oneself absolutely as a thing that feels, the irresistible drive to establish a relation in which it is always possible to arouse and maintain sexual excitement.’ (p. 41) ‘Organic’ sex comes to an end, whereas ‘inorganic’ sex goes on forever. This is why DeSana’s photographs are not strictly speaking pornographic: they are not means to a masturbatory end. Their ‘timelessness’ is the forever of inorganic sex. This is the basis of the relation of bodies to things in the photographs. Perniola goes on: ‘In the look, in fact, the experience of clothing as body is prolonged, extended and radicalized in that of the body as clothing.’ (p. 46) Rather than the body coming to life in sex, it is sentient clothing that feels; rather than the things attached being extensions of the body, it is the body that is their extension, and that does their bidding — further, the body becomes thing in its desire to transcend the momentary in the very moment that is the photograph.

Michael Newman

Jimmy DeSana and the Sex Appeal of the Inorganic will be on view at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London from 31 October 2019 until 1 February 2020

Sophie Nys, Etui of the private individual

Sophie Nys, Etui of the private individual

Greta Meert Gallery, Brussels

November 7, 2019 – January 18, 2020

Used to measure, keep, and indicate time, clocks and timekeeping tools are amongst the oldest human inventions, they respond to our need for quantifying intervals of time shorter than natural units (day, lunar month, year). Although clocks in public buildings no longer govern the rhythm of daily life the way they once did in schools, factories, churches, the same notion of time remains the basis of socioeconomic order worldwide. In juridical matters, time also gages the relationship between how grievous a misdeed is deemed, and the sentence that ensues for the accused individual. 

Composed of twelve Swiss made wall clocks, the piece titled Two revolutions a day was originally intended as an art project for the most recent facilities of Zurich’s criminal police. Ny’s modified clocks borrow the corporate identity of the Kriminalpolitzei by using the signature bright orange colour found on their vehicles. The shape of the black index on the dial of the clocks is based on the outline of the artist’s third phalange; a reference to antiquity where this finger represented the phallus and was therefore named digits impudicus, which became know as a symbol of contempt in many cultures.

As “private individuals”, our use of everyday objects results in traces left on the belongings of the domestic interiors we inhabit. “To dwell means to leave traces” (1). The majority of these traces are also the fingerprints used by the police during investigations. Still today, fingerprints are the most fundamental and reliable “tools” used to identify individuals. Oftentimes, artworks tent to escape these repeated manipulations, “they are not subject to the use of living creatures”(2) and like the moving arms of clock behind glass, they reside traceless in their Gehäuse as if unaffected by touch and the passage of time. 

Whith the yellow painted Manikin (Au Pilori), Sophie Nys refers to the current political climate and to her earlier body of the work The Drunkard’s Cloak (2010), where a collection of rudimentary objects alluding to pillories were painted in this same bright yellow colour – a colour historically associated with shame and betrayal. To protect the floor while painting this piece, she used facsimile pages of WWII French anti-Semitic newspaper Au Pilori.

In 1940, German Jewish philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin committed suicide on the border between France and Spain in fear of being captured by Nazis. In 1934, under the pseudonym Detlef Holz, Benjamin published an essay titled “Auf die Minute” (On the Minute) in the Frankfurter Zeitung. In this text, he described his first experience in a radio studio. By 1934, the German national socialist government had gained full control over radio broadcasting stations, and each management board had to include a representative directly delegated by the interior minister to supervise the programing. Tied around the column of the gallery, Das Boot its voll (The Boat is Full) borrows the title of a 1981 drama set during WWII where a group of six refugees attempt to cross border into “neutral” Switzerland. In this movie, a local policeman orders the deportation of the newly arrived immigrants who tried to pose as a German family in a small village.

All images > Exhibition view, Courtesy Galerie Greta Meert

(1) Walter Benjamin, “Paris, the capital of the 19th century.”, p. 104. (Massachussetts, Harvard, 2008), and Hand Teerds, “Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and the Importance of the Interior.”, 2016.

(2) Hannah Arendt, “The Human Condition”, Chicago, Chicago University, 1958. 

Sheida Soleimani, Medium of Exchange

Sheida Soleimani, Medium of Exchange

Harlan Levey Projects, Brussels

9 JANUARY – 21 MARCH 2020

Medium of Exchange, Sheida Soleimani’s first exhibition with Harlan Levey Projects Gallery.

In her latest body of work, Soleimani charts a fragmented history of the relationship between OPEC nations and western political powers since the 1960s, when the organisation was formed, highlighting the correlation between sovereign oil wealth and civil rights abuse. Medium of Exchange combines photographic tableaus alongside a scripted film. The freestanding photographs portray theatrical interplays between caricatured OPEC Oil Ministers and the western government officials who together control the oil industry. Solitary or group portraits are staged against backdrops composed of found images of oil fields and refineries, strewn with props relating to the commodities or cultural signifiers that shape each specific narrative.

Sheida Soleimani
Trapping Season, 2017

Soleimani’s various characters are engaged in bizarre acts of excess, romance and aggression. In the group portraits, the power plays between the represented countries are illustrated through references to BDSM, proposals of marriage and clandestine liaisons. In one scene, Dick Cheney, wearing only a $100-bill towel and baseball cap, holds hands with Donald Rumsfeld; repeating Halliburton logos signal their shared corporate past and controversial implication in profiting from the war with Iraq. This encounter takes place amidst a gridded environment of repeating pipelines, explosions, and desert landscapes. Elsewhere, a bare-breasted Henry Kissinger, on bended knee, raises an oil-smeared diamond ring to the partially nude José María Botelho de Vasconcelos, Angola’s Minister of Petroleum. The artist employs queer actors of all races, builds and genders, whose anonymous bodies, decidedly distinct from those of the men whose faces they are wearing, peek through holes in their oversized masks and costumes in jarring ways. These breaches of character serve to expose the bodies of those in power to symbolic acts of violence, as well as subvert their traditional displays of masculinity and authority; at the same time, it reveals the bodies of those that might suffer at the hands of men in power as they accrue wealth through exploitation. Medium of Exchange’s film stirs the scenes within the photographs to life: the characters converse in a sequence of narratives adapted from public records of speeches and conversations between government officials and top ranking officers. The flirtatious, eroticized delivery of alarming content is interspersed with an aerial perspective of two sets of hands playing a violent game of Snap with a pack of Iraq’s Most Wanted playing cards. The accompanying audio is of a child reading military correspondence about food policy on U.S. bases. As the game progresses, the actors’ hands and the game itself become obscured by black, viscous oil.

Sheida Soleimani, Minister of Mineral Resources and Petroleum, Angola & Former Secretary of State, United States, 2017

Sheida Soleimani makes work that melds sculpture, performance, film and photography to highlight her critical perspectives on historical and contemporary sociopolitical events across the Greater Middle East. She is the daughter of political refugees who were persecuted by the Iranian government in the early 1980s. Soleimani focuses on media trends and the dissemination of information in the news, adapting images from popular press and social media leaks to exist within alternative scenarios. She is interested in the intersections of art and activism, as well as how social media has shaped the landscape in current political affairs and uprisings.

Hanne Darboven ERDKUNDE UND (SÜD-) KOREANISCHER KALENDER

Hanne Darboven ERDKUNDE UND (SÜD-) KOREANISCHER KALENDER

SPRÜTH MAGERS, BERLIN  

SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 – FEBRUARY 29, 2020

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers announces the first solo exhibition of Darboven’s work at the Berlin gallery, presenting Erdkunde I, II, III (Geography I, II, III) (1986) and (Süd-) Koreanischer Kalender / (South) Korean Calendar (1991). The exhibition marks the beginning of the gallery’s worldwide exclusive representation of the Darboven Estate. The Hamburg-born Conceptual artist is known for her serial writing pieces and date-based cross sum calculations hung as wall-spanning blocks of identically framed paper works. In the 1980s, Darboven began combining various forms of representation and presentation by collaging image and text panels together. Shown for the first time in its entirety, the encyclopedic work Erdkunde I, II, III (Geography I, II, III) will fill the gallery’s main space while the prior room features the calendar-based work (Süd) Koreanischer Kalender / (South) Korean Calendar

HANNE DARBOVEN
ERDKUNDE I, II, III (1986)
INSTALLATION VIEW
SPRÜTH MAGERS BERLIN

Erdkunde I, II, III (Geography I, II, III) consists of over 700 panels, each containing four vertical-format, annotated and collaged DIN A4 sheets. The artist constructs each collaged page with components characteristic of her work: wavy-line drawings resembling cursive script, handwritten encyclopedia quotes from entries about the “Earth” or “Geography,” copies from scientific non-fiction books, illustrations from display boards and black-and-white photographs of her studio or exhibition views. Each individual page is rounded out with lists of place names, monuments, objects, historical people and events, offering a survey of the full thematic range of Darboven’s work. The result is a kind of overall index of her encyclopedic oeuvre. Darboven expands the gargantuan wall hangings to include ten free-standing wooden classroom displays that add a third dimension to the work. The classroom displays visualize various elements of classic Geography and general study curricula. A map, views of a mountain landscape, and a schematic diagram of lignite and hard coal mining activity reflect the educational content of past decades while also offering insight into traditional, analogue means of educating and conveying knowledge. 

HANNE DARBOVEN
ERDKUNDE I, II, III (1986)
INSTALLATION VIEW
SPRÜTH MAGERS BERLIN

The panels Darboven selects serve as a point of departure and material for creating new connections and constellations and testing her own systems of order. Her artistic strategy of associatively engaging with traditional knowledge content recalls Aby Warburg’s method of combining reproduced pictorial materials of various kinds and origins for the panels in his legendary Mnemosyne Atlas (1924-29). At the same time, Darboven reflects the traditional didactic methods and forms of presentation of knowledge transfer. The title Erkunde (Geography)—identical to the school subject of the same name—is a nod to the science that deals with the Earth, both in its physical nature and in relation to the effects of geographical conditions on social order and cultural development. The title also alludes to the origin of this science, the age of voyages of discovery, which marks the beginning of modern (natural) sciences. Erdkunde I, II, III (Geography I, II, III) is a tribute to natural scientist and universal scholar Alexander von Humboldt, who appears on two photographs of the first index in the form of a bust. Alexander von Humboldt, who would have celebrated his 250th birthday on September 14, 2019, is considered the founder of empirical geography. Darboven’s work points to the entanglement of natural and cultural history that Humboldt explained in his famous “Cosmos” lectures and in his research.  Darboven’s Erdkunde I, II, III (Geography I, II, III) speaks to the basic, encyclopedic endeavor to summarize the totality of all knowledge. At the same time her art shows not only a cognitive recording and mediation of historical and scientific facts, but also an increased striving for the sensual immediacy and authenticity of the physical world. 

HANNE DARBOVEN
ERDKUNDE I, II, III (1986)
INSTALLATION VIEW
SPRÜTH MAGERS BERLIN

The first room in the gallery features Darboven’s (Süd-) Koreanischer Kalender / (South) Korean Calendar (1991), a work based on pages from a South Korean yearly calendar. The particular graphic elements and colors in these 365 identically-framed plates and cover sheet have a rather bold, visually striking effect that is unusual for Darboven’s work. Each sheet is dominated by large Arabic numerals, whereby the number is always framed by a header and footer section containing Asian and Arabic characters and numerals. The central numerals are printed in a lace-like pattern and surrounded by a series of little drawings representing luxury items such as diamond rings and wristwatches. Each of the 365 calendar pages contains handwritten entries in felt-tip pen showing Darboven’s typical cross-sum calculations based on the day’s date. These are calculated by totaling up the day, month, decade, and year, then translating that total into loopy, wavy lines that resemble cursive handwriting. The latter are arranged in to ten lines or fewer, with the sum of wave peaks recorded in the form of an Arabic number at the end of that line. At the bottom of each page are the handwritten words “heute / today,” which Darboven has crossed out; the wavy lines are stricken through as well. 

HANNE DARBOVEN
ERDKUNDE I, II, III (1986)
INSTALLATION VIEW
SPRÜTH MAGERS BERLIN

Lucy Lippard described Darboven’s date-based records as “a process which takes time to do, which takes time as one of its subjects, and which takes from time (the calendar) its numerical foundations.” The lengths of the wavy line in the drawings, which recede at the start of each month only to gradually increase again by month’s end, recall the recurring movements of the tides, ebb and flow, and visualize genesis and elapse. 

Miriam Schoofs

Francis Alÿs Children’s Games

Francis Alÿs Children’s Games

19 December 2019 / 8 March 2020

EYE Film Museum Institute, Amsterdam

Children’s Games a major exhibition of work by the Belgian-Mexican artist Francis Alÿs. Alÿs is primarily known for his playful videos that are both engaged and poetic. These imaginative and rich observations of daily life are set in sometimes politically charged moments and places. A big spatial installation at Eye provides the setting for his impressive series Children’s Games.

Born in Belgium in 1959, Francis Alÿs trained as an architect in his home country and in Venice. In 1986 he moved to Mexico City, where he started to focus on visual art. On his many walks through the city, he started to study and record everyday life in and around the Mexican capital by means of simple yet striking performative actions. His work involves making subtle interventions in daily life, and then capturing the effect with the help of video, photography, drawings and paintings. For example, Alÿs pulled a toy dog made of magnetic iron through the city, gathering all sorts of metal from the streets in the process, and he walked with a leaking tin of green paint along the Green Line, which in 1948 marked the border between Israel and Jordan. He also pushed a block of ice for nine hours through Mexico City until it had melted. Later in his career, Alÿs travelled as an ‘embedded war artist’ to Afghanistan, and since 2016 he has spent extended periods in Iraq, where he accompanies a Kurdish battalion and stays in refugee camps. Alÿs won the Eye Art & Film Prize (2018) for his work.

Children’s Games 

A remarkable chapter in the now extensive body of work of Francis Alÿs is his impressive series on children’s games played all over the world. This collection of short videos has been steadily growing since 1999. The most recent addition to the series is number 18, featuring children playing knucklebones in Nepal (Children’s Games 18 / Knucklebones, Kathmandu, Nepal, March 2017). In other videos, children kick a bottle up a steep street in Mexico City, play roughly with crickets in Venezuela, fly kites in Afghanistan, and ricochet stones on the sea near Tangier in Morocco. Alÿs films in cities and villages, but also in places dominated by conflict and tension – such as Afghanistan or a Yazidi refugee camp in Iraq. Alÿs captures everything with a humane eye and mild amazement. The games often echo the rituals, symbols, customs and insights of each particular society he looks at through his lens.

The artist follows the children patiently, moving with their movements, but he never gets involved in their games. Surrounding noises are audible: birds, crickets, the wind, the laugher and screams of children. We see the harsh conditions in which the children sometimes live. We are drawn into an extended moment in their lives. Despite the sometimes wretched conditions of war and poverty, the overarching mood among the children is bright and cheerful, even optimistic.

All images > courtesy EYE Film Museum Institute, Amsterdam

Poetics of Landscape Alejandro Campins, Andreas Eriksson and Marina Rheingantz

Poetics of Landscape
Alejandro Campins, Andreas Eriksson and Marina Rheingantz

Group show: 

12 November 2019 – 11 January 2020

Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid

When we speak of the world as the “environment” we are referring (etymologically and otherwise) to that which is around us, to what we also call our ‘surroundings’. But there is a fallacy in such thinking. Yes, things may turn, but do they really turn around us? Or by extension, are we really at the center of something — indeed, of everything? And most crucially, are we separate from anything, as such logic suggests? Of course not. Yet how useful such thinking has been! For from it — and in particular the implication of separateness — has sprung, for better or worse, nearly all (or perhaps all) that mankind has ever done on and to this earth other than survive and procreate — an immeasurably vast set of acts and artifacts that by definition includes art. For what is art, if not a kind of essential distancing, a way of seeing things at a remove and across a separation, so as to arrive at a way of seeing? Understanding, as Rilke understood, requires an element of its opposite.

Historically, this has been particularly palpable in depictions of landscape, regardless of era or medium or style or what that depicted landscape might have consisted of; to capture the world has at some level involved establishing a psychological distance from and barrier to it. It continues to be so today, even as the landscape in our Anthropocene Age is quite literally (and catastrophically) changing before our eyes, as human-driven processes of transformation usher us into an ominous but as yet mostly unknown new phase. And as such it is strikingly evident in the exhibition Poetics of Landscape: Alejandro Campins, Andreas Eriksson and Marina Rheingantz at the Galería Elba Benítez.

The painters participating in Poetics of Landscape come from starkly distinct geographical backgrounds and frames of reference: Campins from the quintessentially Caribbean crucible of Havana; Eriksson from remote, lakeside, pine-forested Sweden; and Rheingantz from the rural and urban dichotomy that characterizes her native Brazil. All, however, have developed practices based on depictions of their “environments” in an expanded sense — depictions that combine in varying degrees figuration and abstraction, the real and the imaginary, the built and the unbuilt, the utopic and the dystopic.

More saliently, these depictions share an abiding sense of strangeness — or rather, of estrangement. This quality is expressed in different tones and registers in their respective aesthetics — Campins in a stolidity and stillness that verge on the otherworldly, Eriksson in an organic viscosity, and Rheingantz in a volatile, almost kinetic instability. But there is an opacity, both literal and poetic, to all these paintings, a paradoxical embrace of distance and embodiment of otherness. In other words (and with a nod to the conceptual underpinnings of this work), in these paintings landscape, like language, is not transparent — and is all the more powerful for not being so. Or, again citing Rilke: “To see landscape thus, as something distant and foreign, something remote and without allure, something entirely self-contained, [is] essential if it [is] ever to be a medium and an inspiration for an autonomous art.”

George Stolz

Inanimate human life at Rijksakademie OPEN

Inanimate human life at Rijksakademie OPEN

By Doron Beuns

The forty-six international residents of the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam recently opened their studios to the public during the 2019 edition of the Rijksakademie OPEN. Some of these studios seemed like the artist could walk in any minute whilst others showcased carefully curated presentations. Like other years, there was a high variety in interests, techniques and artistic attitudes. However, despite of that variety one could always find overarching tendencies that resonate within the contemporary art world at large. One of such tendencies involves artists blurring the distinctions between human subjects and inanimate machines. For this review we will have look at artist within the Rijksakademie that share this tendency.

Rijksakademie, Rijksakademie OPEN, 2019
Rijksakademie, Rijksakademie OPEN, 2019

We live in an era where an increasing part of our behaviors and desires are mediated by (inanimate) digital entities. This contemporary condition was pushed to an extreme in the installation of Özgür Kar. His studio space centered a large flatscreen monitor opposed by a curved tower of speakers. The flatscreen displayed a black and white animation of a naked male figure that seemed to be stuck within the screen. A similar sense of discomfort derived from the opposing speaker boxes as one could hear monologues that addressed uncertainty, tragedy, desire and everyday nonsense. Each monologue derived from a different speaker box as if these monologues tapped into the multiple parts of the animation’s personality. Kar’s chosen medium and arrangement automatically bring to mind the construction of multiple online identities along with the hysteria and echo effect of the current social media landscape. On the other hand we find that the content of his work addresses the isolation of being itself, a timeless subject which in turn exists outside the online spectrum.

Ozgur Kar, Rijksakademie OPEN, 2019

Another artist that was concerned with the interior of the human subject was Mire Lee. However, instead of monologues we found mechanical guts and the artificial equivalent of bodily fluids. Her abject slime fountain reflected the compulsion to absorb and exert bodily fluids in a state of arousal or existential threat. One could identify an incarnation of “paraphilia characterized by the desire to consume or be consumed by the other” . Lee’s work was located on the precise tipping point of voyeuristic pleasure and abjection. Satisfying slime could easily become personal discomfort and vice versa. We are initially drawn in by the meditative quality of the work. But then suddenly, one becomes aware of the discomforting fact that our interiors are as fluid and formless as Mire Lee’s installation.

Mire Lee, Rijksakademie OPEN, 2019

Recognition and disassociation also played a significant role in the performative practice of Mette Sterre. Whilst covering herself in wrinkled cloth, the artist mimicked the movements of a similarly clothed robotic entity. At arrival, it was hard to say who precisely mimicked who. Sterre seemed to have carefully studied robotic movements over the course of developing her co actors. This reveals that our symbiosis with inanimate machines works in both directions. The French philosopher Jean Baudrilliard once mentioned that objects (including machines) will come to dominate human subjects and divest them of their human qualities and capacities. Mette Sterre’s studio gave a contemporary glimpse into that gloomy prospect. The future is closer by than ever before at the Rijksakademie OPEN.

Mette Sterre, Rijksakademie OPEN, 2019 PHOTO G.J. van Rooij 
Mette Sterre, Rijksakademie OPEN, 2019 PHOTO Tomek Dersu Aaron

All images are at the courtesy of Rijksakademie and the owners.

Terry Rodgers Sweet illusion at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam

Terry Rodgers Sweet illusion at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam

By Doron Beuns 

Our experience of other people is essentially indirect. We rely on the sensual qualities of other people in order to get a grasp of their inner life. However, a substantial remainder of that inner life does not rise to a perceivable surface. Some things we keep to ourselves and other things could not even be put into words. Due to this limitation we are, at least in part, oblivious to the interior experiences of our fellow beings. This phenomenon seems to be at the chore of Terry Rodger’s latest show at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam.

Terry Rodgers, 2018, The Good Thing, courtesy Torch Gallery

‘Sweet Illusion’ showcases twenty two paintings that depict glamorously lean figures with scantily dressed bodies in luxurious environments. However, instead of figures at ease we find figures that are caught up in their own rumination. This rumination subsequently disables each figure to meaningfully engage with its environment. The figures in a Terry Rodgers painting are therefore infinitely trapped in their own shallowness and depth. Naked bodies become impenetrable membranes, draped fabrics become reflections of human listlessness, and half-empty glasses become signifiers of incompletion.

Terry Rodgers, 2019, Inside Out, courtesy Torch Gallery
Terry Rodgers, 2019, True Lies, courtesy Torch Gallery

The scenes look alluring at first but become increasingly problematic at closer inspection. Subtle nuances in brushwork, facial expression and composition subtly hint at the isolation of the multiple subjects. Rodgers is capable of exploring a dark aspect of human life without retreating to a subversive or murky visual language. His paintings rather depict a place where the rich environment and the lack of his subjects are at constant odds with each other. The paintings are on the one hand dreamlike but also strongly rooted in reality.

Terry Rodgers, 2018, Facial Recognition courtesy Torch Gallery
Terry Rodgers, 2018, Moonlight, courtesy Torch Gallery

A place where a bunch of neglected people look past each other seems a lot like planet earth at the moment. The difference is that in the real world disconnection is not an absolute condition. But it is precisely this absolute condition that gives a Terry Rodgers painting its haunting beauty. Solitude is a sublime thing. 

Terry Rodgers, 2018, Focal Point, courtesy Torch Gallery

*Sweet illusion by Terry Rodgers will be on view till the 28th of December at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam.

Doron Beuns

Rebecca Horn, Etienne-Martin, Bernd Lohaus

Rebecca Horn, Etienne-Martin, Bernd Lohaus

Galerie Bernard Bouche, Paris

Nov 2019 to 20 Dec 2019

The Gallery presents an exhibition on sculpture, with a selection of works by Rebecca Horn, Etienne-Martin and Bernd Lohaus. Certainly, three artists with different style and vocabulary but whose hanging and showing for this exhibition reveals unexpected poetic proximities.

Rebecca Horn & Etienne-Martin

With powerful and dense materials such as azobed wood, Bernd Lohaus (1940-2010) comes to a combination of sober, massive, sculptural forms. Sometimes we see inscriptions written mainly with chalk which refers to the primary meaning of language vocabulary. The material thus acquires a contradictory meaning; this one, full of heaviness, is endowed by the enigmatic and personal inscription (in German) of a kind of abstract fragility. The most recent works of Bernd Lohaus however deprive themselves more and more of the presence of the language, the intuitive layout of the wood becomes on its own, a language.

Bernd Lohaus Sans titre 1991. Bois. 40 x 34 x 247 cm

Etienne-Martin (1913-1995) is one of the major French artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Young, he was marked by Gurjieff’s teaching and esoteric philosophies. He was also close to the writer Henri-Pierre Roché and attended the architects of the group Oppède led by Bernard Zerfuss. Then, Harald Szeemann – a passionate advocate, will make him one of the key artists of the section “Individual Mythologies” at Documenta V in Kassel in 1972. Etienne-Martin remains an artist to be discovered and rediscovered, who continues to resist the hasty attempts to lock him into an established aesthetic stream, who never ceases to amaze and enchant us with the inventiveness and vastness of his universe . While being of his time, but fundamentally free and independent, this unwanted dreamer of matter and form, practiced an art which was, in the end, Other and more than just sculpture.

Rebecca Horn, Belle du vent, 2003. Pierre volcanique, cristal de roche, moteur, socle : 43 x 27 x 16 cm.

Rebellious temperament, Rebecca Horn (1940) turns very early to art and philosophy. By molding her first figures in polyester, she contracted in 1967, a serious lung disease that became a founding experience. Locked up for more than a year in a sanatorium, she imagines sculptures related to the body. Through them, Rebecca Horn transforms into a fascinating creature, both male and female, human and animal, suprasensible. Then the bodies disappear in favor of animated or motorized sculptures, and for this exhibition we will present three important pieces including Stone Cloud of 1995 and Belle du vent of 2003.

Etienne Martin, Nuage, 1982. Bois peint. 27 x 21,5 x 74,5 cm


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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