Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Gallery Gallivanting

I'll give you advance warning that this is a bit of a lengthy post, but it's image rather than text heavy. I was a busy bee this past weekend, because as well as attending Ash's sex toy party, I also went on yet another Chelsea gallery tour with my building buddy Betsy.

I was in two minds whether to go as it was teeming with rain early in the morning, but by noon it had abated signifcantly, so we took a risk it would stay that way. Unfortunately it didn’t, it got worse, much worse. High winds and rains pounded down on Manhattan later that day and as we ran from gallery to gallery the streets became wind tunnels. Very wet wind tunnels, we were all bent double trying to hold our umbrellas against the elements. Happily mine held out, but others weren’t so fortunate and the odd umbrella carcass littered the streets. I didn't enjoy the art on this tour quite as much as the last one, but I'm still glad I went.

The first exhibit we saw at the
Lombard Freid gallery on West 26th St. It was called RMB City, by the Beijing based artist, Cao Fei. It’s a virtual city created by the artist via her avatar, China Tracy, on Second life. The gallery was set up to resemble a real estate office with a model of the city in the centre of the room and photos of the piece hanging from the walls. They also had a computer set up where you could explore the piece in Second Life. Below is the picture of the model for the city which I nabbed from the gallery site.

The real estate angle was because you can buy buildings in RMB City. Yup, you can spend your hard earned first life cash on a virtual building you can never live in.

Interested in making a purchase?

Well, the gallery said that prices are negotiable, but start at around 10,000 Euros (approx. $15,400) for a small space to around 135,000 Euros (approx. $207,300) for the whole thing. Below is how the city will look on Second Life. It's pretty cool looking I think.

Personally I don't really get the whole Second Life thing, First Life is complicated enough. I did register and played around with it briefly about a year ago, but I couldn't get into it and I had awful trouble making my avatar fly. I had to laugh when I read a story about a group of Second Lifers who got together to form a group of freedom fighters/terrorists to resist all the retailers that were developing Second Life stores. If I call correctly they took a bunch of American Apparel shoppers' avatars hostage in protest.

I liked the digital images of this work that were hanging on the walls and I loved the model, but I'm not so interested in the whole virtual angle of the piece. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer something tangible for my sideboard, however the tour guide, Rafael, reckons this is where art is heading, especially with the generation of children who learn how to use a computer before they hold a pencil.

Next up was Andrea Mastrovito, an Italian artist exhibiting at the Foley Gallery. These were beautiful collages made entirely from tissue paper, held in place by pins, since any kind of glue would damage the fragile paper.

I have to admit, I didn’t fully appreciate this work while I was in the gallery, as the room was quite small and with the 30 or so other people who were on the tour it was impossible to move far enough away from the work to get a proper view, but when I was checking the gallery website for photos to post here I was blown away. The exhibit doesn’t close until the 12th April, so maybe I’ll go back and take another look.

The artist was apparently inspired to use tissue paper - I believe he doesn't usually work in quite such a fragile medium - by an essay by Edgar Allen Poe where Poe discusses the need for transparency in the writing process. The tissue paper supposedly represents transparency in the artist's creative process. An excerpt from Poe's poem, The Raven, is also posted on the wall of the gallery.

If you look at the images below you’ll see there’s a black plastic bag, which is common to each piece. A "unifying element" apparently. It's often used in a disturbing way, to cover the head of the man hanging from the tree in the first image for example. In the second image of Pablo Picasso at work in his studio it represents the bag of tools Picasso used in his work.

Afterwards we walked down 3 flights to the Priska Juschka gallery to see an installation piece, Yardsale, by Jade Townsend, an inside out house, entirely made of wood, taking up the whole gallery space.

What you can't tell from this tiny photo is that you could walk around the back and inside the house where there's an earth floor, with a picket fence in the centre and stars hanging from the ceiling. Inside-out y'see. It was a pretty cool concept I thought. The artist also stopped by to talk about his work and answer our questions. If I am remembering correctly the work is a comment on American consumerism and how we have so much stuff in our lives that we don't need, hence the scatteredness of the stuff from inside the house. He seemed fairly young and had a very sweet way about him. He came across as very humble and touched that we were interested in his work. He won me over when a guy asked him who he expected to buy a big piece like this and he laughed and said genuinely "who would buy THIS?"

He said a work of this size was more of a billboard piece to draw attention to himself as an artist and it's the smaller pieces he earns a living from, although some parts of this piece do have bids on them. Guess how long it took him to create this house and all the furniture and how many people he had to help him.

Any ideas?


3.5weeks and just one buddy to help him. 3.5weeks!!! He's like the Billy Whizz of the art world. He's exhibiting a larger piece at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City in the summer.

Ok. Still with me? We're half way through. Maybe I'll chat less about these next few and just show the pics. Hmmm. Actually I can't find pics of the next one. To be honest I wasn't so keen on it. It was by Gregory Coates and was exhibited at Magnan Projects. It was basically lots of feathers that were either painted before and then stuck to the canvas, or stuck to the canvas and painted over. The pieces kind of reminded me of seventies shag rugs. Betsy hated it since she's not so keen on birds, so the exhibit made her feel a bit squeamish.

Moving swiftly on to....drumroll please....Jae Hyo Lee, a South Korean artist exhibiting at the Reeves Contemporary Gallery. I LOVED this one. As we walked into the 2nd floor gallery we were greeted by the jaw dropping sight of a curtain of leaves suspended from the ceiling. Unfortunately I could not find a photo that represented how stunning this looked, but you can see part of it on the left side of the image below. It was about 3 times the length of what you see here.

The circular blobs on the wall are pieces that are made entirely from twigs, they're stunning in person, but they look a bit like sea urchins in this photo. As you can probably tell this artist is quite partial to working with natural materials. He also had an amazing 'cylinder' made up of suspended rocks.

Ok, just 3 more which I will zip through. Seth Price at the Friedrich Petzel gallery. When I first walked in I was kind of non-plussed by these pieces which just looked like wood and plastic cut outs stuck to the wall with no identifiable shape. That is, until I started to look at the space between the images - Rafael later explained the artist used 'negative space' to explore simple interactions between people - and then it became more interesting to try and spot the interaction.

For example the one on the left, there is a person on the left of the piece holding a microphone, while the person on the left is grabbing their wrist. Do you see it? In the others you can see a couple about to kiss, a person indicating to someone where to sign and a mother spoon feeding a child.

Our seventh stop was to see the Jean-Michel Othoniel exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins, a gay French artist who works with Murano glass. There was quite a lot of phallic imagery in this guy's pieces, although less so in this wagon, but fairly obviously in the pink glass necklace :-)

Last, but not least, Diana Cooper at the Postmasters gallery, an artist who, in her own words, is "fascinated by maps, subway systems, color-coding, the relationships between macroscopic and microscopic imagery. But I always feel that I operate by osmosis. I really am influenced by the visual world. I want the work to have a sensuality and visual impact. And I think a lot of systems are visual. Systems are a way people try to make sense of things or create order." So there you have it. And there endeth the gallery gallivanting for this month :-)


Anonymous said...

Oh my god, these gallery posts of yours kill me. I became so engrossed my first morning cup of tea went cold! And yes, I know I should be working right now instead of reading your blog.

That Second Life one--HA! Oh, that is funny but really not surprising? Absolutely nothing is surprising in the world of "art!"

I did like it though. It was pretty crazy looking. I'm not an "art critic" (no way!!!) but I like things that I can sort of stare at and become engrossed in.

Anyway, I never got into the First Life, Second Life...all of that, either. My own "Life" is enough to keep up with! However, I loved the sort of "terrorist" group that rose up against retail selling within that virtual arena.

Also...coincidence? A minor tie to the other installation toward the bottom re: American consumerism and how everyone has too many things and it being all scattered.

Cooper's quote is quite interesting as well. I have never considered myself a visual person. Well, I can see! But in terms of trying to work with it...in my head, out of my head (only photography there) very difficult.

I am trying to better myself in that way...it's tough.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi PA, I should be working right now instead of responding to your comment ;-) Thanks for the compliment on the gallery posts.

I liked the look of the images from Cai Fei's work too, they are works you can look at time after time and always find something new.

I can see the tie in on consumerism between Jade Townsend's piece and Diana Cooper's work. I was less drawn to Diana Cooper's, but that was the last exhibit and I was wet from being out in the rain and famished, so not the most appreciative mindset ;-)

Blur Ting said...

I like the exhibit by Jae Hyo Lee too. Looks brilliant even in the photo, must be awesome to see it in person.

Flowers said...

you're so lucky in that you can pop out and visit galleries. all we have here in my city is the museum of silesia...basically mining and ancient tupperware.

that being said i do realise that i am very lucky as well.

i'm really impressed with the art you featured. there are soooo many talented people in the world!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Blur Ting, Jae Hyo Lee was my favourite too, although his work had a more architectural style to it which would be tricky to exhibit in a home. I love the idea of the curtain of leaves acting as a room divider though :-)

Hey Flowers, no artists toiling away down some dark alleys? I do feel lucky to be here. There's great stuff to see in NY. Have a good one, Fish

Kitty said...

I think I've changed over the years. For some reason I have an easier time going to a photography exhibit or one for more traditional 'Art' art than these more modern things.

Meaning, I have a preference for representational art. Very hard to admit it. I used to be a diehard modernist (though not in Art art but in architecture).

So I'd like to think I'm the open-minded type, but I am so NOT!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Kitty, at least you know what you like. Me, I'm all about variety, be it art, music, movies, I run the gamut :-)

Sid said...

Okay ... thanks to you, I've decided to put "vising a gallery in Cape Town" down on my bucket list. I'm sure South African artists must have something interesting to offer the world.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Sid, I'm thrilled I've inspired you to check out some art. Have a good day :-)