Look || See || Feel

The Emptiness Within

Jay DeFeo
b. 1929 Hanover, NH
d. 1989 Oakland, CA

The Eyes, 1958, Graphite pencil on paper, 42 × 84 3/4 in. (106.7 × 215.3 cm).

The artist inscribed the back of this drawing with a stanza from a poem by Philip Lamantia, a fellow member of San Francisco’s Beat community: ”Tell him I have eyes only for Heaven as I look to you Queen Mirror of the Heavenly Court”.

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

The Art of the In-Between

1/KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers), founded 2010, installation view of SERENE, 2017

3/Kaari Upson (b. 1972), In Search of the Perfect Double II, 2016 (detail). Urethane, pigment and aluminium

4/Asad Raza (b. 1974), detail of Root sequence. Mother tongue, 2017

5/Elsie Driggs (1895–1992), Pittsburgh, 1927. Oil on canvas

8/Richmond Barthé (1901–1989), African Dancer, 1933. Plaster

9/View (partial) of Larry Bell’s Pacific Red II, 2017 – also seen in previous post

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

Red Velvet Fudge & Hot Pink Candy

In Greece, the expression “piase kokkino” (“touch red”) is said when two people say the same thing at the same time. It is believed that such an occurrence is an omen that the two will have an argument in the future, which can only be broken when the two touch the closest thing that is red.

Larry Bell
Born 1939 in Chicago, IL
Lives in Taos, NM, and Los Angeles, CA

Blending into the red candy palette of Larry Bell’s Pacific Red II, a work consisting of six laminated glass cubes installed in one of the Whitney’s terraces. Each box enclosed another, their multiple surfaces reflecting warm shades of red and pink light which – inevitably – made it an instant hit with photographers and other urban species of instagram.

PS: there were no arguments that day – or the next!

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

High-protein diet

Pope.L aka William Pope.L
Born 1955 in Newark, NJ
Lives in Chicago, IL

For Claim (Whitney Version), Pope.L created a grid of 2,755 slices of bologna, each affixed with a black-and-white photocopied snapshot of a person. A text mounted within the work “claims” that the number of slices corresponds to a percentage of New York’s population of 1,086,000 Jewish residents.

Pope.L’s numbers are, in his words, “a bit off.” The total number of slices indicated is off by two, and several slices have been removed. Moreover, the so-called portraits “representing” Jews were made without regard for their subjects’ cultural identities. Pope.L has previously made multiple versions within this family of works, many focusing on Black subjects. Claim (Whitney Version) plays with our tendency to project ourselves onto numbers and stokes our awareness that such counting often lays the groundwork for systematic acts of discrimination. The anxiety provoked by the work’s calculated absurdity questions the power of “big data,” raising the specter of its use for nefarious ends—from controlling whose votes are valuable, to who can enter and leave the country freely.

Note (sticker on the bologna covered wall): The varied appearance of the gutters is the result of a miscommunication among Museum staff. Pope.L has requested that the mistake not be rectified because he believes that the ensuing condition is in keeping with the overall character of the work.

Paired with:

Jon Kessler
Born 1957 in Yonkers, NY
Lives in New York, NY

Jon Kessler makes what he calls “performative sculptures,” whose humor and kitsch belie their serious critique. The two works on view in the 2017 Biennial, Exodus and Evolution, are part of a larger in-process project, The Floating World, which addresses the social and environmental impacts of climate change. In Exodus, the series of eBay-sourced figurines that rotate around a screen in an endless march are evocative of mass migrations of people, whether from natural disasters or political situations such as the Syrian refugee crisis. Evolution focuses attention on rising sea levels; two figures in snorkel gear take pictures, apparently indifferent to or ignorant of any impending danger. 

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

Censorship Now!!

”Art is in a lost state now. It’s a mess, without any idea of why it exists, where it’s going, who it’s for, and where it comes from. Censorship would immediately grant it a compass, a meaning, a purpose, a direction, give it its power back. An artist who is ”anti-censorship” is essentially waving a white flag; declaring their work to be inconsequential; a smudge, a scribble, a doodle, or polka dot.”

Do you agree? Think about it…

Frances Stark
Born 1967 in Newport Beach, CA
Lives in Los Angeles, CA

Frances Stark’s recent series on view in the Biennial borrows from the incendiary writing of punk musician, cult figure, and author Ian F. Svenonius. Stark hand-painted page-spreads from the title essay in his 2015 book Censorship Now!! In the essay, Svenonius contends that the battle for artistic freedom of speech has been “won” at the cost of art’s irrelevance and powerlessness, suggesting that this supposed liberty only makes artists both more complicit in, and more vulnerable to, militaristic and capitalistic oppression. Artists, he proposes, should take control of censorship in order to eliminate everything from bland nonsense to mass-produced pop to expressions of fascist ideology. Svenonius’s tone is extreme, but Stark leaves it to us to determine his intent. She painted the text on a monumental scale, indicating a high level of commitment to his radical position, especially the ideas in passages she has underlined.

Frances Stark (b. 1967), Ian F. Svenonius’s “Censorship Now” for the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Spread 3 of 8 (pp.16-17) (the state, like a rampaging mob boss), 2017. Gesso, ink, oil and acrylic on canvas, 79 × 104 in. (188 × 264.2 cm)

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Paired with John Riepenhoff‘s figures from his ”Handler” series (second image from top). Each sculpture consists of a pair of legs  from papier-mâché and modeled on the artist’s own, that supports a two-dimensional work by another artist – here with Michelle Grabner on the left and (if I’m not mistaken) Allen Ginsberg on the right.

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

 

 

beginning & the end, neither & the otherwise, betwixt & between, the end is the beginning & the end

Made you look, didn’t it? Imagine then, what a head-turner this installation was in real life!

A site-specific work by Raúl de Nieves for the 2017 Whitney Biennial, with floor-to-ceiling windows made to look like stained-glass, using paper, wood, glue, tape, beads, and acetate sheets. In front of them, the most heavily blinged sculptures, completely covered in beads, costume jewelry and heavy fabric, costumes that the artist is actually wearing himself when performing.

Doubtlessly the most bonkers installation of the 2017 Biennial but, for those searching for a deeper meaning, the accompanying tag had it all spelled out:

”In all of his work, de Nieves treats modest materials with meticulous attention, turning the mundane into the fantastical—with metamorphosis a common theme. The windows depict a world in which death and waste are omnipresent, often symbolized by a fly. Unlike many Western spiritual traditions, however, de Nieves presents death as a metaphor for the possibility of spectacular transformation and rebirth in an unpredictable and turbulent world.”

Ha! My nose is bigger than yours!


Raúl de Nieves (b. 1983 in Morelia, Mexico; lives in Brooklyn, NY)

beginning & the end, neither & the otherwise, betwixt & between, the end is the beginning & the end, 2016
Paper, wood, glue, acetates, tape, and beads, 195 x 456 5/16 in. (495.3 x 1159 cm).

Man’s best friend, 2016
Yarn, fabric, glue, beads, cardboard, found trim and mannequin

The longer I slip into a crack the shorter my nose becomes, 2016
Yarn, dress, glue beads, cardboard, found trim, apple, taxidermic bird and mannequin

Somos Monstros 2, 2016
Beads, glue found trim, cardboard, costume jewelry and dress

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017