July 23, 2011
April 27, 2011
August 8, 2010
June 24, 2010
May 30, 2010
“Vetrinetta delle Meraviglie: Cabinet of Wonders,” revives the romantic love-triangle of fantasy, myth and memory with a series of small-scale collages, found objects, drawings and paintings by Yi Chen, Benedetto Marcucci, Fulvio di Piazza, Sapna Shah and Nicola Verlato. Numerous glass vitrines display these contemporary works of art, evoking a mysterious longing that bridges one back to the heart of imagination where dreams percolate, simmer and abound. Set within the ancient Italian city of Spoleto, this group exhibition overlooks the 13th-century Duomo and appears like a handful of jewels that contrasts thematically with the bountiful landscape seen in the surrounding hillside.
Reality breaks away in Yi Chen’s paper collages, which contain layered cutouts found in fashion magazines, distorting the allegories of advertisement while suggesting an association of someone new. “Tiffany,” (2007) finds its title from the blue bag of Tiffany & Co. located on the composition’s left side. A halo of hair hangs around an unknown face with the S-curve of a model’s body positioned directly below. Three additional pieces titled, “Lady in Black,” (2008) “Aqua,” (2008) and “Afro Lady,” (2008) reflect the same technique but feature various colors in the background that add a sense of depth to these spritely, lightweight portraits. Chen’s single oil painting, “Self Rejuvenation,” (2010) continues to flatten form and reflects the use of sharp-angled brushstrokes that render an edgy figural abstraction as seen in his earlier work.
Benedetto Marcucci’s collection of jar sculptures feature books sealed in a low-acidic oil, treating these objects of the printing press as relics of a by-gone era. Like Chen, Marcucci explores the flattening of knowledge and culture. “Sulla Strada (On the Road)” (2010) by Jack Kerouac became the narrative of Beat culture upon its publication in 1957 and paved the road to freedom for generations that followed. However “Dizionario delle idée (Dictionary of Ideas),” (2010) strongly hints that the Internet, and other new forms of communications technology, has created a larger a-historical moment leading to a downgraded Western society. As the son of a collector, Marcucci became familiar with methods of assemblage and preservation early in his career. As seen in the two previous objects, “L’Arte dei rumori (The Art of Noise),” (2010) “Il contratto sociale (The Social Contract),” (2010) and “Il restuaro (The Restoration),” (2010) capture paperback editions of classic texts although the artist presents them as rare, archaeological objects of study.
Fantastical landscapes spin forth in four paintings by Fulvio di Piazza. “Cascalcada,” (2008) for instance, is a phenomenal depiction of knitted yarn and plastic house plants. However when seen from a distance, this painting feels otherworldly. “Catedral,” (2009) and “Fog,” (2009) are saturated with blue, green and black hues that depict volcanic-like masses, punctuated with small areas colored either bright red or white, signifying either lava or smoke. Similarly “Nativo,” (2009) draws upon the details of some fairytales and portrays a face emerging within the surface of a large tree trunk. Fantasy shifts to myth in the small pencil drawings of Nicola Verlato, which set up a heroic narrative. “The Beginning,” (2010) conveys a male figure walking past two Greek-style murals that depict warriors in battle. “Warrior Spirits,” (2010) represents a cave-like interior with limp, male figures floating in space waiting for selection whereas, “The Shield Room,” (2010) reflects the transformation of society’s man into someone who is ready for military battle. “Ritual,” (2010) and “Ritual 2,” (2010) furthermore, portray men and women wildly celebrating Dionysus, the god of excess.
The colorful abstract paintings of Sapna Shah add a meditative effect to the earlier themes of distortion, archaeology, fantasy, loss, and betrayal. “Philosophical Fragments XV,” (2009) “Philosophical Fragments XIV,” (2009) and “Philosophical Fragments XXV,” (2009) consist of blue, red, yellow, green and white that interlock and pull the eye into the paintings’ pictorial depth. Two additional color studies titled, “Purple Rain,” (2008) and “Stained Glass,” (2008) focus on the vertical movement of colors using blue, red, green and purple. The subtle color contrasts appear so quickly lending both studies a pleasant, shimmering impression. As part of the larger exhibition, Shah’s paintings provide a quiet, subjective conclusion to a larger group of ideas that are free-floating, imaginative and also undefined.
This unique collection of curiosities that comprise “Vetrinetta delle Meraviglie: Cabinet of Wonders,” brings together a group of cross-cultural genres that play on feelings of longing and desire. The virtue of this particular cabinet of wonders is the way in which contemporary works of art, such as these, expand upon the narrative of fantasy and offer a new space for dream-like meditation. Encased in glass-covered compartments that recess into sheer white walls, these charms of metaphor not only convey where we come from but also lead us back to the authentic origin of the new.
March 26, 2010
Ethan Shoshan: I'm always thinking of you even when I'm kissing Another boy | Aljira A Center for Contemporary Art
by Jill Conner
In English the reflexive verb is used most often in technical writing or personal memoirs, but it rarely appears noticeable when spoken. This particular verb refers the direct object, the self, back to the subject of the sentence or idea. Indo-European languages make use of reflexive verbs more frequently and often without regard to any specific grammatical rules of the language. In other words the articulation of the subject and itself portrays a relation that one has in contrast to others while maintaining a close connection through the stated difference.
The reflexive is complex. It is primarily reciprocal and transitive but can also appear with intransitive verbs. Ethan Shoshan's exhibition at the Aljira Center for Contemporary Art in Newark titled I'm always thinking of you even when I'm kissing another boy stands as a personal statement of free associations that are embodied through a series of objects which have been collected by the artist over time. Initially given as gifts, these items have become part of a larger narrative that rings universal, conveying the multi-layered, shifting characteristics of memory and meaning.
Experiencing art outside of a market context is suddenly unique but also quite liberating. Shoshan arranges these gifted objects in a personal order: while numbered on a complimentary diagram, this arrangement does not appear sequentially. But in the end, that is not the point. Feelings, thoughts and memories never adhere to a specific order. Instead it is the personal experience that the artist features with each object.
Two small sea shells, for instance, are displayed on a flat, white surface and appear far smaller in real life when compared to the photographed copy that appears in the catalogue. These small shells were kept to preserve the loving memory of a friendship just like the small plastic bag of hair that the artist once shaved from another lover's chest. Shoshan's additional incorporation of a first-person narrative immediately allows the reader to identify with the "I", the self that is presented. And yet, the self is so often masked away as we proceed through the anonymity of life. Postcards, cards and other ephemera represent a series of experiences that symbolize feelings of passion, love, loss, death, sadness and betrayal - events that are critical in shaping one's individual character.
Is Ethan Shoshan's installation any different than the objects made by artists such as Elizabeth Peyton or Urs Fischer? Both Peyton and Fischer re-appropriate the found object as well as the found image, but in doing so, the object's re-representation becomes depersonalized and far removed from anything specific, except its mode of production: a copy of a copy. The elements of Shoshan's collection, by contrast, are either strictly handmade or found, but not reproduced, preserving the individual imprint of the gift-giver while serving as symbols of particular moments.
When describing this installation, Shoshan refers to these objects as archetypes: the symbolic elements whose meanings we all share. Art, therefore, is about how we connect to an object, as well as others, which signifies a mode of perception that is far different from the recent economic boom in contemporary art. No longer is the idea of value displaced into the dollar. I'm always thinking of you even when I'm kissing another boy divests the art object from its star status but features it within a scope of a larger idea, none of which is for sale. This exhibition marks a beginning. As this idea continues to travel on to different venues, Ethan Shoshan will be collaborating with more artists, who will contribute objects from their own personal narratives as well.
December 22, 2009
by Jill Conner
Asteriskpix is always on the road to something new, creating flawless animations that fit smoothly into larger productions. On a recent visit, Richard O'Connor showed some of the work that was done for All About Prints, a project that was aired on American Public Television in May 2009 as well as some fragments from their soon-to-be-finished project titled The Buddha. Although O'Connor still insists that the studio's work is not about avant-garde, high-art but rather about the confluence of creativity and research, the imagery that emerges from this animation studio suggests otherwise.
All About Prints breaks past the wide-spread assumption that prints are less valuable, and a more affordable alternative, to the purchase of an original work of art, like a painting or sculpture. While that is partially true, this show opens up the long history of print making and reveals the fact that not only were these images intended to be low-cost for easy purchase but they were also designed for quick dissemination to a broad audience. Deborah Wye, Chief Curator of the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books at the Museum of Modern Art, points out the central role that prints still have in the work of contemporary artists like Christian Marclay and Swoon. Artists throughout history such as Albrecht Duerer, Rembrandt, James McNeill Whistler, Edward Hopper, Kara Walker, Jacob Lawrence and Ellen Gallagher have also explored this as a form of commercial art. However the most interesting facet of this program is the role that the print-making process played throughout both America and Mexico during the 1920's and '30's.
While unemployment swept throughout the mid-Western states, union strikes became more frequent. Moreover, the American population that lived on both coasts was largely unaware of the hardships that had developed throughout the central United States. The WPA was begun by President Roosevelt in 1935, to put unemployed Americans back to work on public projects, but in near-by Mexico, prints thrived where a revolution was underway. Emotional illustrations were passed out in large volume, with the hope that the economic and political struggles of this vast country, located south of the American boarder, could be seen around the world.
Will Barnett discussed his own personal engagement with these life-changing events and stated that American artists were doing their greatest work in the 1930's, which is true given the Red Scare that developed nearly 20 years later. Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros held strong sway over artists who wanted to join the cause for workers rights and social justice, to get the word and image out together. Barnett first worked as a printer for Jose Clemente Orozco and later became the Master Printer at the Art Students League, where he specialized in lithographs.
Although the American Abstract Expressionists took print-makers by surprise, the medium returned with a new focus on popular, consumer culture. Robert Rauschenberg, for instance, created prints that showed images of events as they occurred, an early pictorial suggestion of real-time. Andy Warhol took the print out of the realm of politics and couched it more closely to fashion and consumption. Despite this revival, however, the American print genre will most likely not possess the same degree of political muscle as it did during the early half of the 20th-century.