These past few months have been quite a whirlwind — so many talks!, so much committee work!, so so so many advisees! — but I still managed to squeeze in at least an hour of aesthetic stimulation every week. Way back in early October, after giving a guest lecture on “13 ways of looking at infrastructure” (à la Wallace Stevens) in Bill Morrish’s class, I trekked downtown to P! to see Pangrammar, a show of alphabet art:
While in the neighborhood, I also caught Samara Golden’s “A Fall of Corners” — a gravity-defying installation of various fifth-dimension non-places: a wedding reception, a buffet restaurant, a hotel lobby — at CANADA.
A little later, I stopped by James Cohan to see Elias Sime’s Tightrope collages of recycled electronics from the Addis Ababa open-air Merkato. These accidental landscapes of e-waste — both sourced from a landscape of refuse and then, in their newly reconfigured form, resembling an aerial view of coded land-use patterns — could very well constitute the newest of the new New Topographics.
Then more scripts and codes at “Mark my Words” at Gemini GEL / Joni Moisant Weyl:
Everybody seemed to like Wolfgang Tillmans’s PCR at David Zwirner, but I found it rather ho-hum. The show’s installation was much more provocative than the work itself.
Then I happened to catch two pollination-themed shows: Kelly Heaton’s bee-stuffs at Ronald Feldman and Artie Vierkant’s AN ON MO SA NS — on Montsanto, seeds, genetic intellectual property and patented “life” — at Feuer/Mesler. From the press release:
As early as 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a life form could be patented. According to The Hastings Center, an independent bioethics research institute, over 47,000 genetic patents have since been filed, 3-5,000 of which are for human genetic traits.
The objects on view are thus intended to redirect a small amount of this regulated material into the space of exhibition. They exist at the intersection of the biological (material), the ethical, and the juridical, and reflect a contemporary sentiment towards nature that is more pasteural than pastoral.
Then we spent a lovely fall afternoon at Russell Wright’s Manitoga.
And on my way home the next evening, I happened upon some folks projection-mapping onto the facade of the Brooklyn Public Library. I’ve never been a fan of the Githens & Keally building, but I must admit: its monolithic blankness does make for a great screen!
A few weeks later I caught the Jeff Wall / Rineke Dijkstra / William Kentridge triple-play at Marian Goodman. I particularly love Wall’s “Property Line,” which captures the processes and apparatae through which landscape becomes real estate.
Then I saw H.C. Westermann’s “See America First” — earnestly pragmatic artifacts and American Techno-Gothic talismans — at Venus Over Manhattan:
Then Matt Magee’s “Paintings and Textcavations” (ouch) at John Molloy: floorplans, diagrams, network maps, systems of arrangement:
Then, a highlight of my past few months’ gallery-going: Cynthia Daignault’s “Light Atlas,” one painting for each of the 360 degrees in the artist’s road trip around the circumference of the U.S.
The resulting document of the journey, the paintings, depicts the breadth of American light and land. Installed in the gallery, edge-to-edge, the canvases align by a shared center horizon, tracing the circumference of America. Light Atlas expands into a metaphorical filmstrip. A zoetrope. A cyclorama. Daignault defines its structure as long-form painting, akin to a novel, film, or epic poem. Often using serial forms, Daignault forges meaning across groups of images, opposing the nihilism ever-present in randomized picture streams of contemporary life. Humanist and non-hierarchal, no single canvas stands above any other and significance rises only from the meaningful whole. At a distance, Light Atlas paints a holistic portrait of America, revealing slow shifts in hue, atmosphere, typology, and topography—a color wheel mapping verdancy to desert, and forest to farm. Its images construct an index of American memes: plant and animal, architecture and industry, wealth and poverty, depth and proximity, wildness and domesticity. Yet up close, as the viewer glides down the row of paintings, as if trailing the long white line of a highway, the frames animate a more intimate, temporal, and filmic account. Daignault weaves a dense narrative, intercutting parallel stories of the journey, the creation of the work, and the grander fiction of America itself, all recounted with an unmistakable love of painting and place.
After that, Brice Marden’s Journals at Karma:
Then Corinne Wasmuht’s labor-intensive paintings of digital aesthetics — which of course “call into question painting’s status in the digital age” — at Petzel. Her subject matter — transitional zones, non-places — resembles Samara Golden’s (above), but the two artists’ divergent treatments of similar sites raise questions regarding how we perceive and experience the myriad pass-through regions we traverse everyday.
And speaking of spatial experience — and the potential to render the mundane fantastic or fanciful — we then saw “Things Around the House,” a Claes Oldenburg / Coosje van Bruggen show at Paula Cooper:
Also just because: Camille Henrot’s pills-and-cigarettes zoetrope at Metro Pictures (I tend to like telephone art, but didn’t get much out of her room of hotline phones):
Rachel Whiteread’s “Looking In” — concrete and resin windows, either bricked up or shielded with accordion blinds, whose transparency is only illusory — at Luhring Augustine:
Then, back to our textual theme: Zhang Huan’s “Let There Be Light” — ash paintings depicting, in Braille, passages from the Bible and the Star Spangled Banner — at Pace.
Holding the textual line, but moving from ash to neon — and bringing us full circle, back to alphabets and topologies: Joseph Kosuth’s magnificent “Agnosia, an Illuminated Ontology” at Sean Kelly:
Finally, while in Los Angeles, I stopped by the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and the Huntington Library, where I toured the lovely gardens and marveled at Chinese typewriters and 16th-century volvelles.