Sunday, July 29, 2007

Banks Violette at Barbara Gladstone

"No, seriously... How do you really feel about the exhibit?"

Okay, here it is-- my long-awaited Banks Violette review.

I've been tempted to post a photo of a steaming pile of oil-laden excrement juxtaposed on a snow white background backlit in halogen to express my feelings as to this show, but unfortunately, I could not get a shade of shit nearly dark enough to go with the porcelain bowl contrast--Ahem.

So instead, I leave you with the image at left randomly stolen from the internet to voice my displeasure.

Mental anguish + disaffected Scandinavian youth + black and white combinations do not an "art" exhibit make.

Shockingly saturated pigmentation + blinding light+ pseudo-Gregorian chant a-la lo-fi white noise from a fairly poorly executed U.S.-Based via L.A. and NYC drone metal band that specializes in the music of neer-do-well Norwegian youths...add a quarter teaspsoon of crystal meth addiction, call it "cultural documentation" or "artistic IMMERSION"...add a smidgeon of classic good looks with nice tats, a Columbia MFA, mix it all up, and you gots da Violette.

This is not to say that I find the work of Banks (Banks? Really? That's your name? More like Bonds... a la such legendary media manipulators as Barry) Violette-- the current art world sensation because of his back story, and fairly smart as shit business decisions-- personally offensive. He actually is an immensely talented artist, although a bit uninspired to put his OWN heart into his work to add a personal touch.

Instead he copies "things"-- ideas, massive stage sets, Stave church frames, auras, and backgrounds. So, no, in this case, my problem is not with the artist--It's more the fact that the rest of the art world has basically swallowed (not spit,) bent over, and said with no arrow needed-- "Insert here."

I, too, stepped into this exhibit excited for what I was about to experience.

And it's true, Violette has an uncanny ability to definitively set moods and give gallerygoers the opportunity to experience a subculture that it normally would not partake in (i.e., drone metalheads on suicide/murder watch.)

I felt curiously at peace with the low hum throughout the gallery. At the same time, I also felt perplexed and discombobulated-- almost like a sonic boom was pulsing through my veins, and I felt underwater, trapped in a submarine-like vessel, with no cabin pressure.

Is that a body in the corner, or is just dry ice for the fog machine in load dock?

Images of Marshalls and Peaveys dance in my head-- but where are the roadies?

The sound guy must have left his audio board in the case by accident.

Alas, did they miss the van?

At any moment I'm awaiting the exploding drummer, or a dwarf Stonehenge descending from the rafters with Nigel executing a fingertip bleeding riff.


There's a Manson-like obsession with death in the Northern lands, with alcoholism rampant and rates of depression quite unheard of in the West.

24 hours of sunlight in the summer, or 18 hours of darkness for months on end in the winter-- I might be able to understand Darkthrone now.
(see to understand)

The music scene of these youths is a chance for them to take part in a collective something; anything, to make connections with the outside-- whether it be the love of ear-splitting levels of high-frequency treble with low-bass modulations or grunts and groans that take on "meaning."

Yes, meaning.

I'd like to know one thing from Mr. Violette... Just what exactly IS the meaning of this exhibit? Where does HIS story fit in with his work? What is it about this subculture that intrigues him?

My main problem with his storytelling is his lack of an ability to critically comment as an insider.

There is no part of the artist given to this work. It is plain observation-mixed with shock value, and at this point, it's troubling to me that so many artists can spoon so easily within each other's work to being indistinguishable from the next.

Steven Parrino, Violette, Gardar Eide Einnnarson-- they really do all look the same.

Also, since when did Team's roster dictate what Barbara Gladstone shows?

I think it's more than okay to be influenced by Dan Flavin, Franz Kline and Ad Reinhardt, but where does the artist deviate from the image in these collective works?

Where is the quote/unquote "individuality," not to harp on this blog's title, but seriously-- where is it?

The recent Flash Art International May '07 edition had Violette and Terrence Koh discussing their work's similarities and raison d'etres.

Whereas Koh seems to know exactly where he's going-- and deviously takes comfort in sharing his blatant whoredom, making no qualms about his motivations-- Violette takes the shy guy routine. He seems to be going about things in a more disconnected manner, letting the pieces "create themselves," for instance.

I'm not buying it. Knowing Violette's personal story of drug addiction (specifically meth, the hardest of all drugs to quit) and conquering the demons he encountered along its dreary path-- whereupon did the substance abuse fall off, and suddenly fluorescent lights, black oozy oils and shiny floors with the purest forms of snow white sea salt converge?

Let's see more in ten years. I'm interested to see where he breaks off from pack mentality and the real artist emerges.

The "show of the summer" can be seen at Barbara Gladstone Gallery on 24th Street until August 17th. This is the one with the SunnO))) "music." I can only describe Mr. SunnO))), Stephen O'Malley, as someone who desperately needs to take a load off and maybe go swimming in the Caribbean.... either that or take a laxative.

If your druthers are of the non-sound variety, you can check out Team's version as well.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Danielle Lamberti and the resurgence of '80s innocence

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York-- It certainly doesn't bring the term "artist" much to mind, nor does it bring much of anything to mind other than the best pizza you can find in the tri-state area, the wildest World Cup celebrations, and all the grottos you could ever find in a 1 block radius (I had a friend in college inappropriately term them "Virgin Marys in a bathtub.")

But out of this backdrop emerges a talented artist truly obsessed and quite knowledgeable of 1980s Saturday morning cartoon culture, Danielle Lamberti
(see montage of work at left, including "Shy Me" (in Velma-worthy eyewear).

Danielle's paintings are irreverent reworkings of sentimental faves that us early 30-somethings grew up with, such as Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, and the Care Bears.
But there is nothing cute about this imagery, except for the colors and fashion-influenced backdrops.

There is a strangely dark quality beneath her candy-coated pop-culture surface.

Take, for example, the suffocating affection shown by this polar bear, in her work, "Beastiality."

With only one eye visible, the bear is attacking the pretty young thing from behind, and with a title such as this, she is no innocent little lamb, but perhaps a cunning young thing who just happened to get in over her head.
But there's something about the way Lamberti paints the eyes of her characters.

In this case, they seem to have a pleading quality to them-- "Help me," uttered in baby voice or a soft feminity that's far from a shout, but a hoping someone will hear her.

Besides the overt sexuality at play here, there's something else afoot-- specifically a tongue-in-cheek nod to global warming, and perhaps the bikini-clad girl represents humanity enjoying its' fun effects ("Woohoo! Let's go to the beach!"), while the polar bear is literallly swimming for its very survival.

Interesting take on a serious subject, blending a comedic setting with a dramatic flair.
Next, let's try being buried alive with "Dig Me Deeper," below.
Certainly the aspect of that is no "day at the beach."

We all loved taking our pails and shovels to the beach as children and started digging a moat, in hopes of protecting our castle or finding buried treasure.

Our friends are there along with us for the ride-- but every once in a while, we have to give up control, and let the Alphas of the group take over.

In this scenario, it certainly looks like the burial victims are having second-thoughts-- the "digger," in this case, also seems a bit confused as to her next step.

It almost has a sorority-initiation feel to it, or a hazing ritual.

Disturbing-- and those turned-up noses remind me of Miss Piggy mixed with Nancy and Sluggo (always scary cartoon characters).

Here, again, is Mr. Polar Bear with his BFF, in "Shrug if Off."

Truly he's Bella Karolyi, egging his young protege onwards, ever onwards.
(Now everybody, in your best Eastern European accent, "You can do it, Kerri!")
But again, I'm not sure about how the girl feels about his over-obsessive tendencies.

He's like the jealous boyfriend who keeps calling to check in on your whereabouts and will kick any guys' ass who looks at you.

Truly creepy polar bear!

I'm including a few more images, just for their sheer beauty of color and depth.
I like how Lamberti has made these works with such high gloss, giving them an oil-based quality, but each of the works displayed here are all acrylic.

She has an unusual style, and utilizes texture and depth much more effectively than the standard Superflats of Murakami and his Anime/Manga disciples.

The show, entitled "The Rainbow Room," is up through August 4th at Merge Gallery, an adorable little gallery space located in the heart of Chelsea.
Owner Cass Zielinski has a great enthusiasm for his artists and his space and definitely stopping in was a highlight of my afternoon.
Merge makes it a priority to highlight the work of some very interesting emerging artists.
Definitely check them out, and while you're at it, have a coffee at the equally fantastic Cafe Grumpy across the street-- it's a definite afternoon of enjoyment and fun.
205 West 20th Street New York.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11-6pm.
More sad polar bears and fun below... Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"The Color Line" at Jack Shainman Gallery

Listen closely...

What do you hear?

That sound you hear is the crackling of cash; of bank accounts getting fatter and fatter with the sales of young, white 20-30 somethings with fine pedigrees, some prodigies, and so few sans master degrees in today's global art market.

Besides the financial benefits globalization has provided, it also has provided the side-effect of giving a voice to those who previously have been rarely heard.

A fine example of art's power as cultural statement is currently on display at Jack Shainman Gallery.

Curated by Nigerian-born artist Odili Donald Odita, this is truly one of the most heart-wrenching exhibits I could ever imagine.

("Soundsuit" at left by artist Nick Cave with Mario Cravo Neto's photography in background)

And given the fact that so much of the art world is too busy over the summer vacationing in the Hamptons, or checking out the corpulent mess that is the European biennials, here is a show that may go unnoticed.

But in no uncertain terms should it be overlooked or missed-- this is the strongest work I have seen to date in 2007.

Capitalism's reign over modern society has taken a chokehold, and left many by the wayside, especially the population of the African continent.

With the timetable of Western colonization now going back through several centuries, our attention spans seem to be held for only so long; After all, there are only so many tales of starvation, of famine, genocide, female mutilation, cultural obliteration and religious manipulation that we can handle, right? Wrong.

While the art world's own corporate profits continue their upward track, how many faces of color will be able to break through the color barrier to share in the profits?

Not only is there a glass ceiling, but the current art collector or gallerist is far from color-blind.

Just looking at the rosters of each of the top galleries, it's rare to see a face that looks physically different from the rest.

Of course not only do top galleries ignore the work of artists of color, but there are few opportunities in many of these countries for those with artistic bents to be able to develop their talents, given the daily struggle for mere survival being a top priority.

Taking this into account is an astonishingly harsh dose of reality by Dutch artist Christiaan Bastiaans, "Korper Zur Beobachtungsstation II," from 2004.

As the conflict in Darfur continues to rage, we're faced with the doomsday scenario of an entire nation, as our leaders continually turn their backs to focus on more important issues-- 2008 campaign fundraising, or Paris Hilton's lack of underpants, for instance.

This work by Bastiaans shows us that these victims are anonymous to us here in the west; a shroud covering them up-- the dirty, the unclean; they are modern lepers, if you will.

It certainly is a difficult image to look at for too long, but this is reality at its most powerful.

A society whose only guilt has been to find themselves in the wrong country at the wrong time in history-- a time of the Janjaweed running rampant, with a world willing to turn its back as the genocide continues to rage on.

Brilliant piece.

Another great work is at left by Surianmese-Dutch artist Remy Jungerman, "Nobody is Protected," from 2000.

It focuses directly on world media, and individual cultures' interpretation of the message.

Currently all the world is a stage-- here the setting is a press conference-- with a multitude of microphones awaiting a leader who perhaps is late, or unwilling to speak.

The shoddy makeup of the wooden platform emphasizes our own questioning of society at hand.

Will we continue to accept what images are thrown to us-- given the nature of pr's influence on our nightly news?

I like how the wires just lay in a pile at the front-- awaiting to be sorted out one by one.

It's definitely speaking to methods of communication-- are they effective, and how does each society interpret their own "sources"?

At right, "Stay Black and Die," from the series "Things I Need to do."

Artist Rashid Johnson is posing quite an intense question-- Is being born black a death sentence?

As AIDS continues to ravage a cash-strapped continent in desperate need of salvation, can identity of color literally mean a choice between life and death?

Assimilate, and you will survive.

Stay "black," and in this case, you will perish.

Issues of race identity boil to the surface here.

Is being what we commonly perceive as black merely a skin color, or a choice?

Is Johnson commenting on the phenomenon of the Uncle Toms and Condoleezas of the world, if you will-- who become part of the white man's world, and achieve quote/unquote "success."

Stay in the ghetto, and you shall die by the sword?

A tough question, with no easy answers.

The exhibit runs until August 3rd at 513 West 20th Street.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Empty stomachs in the ghost town that is Chelsea

Since the entire art world has pretty much abandoned their weekend hours for the next month and a half, I thought I'd show a fairly often visited location in the Chelsea art scene.

It's value is far under-appreciated.
Yes, I'm talking about the Kwik Farms gas station/convenience store.
Since the city of New York and the developers who have overtaken Chelsea have decided that we continuously need more galleries and more living space, but apparently do not need FOOD, this is where we buy our iced teas, our sodas, our emergency gallery toilet paper supply and snacks.
After all, Prada doesn't make a size 12--Who needs to eat?
In all actuality, we really only have Bottino's as an actual take-out lunch option.
Everywhere else is sit-down.
For every "commercial space available" advertisement I see on the cross streets, I cross my fingers with anticipation-- maybe... just maybe... a coffee shop???

How about a bagel place?

I mean... crap... even a STARBUCK'S?????
Do I ask too much?
Of course the same holds true for many other areas-- Long Island City, for example.

Realtors and developers clamor for space-- then the new residents move in, but there's nowhere to shop, to eat, to LIVE.
District zoning is fine-- but why is it that NYC has to cluster everything in one area-- i.e., galleries must be in Chelsea, Indian food can only be found from Park-Lexington, 26th-29th streets, retail clothing stores must be on 5th Avenue?

Barry Hoggard and James Wagner were mentioning the other day on their blogs regarding an added benefit to an opening in the Lower East Side... "at least there's places for us to eat."

Wouldn't that be nice?

All they have to do is build one take-out eatery and I promise you us gallery workers and artsy types will patronize your establishment.
Oh, and need I say how convenient it could be for those with art blogs to have a location other than the cave that is Chelsea Market to write in? I promise I'll buy a coffee to usurp your bandwidth.

And don't forget your wasted 27th Street club hoppers-- they need food to absorb the alcohol STAT.

But please hurry-- I'm starting to feel like Britney Spears with all her gas station visits (but of course I wear shoes).

Oh, and here's the 100% abandoned 24th Street yesterday.

Banks Violette exhibit, I guess I will have to wait for thee....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Probably no greater tribute to the artistic spirit...

A lot of times artists are thought of as innovative, fearless, or just plain crazy.

Well, in this case, I think plain batshit crazy is the word for it.

Perhaps including commentary on an armchair ballooning afficionado is a bit outside of my usual Chelsea/New York art blog realm, but I can't resist reposting this story from ABC News.

This has to be my favorite story in years a la Darwin Awards Hall of Fame material.

Below is the story, but here's a link from Cluster Balooners for "If you want to try this at home."

Fly high at your own risk!

From ABC News...

July 11, 2007

When the mischievous children's book monkey Curious George wanted a lift, he simply grabbed onto a bunch of brightly colored balloons and sailed away.In real life, an Oregon man has followed his lead — and added a lawn chair.

Kent Couch traveled nearly 200 miles and more than nine hours in such a contraption Saturday, with little more than a pair of sunglasses, a radio and a parachute at his side.

He attached more than 100 helium-filled balloons to his lawn chair and took off from his gas station in Bend, Ore."

It was serene, just like you're on top of a cloud laying there," Couch said on "Good Morning America" today. "

It was just like being on ice, nice and smooth."

Couch traveled as high as 13,000 feet as he floated eastward toward his intended destination of Idaho.

He said he heard cattle and children as he drifted among the clouds, using water jugs to control his altitude.

This fanciful odyssey had an inspiration: Couch had once seen a television show about how such a feat could be accomplished.

The episode was inspired by Larry "Lawn Chair" Walters, who floated over Los Angeles using weather balloons in 1982.

Couch and his supplies weighed about 310 pounds, and each balloon weighed about 5 pounds.
He used approximately 200 pounds of ballast to keep him anchored at the appropriate altitude.

Couch's wife, Susan, and friends helped him build the flying lawn chair."

I was terrified, but I was being supportive," Susan said.
"I know once something gets in his mind he's not going to forget it."

But it wasn't all smooth sailing.

The 47-year-old said just when he began to question what he was doing, the makeshift aircraft ran into turbulence.

Couch touched down in a field near Union, Ore., not quite making it to his Idaho target.

The father of five said he would love to take his lawn chair for another flight, this time ending in Idaho.

But, he said he is unsure whether his wife would allow him to do so — helium-filled balloons, in turns out, are very expensive.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Mike Erickson and Jason Coates

Currently on view at Denise Bibro Fine Art, Virginia Commonwealth University's MFA program, "So Inclined."

I'm including the work of my 2 favorites-- Mike Erickson's "Angry Little Watering Can," and Jason Coates', "Corn."

The little tyrant is certainly shaking his fist in the air with all his might-- rebelling at the world around him, along with his masked guerilla face.

(I'm including another "little tyrant" of history below in same pose...)

He's a gardener of domestic bliss, perhaps a Martha Stewart after prison... mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore!!!

It's certainly without a doubt that these two artists share a unique sense of humor and perspective.

It's also even better to find that both of their studios were directly across from each other.

I must say that it's very interesting when you see how schools of thought influence each other-- in this case, a sarcasm and wit unlike many-- How often do you see an exhibit that makes you break out in laughter?

Not very often.

Coates' Corn Amry of pissed off kernels jumps out at you right away-- though I have to say they might be under the influence a tad-- based on their blurry eyes and angled husks reaching out almost as if they were bayonettes.

Perhaps its all the farm subsidies that they're getting mad at, or the pesticides used on them-- "Give us organic or death!"

These two are destined for greatness in the future.

The exhibit is up until July 14th.

529 West 20th Street, 4th Floor.