Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
By Lily Faust
On June 8, 2005, Richard Serra’s permanent installation,
The Matter of Time, will open to the public in its permanent
location at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. Billed
as the largest site-specific sculptural commission in modern
history, the work consists of seven new massive sculptures
and an existing work, Snake, which was commissioned in 1996,
and completed in 1997, in time for Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s
inaugural show. Richard Serra’s commission is the
culmination of a 35-year relationship between the artist
and the Guggenheim, said Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon
R. Guggenheim Foundation.
The Matter of Time appears to summarize Serra’s approach
to sculpture, underlining the tense geometry of his earlier
work, Torqued Ellipses. In accord with the artist’s
oeuvre, it is BIG. Made of weatherproof steel, the total
weight of The Matter of Time is 1,034 tons. Its height varies
from 13 to 14 feet, and the combined length of the eight
sculptures reaches 370 feet. They are arranged in the Guggenheim’s
430-foot long Arcelor Gallery, named after the sponsor,
Arcelor, a global steel company. Like Serra’s controversial
Tilted Arc, which stood at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan
for eight years, each piece is physically arresting, and
foreboding. The intense physicality of Serra’s sculptures
can produce a psychological thrill, or anxiety, depending
on the viewer’s state of mind. Snake,with its three
ess-shaped steel forms, establishes the vertical rhythm
of the layout, surrounded by the spiral and elliptical configurations
of the other pieces on each end. The spatial relationships
of inner/outer, open/closed engender sensations of confinement
and liberation, depending on one’s proximity to the
massive geography of the work.
Since its opening in October 1997, the Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao has been steadily expanding its permanent collection,
focusing on post-World War II art. In the Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao, architect Frank Gehry has created a structure that
is both sculptural and functional, a voluminous art “vault”
to contain and exhibit art. Architecturally, the museum
is airy and playful, with gravity defying arcs that give
a sense of undulating space. Its telltale roof is an ensemble
of baroquely twisting planes, covered in light-reflecting
titanium. The contrast between Gehry’s lofty interior
and exterior, and Richard Serra’s gravity pinned,
massive curves of steel should no doubt give the museum
visitor intimations of relativity, and an appreciation for
the Platonic order. In The Matter of Time Serra appears
to be reaching for the tangible, material evidence of time
by creating fields of time around weights of steel, relating
them to the floor, ceiling and walls of a museum designed
to foster the illusion of weightlessness.
Through 4/23. ¶
Susan Taylor Glasgow, Miles Van
By Joel Simpson
Glass sculpture is an enormously diverse medium; its inherent
aesthetic appeal can, to the uninitiated, obscure the artistic
expression of the work. The viewer is often as impressed
with the ingenuity of the artist’s novel use of glass,
as much as the thematics of the works. This is especially
true of these three artists.
Susan Taylor Glasgow, a former seamstress, applies her needle
work to glass, stitching parts together with waxed linen
thread to construct familiar kitchen objects — tea
pots, coffee cups, toasters and vases. Upon these she has
emblazoned 1950s style glamour figures in various states
of undress, many evoking the look of “Maidenform bra”
ads of the era. Titled Domesticity Gone Awry Glasgow, the
work targets her own ambivalence towards domesticity in
the period in which she came of age. Messages on the pieces
are excerpts from the kind of cheerful ad copy that presumed
domestic tasks and man-pleasing to be the ultimate in fulfillment:
“I’m so lucky,” “just right,”
“glamourous lift.” The comic-book dot-matrix
shading of the figures reinforces their ironic articificiality,
and the doily and lace patterns artfully sandblasted on
the backgrounds complete the presentation. These pieces
reveal the culture of female constraint in graceful and
incongruous new ways, that was dominant during baby-boomers’
The next room of the gallery featured Miles Van Ransselaer’s
series of bronze hands protruding from the walls, kneading
dripping blobs of slumped clear glass, each one frozen in
mid-drip, some of which reach down to the floor where they
virtually puddle. Entitled Grasping the Intangible, the
work is really less about this metaphysical subject than
it is about the incongruity of hand-squishing a gooey mass
that happens to be clear and pristine. The effect is fascinating;
one yearns to get one’s own hands into it.
Finally, some of the brilliant minimalist works of Nicole
Chesney still hung in the last room in the gallery, though
her show closed in March. On rectangular pieces of sanded
glass, many of them in combination, Chesney has painted
gradually shifting color. The reference is explicitly to
sky and water, and she pays overt tribute to French philosopher
Gaston Bachelard, who wrote on the poetics of space. Dramatic
in their contrasts but subtle in their shifts from color
to color, the pieces are powerfully calming. In the outstanding
one of the series, a dyptich, near blackness on top and
bottom converges through blues toward the gap between two
pieces, which is framed in brilliant light grey. The effect
Through 5/1. ¶
Heidi Cho Gallery
By Nicollette Ramirez
Cuban born Damian Aquiles incorporates found objects from
the streets of Havana and the Cuban countryside into his
work. For example, Havana Club, a circular piece made of
burnt transport paper from rum labels, is mounted to form
a circle on the canvas, and as the burnt edges of these
labels form the outer circumference they seem to be floating
off into space. It is a mandala of sorts, a symbol of a
Other found objects include discarded paint cans, oil cans,
signs and windows.
In Si dejo de Sonar… (2004-2005), white letters cut
out of metal spell out a poem. All of the text is written
by Aquiles himself. The white metal letters have rusted
onto the white canvas, and the rust color, both around the
letters and dripping down the canvas, add another dimension
to the words and the work. The piece, Todo el parte…
(2004-2005), ironically has the warning "flammable"
in cool, blue text repeated on the flattened metal cans
at the bottom of the work, while the top half is burnt out
A collage of product names recalls Warhol’s Pop Art
in Untitled (2004-2005), which is composed of metal from
paint cans, motor oil cans and other cans not so easily
identifiable, flattened and mounted on wood. Adding texture
and shadowing to this work are the drips of paint, both
imposed by the artist as well as those that had already
dried on the paint cans. The burnt edges of the cans seem
both "natural" and contrived; much like the state
of Cuba today.
Philip Argent and Amelie Chabannes
By Mary Hrbacek
Philip Argent's new series of abstract landscapes synthesizes
pop cultural influences, design elements and the spatial
breadth of authentic landscape space into one idea. Inspired
by a wide sample of graphic materials combined with remembered,
observed experiences, the artist re-constructs visual information
into lushly mottled layers overlaid by fields of white round-edged
forms that hint at clouds seen from above. These simple
shapes suggest cartoon thought-bubbles which, upon closer
inspection, work as flat abstract cloud formations. The
feeling of air and deep pictorial space is subtly enhanced
by diverse rectangular "envelopes" set within
the format's upper regions. This artist skillfully plays
with infinite variations on a theme. These "windows"
echo the larger frame, but seem more visually distant, suggesting
a road map. They add an unexpected perspective, partially
flattening the image at the same time as it creates the
possibility of a layered spatial interpretation.
Although these paintings are machine-mediated, the final
works are hand-painted. Argent employs rich, warm orange
hues, purple-pinks and sky blue colors in flat biomorphic
shapes punctuated with round-edged black forms that function
as details. Overlapping segments, each with varied and softly
mixed textures, can be seen peeking through from beneath
the flat colored shape, yielding a feeling of spatial dimensionality.
The pieces evoke a playful sense of airy, elegant lightness,
while the computer mediation adds a new contemporary vision.
In the gallery’s project space, Amelie Chabannes'
colorful fantasy based semi-abstract drawings on paper combine
the technique of automatic drawing with oblique references
to the history of the Crusades and their lingering effect
on Europe today. The artist taps into unconscious impulses
that fuel her affinity for tangled lines, biomorphic shapes,
and plant and insect forms which intermingle with fairy
tale elements; emerging from a dream-like reverie. The resulting
rapidograph drawings are imaginative, skillfully rendered
works that display strong graphic elements defined by a
white ground, pure colors and stem-like lines.
Her aesthetic vocabulary includes small dots, miniscule
bubbles, tiny branches with emerging buds, mushrooms, and
black sea creatures. Yellow-green, red, pale gray, mint,
black and white interact in crisp, fresh color relationships.
Sometimes a tiny reclining figure makes an appearance. The
subtly erotic forms and Id-inspired elements seem to squirm
and undulate, activated by snarled lines and sea anemone-like
forms with small hairs or bristles. Countless tiny legs
move across portions of the drawings' surfaces, with rope-like
elements suggestive of bodily orifices and black specks
that resemble a swarm of buzzing gnats.
In a recent series of photographs, also included here, Chabannes
documents the vestiges of scarred topology in the famous
battlefields of Verdun, inflicted in World War I. She has
subsequently altered the pictures, cutting out portions
and drawing over the surfaces with a mass of curvilinear
lines. The works are intended to represent a personal autobiography.
Imaginative, obsessive and playful, these works add a unique
context to Argent's landscapes. Chabannes has established
an unmistakable, personal stamp that is singularly original.
Through 5/14. ¶
Amaya Bozal and Laura Harrison
Paul Sharpe Contemporary Art
By Julia Morton
Movement best defines Laura Harrison’s new paintings
of brick walls featured in Contexture, a double solo exhibition
of Harrison, and Spanish artist Amaya Bozal.
Harrison’s pictures move us through space and time.
In a loose series of six thematic paintings, we zoom in,
painting by painting, from a distant exterior, to a magnified
detail on an interior wall. Though her paintings are hung
randomly throughout the gallery space, a time sequence emerges
as one wanders through them. Starting with Ellis (2005),
a medium-sized canvas, which features a softly-colored,
roughly drawn brick wall, we also see the wall, however,
Harrison’s 2003 drawing Ellis Island.
The next painting Oriental Wallpaper #2, moves us back "inside,"
as the two-dimensional canvas depicts a dilapidated plaster
wall with a piece of printed wallpaper still attached. Other
paintings follow this theme, zooming in closer to study
the graphic elements of the decorative paper prints.
There are several paths to take at this point in Harrison’s
series. One can go next to her subtle landscape, My Parent’s
Wallpaper, or to the surprising figurative work Kimono,
or to the colorful abstract Stripes. The work transcends
ordinary nostalgia by allowing clear but varied interpretations.
We see the artist’s jitters here and there in overwrought
strokes; but her lyrical breakthroughs help to balance the
Bricks are an effective contemporary motif, symbolizing
structure and sanctuary. Harrison’s soft-edge color
and relief textures flatten easily into pure abstract patterns.
In Blue Bricks, she does away with the solidity of her walls,
as the bricks loose their mortar and become cloud-like dashes.
Casually painted, they float across the large horizontal
canvas above a blurry mix of color.
Amaya Bozal’s eight nude female torsos, painted in
earthy flesh tones splashed with blood red paint, offer
a contrast to Harrison’s brick motif. Seen against
white or black grounds, the watery figures are gripped in
strokes of thick encaustic. As a vehicle to provide some
framework to showing both artists’ work together,
while stopping short of a group show, Contexture offers
a modest showcase for the talents of these two young artists.
Through 5/7. ¶
By Gu Huihui
Shazia Sikander continues her appropriation of Indo-Persian
miniature art in this recent solo show; moving beyond seeing
this as a vehicle for narrative art - instead of merely
contemporizing this ancient tradition within its traditional
framework – it becomes raw material for formal and
meditative extrapolations. If not always successful, at
least one feels the artist is really challenging herself
by pushing the work on both formal and ideological grounds.
Her scope has expanded, becoming more cosmological. In an
art market where commercial pressures make it increasingly
difficult for artists to take chances, to develop new ideas,
this exhibition is like a breath of fresh air.
How much more of a treat, then, that the work is not only
innovative, but also very good. The best of the work, like
the ancient models that they draw upon, are these exquisite,
delicate worlds. The exhibition is broken down into four
sections: a series of small, graphite on paper entitled
51 Ways of Looking; a set of large-scaled gouache drawings
on blush-colored paper; a series of small landscapes called
Land Escapes; and a film, Pursuit Curve. While her film
work confirms that there is more to filmmaking than holding
artist credentials, her experimentation in the other three
areas pays off; Sikander is clearly thinking about what
illustration can do beyond telling a story.
In 51 Ways of Looking, Ms. Sikander draws influence not
only from miniature art but also from other sources, such
as tantric drawings, calligraphy and geometric abstractions.
A few of the drawings appear to have been taken directly
from Emma Kunz’s abstractions (whose work is serendipitously
showing at the Drawing Center in Soho). These elements,
though at times explicit, begin to lose their historical
framework and settle into formal abstractions. In one untitled
piece, a dark organic form, filled in with dark graphite,
floats obliquely against the upper left corner of the white
paper. It appears, like many of the others in this series,
as a mysterious, contemplative shape. A closer look, however,
reveals the distinct outline of a lion; this figurative
aspect pulls the work back into the world of illustration
and the cognitive process of language. Yet the drawing refuses
to become anchored to that identity and soon returns to
being a meditative form, rather than a narrative vehicle.
The drawing hovers constantly between being the abstract
and the figurative.
While 51 Ways of Looking was mostly restricted to black
and white (although the Emma-Kunz-like drawings did employ
colored pencils) the next series of small works, Land Escapes,
shows Ms. Sikander doing what she knows best: small-scaled
colored works on paper. This is the strongest work in the
exhibition. In some ways, despite the free, expressive brushwork
and the absence of any narrative, the gouache drawings on
paper can be seen as a direct heir to traditional miniature
art in its sumptuous jewel-toned colors and the use of white
opaque line overlays in the the landscape. This is particularly
evident in Land Escape, Series 3, No. 8. Each presents itself
as an entire universe within a small space.
The larger drawings, ironically, feel much more confined
and constricted. Perhaps the scale still feels awkward for
Ms. Sikander, for the placement of the forms are a bit arbitrary
and not all the space on the paper is activated. Still,
the drawings are delicate and sensitive. Most importantly
here we see the line – the vehicle for narration –
literally unraveling. Although Ms. Sikander may still be
grappling with issues, it is more exciting to actively follow
the development of a thoughtful artist, than to be present
only at the end of an artist’s career, when everything
has presumably been solved.
Through 4/16. ¶
Marian Goodman Gallery
By Jessica D. K. PARK
These large-scale photographs and a video piece, by German
photographer, Thomas struth, trace a direct relationship
to the artist’s earlier work, the celebrated Museum
series, in which he photographed historic architectural
interiors, such as Milan Cathedral, San Zaccaria and Pantheon
against the back-drop of contemporary tourist crowds. In
the new work, titled Audience, Struth focuses attention
on people viewing classical artworks, in this case, Michelangelo’s
David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence.
The actual sculpture is nowhere to be seen in the photographs,
instead we are shown the reactions of crowds viewing the
Although the scale and general look of these photographs
appear similar to the previous series, the viewer’s
reactions differ greatly. The absence of the artwork (from
our view) and the banal expressions of the spectators scuttle
any lingering romantic ideals one might have had about these
treasures from the past. In his Museum series the visitor
is depicted looking away from the camera, so as to observe
the environment, and we are left to imagine their experience.
The large size of the photograph has the further effect
of competing as a public art piece in its own right.
The Audience series brings us back to everyday existence.
Crowds of spectators are seen in mundane, ordinary gatherings.
Struth presents his observation of contemporary people in
relation to classic art without any romanticization or manipulation.
His vision is deadpan, and he is careful not to allow the
viewer to participate in the scene. For example, while the
Museum series draws the viewer into the scene, here we can
only observe the crowds, along with the artist.
Struth’s video, Read This Like Seeing It For the First
Time, does the same thing. He documents a series of classical
music lessons conducted by the guitarist Frank Bungarten
at the Lucerne Music Academy. While the instructor discusses
details of musical pieces with one student, other students
sit and listen to the session. Because the film is projected
on two life-size screens, the viewer feels like one of the
students listening to the lecture. Bungarten helps each
student feel every part of the piece, and these ordinary
looking teenage youngsters seem eager to understand the
sophistication of the classical instrument. Struth’s
camera calmly observes the contrast between the inexperienced
students and the knowledgeable instructor, while the viewer
bears silent witness to both the magical and the mundane
Through 5/7. ¶
Mike Weiss Gallery
By Mary Hrbacek
These symbolic portraits hint at mythic archetypal legends,
arousing speculation as to the identity, location and significance
of each isolated subject. Paradoxically, the artist selectively
appropriates enigmatic gestures and facial expressions from
an art-historical roster that includes paintings by Leonardo
Da Vinci and Caravaggio.
Ozeri employs a highly figurative style without becoming
"photorealistic." The artist establishes a relationship
between the individual depicted and her environment in moody
expressive images. The grand scale of the heads and facial
features in these large paintings projects a heroic presence;
sometimes the subjects appear to have been captured unawares
in spontaneous poses. Warm skin and cool city tones coupled
with carefully articulated forms emphasize the theme of
human beings struggling against an impersonal outer world.
Solitary figures, apparently preoccupied with emotional
tensions, exist in dark isolated settings that serve as
metaphors for inner feelings of bleakness and wariness.
Yet these women are quite beautiful. In the painting, Crossing
Arms, a young woman strikes a dance pose against a backdrop
of white cloth, evoking the budding awareness of a girl's
early sexual awakening. The white wall and drapery emphasize
Stripped of any reference to nature, wearing neutral clothing,
these portraits seem to suggest on some level that the individual
should become her own hero, with autonomous reserves and
self-referential resources. Unlike the portraits women by
Ingres or even Renoir, clothing, interiors,and accouterments
that hint at activities are absent. Ozeri’s mysterious
women evoke a curious feeling of startling disquiet. The
portraits Kate, Carrie and Elizabeth are more inwardly focussed
than the other works. These women have fair to bronze skin
tones that glow from within, accentuating a lively sense
of presence, while the powerful painting, Medusa, depicts
a black woman whose energy compels the viewer to stop and
There is a theatrical, cinematic component to this work
that hints at dark undefined origins. All of these images
elicit a feeling of timelessness, where the past converges
seamlessly with the present.
Through 4/30. ¶
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
By Julia Morton
During his life, Max Ernst got almost everything right;
he was intelligent, talented, good-looking, and even lucky.
Now, nearly thirty years after his death, one of the twenty-century’s
most celebrated artists, Max Ernst commands surprisingly
little attention. Is it the artist’s fault, or does
he simply need a new agent in the afterlife?
Chronologically mapped out with plenty of masterpieces to
salivate over, this exhibition of seventy-five of Ernst’s
significant works seems lacking. While the show brings us
his greatest hits, Max Ernst the man, his life and times,
never fully materializes.
In the first gallery we learn about a young art student
who is sent off to war, serving on Germany’s Eastern
and Western fronts. Surviving the First World War, Ernst
restarted his career, aligning himself with the Dadaist
movement. Painted in 1921, Oedipus Rex, with its tortured
ritual, gives expression to the movement’s best intentions
to replace reason with freedom.
The second gallery places us in Paris. The art displayed
is from the mid-1920s, and Ernst is now a Surrealist exploring
his sexuality with writer and poet Paul Éluard, and
his wife Gala. In Castor and Pollution, done in 1923, we
see two young men sitting back to back in an odd round tub/boat.
Flatly painted, like an advertisement, the image tingles
and menaces with unanswered questions. Flagrant, yet camouflaged,
this homoerotic picture is a good example of Ernst’s
clever use of contrast and surprise.
In his large painting, The Virgin spanking the Christ child
before three witnesses, Ernst’s art takes on the Surrealists
pet issues; authority, the church and art history. We see
the full range of media, the "collage novels,"
metal sculptures, photo collages by Ernst’s alter-ego
Loplop, and, of course, dozens of paintings created using
Ernst’s invented surface techniques; including, frottage,
grattage and decalcomania.
As we wander out of the 1920s and into the 1930s we learn
that Ernst has married a French girl, his paintings are
selling, and then suddenly he finds himself black-listed
by the new power in Germany, the Nazis. Ernst’s swirling,
jutting, ghoulish paintings unwittingly document the decade
long march to war. His 1937 Fireside Angle, with its strutting
monster, effectively unmasks the power-that-be.
The Robing of the Bride was done in 1940, and shows a strange
half bird woman being covered-up and escorted away by armed
guards. Heavily textured, and baroquely colored, the work
symbolizes Ernst’s escape from Europe with the help
of his new bride, American heiress Peggy Guggenheim.
Mid-way through the exhibition there is a seating area where
the show’s catalog is displayed, along with a few
poster-sized photographs. We see Ernst working as a young
painter, and decades later relaxing with painter Dorothea
Tanning; the last of his many wives. The biographical information
is sketchy, however, as if presented here as an afterthought.
For example, there are no personal objects, letters or photographs
that might have given context to Ernst’s work. But
the work itself, in almost any form of presentation, is
certainly worth seeing.
Through 7/10. ¶
Gregory Colbert: Ashes and Snow
By Joel Simpson
Ten years in the making, Ashes and Snow, which first opened
in Venice’s Arsenale in 1992, arrived in New York
last month; the self-contained Nomadic Museum will remain
at pier 54 (13th Street) in Manhattan until June 6. The
highly ambitious show has attracted enormous crowds, and
it’s not hard to see why.
The show’s 81 sepia prints on Japanese rice paper
and a slow-motion video of the same scenes, has enormous
visual appeal. The Nomadic Museum, which dismantles completely,
is a narrow pier with a 60-foot high ceiling and dramatic
lighting that evokes a New Age minimalist secular, spiritual
cathedral. The images and video feature beautiful exotic
south Asian and African models, sensuously interacting with
a range of animals, including elephants, zebras, cheetahs,
eagles, elands and whales. Water plays a big part. Much
of the human-elephant interactions are in knee-deep lakes
or waist deep pools. Some of it is spectacularly in deep
water, with the elephant paddling overhead, and the sleek
young man careering beneath.
We also treated to the image of a young woman, her eyes
closed and head thrown back in presumed rapture, in water
up to her waist, who is caressed by an elephant’s
trunk, then two elephants’ trunks. Elsewhere a young
man seems to lead four elephants standing in a lake in prayer,
and a child sleeps in shallow water and is showered by an
elephant. The elephants’ rich dermal folds contrast
with the fresh human skin, as it resonates with wave patterns
in the water. Continuing, a young woman sits on ancient
steps as an eagle flies overhead toward the viewer; she
walks through the broad sunlit columns of an austere temple
and the eagle flies over her again. In another series, young
Africans sit with cheetahs, as all gaze serenely in different
directions. Two gorgeous young men dance with whales. Finally,
the erotic subtext becomes explicit, as a young couple cavorts
in silhouette under water, dressed only in dhotis, leaving
her breasts exposed.
We seem to be in a dream world, but who is doing the dreaming?
One feels an unease looking at these photographs, stripped
of any historical or social context, yet presenting animals
and human types from complex, rich and tormented cultures.
While the work is stunning, the premise for the show is
a bit overworked. Indeed, taking the artist at his word,
it seems that Colbert intends to single-handedly universalize
the mythic force of these animals (using exotic looking
models for a Western audience), so as to “lift the
natural and artificial barriers between humans and other
species, dissolving the distance that exists between them.”
Okay. But do these exotic actors in dhotis represent “modern
man,” the humans in relation to whom the natural and
artificial barriers from animals have been dissolved?
Colbert’s project literally defines the dangers of
aestheticization — the appropriation of images from
remote cultures to nourish Western fantasies of escape,
spiritual powers and sexual liberation. As such, the work
here represents a New Age version of Nineteenth Century
orientalism, with a zoological twist. These issues notwithstanding,
Ashes and Snow remains an extraordinary technological and
Through 6/6. ¶
Ed Note: Nomadic Museum is located at Hudson River Park
Pier 54 @ West 13th Street, New York. www.ashesandsnow.org.
Hrs Tue-Thu 11-7, Fri-Sat 11-8, Sun 12-5.
Whitney Museum of American Art
By Jari Chevalier
This retrospective of Hawkinson’s career reveals a
prolific Renaissance man, with a dark, wry sense of humor,
whose conceptions demand fastidious precision in painting,
drawing, sculpting, machine building, photomontage, collage
and even clock-making.
From a steady stream of Hawkinson’s self-portraits
comes Humongulous, an anatomical cartography project for
which he drew a grid on his body and mapped all the skin
surfaces visible to him onto a larger grid on paper. The
result is a precisely rendered painting — accurate,
yet humorously distorted.
Humongulous pairs well with Blindspot, which Hawkinson has
explored in several iterations. It is a form resembling
a fish made up of photographs taken of the body parts that
he cannot see without a mirror, from the top of his head
to his anus.
In the sculptures and machines, philosophy is contextualized
by absurdity. Drip, one of his handmade machines, is a tentacled
creature made of twisted polyethylene and nozzles, suspended
from the ceiling. Vaguely reminiscent of the exposed Wizard
of Oz, its mechanical conductor is a workbench contraption
that causes the creature to drip water in precise rhythms
into tin buckets placed beneath its nozzles on the floor.
Signature is a machine attached to an old school desk-chair
combo that endlessly cranks out Tim Hawkinson’s name
in a jerky cursive. Emoter, uses the random patterns of
darkness on a television screen to determine the movements
of Hawkinson’s facial features in a mechanized photographic
Hawkinson draws upon his body for both subject matter and
actual materials for building his works. Bird, for instance,
is a delicate bird skeleton fashioned entirely from Hawkinson’s
fingernail parings. He has also made a cracked bird’s
egg out of his ground fingernails, hair and superglue.
In another body-project, Hawkinson rigs a camera overhead
to photograph his body at regular intervals as he lay in
a bathtub gradually filling with black paint. He later cuts
out the stacked strata of the body remaining in view in
each shot. He builds up a topographical stack of these remaining
parts in Drain and Plug, beside the corresponding bathtub
stack that reveals the topographical depressions. A large
drawing, Bathtub-Generated Contour Lace, and a formidable
sculpture, Pentecost, are also based on this experiment.
Pentecost employs life-sized figures, striated like geologic
rock and positioned in an oversized tree of hollow tubes.
These figures that seem to be listening through the tubes
tap programmed rhythms to each other with a mechanical knee,
hand, or forehead, as if communicating.
One of Hawkinson’s singular works is a giant blown-out
tire, named for its resemblance to Donatello’s sculpture
of Mary Magdalene. Titling it Magdalene suggests a moral
dimension that turns the blow-out into a metaphor of epic
Sigmund Freud said of Leonardo that he was like a man who
awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all
still asleep. The same might be said for Tim Hawkinson.
Through 5/29. ¶
The Inner Eye
By Julia Morton
This group show of some eighteen artists, dubbed The Inner
Eye, is a tour de force of contemporary surrealism, in all
of its variations; magic realism and visionary Art. The
artists presented here are members of the Society for Art
of Imagination, a society formed in 1961 to give artists
who work in this niche genre a support network.
Heavy metal monsters are shown alongside fairy-like creatures,
while science fiction landscapes complete with shiny geometric
objects. Beautiful women float through a variety of dreamy
as well as nightmarish scenes, and all manner of figures
of one’s imagination seem to have been set loose .
The works are intriguing, and skillfully rendered, though
they tend to illustrate specific stories, rather lave the
door open to entirely new inspirations. In Europe, especially
in Russia, fantasy is an established art form, whereas in
the United this particular style has generally fallen out
of favor with the fine art crowd since the late 1940s. Like
the premature declarations that painting is dead, however,
new artist continually emerge to prove the critics wrong.
Several exhibitions honoring early surrealist masters are
in fact garnering attention today; there is the Max Ernst
show at the Met, Surrealism U.S.A. at the National Academy,
and a show about Salvador Dali at the Philadelphia Museum
Moreover, contemporary culture magazines such as San Francisco’s
Juxtapoz regularly highlight artists inspired by dreams
and spirituality. But here in New York, the predominance
of conceptual art tends to relegate much of the artworks
featured here to the Outsider Art category.
To be sure, mystery and symbolism are vital elements in
contemporary art, but they are not the foundation. The Society’s
artists rely on classical compositions, traditional body
and monster types, while letting prescribed narratives to
do their heavy lifting. As a result, some of the work can
become predictable at times. Gail Potocki’s Eve, is
the show’s exception, however, in that we see a portrait
of a woman who is both repellent and seductive; leaving
the door open to interpretation. And it is this open-ended
gaze into the unforeseen that informs the imagination.
Through 5/7. ¶