The Victoria & Albert Museum, London
In Wenzel Hablik’s opulent painting Cantilever Cupola
with Five Bases from 1926, one is transported into the propitious
realm of the transcendent apartment complex. The building,
designed as a utopian example of communal living, seems at
once to be burgeoning from the jutting rocks beneath and ready
to launch directly into the sky. The geometric variations
form a dome, whose conformation mirrors the mountain, a prismatic
cascade of solid shapes fills out the ecstatic architecture.
The eye moves upward to the light-halo that surrounds it,
and down again to the humble path which zig-zags up from the
foreground and invites the viewer to walk in.
This painting visually describes a core paradigm of Modernism,
the desire for social change in the form of utopia, in a remarkable
retrospective of Modernist design that focuses on Europe,
specifically Russia, and also the United States. The work
here depicts the onset of Modernism as a utopian dream which,
even in its failure, has left a lasting imprint on our culture.
It is easy to understand when viewing Georgii Krutikov’s
Flying City Apartment Complex the utopian appeal of these.
Just imagine, housing projects that float above the landscape,
inclusive to everyone, with lots of free space. What’s
not to like? This show successfully illustrates how Modernism
converged social and artistic concerns and eminently produced
a lasting change in the visual landscape. From a stunning
array of Le Corbusier’s architectural drawings to a
photographic essay about the advent of the public swimming
pool, the advances made in architecture and way of life through
Modernism are made stunningly clear.
This exhibition takes a look at the international influences
surrounding Modernism, including the shift in visual language
towards linearity and abstraction in design. It shows how
design was stripped down visually to encourage efficiency
and utility in mass production. The point is not lost when
viewing the wall of sleekly designed chairs; they appear somehow
new even today, their lines still pure and beautiful. They
seem familiar, contemporary; but they’re eighty years
old. Indeed, the roots of the pixilated world, the aesthetics
of computer generated design programs, trace back to here.
Everything is calibrated with mathematical precision to serve
a demand for millions of cars and billions of potato chip
From the dynamic Futurist "outfit" a one-size-fits-all
beige uniform with large red shapes sewn here and there on
the fabric, to the comparatively dull albeit more comfortable
looking Russian worker’s uniform, the push for unified
society is obvious. The show also charts the rise of exercise
machines and physical education programs, urban planning,
programs promoting hygiene and the study of human sexuality.
If Wenzel Hablik’s paradisiacal projects are an awe-inspiring
blueprint for utopia, then The Frankfurt Kitchen is the idea
made real. Its organization, clean lines and colors, promote
order and efficiency. Designed in Germany by Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky
for a public housing project begun in 1925, this is a kitchen
anyone would love. Over 10,000 copies in three variations
were built between 1925 and 1930. The example on view here
has retained its glowing countertops and cheerful atmosphere
nearly a century later, still giving the impression of attractive
efficiency. If only the descendent of this cultural phenomenon,
the project kitchen of the American public housing unit (on
view in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan) could have retained
that wonderful design.
4/6 through 7/23.
Hajime Sorayama and Seiju
By Nicollette Ramirez
T he term, Heian, describes a time in Japanese history from
about the 8th to the 14th Century when its culture had evolved
to a point where architecture, painting and poetry celebrated
the inherent harmony in nature. In this two-person show, by
Hajime Sorayama and Seiju Toda Seiju, Toda references this
concept of harmony in his work, incorporating elements of
plain wood, air, light and water, while Sorayama focuses on
the idea of spiritual, heavenly bliss.
The show combines Toda’s meticulous construction of
wooden objects with the vitality of living creatures placed
in these objects. For example, in Fanlight Toda constructed
a beehive out of thin strips of unprocessed Japanese cypress
called Hinoki, which were bent into the shape of an upside
down teardrop. This shape evokes the spatial design of a traditional
Japanese home. As with the special handling of this fragile
wood, Toda had to manipulate the environment by cooling the
room in order to keep the bees passive. In another version
of Fanlight, thin strips of Hinoki wood set against a black
backdrop are weighed down in the middle by a mass of living
green worms. Silk worms are also part of the composition of
Folding Screen, in which wooden structures are etched with
notches in their surface where the silkworms lie.
The act of "subtraction," or taking away, is central
to the Japanese concept of beauty. Toda leaves out the "unnecessary"
so as to refine the beauty found in nature. This is not unlike
the western Renaissance notion of the artist’s role
as releasing the perfect forms that are inherent in the sculpture’s
Utilizing a meticulous painting process that gives his work
an airbrush quality, Sorayama’s sexy robot once served
as an album cover for a 1970’s rock group (in the 1990’s),
and his pin ups of mythological subjects harken back to the
pre-AIDS era of the 1960’s and 1970’s when women
were gaining ground in leveling the playing field in sexual
openness. Pin ups of "regular women" and icons such
as Betty Page, created in 2005 and 2006, have the same defiant
edge of vintage pin ups, but here the girls are set against
the backdrop of huge 1940’s WWII planes.
This unlikely pairing of Sorayama and Toda heightens the
contrast between these two very different artists, whose work
references classical and pop icons from a largely ahistorical
Ed Note: The Artspace Gallery is located at West 29th between
7th and Ave. Tel: 212.736.4060. By appointment.
Ethan Cohen Fine Arts
By Natane Takeda
In a work titled, Man with Imam Zamin, we see
a naked man with a white flower in his ear and Imam Zamin
(Pakistan amulet for a traveler) at his left, set against
a blue background. Leaning forward with a sideways glance,
he looks as mysterious and seductive as the Mona Lisa, yet
as peaceful as Buddha. Portraying local people in Lahore,
Pakistan, Ali Kazim’s Sacred Souls, Secret Lives, offers
a meditative and enigmatic glimpse into another world. The
show takes the viewer to different place, quietly pulling
us down to an unfathomable abyss where an unexpectedly warm
light is waiting.
These paintings require patience and contemplation. On a technical
note, Kasmi uses powder pigments and watercolors on Wasli
paper; each painting is created from 40 to 60 layers of washouts
that are drawn on and painted over. The thickness of the colors
is apparent when looking closely. In Lava, a naked man floats
on his back in an immense color field of blue, holding his
arms over his face, while a small eruption-like mark is depicted
over his body, casting out dim light. The subtlety of orange
in the composition suggests something Divine.
Naked men predominate in many of these paintings.
In the diptych, Untitled, Kazim depicts a man’s face,
saturated in dark purple and gray; the monk-like figure seems
unreal, dissipating into a haze of colors, yet his eyes jump
out. His dead serious expression only adds to the effect of
The mix of unreal elements and an exaggerated
reality underscores the spiritual quality of this work; the
depth of the colors pulls the viewer into a world of multiple
dimensions where the subtle voice is heard above everything
else. The show works like an invitation to return to one’s
point of origin, quietly nudging the viewer back to an uncannily
8/16 through 9/23.
By Ola Manana
The Greenhouse, a ground floor artist haven located in a
landmark building at 75 Greene Street in Soho, has remained
virtually untouched since the building was erected in 1877.
Except for an elevator which was added in the 1930’s,
the building which sports huge windows and a cast-iron facade
is one of some 250 buildings from the cast-iron era that remain
in New York. That short-lived but grand period of architecture
that defined the industrial age is not difficult to imagine,
when walking between the cast iron pillars into the building’s
huge first floor; its history as a carriage house and eventually
as a fabric warehouse is evident. The building came into the
family of the current owner, Sue Stein, through her grandfather,
who worked in the rag business. Today it stands out on this
hyper-gentrified Soho block as a beautiful relic that somehow
missed the eye of developers and real estate speculators over
the years. Stein says she wouldn't mind if it was fixed up
a bit, but when asked if she could see it as a commercial
space, she insisted "that will never happen."
What is happening is that instead of being offered to the
highest real estate bidder, Stein lets street artists work
and live in its raw, very raw ground floor space, which looks
like a time capsule from New York’s wild frontier days
of the 1970s. She says that she wanted to bring life into
the building, and that young people were the key. She apparently
sees her role as offering an environment where largely unknown
artists could have a place to work and also hold exhibitions.
Jerry Foust was the first such artist to make Stein's acquaintance
almost two years ago, and he has since become an unofficial
spokesperson for the seven or eight artists who come and go
on a regular basis. Many other artists show their work in
the space and collaborate on pieces for themed art. The latest
collaboration, a sculpture by Foust, Alfredo Martinez and
Frank Carrero, is a large tent object constructed of recycled
steel and other found objects, including foam and plastic
to create a giant, walk-in "vagina." Perhaps not
surprisingly, a penis lurks nearby, made from a bench, skateboard
wheels and foam, all painted in a salmon colored pink. Behind
the walk-in vagina there is a cockpit, made of steel, with
a computer inside. "My father always said, remember where
you came from, and we're doing that with this piece,"
Unofficially designated as a place where artists can work
and live, there are usually six or seven artists around at
any given time. Their work, as well as an accumulation of
work from previous denizens of the space, hangs from twenty-foot
walls, salon style. There are also easels and sculpture works
in progress here and there. Other paintings are on boards,
doors, windows, Plexiglas, made from found construction materials,
including latex house paint. There’s even a set of drums
and some musical instruments that are put to use occasionally.
"They're sometimes crazy, sometimes profane, but they're
hard working," Stein explains when discussing the people
she lets use the space. Much of the building’s gritty,
original brickwork is visible through the unfinished walls,
and the tin ceiling overhead forms a canopy that reinforces
the sense of stepping into a cocoon that time left behind.
Given the astronomical prices of real estate in Soho, where
even high-end commercial galleries can no longer afford to
stay, it is difficult to grasp the motivation behind Stein’s
patronage. She seems nevertheless content to offer this unconventional
safe haven, dubbed The Greenhouse, to artists in exchange
for their keeping things lively, at least for now. The space
carries an echo of the building’s physical history as
well as the pioneer spirit of the art communities that long
ago thrived in the neighborhood. It’s a welcome echo
that even today inspires creative spirits.
Ed Note: The Greenhouse is located at 75 Greene Street, in
By Mary Hrbacek
Surprises abound in this lively arrangement of mostly works
on paper, curated by Mariko Tanaka and Alredo Martinez, where
the unexpected seems to be the rule. Even a manual elevator
which stops on the gallery floor is outfitted with audio art
by Hong Kai Wang. In all, twenty artists are included in the
Standouts include a wall installation by Yuko Oda, swarming
with delicately cut paper flowers whose petals double as tentacles;
hanging butterfly by Oda, with tissue paper wings made from
q-tips hovers nearby, and Ben Ruhe's Divine Daze of Deathless
Delight; a painted and collaged sketchbook that features a
busy cartoon-like hero is a wonderful work of book art. Another
is Damon Shair’s pyramid-shaped installation of poetic
drawings executed on printed pages, pinned loosely to the
wall. This installation succeeds as a unified whole; but each
page is also a complete work unto itself that echoes the playful
approach of Paul Klee’s imaginative works.
Collage informs three predominately pink colored multi-media
works on canvas, with personalized Mexican imagery by Tamara
Gonzalez. A group of dramatic paper-works rendered in acrylic,
ink, collage and magic marker by Jacob Williams brings a somber
tone to the proceedings, with Japanese pop-culture-based horror
images of free-flowing forms and over-lapping figures. These
robust pieces contrast with Emily Noelle Lambert's very personal
works, in which images of young girls interacting with their
friends trail off the page. These pictures team with imagery.
Digital photography, as a distinct medium, is represented
here in an installation of photographs by Olimpia Dior and
J. Miller depicting stages of graffiti as it appears on urban
buildings. This ironic series succeeds in immersing the viewer
in a hands-on "do it outdoors" art-making adventure
that mimics a wall of graffiti. In a similar vein, Niki Kelce
uses mostly red marker, paint pen and pencil, to create overlapping
circles within spheres, dotted lines, spirals and funny dolphins
in a semi-abstract diverting array of forms and images.
Most of these works are sophisticated and hip, characterized
by their free form style and a fresh use of materials; there
is also an added excitement in the way the show’s curators
have managed to reinterpret prevailing art trends with an
emphasis on surprise.
5/23 Through 6/6.
The Culture of Queer, A Tribute to J.B. Harter
Leslie Lohman Gay Art Foundation
By Chris Twomey
J.B. Harter is the featured talent around which this ambitious
group show is centered. An artist who also held a position
as Director of Collections at the Louisiana State Museum,
Harter was murdered in 2002. Like many of the artists presented
here, his social, political, and philosophical conventions
are filtered through his work and the growing awareness of
his own identity. For example, his early 1970’s figurative
drawings of Bob Bowers suggest a repressed subtext of eroticism.
His later self-portraits and homoerotic portraits of young
men reflect the acceptance of his sexual identity and an embrace
of gay culture.
Under the section entitled, Gay Male Identity: Stereotypes,
Icons, Notions of Masculinity, the self portrait, J.B. Harter
in Hardhat (1978) recalls an era of machismo culture coding
where "men seeking men" wore blue jeans and plaid
shirts to signify their sexual preference without detection.
Future Icons: Construction worker (1985) by John Lesnick,
Keys on the Left (1976) by George Dudley, and Joe and Bobby
Dallesandro (1970) by Jack Mitchell all contain imagery incorporating
these coded signs.
In another section dubbed Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, more
recent art work indicates broader acceptance of once underground
gay culture; the coded messages are gone. Ralph Bourque’s
Troy and I Hugging (2005) expresses complex realities with
a simple silk-screened line drawing. Down the Aisle 2005 openly
portrays same sex marriage.
Audra Kahout’s Hans Bellmer inspired assemblages are
fascinating, though the work comes precariously close to appearing
as Bellmer knock-offs. Michael Meads’ For St. George,
Patron Saint of Boys Scouts also suggests adolescent sexual
Unrequited longing is the theme in Tom Strider’s series,
A Job to Do, A Brokers Tale (1998-2000), an installation of
thirty-two small paintings. Depicting the mundane routine
a businessman going to work, working out at the gym, shaving
and undressing, the work suggests an imagined narrative about
an ideal man, perhaps Mr. Right for the marriage-minded male
Maxx Sizeler, who changed his/her name from Max with one
x, to Maxx with two x’s, signifying the female xx chromosome,
plays with the ambiguity of sexual gender definitions. Sizzeler’s
installation here combines high heel shoes with toy cars and
trucks, using blue and white to specify social gender tagging.
The apparent point is to challenge definitions of "normal"
male and female signifiers.
Beyond the complexity of issues surrounding gender identity,
this show serves as a history lesson, if you will, that sets
down cultural markers pointing the way forward. Framing the
exhibition in the context of J.B. Harder’s evolution
both as an artist and as a gay man, gives the work a helpful
narrative. Harter’s final work consists of small portraits
of personal friends and people he admired who were either
HIV+ or who had passed away. If one of his subjects was no
longer living, he painted a small coffin next to his signature.
5/2 through 7/1.
Ed Note: This exhibition, curated by David S. Rubin for The
Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, originally opened
and closed in New Orleans after two weeks, due to the destruction
wrought by Hurricane Katrina. In New York, the show inaugurates
the new street level location of the Leslie Lohman Gay Art
Foundation Gallery. The term "Queer" in the exhibition
title refers to all non-normative gender presentations, including
homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, metro sexual and