Archive for May, 2008
Kara Tanaka’s “Crushed by the Hammer of the Sun” is simply cool and mesmerizing. Thursday afternoon I had some time to kill in the Lower East Side, so I stepped into Simon Preston Gallery on Broome Street where there is currently a two-person show featuring Marco Rios and Kara Tanaka. I was immediately drawn to a silver spinning disc on an exposed mechanized pedestal at the back of the gallery.
The first gallery had a few sculptures by Marco Rios: a giant yellow level leaning against a wall, a little elphin blue man holding his knees sitting in a corner sculpted from the anti-depressant drug Paxil and small non-descript metal pieces on shelves. The sort of work one expects to see in a gallery representing young artists who have been influenced by the likes of Charles Ray and Tom Freidman, really not very interesting or exciting, because we are so familiar with it and know it is merely contemporary art, not much more than objects that will hopefully be bought and sold…
But the spinning disc at the rear of the gallery isn’t clearly such a thing. It is a kinetic object that requires one to spend time with it, study it, and wonder what it is. That is until it stops spinning and one discovers it is a silver fabric on the exterior and tan, brown and pink fabrics on the inside that only become apparent as the mechanisim lifts the spinning disc of fabric and seperates the exterior and interior layers into an oblong UFO like shape. The beauty of the work isn’t that it is kinetic, but rather the manner in which it all comes together – a simple silver fabric being spun into a disc that immediately makes one think of a UFO, the use of speed and spinning disc helps to mesmerize the viewer. It’s a poetic work that doesn’t fall short of its title “Crushed by the Hammer of the Sun” which implies a heroic narrative. Of course it helps to walk into the gallery while it is in mid-spin and the material and shape are transforming, and then I had to watch it a second time.
Get great art at a low price and help fund the long-time running not for profit gallery Momenta Art in Brooklyn. ” momenta art presents its thirteenth annual benefit to support its ongoing mission to support the work of emerging and underrepresented artists.” The raffle tickets are $225 and there will also be work for auction. The benefit is at White Columns, Wednesday, May 21, 5-10PM, Auction: 5-6PM, Raffle: 7-9PM. Get details on the art work available.
This past week, I made my regular stop through Zwirner and was happy to encounter new work by Neo Rauch, one of my favorite contemporary painters. Rather than trying to describe the individual paintings documented here, I’ll list the general reasons that I’m drawing to Rauch’s work:
1. The heroic scale places the viewer into the painted environment, allowing one to enjoy the rich mixture of painting styles – moments of abastracion embedded within the general social realist setting.
2. The striking power of social realism interwoven with neoclassical depiction to create a displaced narrative. Displaced because various historical elements of varying Western periods are juxtopsed to allude to bourgeois revolutions, industrialization, socialism, the ideals of free time and creative engagement, fascism…
the rise of science, a depiction of German culture and human nature in general… The narratives are rich not only for their masterful use of paint, but because they trigger various learned histories with irrational creative nuances that bring to mind fatastic fables.
3. Technically – masterful use of paint and color, rich mixture of technical styles.
4. Lastly, I’ll repeat this point, employment of the fantastic that brings to mind old fables.
A Portuguese voice, a Louisianan voice and a Brit voice
This afternoon I attended a free discussion at the New Museum that was part of Creative Time’s “Hey Hey Glossolalia: Exhibiting the Voice,” a series of free events throughout the month of May. The discussion was between Robert King Wilkerson, former Black Panther who spent 29 years in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Prison aka Angola Prison, artist and activist Rigo 23 and Creative Time curator Mark Beasley. (Rigo 23 and Wilkerson have been working together for the past 7 years, apparently Rigo 23 is working on a documentary about Wilkerson.)
Robert King Wilkerson is the only member of the Angola 3 that has been liberated from prison. The other two Panther inmates, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace remain in solitary confinement, now 34 years, the longest that any human being has spent in closed-cell restriction that is 23 hours alone in a 6-foot-by-9-foot concrete box year after year after year.
The witness of a prison slaying that sent Wilkerson to a life-time jail sentence recanted his story which eventually lead to Wilkerson’s freedom as long as he wouldn’t sue for wrongful conviction. Now Wilkerson travels and speaks and people listen in amazement to a victim of a system that kept him in solitary confinement for 29 years and a total of 31 years in jail. If one stops to consider the psychological implications of spending half a lifetime alone in a small cell 23 hours of each day, it’s difficult to imagine how sanity may be retained.
Robert King Wilkerson is not only lucid, he’s a powerful speaker who triggers the imagination and hope. When asked how he kept his sanity, Wilkerson states that it was his innocence, that although he was in prison, he wasn’t going to allow prison get in him, his love to think, to dream, dream as a form of talking to himself. He also had lots of nightmares, but the dreams out-shined the nightmares.
In closed-cell restriction (ccr), prisoners are not allowed to speak, so talking to oneself in the cell and out loud to other prisoners during the one hour time out of the cell became a method of contestation and protest. “We weren’t going to let anyone from keep us from talking, no matter how many times they’d write us up. We’d tell them to write us up…” In talking about the power of voice, Wilkerson quotes his fellow Panther inmate Herman Wallace – “The deeper they bury me, the louder my voice becomes.”
When asked about the purpose of art and activism, Wilkerson states “thay you can use your hand, you can use your talent… to tell a story, a work of art can encompass a great deal.” His point being that art may be a very powerful means for change in our society. However when Rigo 23 was asked about his practice as an artist and activist, he stated that it’s “hard to not be overcome with a sense of futility, get overwhelmed with distractions and that he has left art to try to get something undone and from Robert to learn how to deal.” Rigo 23’s “One Tree” mural in San Francisco that points to a single tree next to the highway South of Market is amongst one of my favorite public works, so hopefully he’ll return to art in some way. Although when the curator who moderated the panel isn’t familiar with Act Up’s long time, powerful logo – the pink triangle over the phrase “Silence = Death”, one can’t help but question the point of activism in today’s Art World.
Documentary filmmaker, Jimmy O’Halligan is working on a film about the Angola 3; preview is available on youtube.
May Day was celebrated in strength yesterday at Union Square where several hundred people gathered to listen to speakers and music that questioned the deportations of laborers, demanded immigrant rights and celebrated multiculturalism. The gathering of several hundred grew to several thousand as the May Day activists marched from Union Square to City Hall.
At a time when all the news seems bleak – continued death of innocent people and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the increasing cost of groceries and gasoline, a growing popularity of McCain – the candidate who hopes to continue the Bush Administration’s failed agenda… it was reinvigorating to have a joyful gathering demanding citizen rights for those immigrants who help keep the city running.
Every human color and age was present at the rally. It was an exciting mix of generations, languages and cultures enjoying the right to demonstrate in one of the greatest cities of the world. Amongst the points of protest were the raids of work places to deport laborers and markedly a protest against last week’s verdict regarding the killing of Sean Bell by 50 police bullets.
As the rally spilled from an enclosed area in Union Square onto Broadway, the number grew to the thousands, where tourists were taken by surprise.
VOTEMOS.US the site that questions what the 2008 U.S. presidential elections would look like if all residents in the U.S. could vote will now feature weekly video interviews with U.S. immigrants and Mexico City residents concerning the presidential elections and general relations between the United States and Latin America.
Although VOTEMOS.US is a Spanish-language site, the videos have English language subtitles so that U.S. citizens may have an insight into the views of their Spanish speaking neighbors within the country as well as those south of the border. The weekly video interviews are available on the site, as a podcast or rss feed:
This week Argentine Jose Antonio Lazzari relaxing in the park Alameda Central located in the historical center of Mexico City states that he would not vote for Obama, Hillary or McCain and he questions who the leftist candidates are in the U.S… Jose Antonio goes on to point out that the United States is controlled by the transnational companies that are making a fortune in Iraq.
We had a lengthy conversation with Jose Antonio Lazzari, a theater actor and educator who runs a free school in Argentina. Sections of this conversation will be published over the next few weeks. Past interviews with NYC undocumented resident Raymundo are also available and all videos will be archived on the site.