Category Archives: Art

The Pleasures of the Glimpse: On Dirk Braeckman at the Venice Biennale

By Kaya Genc

Inside the Belgian pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, it is the vast whiteness of the space that strikes you first. The interior of the recently renovated pavilion resembles a hospital, a place devoted to purity, a sanctuary for healing. Then the gaze shifts its focus onto images: Dirk Braeckman’s dark canvases feature bodies, natural formations, surfaces of things so dark that they seem indiscernible from their backgrounds. Rarely has the contrast between space and artwork influenced me quite this way, certainly no other pavilion in the world’s leading art event had come close to the experience. Continue reading

Art Inside: Field Notes #3

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious.”

—Swami Satchitananda

When I entered the bright classroom, women of all ages were gathered around four rectangular tables. Most were dressed in requisite blue uniforms and some wore the optional muumuu, or as my grandmother used to call a similar garment, housedress. The energy was buzzing but each was focused on a bright square of paper in front of her, intently arranging petals in patterns. Strewn down the center of each table was a rainbow of flower petals, leaves, and seeds, both real and artificial. The women were collecting them to layer in colorful patterns on the sheets. They practiced creating their own designs while getting used to the new materials. Two teaching artists, dressed all in black to avoid any of the range of disallowed clothing — from jeans to all red or pink to khaki, anything that might resemble the garb of either inmates or guards from afar — moved around the tables like hummingbirds, shifting from one participant to another then hovering in place to assist or discuss. The atmosphere was more garden party or craft fair than prison. The women and the Community-based Art team collaborated to transform the space. Continue reading

Art Inside: Fieldnotes #2

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

This is my first visit to our new program at this prison. I meet up with our teaching team in the expansive parking lot and we walk through a sea of cars to a small guard booth where an officer is sitting behind a Plexiglas screen. He greets us, already familiar with the four teachers that have visited for the past four weeks. They sign in, introduce me, and we are issued a key and alarm. The process is relatively easy, calm, and methodical. Continue reading

Do You Sense the Layers? – Vija Celmins at The Matthew Marks Gallery

By Sam Sackeroff

What is found in a “found object”? That question, like many questions that have animated postwar American art, was first asked under very different circumstances. A remnant of the prewar European avant-garde, it was most memorably posed by the Surrealist poet and theorist André Breton in his 1937 autobiographical novel, L’Amour fou. Recalling a meandering walk that he had taken with the sculptor Alberto Giacometti through the Marché aux Puces flea market in Paris in the spring of 1934, Breton described how he came upon a large wooden spoon with a distinctive slipper-heel handle. Although otherwise unimpressive, this “found object,” or “objet trouvé,” seized Breton, who purchased it and brought it home, still wondering why it had had such an effect on him. After some time, he realized that his apparent interest in the spoon was only the most recent link in a much longer associative chain that led deep into his unconscious. In a convulsive moment of perception, he recognized that its slipper-heel called to mind a glass sculpture of a slipper that he had asked Giacometti to make for him months earlier but that the sculptor had never delivered. That sculpture was in turn linked to a half-formed phrase, “the Cinderella ashtray,” that had occurred to Breton in a waking dream earlier still. Together, that half-formed phrase and the undelivered sculpture made up yet another composite link that reached even further back, now to Breton’s erotic desire for the “lost object” as such. What had initially been a simple wooden spoon came to symbolize for Breton “a woman unique and unknown.” Continue reading

Art Inside: Fieldnotes

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

“It’s crazy how art can actually make you feel something.” I smile and nod. It is crazy, isn’t it? And yet sometimes — in the flurry of making and discussing, marketing and analyzing — we forget that primal aspect of art. But not here, never here: on the inside, where art is a lifeline like nowhere else. When I hear this comment, I am sitting with a group of men at a small table, one of multiple clustered around the large gymnasium. We are in a prison, one of four where I created and now oversee what has become an expansive and collaborative art program with 20 teaching artists facilitating multiple weekly classes in four prisons. At this table, we are looking at the men’s artwork and talking about their progress. One of the men, Shaun (all names are changed), has been with our program since the beginning and has taken nearly all of our classes. He recalls that when he started, one of our teaching artists looked at his colorful psychedelic drawings and said, “You’re an artist, man, you have to own it!” Shaun beams as he recalls this and proceeds to help the newer students look at one another’s art and express what they see. Continue reading

The (Un)Draped Woman: Contemporary Iranian Art and New Self-Portraits

By Austin Park

The (Un)Draped Woman is the third in a series of pop-up shows organized by Roshi Rahnama and Advocartsy, a “collaborative visual arts platform” examining an exciting and highly active Iranian contemporary art scene in Los Angeles and beyond. This particular iteration seeks to challenge and interrogate the established or conventional image of the woman in Iranian culture, a central visual aspect of which is the image of women in various states of cover. Virtually all the works in this show engage primarily with questions about the image of self or the self-portrait. In this sense, the show as a whole attempts to visualize a contemporary Iranian and Iranian-American image of feminine self, ones that might possess qualities and inspirations from both Western and Eastern culture. Continue reading

When Chris Marker Freely Photographed, and Briefly Fell in Love with, North Korea

By Colin Marshall

Even though I live there, I still only with difficulty perceive Northeast Asia through any lens not borrowed from Chris Marker. This owes mostly to the influence of dozens of viewings of Sans Soleil, his 1983 fact-and-fiction cinematic travelogue through places like Iceland, Cape Verde, San Francisco, and especially Japan, a feature-length realization of the peripatetic form of “essay film” he invented with 1955’s Sunday in Peking. Between that and Sans Soleil, he’d gone to Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics and come back with the materials for a 45-minute documentary about the titular young woman whom he happened to meet in the street there. Le Mystère Koumiko came out in 1965, just three years after his best-known work: La Jetée, the short drama of apocalypse, time travel, and memory made almost entirely out of still photographs. Continue reading

The Selfie and the Monument: Shahak Shapira’s YOLOCAUST

By Jason Francisco

In mid-January, Israeli satirist Shahak Shapira’s project “YOLOCAUST” shivered across social media. Shapira mined Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and Grindr to collect selfies taken at Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which he presents along with their original hashtags and “likes.” When the viewer mouses over the pictures, a black-and-white image appears in which the Memorial itself gives way to a historical photograph from the Holocaust, such that the selfie-takers appear as figures in the landscape of genocide to which the Memorial refers. The title refers to YOLO, an acronym popularized by the rapper Drake and common among millennials and centennials, meaning “You Only Live Once” — words Shapira imbues with sarcasm with regard to the selfie-takers at the Memorial, but which are perverse with regard to the victims of the Holocaust. Shapira informs his audience that people can have their picture removed from his site by sending an email to “undouche.me@yolocaust.de.” Continue reading

Elegy as Ecstasy: Rereading Motherwell

By Dean Rader

“a word is elegy to what it signifies”Robert Hass

The first poem of mine to be accepted for publication in a national magazine was about Robert Motherwell. It bears the dizzyingly innovative but not misleading title Motherwell. It was (and is) an homage to his spectacular series of Elegies to the Spanish Republic, completed between 1957 and 1990. That Motherwell is the subject of a poem is not surprising since the main aesthetic concept for the Elegies finds its roots in poetry. Motherwell’s artistic guide was the French Symbolist poet Stephan Mallarmé, who urged artists “to paint, not the thing, but the effect it provides.” That advice is highly symbolic and highly evocative in that it foregrounds the poetic over the literal. Continue reading