Chris Marker is an acknowledged master of montage, and although still imagery has figured prominently in his films since 1963, when he directed the iconic science fiction parable, La Jeteé, his photographs have just been shown for the first time. These portraits and group shots crackle with the contrast between black and white, society and individual.
The venerable, self-proclaimed “un-artist” Allan Kaprow passed away last year and the art world hasn’t been able to let go. Just as history needs its stories, art needs its artifacts and though the “Happenings” Kaprow coined and created were meant to slip from gerund to past tense, posterity must have spooked Kaprow from his deathbed.
History was suspended and irony reigned at Kent Henricksen’s second solo show at John Connelly Presents. Cherubs, angels and romantically etched figures floated and fell amongst a wall-papered background of peach and purple while nine large-scale paintings emerged from the Baroque patterned fields that lined the walls of the gallery. The result conjured a surrealistic inner sanctum where fantasy and reality combined to evoke a guise of childlike naïveté. Upon closer inspection, however, one found that these meticulously constructed pieces, most often comprised of embroidery on printed fabric, dealt with a much darker side of the human psyche.
BYOF-Bring Your Own Flowers, Japanese artist Ei Arakawa’s latest elaborate performance incorporating high-speed construction and deconstruction was as unpredictable, complex and provocative as the subject it was built around: art and artist. Arakawa created an interpretative, live-action experience of New York painter Amy Sillman’s conceptual process and work. Incorporating the flowers audience members were asked to bring with them, building materials (such as wood, drills, etc.), multimedia and music, he reconstructed the look, feel and process of Sillman’s abstract, psychologically-charged paintings. Along with the physical materials, the performance included the underlying framework of two Japanese traditions-the 600-year-old Ikebana art of flower arranging and the nearly 60 year-old Gutai movement of performance oriented art-actions.
Soo Sunny Park, a Korean-born artist, took up half of the space at Reeves Contemporary with her most recent site-specific installation, Fractal Immersion. Park moved to the U.S. at the age of nine and received her BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Fractal Immersion occupied two walls in the back half of the gallery and all the space between them, leaving just enough room in the front for Beth Ganz’s show of landscape photographs. The work consisted of several layers of perforated roughly 6-foot-high sheetrock walls and some scattered organic-looking elements made of egg crates and air conditioning filters. The egg crates were dismantled and put back together in a modular structure that resembled a giant beehive.
In a large warehouse space in Shanghai, 31 miners’ helmets rest symmetrically arrayed on a concrete floor, illuminated solely by the light of their own headlamps, and swathed in a web-like film of raw silk. The filtered industrial glow exudes pensive melancholy, a difficult feat to achieve in the midst of one of the world’s fastest growing metropolises. Such diametrically opposed relationships between nature and modernity are an integral component in the work of Chinese artist Liang Shaoji. For his first solo exhibition in China, titled “Cloud,” Liang brought his complex intersection of philosophy, science and art to the forefront, using a hybrid platform that includes everything from ecology and biology to sculpture, performance and weaving techniques.
Ranging from a former brewery in Venice with The Deliverance and the Patience (2001) to a GMC bus in The Pumpkin Palace (2003), British artist Mike Nelson develops site-specific installations in abandoned structures. After researching his locations for months at a time and gathering information on the neighborhood and surrounding culture, Nelson then meticulously manifests the echoes of years of voices, politics, ideologies and philosophies contained within these public enclosures. Commissioned by Creative Time, he chose the vacated Building D of the Essex Market in the Lower East Side for his first New York work: A Psychic Vacuum.
“Painting is my torment, and music is my joy,” Llyn Foulkes remarks, as he begins his lurching tune, “A Ghost in Hollywood,” on video at Kent Gallery. He sits at his “machine,” an out-sized drum kit piled with rubber horns, holding three mallets in his hand and working the bass pedal in his socks. The song is about a malevolent spirit with red eyes who haunts the poor souls that “displease him.” Foulkes grins and arches his eyebrows with macabre wit, lifting his gravelly voice into a howl: “And at night, when you’re alone…” He trails off down the scale, leaving the dark dreams of Hollywood’s past up to the listener’s imagination.
If it’s true, as some have said, that all photographs are in some way about death, then Candida Höfer’s large-format, color photographs of opulent Portuguese interiors must represent the cosmetics of burial. The most intriguing of her images, which include empty dining halls, lavish theaters and palatial rooms, are shots of libraries in which shelves of browning books are smothered cancerously with Dewy decimals. Titleless and showing their age, the volumes offer glimpses of history as entropic or unsightly. The other images feature the gilded crests and glitzy bedazzling of a Faberge egg and content-wise are as nutritional. They could serve as advertisements for luxury items, presenting the ill-begotten spoils of the Portuguese Empire in the very best light. As a skilled mortician, Höfer succeeds in concealing the ugly scars of an imperialist past.