Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Santa Monica Museum of Art

EXHIBITION TITLE: Al Taylor: Wire Instruments and Pet Stains

Project Room: The Donkey Show

Project Room: Daniel Cummings: Recent paintings

LOCATION: Santa Monica Museum of Art

DATES: January 21 – April 16, 2011

CURATOR: Information not available

Formerly located on Main Street, the Santa Monica Museum of Art is now currently located at Bergamot Station (in the Westside of Los Angeles), nestled amongst other similar spaces making it a part of Southern California’s largest art gallery and cultural complex. The museum prides itself as a risk-taking, non-collecting museum. The programming is focused on emerging and established artists and is intended to spotlight “untold stories and pivotal moments in the history of contemporary art and culture” within “diverse aesthetic, cultural and ideological perspectives”.

Among first entering the museum one is greeted by an unrestrained souvenir–style shop. The items contrast from catalogs and books, to varying pop-culture and kitsch souvenirs. This is quite an asset if one has to force family members and friends to join you whom are not particularly interested in art and culture. There are three galleries in the building, one large gallery and two small “project rooms”.

Upon entering the largest gallery, I am consumed by lines and negative space in a very unique minimalist perspective. I see on the wall text that the artist is Al Taylor. The late Al Taylor (1949-1999) was a former studio assistant to Robert Rauschenberg. This particular exhibition features two bodies of work, wire instruments (1989-1990) and Pet Stains (1989-1992).

The work is fascinating and at once engaging. There are spatial works on the floor and pictorial paintings and drawings throughout. At first glance one does not notice any obvious relationships within the spatial and pictorial works, that is until one pays much closer attention to the lines. It then becomes apparent that the lines in the sculptures and the lines on the paintings have a unique mimicking attribute to them. It is unsure if Al Taylor transcribed the lines of his paintings into his sculptures or if he associated the lines of his sculpture into the flat dimension of paper. It is at this moment that I have come to realize that they are one in the same and that the sculptures and the paintings in direct proximity have an integral relationship with each other.

I find that Al Taylor did not have any profound distinction between the three-dimensional architecture and the two-dimensional drawing; they are one in the same. They are true studies of line and space manufactured with a unique parcel of material. The spatial works were constructed with wood, plastic and wire and the drawings consisted of ink, pencil, gouache, toner and paint.

A particular painting that stands out in my mind “Untitled (Puddles)” 1990, made with pencil, ink, xerographic toner and solvent on paper. It is quite a large painting with a series of circular objects across a rectilinear picture plane. Although they did not remind me of puddles or shapes of pet urine stains, the work did envision a scene for me of a landscape of waterfalls pouring on to one another within the ephemeral negative space prominent in his paintings. Many of his works assume a receding feeling of atmospheric perspective similar to many traditional Chinese paintings. Like the emotional content conveyed from traditional Chinese paintings, I also received that same calm, and serene feeling from Al Taylor’s work.

Noticing the relationship between the spatial and the pictorial works, I find that this is an integral part of the viewing experience which will allow the viewer a deeper understanding of the process and forethought of Al Taylor’s work. The overall installation was successful and the atmosphere and mood was indicative of the work shown.

This was my first time viewing Al Taylor’s work and although I do not have a keen aesthetic for such minimalism and abstraction, I did enjoy Al Taylor’s exhibition as well as the paintings with the urine stains tagged with the various names of the pets’ that made them. Overall this made an interesting juxtaposition of scenery in relationship to the various other installations in the busy and gallery-filled expanse of Bergamot Station.

As I made my way forward to the next gallery I found a wonderful display of vintage pictures and period memorabilia, which was the basis for the second, exhibit “The Donkey Show”.

The Donkey show is a light-hearted look at the history of the donkey- painted-as-zebra souvenir photographs so famous in the Mexican border town of Tijuana. At once a little snicker came from my mouth and a crack of a smile entered my lips because I too have seen those very donkeys’, which were spray-painted with black stripes to look like a zebra. After browsing more of the vintage pictures my smile faded into unease as I realized that this discomforting tradition has been happening to the donkey for a long time. The adult-natured, fun and witty slogans on the tourists’ sombreros did not seem so fun and witty for me anymore. Slogans such as “jack-ass”, “drunk-amigo”, and “Cisco-kid” were a few of the more light-hearted sayings. Asides the souvenir-turned-documentary photographs of the donkey-zebras it was interesting to see the advertising artwork of the flyers, vinyl record covers and other material from Tijuana Mexico from the 1950’s. At the time, these artifacts were a commodity in which this exhibition has transformed them in to true kitsch at it’s highest.

The final gallery housed several paintings by an artist named Daniel Cummings. Daniel Cummings execution lacked the energy, complexity and rhythm expected of such work and was for a lack of better words quite “obvious”. His color palette was monotonous and lacked the emotional gravity I would compare to others of that genre such as Franz Kline and Hans Hofmann. I did not quite grasp the relationship of the three utterly unrelated shows sharing the same context, time and space; however, upon reading the mission statement of the institution I do understand the programming and the reason why these shows happen to be shown in conjunction with each other. It seemed as if the grouping was random and there was no curatorial forethought involved although it does meet with the curatorial goal of providing a type of programming which oversees the needs for many facets of the community. The Donkey Show and the Daniel Cummings paintings were an interesting look into the past as well as a possible look into the future and the survey of Al Taylor and his bodies of work: Wire Instruments and Pet Stains was a fantastic journey into the relationships of space and time.

Unusual Spaces

Karla Black 'All of This and Nothing'

I was mesmerized by the artwork of Julian Hoeber and Karla Black at the Hammer, in Los Angeles 2011. I was interested in the relation of architecture, displacement and psychology which I experienced through both artworks.

Glasgow- based artist Karla Black is known for using ephemeral and fragile materials. The artist uses basic and affable materials such as plaster, chalk dust, paper, and also other everyday objects such as face cream or house liquid cleaners and pink colors that strive to bring domesticity and beauty into place. She describes her work as “A need to just grab the World.” Karla Black’s work is site-specific and her works have a need for a larger scale space. Combining fragile works the artist has to consider where the works can be placed. I enjoyed the simplicity of the work.

At first sight I question myself, “what am I looking at?” Karla Black’s installations play with the idea of perception in a different way from Julian Hoeber’s work. We experience her work through the materials themselves such as an amusing smell. Although I enjoyed the materials and her minimalist style, I felt confined inside a room where it is not only the work that conducts us through the space, but also museum guards too; I was constricted inside a room, watching my step. I didn’t feel as much a connection to the work and to me her work reminded me less of an installation but rather as a painting. The only difference to me was the space where the work itself was placed on the floor and seemed intangible.

Mick, Hou Hanru, Anita and Cecilia inside 'Demon Hill'

For this exhibition, LA-based artist Julian Hoeber presented the populist “Demon Hill” base structure. As I walk inside the structure, a shack where I experience gravity and a sense of confusion. There is a playfulness to the work that explores psychology and gravity at the same time. At first from the outside space I felt familiar with this regular architecture and then I realized there is a trick in order to convey an illusion of space. It’s tipped as a compound bevel. The artist works are very much inspired by Op Art and a distinct style towards minimalism and at the same time plays with architecture. Julian Hoeber’s work also play with reality and perception, the viewer being disoriented with the mystery spot entering in a bizarre dangerous World, and in order to feel it I had to step inside these environment.

I was also interested in the process of both works. Is the work completed inside the space or they are shipped to the exhibition? In order to complete both works inside different spaces, while one goes through a labor intensive work the other has to follow instructions using fragile materials spreading construction powder carefully on the floor, layer by layer. Once these tactile surfaces are completed then the beauty of the artist’s work speaks to the surrounding space.

Cristina Guerreiro

Access to Art?

Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space
The Geffen Center at MoCA, Los Angeles
December 12, 2010-February 27,2011
Access to Art?
As personal art collections increasingly become visible to the public, either through donation to an established public museum or through the founding of a private museum open to the public, a logical assumption would be that a broader audience is desired. Los Angeles has a diverse collection of contemporary art, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), LAXART (an independent arts organization), to the Hammer Museum (originally a privately funded museum now under the auspices of the University of California Los Angeles.) The opportunity to view contemporary art is admirable in this city. But, if the art is there for residents and visitors to view, does it mean that they have access to appreciate it?

A curator is a facilitator for access to art. A possible description for the work of a curator is to display art for the reception of an audience. In this way, a curator becomes a potential mediator between the art and the audience. His or her interpretation becomes a factor in the relationship between artist, object, and viewer. This is a unique position to fill: as an individual who is presumably educated and informed in the theories, methodologies and history of art, the curator is an “insider” of the art world. However, the curator, particularly of a museum, presents the works to a broader audience. It is a destination where the general public (not only “insiders” of the art world) expects to experience artistic culture. The art museum, as compared to an independent art-space, gallery or biennial, is a codified institution in the broader reception of art.

The curator of contemporary art is participating in the discourse of art as it is being produced and received. Art production and critique in the twentieth century shifted the parameters of artistic interaction with the audience away from the object on a wall or pedestal, to an experience of process or engagement, often resulting in dematerialization. Restructuring the cultural paradigm in this way is exciting and holds the potential of more engaged access for a broader audience. However, it is essential to remember that the developments in artistic production are new. The general audience still does not know what the symbols are that artists are using. The semiotics of contemporary art has not been translated into a communicable language for the public.

The art object has been privileged in cultural appreciation to such an extent that audiences have an expectation of this when appreciating art. Without an object, art is often difficult for a general audience to process. In an effort to look at the curation of contemporary art beyond a binary approach, I have resisted referring to the general public as the “mass.” The reception of contemporary culture is more nuanced than a dual audience of “elite” and “mass.” I would, however, like to appropriate Clement Greenberg’s definition of kitsch as pre-digested cultural experience. As I stated earlier, the evolution of art appreciation has produced an expectation of a certain kind of object, preferably a painting, drawing or sculpture. While the referents within the art object may be unrecognizable to a broader audience, the ability to recognize that they are experiencing art has long been predicated upon the object. Discussions with a number of art appreciators who have difficulty accepting certain more explorative contemporary art practices as art (despite the development of conceptual, installation, and performance movements in the last sixty years) complicates the dual audience of Greenberg. It also complicates the role of curator to communicate contemporary art to an audience. The meaning should not be pre-digested by the curator for an audience.

As an artist, the process and production of art may be to push the limits of expectations. As a curator, it is also valid to push the expectations of an audience. But if you want to expand your audience (as the market necessity of a museum demands) there remains a responsibility to attempt to provide access. The exhibition space, again be it a museum, gallery, independent organization or a biennial, is a space of communication. It is often iterated that contemporary art attempts to make art more accessible to the public. That it attempts to break down the division between audience and art.

Alma Ruiz is the Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Los Angeles where her current exhibition, Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space, is being shown. The exhibition includes five large scale pieces by artists from Latin America. Presenting works from the mid-twentieth century, Ms. Ruiz is showing artists who explored the use of light, space and color. Artists working before better known California artists began playing with these media in the nineteen-seventies. The works that she includes are successful in bringing the audience into direct physical contact with the art. Visitors walk through the blue, plastic threads of Jésus Rafael Soto (fig. 1), feeling the work against their bodies. For an even more thorough immersion, one can swim in the pool of Helio Oiticica and Neville D'Almeida (fig. 2), an artistic duo from Brazil, watching the reflections of their video installation play across the water. The physical interactions continue with explorations of light by Lucio Fontano, Carlos Cruz-Díez and Julio Le Parc (fig. 3). In order to engage the audience, Ms. Ruiz has surpassed the expectation of visual contemplation of a work of art and selected artists who work in multi-sensorial media. She has curated an exhibition that collapses the space where a visitor might ask “Is this art?

Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space accomplishes the goal of material immersion with a work of art. The challenge will be to provide contemplative access to audiences for works of art that do not facilitate physical engagement.

-Sheeka Arbuthnot

Conversation on Issues of Contemporary Curating

Exhibition Title:Suprasensorial—Experiments in Light, Color, and Space

December 12, 2010—February 27, 2011

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA


Outsider-Insider: non-artist and non-curator; was studing business administration for 5 years, now in San Francisco Art Institute studing art and curation for almost two years, in the process becoming an artist-curator.

Insider-Insider: artist-curator; is an artist in printmaking for 12 years, curator for two exhibitions recently.

Representation: George Steiner, Real Presences, University Of Chicago Press (April 23, 1991)

(Anita and Swing on the way back from The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA).

Anita (Outsider-Insider): Toward the last you stated that the question concerning curator’s role is not a question about curating.

Swing (Insider-Insider): Sometime you don't have to put a name on that thing( sign ). Exhibition making, art making. Curators seemingly want to be artists like Harald Szeemann. In other words, curators are in a role of creating, which same with artists. Exhibition became curator’s artwork. In the opposite, some artists designed a way how to show their arts to audience, therefore, these artists are doing what curators suppose to do.

Anita: Moreover, the coming to meet us is not at all a basic characteristic of role of curator, let alone the basic characteristic. If curators encountered so many obstacles and critiques in their own development of the dream exhibition, seems like they became artists. Then why not forget the curator?

Swing: The curator gathers, just as if nothing were happening, each to each and each to all into an abiding, while resting in the connecting of artists and exhibitions.

Anita: So curators are abiding expanse that, gathering all, opens in themselves, so they are in the openness to let everything to merge together. Like host and organizers, just to direct. Then, why do we need exhibitions? As curators, we can just open the doors and allow artists to plan their own destiny.

Swing: If we analyze exhibitions in an ethic way, then exhibition is a bridge. This bridge connects artists and audiences. In my point of view, the first thing of curators need to do is to create a context—the context of interpretations and reading, and the context of artists work. Curation is not just about to host, but a starting point and discourse base for artists and audience.

Anita: Perhaps in contemporary art world, curators are closer to create rather than organize. And to the openness characteristic of curators, who have to go beyond the various types of artists. Because contemporary thinkers from different disciplines and a whole set of nonartists, including people working in any field of research or occupation anywhere in the world. These people would not be producing art at all, but would be involved with the artists or artworks in a permanent forum or fair for real-time thinking. The fact is that contemporary art world is an intellectual forum for non artists and artists to converge within, curators have to think of ways to create a dialogue by who they choose and how they frame the ethos of each exhibit.

Swing: Curators have two functions: re-presentation and re-figuration. His major task is a "participant observer.” He or she is an reporter first, but his or her presentation of the report has been interfering and changing realities in the art system. He or she has to observe the artists and their life-world, and with this the two conspire together to make it happen.

Anita: Artists as producers to produce their product as artwork. And exhibitions are places to make transactions happen, like supermarket or shopping center. But curators are like an invisible hand to control the transaction between artists(producers) and audiences(customers), and to control the trend of which exact way they connected through exhibitions.

Swing: In the course of the exhibition, curators like a Libra, balance the relationship between artist and audience. In the context of contemporary art, the artist focuses on the feelings of self-expression, their approach is more a way of metaphor. Meanwhile, audience has their natural curiosity. Artist and audience are like the Yin and Yang of Tai Chi, belong to each other and live with each other. Both of them together became the exhibition itself. Therefore, once curators or others can balance the relationship between these two, then the exhibition is successful.

Anita: This is so how difficult for artist to become curators. Artist-curators mostly holding an exhibtion to make their artwork in the way of their willing to show up. Not only in solo exhibitions, but group exhibitions also have an fair-unfair problem, such as space or location to show of each artist in an exhibition. They want to break the boundaries, and be holding a new path towards a real growth of diversity and freedom in thinking about the art system. But group exhibitions need something in common. There are big differences between curators and artists.

Swing: As an artist-curator, I already established and have reached a reflective point in my career, I can understand what and how an artist wanted to tell the audience. As a curator, a new career now, I can merge aspects of artist and curator, and to dip a little deeper on both sides. An ideal curator has to know how to balance between artists and audience. As we saw in MOCA, curator Alma Ruiz was really closer to the three artists in Suprasensorial exhibition, she knew exactly what the artists want. But once she getting closer to the artists side, she half closed with audience.

Anita: Exactly, Cruz-Diez’s Labyrinth for a public place, is so easy to get in and figure out with three colors in the space, but no one would get it what the artist want when outside of the space. However, it also seems that viewing the 3 rooms from different perspectives may have been intentional. Firstly, the exhibit was laid out so that you visit the neon piece, the mirrored room piece and then exit from that to be confronted with a white wall with 3 colored windows. This is the viewers first experience with the piece and it is a very different experience, physically and sensorially to the one they have when they make their way around the the front and inside of the piece. This shifting experience of the piece seems to be part of the whole ethos of the light and space movement and therefore comes across as very intentional on the part of the curator.

Carlos Cruz, Dies Cromosaturación(1965)

Swing: Well(sneer), she understand what the artist want. The artist want audience to figure it out by themselves. And Alma Ruiz didn’t do anything wrong with it.

Anita: But curators should be in charge with directing artists, and guiding audience. Of course, she doesn’t need to give a sign to tell people about the colors on the back of space, but she could do something to make it more obvious rather hiding behind the building columns.

Swing: So the room could shrink a bit, and could be set in the center for both sides showing up like front turn to right side, and turn the back to left side. Alma Ruiz is a good curator, she shows the respect to the artist, and surprised audience too. Sometime, curators are bounded with such an limited utility. Like the space of this show, everything is big, huge space, but columns of this building could not be avioded.

Anita: Alma Ruiz was totally understandable with the show she curating, and she understand from the bottom of her heart. And so many curators are willing to use the thesis to express their own thinking, and to make exhibition as their own artwork, they’ve become artist of artists. Then how to balance between thesis of exhibitons and artists’ own theme?

Swing: Engaging with and working in each modality expands of curator’s idea of what is possible, and ultimately strengthen curator’s work with artists’ perspectives. Sometimes, it even easier, if curators and artists think alike, or want to see sort of similar reflection through audience, then they are performing as one.

Anita: When artist-curator in charge with an exhibition, the artist presented the work itself a thought, an idea, and the soul of the exhibition. Then the artist put the time in the planning of the exhibition works of art themselves as good performance out of ideas.


Lumiére en mouvement (1962) by Julio Le Parc at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

In the hour it took us to get from LAX to downtown on the Wednesday morning we arrived to Los Angeles, as we drove through the highway, I could already sense that LA was going to be different from what I expected. For some reason I envisioned a place where the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle coexisted with endless 99 cent dollar stores and that all this would be reflected in our visits to the different art centers; but what struck me instead was the transportation time it took us to get from one place to another. I found myself referencing Marc Augé’s term of “non-places” as we seemed to spend a lot of time in the car, moving through these types of spaces, on freeways trying to get from one gallery to the next. This experience made me think of how the contemporary art galley scene functions in a non-pedestrian friendly city like Los Angeles.

The larger and more centrally located museums like the MOCA, LACMA, Hammer and the Getty Center, worked as larger cultural hubs featuring not only local artists but many contemporary international artists as well; spaces dedicated to showcase a wider array of artists to a broad audience. But what interested me were the smaller galleries and their function in terms of content and location. Visiting these galleries I sensed a real collective sense of promoting new young local artists, these spaces that allow young contemporary emerging artists to showcase and build a community and show work directly related to their LA context.

Santa Monica Museum of Art

The Santa Monica Museum of Art, located in an old storage complex transformed into a cultural community, consisted of multiple gallery spaces isolated in suburbia in Santa Monica, just a few miles away from a big shopping avenue. I found it interesting to view the more commercial galleries that concentrated more on prints and paintings, in juxtaposition with the SMMoA’s exhibition Wire Instruments by Al Taylor.

In terms of audience, what is the difference of stumbling into an art gallery walking through the city and driving your car through the traffic on the 101 particularly for the purpose of visiting a specific gallery? It is worth to mention that LA is a car driven (pun intended) city, where pedestrians take second place in the wide streets and long blocks. What audience are these smaller spaces where contemporary art is shown intending to attract? I found that many exhibitions in these galleries scattered through the city concentrated in conceptual art as well as installations, galleries such as Redcat and LAX located on La Cienega Blvd. next to the Santa Monica freeway, featured independent local artists that create site specific large scale installations.

After driving past suburban houses with front lawns, we went over to the Christopher Grimes Gallery showing an installation by Olivier Mosset. The gallery’s location right next to a Hawaiian travel agency and gas station made me think of how these spaces function in direct relation to their geographical context. Who is the audience that visits these galleries? Are they intended to function specifically for people who know where the galleries are? Or do they exist immersed in these suburban areas with intention to expose this type of art to a different audience? How is this audience intended to interact with this type of conceptual art?

Thinking about this relationship of art and its audience in the Los Angeles context, I found the exhibition at the MOCA Geffen “Suprasensorial: Experiments in light, color and space” to be very successful in engaging the community to a contemporary art. Curated by Alma Ruiz, it features Latin American contemporary artists whose work focused in explorations of space and light created in the late 60s and 70s. The pieces in this exhibition are completely experiential and become completed by the viewer at the moment of their physical interaction. I believe that by bringing these types of exhibitions that challenge how one experiences the work, a codependent relationship is created between art and audience.

Penétrable BBL bleu (1999)

Kinetic artist Jesus Rafael Soto’s Penétrable BBL bleu (1999) is a penetrable structure that is meant to be felt and intersected by the audience.

Cromosaturación (1965)

Carlos Cruz- Dies Cromosaturación (1965) allows the viewer to be immersed in a chromatic space that changes as the viewer’s position also changes.

CC4 Nocagions (1973)

The exhibition’s last piece, created by Hélio Oiticica CC4 Nocagions (1973) features a pool where people can literally go inside while projections are shown.

These type of exhibitions create a closer connection of the viewer and contemporary art, especially in a city like Los Angeles, where the fast paced lifestyle and technology driven society make way for these moments of interaction and contemplation of sensory experiences.

Cecilia Salinas-Rios

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Napoleon in the Eye of a Needle
“No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again”

In 1959, California resident David Wilson bought the ground floor of a Culver City building to establish a business specializing in tile-flooring. While seemingly innocuous, this business venture housed the seedlings of a great uncovering. Buried under the floorboards and uncovered during renovation was a plan for “Obliscence, Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter” by Geoffrey Sonnabend. Wilson then proceeded to tack the fading diagram in the building’s storefront. Soon after his tiling company opened its doors, masses made pilgrimages to view the odd illustration. Some even donated their own objects of curiosity; with that, The Museum of Jurassic Technology was born.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology’s founding myth is in Lawrence Weschler’s book, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology. Rather, I should say that it is believed to be in the book, which incidentally, has been checked out of the library for the past week.
This dark and curious museum impacted me more than any other museum or alternative art space that we visited on our pilgrimage to the great cultural capital, Los Angeles. The museum is a hybrid: part natural history museum, part art museum, two parts cabinet of curiosity. At the center of it all, the space serves as institutional critique. Can I even use that phrase anymore? Regardless of how passé the categorization of challenging the institution has become, it is an appropriate framework here. The Museum of Jurassic Technology examines the relationship between objects of contemplation (many of which are reproductions of other non-visual materials) and discursive spaces.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology has a realized presence— a narrative weaved together from anonymous letters to the astrologers of Mount Wilson, ferns from Napolean’s first grave on St. Helena, Soviet dogs in space. The narrative rings clear in the over abundance of context. Wall text, videos, and sound recordings fill the darkened corridors and illuminate the oddities on display. The foreignness, and often absurdity, of the exhibitions and their contexts reveal what is lurking in the dusty corners of every museum or site of cultural production. In a time when the author is believed dead and postproduction (appropriation) is the name of the game, such strong, non-traditional articulations exhume discursivity. The content of discourse too digs up forgotten tales and broader histories of knowledge.

Time travel to 1997

Rebecca Ahrens

Charles Gaines' "Manifestos"

Exhibition Title: all of this or nothing
Individual Artist: Charles Gaines
Location: Hammer Museum + LAXART, Los Angeles, California
Dates: January 30 - April 24, 2011
Curators: Douglas Fogle & Anne Ellegood

all of this or nothing at the Hammer Museum is the sixth series of its invitational biennial, showcasing Los Angeles based and international artists, all of which are either emerging or established. The participating 14 artists are Karla Black, Charles Gaines, Evan Holloway, Sergej Jensen, Ian Kiaer, Jorge Macchi, Dianna Molzan, Fernando Ortega, Eileen Quinlan, Gedi Sibony, Paul Sietsema, Frances Stark, Mateo Tannatt and Kerry Tribe.

The premise of all of this or nothing is for the participating artists to explore fundamental questions about the experiences of existence in the world we live in, for art’s potential to reveal the mysterious and the magical though the use of various mediums; painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, sound, performance, and the moving image. One of the standouts is Charles Gaines, and his work, “Manifestos.”

The magical work of Charles Gaines, Manifestos, 2008 is a multimedia installation of four thin flat screen television panels, each sitting atop medium density fiber board pedestals, with each flat screen panels scrolling manifestos, along with musical score drawings from the Internationalist Socialist Congress’ Socialist Congress (1917), the Situationist International’s Conscious Changes (1961), the Black Panther Party’s Black Panther (1966), and the Zapatista Army of National Liberty’s Zapatista (1993), all manifestos dedicated to the human rights and social necessity to freedom, as well as the personal power in self-determination.

Upon entering the gallery, I noticed four flat screen televisions on podiums, along with two speakers to the left and to the right the screens. The installation also included four framed musical drawings/scores of the manifestos, each measuring 62 1/2” x 45 1/16,” made with graphite on paper, as each disparate components arrangement define in the gallery space as clean, meticulous and simplistic in its organization. Once ensconced in the gallery, this installation began its magic with the left screen scrolling text from the first manifesto, accompanying it is a piano quintet from the musical score made from it.

One cannot help but think of Richard Serra’s piece, Television Delivers People, 1973:

with its scrolling text, and accompanying elevator music about the psychological manipulation of advertisements on television, and the subliminal message from elevator music, on how Americans are controlled and brainwashed into being consumerist by buying things that they don’t need. Though different from Gaines,’ both works do raise the consciousness of the viewer.

Gaines composed each of the manifestos into musical scores, as each letter corresponds to its musical note, e.g., the letter ‘e’ from its respective manifesto corresponds to the musical note of ‘E,’ and when a letter didn’t correspond to a musical note, he uses a pause note. With the first manifesto/score finished, the second screen begins with a different scroll text, accompanying by a new piano quintet, and so on, and so forth with the third and fourth screen/manifesto. Once completed, the scrolled text is shown again on the flat screen with its respective manifestos, along with a cacophony of sounds from each of its scores. With this resonance of sounds, it is truly a work of art that ignites thought, contemplation and reflection from its melodious and harmonious scores.

Would art, then, have the capacity to cause social change in our world, or is it a pipedream to even consider this?


Charles Gaines: Studio Visit – November 2010

Douglas Yee

‘Gedi Sibony - The Deception of Context’



Hammer Museum

January 30 - April 24, 2011

Gedi Sibony’s unconventional sculptures, exhibited as part of the Hammer Museum’s, ‘All of this and Nothing’ show, compel the viewer to tow the line of what can be thought of as an art object. Though much contemporary art presents this same challenge, Sibony’s pieces have a sincerity in their origins, and tactility in their materials, that seems at the same time universally, and surprisingly, appealing.

Gedi Sibony
The Predicament (what it is that ceases)

Sibony’s sculptures often consist of found, salvaged, and recontextualized objects which were in their former lives, discarded, unfinished, or incidental. Site-specificity is at the heart of understanding Sibony’s works as, given the familiarity of the objects he chooses, placement in white-cube environments becomes a catalyst for their reconsideration. Sibony’s work is about the experience of living in the world, about ‘when’ and ‘how to’ look at things. Much of his inspiration derives from the things he lives around which is why objects in his studio often become the subjects of/or literally become, his pieces (as is the case with both pieces in this entry). Dominic Molon, Chief Curator at the St. Louis Contemporary, notes how Sibony’s work derives from his experience of “living in the world,” suggesting that “it’s almost as if the art finds the artist, rather than the other way around.”

Sibony reinvests in mundane materials such as cardboard, packing materials, walls removed from his studio, a tarp draped over an easel which accidentally embodied his dream of a floating sculpture, and breathes in to them a new aesthetic life, a new identity in a new home, and hence a brand new reception. The artist is occupied by the notion of waste - both that of discarding perfectly good materials and also the energy spent in remaking and replacing the discarded. As with ‘The Cutters, 2010’, a wall removed from his studio, and his other smaller pieces at the Hammer which were the backsides of frames and drawings salvaged from yard-sales, Sibony seems not only to reclaim objects but to draw attention to their traces of history, and respective roles within what Molon calls, “the industrial food chain.”

Gedi Sibony
The Cutters

The success of Sibony’s work relies heavily on how it occupies space. The placement of his pieces creates a balance with the architecture of the gallery that is both graceful and uncanny. There is a surreal inappropriateness to such rough objects at once alluding to landscapes, or the passage of time, while, evoking an emotional recognition that things so commonplace, so incidental, so unfinished -gone just slightly awry- can all of a sudden be beautiful, and oddly consoling.

Trash to Monument.

Sibony’s sculptures also challenge the convention of the ready-made by simply presenting unmodified, prexisting objects in a new context. From everyday context to art context, Sibony shifts their conceptual context from discarded or incidental, to intentional. With respects to his trash objects, Sibony transforms something that was formerly a liability in to something precious. He takes something that is a material, financial, spatial, and environmental burden to society - something that has to be processed as waste- and not only recirculates it back in to society, but hails it as monumental and important.

Deception of context

There is a magic of balance and transformation that happens with Sibony’s work at the same time that there is a nagging sense of the absurdity of what we will consider seriously when asked. This seems to beg the question of what is not worthy of our deeper considerations. What is it exactly that makes this work interesting? Is it the consistency of his message? The romance of it? Our realization that we agree with Sibony? Or just the social pressure to agree created by these objects placement in an intellectual space?

Finally, there is a humor in being asked to consider the unimportant as monumental. Sibony’s pieces are thoughtful, simple, and austere enough to command consideration, to know that you aren’t having a joke played on you, but with the simultaneous understanding that you are considering a nicely placed piece of trash, or at the most, some utilitarian commonplace object. What makes Sibony’s work so successful to me is that sometimes its only distinguishing characteristic from something leaning against a dumpster, or sitting in an empty storefront, is his level of intention and the consideration that this intention and consistency compels in his viewers.

CLICK HERE: Gedi Sibony talking about sculpture

CLICK HERE: Interview with Dominic Molon, Chief Curator at St. Louis Contemporary Museum of Art