Pixel Nostalgia and then Some

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Echo Park art space IAM8BIT re-opened its doors this month with their signature group show SUPER IAM8BIT, featuring works by artists and video game artisans inspired by video games’ square age. If you’re a gaming enthusiast, then you were probably waiting on that line that snaked past Mohawk on Sunset for the show’s opening night Aug 11th. But if you’re like this writer, who just couldn’t do it, you should make some time to check it out now. (It’s up until September 10th.)

Even if you haven’t played a video game in fifteen years, you’ll still get a kick out of the artwork. Popular video game characters reference iconic pieces of fine art. (See: Link and Zelda as a Klimt.) Pixels become three dimensional and bring to life abstractions of video game trinkets. (See: Sky Burchard’s Unrequited Love Objects.) And if you go early enough when it’s not crowded, you can get to play Galaga. You can play when it’s crowded too, but then the crowd gets to see your game, as it is projected on the wall in front of the arcade machine. This is an interesting piece, drawing attention to the solitary nature of video gaming, and the exhibitionist tendencies of competition. (See: the documentary King of Kong.)

IAM8BIT, 2147 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, through September 10th, closed Mondays through Wednesdays.

Sky Burchard

Rich Pellegrino

Art in the Streets in the Museum

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA will soon open its doors and let the public in to their Art in the Streets exhibit. It is being billed as the very first U. S. museum exhibit to put the street art movement into an art historical context. This comes with somewhat of a hefty concern: will putting street art into a museum change it from an art movement into an ossified chapter of art history? It’s happened before. The Impressionists? The Expressionists? The Vienna Secession? It is a known fact that, like low-rent neighborhoods, art movements are dynamic when they are ignored or shunned by the museum-going, art-buying, middle-, upper-middle, and upper class consumers. The artists that drive the movement are cutting edge, until they are folded into the art history canon, and then, eventually, you find replicas of their art at Kmart.

Maybe that’s the joke of art: its ever-shifting status, oscillating between expressive statement and commodity, between an absolutely unique object or idea and an utterly banal thing you use every day. Is MOCA’s  show then the beginning of a chain of events that has happened before and will inevitably end in us, decades from now, buying Banksy wall appliques at Target? Who can say? Maybe not. Artists are pretty clever. Especially the ones who have the guts to take their work to the streets. And if the eventual comodification of art is the joke, then I’d say Banksy beat us to the punchline with Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Definitely see the show. It’s massive, and except for a few things that look like entranceways to the scary rides at Disneyland, it’s quite good. Street art happens mostly in major cities, and MOCA took care to represent each one. You may need two trips to take it all in (it really is massive) but it’s nice to be able to see earlier pieces. Street art is ephemeral, and for the most part, it is only available to the public through photographs that were taken to document it. For better or for worse, it’s nice to be able to walk around and see pieces by Fab 5 Freddy, Margaret Kilgallen, Swoon, Lee Quiñones, Futura, and about 47 other artists, all from different parts of the world.

– Andra Moldav

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, (213) 626-6222, through August 8, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. www.moca.org/museum/moca_geffen.php

Party Like It’s 1984

April 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

As the art mecca that was New York’s SOHO in the late 1970s and 80s turned from a giant warehouse filled with prolific artists into the gentrified, professionalized gallery spaces of the late 80s, a group of artists, as they are wont to do, went against the grain of commodification, staying out on the streets. Now, almost thirty years later, they come together for Subliminal Projects’  Art, Access & Decay: New York 1975-1985, in Los Angeles, in Echo Park, a neighborhood itself well on the path to a lesser but no doubt imminent gentrification, to remind us of a time when art came from ruin.

The 1970s were rough on the city of New York. City-wide economic mismanagement left entire neighborhoods in decay. Lisa Kahane, also one of the curators of the show, photographs the South Bronx. In what was one of the most devastated neighborhoods in the country at the time, Kahane captures street life: people hanging out, kids climbing fences, graffiti. Fashion Moda, a local influential arts venue, was an outlet for artists like Kahane, Jenny Holzer, David Wojnarowicz, and Koor, to name a few, who focused on street art. They, along with the rest of the artists featured in the show, capture both a wasteland full of possibilities (the up side of New York’s devastation was the cheap living costs which allowed artists to live there and make the city an extension of their art) a spirit of egalitarian art-making that was, and still is to some extent, street art.

-Andra Moldav

Subliminal Projects, 1331 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 213-0078, through April 30. Closed Mondays. www.subliminalprojects.com

Miru Kim, Bravery, and Pigs

March 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Miru Kim’s latest attempt at extreme connection to her environment involves pigs, dirt, and some good composition. Somewhat unsettling at first sight, the images in her latest series, The Pig That Therefore I Am, reveal a calmness set with a monochrome palette and careful composition of subject and setting. In IA 1, the artist crouches off to the left of the frame, the energy of the whole image drawn to her figure as pigs swarm towards it in curiosity; as if to examine a newly-landed alien. MO 2 is very classically divided in two halves, with Kim standing as a calm, almost passive, leader between the two rows of industrially uniform pig-pens.  

Thematically, Kim’s motivation is very clear. She means to see if one can blur the line between man and pig. Pigs are very close to us, anatomically speaking, she argues. We even use them to harvest organs and tissue for scientific research because of how close they are to our own biology. Is there a deeper connection there? The first five prints of the show (Composition 1 – 5) present various sections of the artist’s body pressed against a hog’s. The only way to differentiate which skin belongs to what creature is to look at texture and hair, and the uneasy surprise, after staring for a while, is that it’s easy to forget what a hog looks like and what Miru Kim looks like. By the time you reach the last image, Composition 1, you can’t help but notice the dirt on the artist’s skin and marvel at the cleanliness of the hog.

In each image Kim blends in rather seamlessly. Her face always covered by her black hair lends her a non-identity similar to that of the pigs around her, crowded in large-scale industrial farms, mass produced and anonymous. Pairings of man and beast are always a little iffy, even in art, and Miru Kim must be commended here if for nothing else but her bravery. In her previous series, Naked City Spleen, she went to extremes to explore the connection between us and our world. (I wonder how many bouts of pneumonia Miru Kim has survived having spent all that time naked in cold, sometimes dank, urban settings.) Here she removes the protective barriers of clothing we take for granted to explore a connection between us and an animal we probably also take for granted, and gives us images that play a balancing act between vulnerability and power, between individuality and anonymity, between being human and being pig.

– Andra Moldav

Doosan Gallery, 533 West 25th Street, New York, (212) 242-6343, through April 23. Closed Mondays. www.doosangallery.com

More images can be found on the artist’s website: www.mirukim.com

Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA has put together a show of five prominent and pioneering Latin American artists who aim to make you, the viewer, aware of your senses, particularly that of sight. Each of the five works that make up Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space is half a work of art and half an experiment in sensory perception.

Water, pool, electric lights, projected images, sound, and paint, 24 ft. 7 1/4 in. x 45 ft. 1 5/16 in., Projeto Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro

Hélio Oiticica and Neville D'Almeida, Cosmococa—Programa in Progress, CC4 Nocagions, 1973/re-fabricated 2010, photo by Andra Moldav

The work that will no doubt fascinate visitors, is Hélio Oiticica’s and Neville D’Almeida’s 90-centimeter-deep swimming pool Cosmococa—Programa in Progress, CC4 Nocagions (1973). Rightly so; who doesn’t love a heated swimming pool? Equipped with colored lights and flanked by wall projections of John Cage’s book: Notations, Cosmococa becomes an enclosed installation, where the viewer is invited to, literally, immerse him or herself into the piece by donning a bathing suit (dressing rooms provided, disposable suits available at the gift shop) and wading around in the pool. Cumbersome? Perhaps. Not for germaphobes? Definitely. But inarguably fun, whether you’re in the pool or just watching from the sidelines.

Painted drywall, fluorescent lights, and colored plastic, 155 15/16 x 603 15/16 x 291 5/16 in. collection of Carlos Cruz-Diez, Paris.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Cromosaturación, 1965/re-fabricated 2010, photo by Iwan Baan

Oiticia and D’Almeida’s piece is a good example of how the show aims to take the viewer beyond the aesthetic experience of looking at art. Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturación (1965/re-fabricated 2010), is essentially a white room, divided into three parts, each filled with either red, green, or blue neon light, where you can look at people, lit up under the different colors, through side windows. The piece changes, however, when you enter it and walk around. It transforms into tangible color. From room to room the red, the green, and the blue seep up from the floor like fog and you realize that color has texture. The bright, static colors of Chromosaturacion are a nice contrast to the dim, dancing lights in Julius Le Parc’s Lumière en mouvement (1962/re-fabricated 2010). It looks at first like a special effects bit from a vintage science fiction movie, but if you spend more time in its black-walled space you see that it’s a testament to the ever-changing sensation of light.

42 ft. 5 in. x 16 ft. 10 in. x 16 ft., painted drywall, mirrors, stainless steel, nylon thread, and two spotlights, collection of the artist.

Julio Le Parc, Lumière en mouvement-installation, 1962/re-fabricated 2010, photo by Iwan Baan

The game of opposites continues with Lucio Fontana’s Struttura al neon per la IX Triennale di Milano, (1951/re-fabricated 2010) and Jesús Rafael Soto’s Penétrable BBL bleu, (1969/re-fabricated 1999). Where Fontana’s piece makes light one connected and fluid stream, Soto’s piece, made of hundreds of plastic tubes hanging down about thirteen feet to just about five inches from the floor, divides the world into hundreds of slithers that the viewer will have to sift through in order to get to the other side, in order to regain a complete, unobstructed view.

The artists in this show come from Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil and have forged successful careers as painters and sculptors in South America and Europe. Suprasensorial is a welcome opportunity to experience works seldom seen before in the United States. A nod to The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA for this connection to the international art world.

Neon,  90 5/8 x 325 5/8 x 263 13/16 in., collection of Contemporary Art  Fundación “la Caixa”, Barcelona, gift of Fondazione Fontana, Milan, ©  Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan,

Lucio Fontana, Struttura al neon per la IX Triennale di Milano, 1951/re-fabricated 2010, photo by Iwan Baan

143  4/5 x 157 1/2 x 551 1/5 in., Collection of Hélène Soto, Paris, ©  Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris,

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penétrable BBL bleu, 1969/re-fabricated 1999, photo by Iwan Baan

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 621 1745, Through Feb. 27. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. MOCA.org

Augusta Wood at Angles Gallery: I have only what I remember

November 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is an excerpt on Augusta Wood’s website, from a 2008 NPR interview with poet W. S. Merwin, which encapsulates in words, in less than the proverbial thousand words, what Wood’s photographs want to say. “[The] present we think of as the present is made up of the past, and the past is always […] what happened three minutes ago, and one minute, it’s what happened 30 years ago. And they flow into each other in waves that we can’t predict and that we keep discovering in dreams, which keep bringing up feelings and moments, some of which we never actually saw.” That’s it. That’s exactly it. Augusta Wood has managed to turn this poetically philosophical theory into images.

Photo: Andra Moldav

Her show, which took its name from this same interview, I have only what I remember, offers up eleven color C-prints, of varying sizes, that both mesmerize and frighten the observer.  A child practices on a transparent piano, surrounded and overlapped by abstract paintings, while a lamp sits quietly in the corner with its ghost. A man and woman have a conversation in their black-and-white world, unaware that the same world creeps in from the left, right behind them, in bright and vibrant colors. Each projection in every print corresponds to a particular year, (Wood writes it down for us in the titles) and although they overlap and blend together, they never quite form a cohesive image. Each one teeters on the edge of continuity.

Photo: Angles Gallery

The technique used seems so obvious in retrospect.  Wood went into her grandparents’ house, now empty of all the art and furniture it once held, and projected old family slides and photographs onto the bare spaces, forming multi-layered, sometimes ghostly, images. Each one, on average, combines at least three decades, like a compressed file of a family photo album. A visual representation of the semantic storage and retrieval of memories depicted as overlapping images from one’s past. The risk of being too literal is high, and I wonder if Wood assumed it for herself before putting up her show. Wood’s show navigates a tricky sort of conceptual territory, but her images are so skillfully rendered and so emotionally meaningful, that even if it only takes us a moment to understand the idea, the art stays around for much longer.

-Andra Moldav

Angles Gallery, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, (310) 396 5019, through Dec. 23. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.anglesgallery.com

Photo: Andra Moldav

Art review: Ciprian Muresan in Culver City

November 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Coming off of an evocative show at Plan B Gallery in Berlin, Romanian artist Ciprian Muresan offers Angelinos a show less overtly charged with social commentary and political allusion. At Mihai Nicodim Gallery in Culver City, Muresan turns now to the only tools more powerful to religious leaders and politicians than music: visual and semantic language. With undeniable mastery of craft, he renders, in pencil, two figures lying on the ground. This is a recurring theme in Muresan’s work, and it hearkens back to media coverage of Romania’s 1989 December Revolution. Nearby, on the floor, sits a television screen, which plays an animation loop of an Orthodox priest baptizing a newborn. The individual frames are laid out for us on the wall nearby. These bookends of birth and death, all in the context of religion and country, two very major narratives of the human experience, make way for Muresan’s loudest piece of the show: a photo mural covering an entire wall of the gallery.

Ciprian Muresan - Photo Installation at Mihai Nicodim Gallery

Photo: Mihai Nicodim

Each photograph depicts various public places in Romania – toilets, subway cars, streets – all unified by words. Viewed from left to right, the images comprise an excerpt from Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-Fé (1946), in which the reader is urged to think about the crime that is committed by censorship. Almost to answer this cry, Muresan sets up a table in the center of the gallery, where he lays out meticulous, hand copied pages of Martin Kippenberger’s exhibition catalogue for The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s “Amerika” 1994/1999.  Some pages of the book are in English while some are in German; however, the language matters little in the context of the piece itself, which challenges the viewer to think about the reproduction and preservation of an artist’s contribution to culture. The graffiti in the photos is all in Romanian. This reviewer is able to read it, but I have to wonder what effect it has on those who miss the semantics and get just the visuals. Perhaps the words fade into the background, unify the piece, and then becomes like the rest of the show: a commentary on the narrative of life and of art.

-Andra Moldav

Mihai Nicodim Gallery, 3143 S. La Cienega Blvd, Unit B, Los Angeles, (310) 838-8884, through Dec. 4. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.nicodimgallery.com

Ciprian Muresan - Installation at Mihail Micodim Gallery

Photo: Mihai Nicodim Gallery

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