As I mentioned last week the year is moving way too fast. This past week was even more of an indicator of that! With New York Fashion Week now done and dusted and Fall trends released into the world its hard to remember that its only seven weeks into the new year (partly the weather is to blame for that!) In just a couple of short weeks will be the Whitney Biennial and then the Armory show and then officially Spring – there is so much to do and see before that!
This week was very productive on that front though! The week began with a class visit to Pace/MacGill where we both got a great talk from Peter MacGill and also a look at their current show by photographer Tono Stano White Shadow. I had never heard of the fifty-one year old Czech photographer before and felt better when I learned this was his first New York (and I believe state-side) show. Completely produced in camera and shot in his studio, he turns positives into negatives and negatives into positives by painting the white portions of his models bodies black and vice versa. This process may sound kitschy but the result is visually remarkable, haunting, graphic and unlike anything I had ever seen before. The photographs aren’t overly large so there are quite a few in the show. My favorites were the smallest and newest and seemed more like studies than finished works, but I loved the stillness of them. The show is up until March 17th – so no excuse not to go! Peter MacGill also gave a great talk to my class and I think installed some very needed assurance that not everything has been done, that’s its okay to move past lamenting over the loss of celluloid and not to get caught up in the nostalgia of the medium (hard lessons in the age of the instagram!)
Seeing a great show like White Shadow motivated me and on Wednesday I went to see The New Museum’s triennial ‘The Ungovernables’. I was very excited by this show. It was great to be exposed to so many artists whose work I had never seen or heard of before. On the fifth floor of the museum I was initially struck by Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade’s Ressaca Tropical (Tropical hangover) an installation of over a hundred photographs and diary entries from a found diary displayed out of sequence. This assumed romantic vision of a city plays with the idea of what is fiction and what is real, how we manipulate truth with or without trying, what stands for the past, and how true a narrative can ever really be. This genre of work has been done before and can risk the danger of being caught in the nostalgia of the imagery and the tales being told, but de Andrades’ work somehow surpasses that and draws you in while keeps you questioning. A few floors down de Andrades again impressed me with his flicker-like film 4000 shots which quickly moves through 4000 images of men he shot in the street in sixty minutes.
Other stand-out works were Danh Vo’s WE THE PEOPLE a replication of the skin of the statue of liberty that seems to simultaneously melt into and float on the gallery’s floor and walls. Another Brazilian artist, Cinthia Marcelle had a film called O Sécula (The Century), which for about ten minutes debris is being thrown into an empty street. As the debris grows, and remnants start to move, and get thrown into the air the result is a fighting back of sorts, the trash starts to revolt back and tries to exit the viewers frames just as it had entered. Although I was glad to see that show was not over-run by film and video another amazing piece was Pivli Takala’s video installation depicting her time working in an accounting firm and completely disregarding any work ethic.
On Friday I went to check out Yinka Shonibare’s new show at James Cohan Gallery. Shonibare is one of those artist who while I was living in London name was all around (partly because had the 4th Plinth commission in Trafalgar Square) but sadly in New York his work or name is not as common. Assumedly this is in large part because the issues of colonialism that drives so much of his work just aren’t as sexy here.
After James Cohan I attempted to go to David Zwirner to see the Doug Wheeler show. It was a three hour wait and unfortunately didn’t have three hours. The show is closing on the 25th so it is a must-do this coming week.
One last great thing to this week – the long weekend allowed me to see an extremely large expanse of water – incredibly invigorating!