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Akino Kondoh, Menstrual Flowers vol. 8 My Garden (detail), 2004

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October 5, 2005

Two triennials in Japan offer virtual tours of contemporary art, as we check out an international mix of artists at Yokohama 2005 and interview Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, participating in the 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale. With an eye on Japan, Artkrush considers its own discoveries in the East — featuring Tokyo artist Akino Kondoh as One to Watch and reviewing neo-pop book/CD-ROM Designin' in the Rain from the Japanese collective Delaware. Meanwhile, back in the western lands, we touch on the heavyweights Krens and Saatchi, and round up shows from Los Angeles to Berlin.

  A feeling of bluephoria is about to overtake the Venetian, where the wildly popular Blue Man Group begin performances in October, 2005. Blue Man Group combine music, comedy, and multimedia theatrics into a unique form of entertainment that builds toward a positively explosive, infectious party atmosphere. USA Today calls Blue Man Group "an absolutely ecstatic experience!"

Artists Among MacArthur Geniuses
(ARTINFO, September 20)
Painter Julie Mehretu (see Reviews) and sculptor Teresita Fernandez have been named MacArthur Foundation Fellows. The "genius grants," awarded annually, provide recipients with $500,000 over five years. Mehretu, who earlier this year was embroiled in controversy over the collection of her work, is known for large-scale paintings that evoke urban schematics through exquisite, linear detail. Fernandez employs architectural elements and vivid color to create contemplative spaces. Other recipients include novelist Jonathan Lethem, documentary photographer Fazal Sheikh, and violinmaker Joseph Curtin.

Krens Steps Down at Guggenheim
(New York Observer, October 3)
Thomas Krens, who for the past 17 years has served as director of New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, has stepped down from his position. A maverick visionary who oversaw the establishment of international Guggenheim satellites in Bilbao and Berlin as well as plans for Guadalajara, Mexico, Krens has been under fire for questionable ethical practices. He will continue to direct the Guggenheim Foundation, while Lisa Dennison, who has worked at the museum for 27 years, takes over as the New York director and will report to Krens. She had previously been approached by powerful LACMA trustee Eli Broad about a position there after director Andrea Rich retired this April.

Is Saatchi Losing His Touch?
(Guardian, September 29)
British advertising magnate Charles Saatchi, who nearly single-handedly financed the YBA movement in the early '90s, has seen his influence decline in the transforming 21st-century art world. Saatchi has been selling off his collection, including Damien Hirst's pickled shark and works by the Chapman Brothers. His private gallery was once the standard bearer for a generation of British dealers. Now he has announced he will be leaving his County Hall space, fronting the Thames River, after bitter disputes with the building's landlord, Japanese mogul Makoto Okamoto. Suzanne Cotter, senior curator at Modern Art Oxford, suggests that Saatchi could not compete with the publicly funded Tate Modern. Critic Adrian Searle comments that Saatchi's latest infatuation with painting lacks cohesiveness.

Tate's Ofili Purchase Raises Eyebrows
(Times, September 22)
Britain's Tate Modern museum is under criticism after acquiring a work by its own trustee, artist Chris Ofili. The museum bought Ofili's monumental Upper Room for a record £600,000 in July of this year from dealer Victoria Miro. However, in October of last year director Sir Nicholas Serota, claiming he had no budget to buy works, had appealed for donations from influential artists. The Tate's current annual acquisitions budget is £1,500,000. Critics claim the exorbitant price paid for Upper Room reflects a conflict of interest. In related news, Ofili has been named artist-in-residence at the National Gallery. The move is seen as an attempt by the gallery, a longtime bastion of conservatism, to reach out to the contemporary-art audience.

Released FBI files critique Warhol film » more

Scottish art establishment brings back Blinky Palermo » more

Digital dealer sets up shop in Seoul » more

Tate Britain pulls artwork it considers offensive to Muslims » more

Pink bunny conquers Italian mountain » more

After Pinault's Paris plans fizzle, archrival proposes museum project » more

Chipperfield continues architectural roll across Midwest » more

Planned exhaust-fume art backfires on artist » more

Vinoly's stylish museum complex unveiled at Duke » more

Kidnap artist humiliates clients » more

Museum to open annex in Miami's budding arts district » more

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[ Yokohama 2005 ]


Tanishi K / Hiraki Sawa / Maaria Wirkkala / Tonico Lemos Auad

The Second Yokohoma Triennale showcases 86 artists from around the world in an exhibition that aims to alter the relationship between artist and audience. Focusing on interaction and collaboration, artistic director Tadashi Kawamata has united an impressive range of visual artists, dancers, composers, and performers with contrasting backgrounds and experiences under the title Art Circus (Jumping from the Ordinary).

Artistic heavyweights such as Daniel Buren (France), whose Cie ETOKAN Buren Cirque continues his collaboration with a traveling circus troupe, exhibit alongside newcomers like Shaun Gladwell (Australia), a video artist who explores youth cultures such as skateboarding and graffiti through an art-historical lens. The venerable Ann Hamilton (USA) investigates the relationship between language, textiles, and the body, while Mella Jaarsma (Indonesia) creates tentlike cloaks from animal parts such as frog heads and chicken feet for performances that reveal the merging of social and ethnic experiences.

Some artists choose an existential avenue, examining everyday life and its dreams. Hiraki Sawa (Japan) populates domestic interiors with wild animals and airplanes in his surreal video works, and Tonico Lemos Auad (Brazil) creates whimsical figures from ephemeral materials such as carpet fluff and banana peels. Performance artist Tanishi K (Japan) wanders the aisles of subway trains dressed as a flight attendant, offering refreshments to weary commuters, and the sculptures of Maaria Wirkkala (Finland) create connections between people on cultural and individual levels, fostering a sense of self-awareness.

A number of artists take a pointedly political view, focusing upon issues of corporate growth, pollution, and globalization. Nari Ward (Jamaica) creates colorful sculptures from masses of waste produced by American consumers. Yuken Teruya (Japan) crafts intricate paper trees from discarded shopping bags, highlighting large corporations' wasteful destruction of the planet's resources. The Chinese collective Long March investigates immigration and anonymity through their Chinatown Project, while Alma Quinto (Philippines) uses soft sculptures to relate the memories and aspirations of abused children.

In an installation that critiques the very nature of these grand exhibitions, ©uratorman, Inc. (Thailand), satirize the rise of the "celebrity curator" and the commercialization of art. Thankfully, Yokohama 2005 resists this crass simplicity and market-driven curatorship, opting for an evolving collection of artworks. By inviting the audience to look beyond the white box, this exhibition succeeds in its mission, transforming the artist-audience dialogue into a collaborative conversation. (AK)

Yokohama 2005 began September 28 and continues through December 18, 2005.

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Shepard Fairey
Los Angeles

Merry Karnowsky Gallery
Now through October 15

  Shepard Fairey's work has become more overtly political over the years. Though his avidly content-free early work, like the ubiquitous Obey graphics, borrowed liberally from 20th-century agitprop and contemporary commercial and industrial propaganda, its relentlessly silly imagery was more Dadaist than Leninist. With this newest body of work, Fairey comes down firmly on the side of engagement, using his trademark heavy black line, luminous reds, buttery flesh tones, and ice-cold blues to generate powerful icon/portrait hybrids of figures from government and pop culture. From George W. Bush to Slick Rick, Communist laborers to Black Panthers, Fairey's content has caught up with his form as he embraces his strength as a provocateur — just when he is needed most. (SND)

Julie Mehretu
St. Louis

Saint Louis Art Museum
Now through November 27

  Albert Speer, chief architect for the Third Reich, was an odd builder: His theory of "ruin value" dictated that structures be designed with a view toward their future as aesthetically pleasing remains. The New York-based, Ethiopian-born artist Julie Mehretu has spent the last several years making art that at once captures the triumphant and expectant precision of architectural elevations and presages demolition — her abstract explosions practically shatter the canvas. Her newest work, five paintings based on designs for historical and contemporary fortresses and mercantile architecture, extends her formula to frame an investigation of war and commerce. The chaotic, stirring results give new meaning to the term "military-industrial complex." (SRP)

Ian Burns
New York

Spencer Brownstone Gallery
Now through October 15

  The Australian artist makes his New York debut with a collection of kinetic sculpture and moving-image pieces that seem equally inspired by Rube Goldberg, CNN, and Michel Foucault's theories of surveillance. Ian Burns' purposefully rough-hewn wooden constructions employ fans, alarm clocks, and whirling rotors to create playful yet disturbing works that interrogate viewer's relationship with images of war, torture (one piece shows a marionette of a military guard repeatedly sodomizing a hooded prisoner with a broom handle), and pornography. The centerpiece is Another Day at the Office, an enormous structure in which a patron can enact "executions" while surveying five simulated "computer screens." Conflating the quotidian with the creepy, Burns demonstrates the numbing effects of televised savagery. (GZ)

Amelie von Wulffen

Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst
Now through October 16

  In her first museum retrospective, German artist Amelie von Wulffen delivers a mesmerizing show with works from 1998 to the present, as well as site-specific murals. Simultaneously dreamlike and precise, her visual language transmits a collective social memory and ranges from painting to collage, drawing to photography. In a work that will evoke childhood memories for many viewers, a giant double-exposed photograph shows a young John Travolta floating behind a floral painted bottle. And in her City collage series, East German buildings are reconstructed into a dizzying Cubist cityscape. You may not know exactly what you are looking at in von Wulffen's work, but the environments, objects, and characters are nevertheless intensely familiar and strikingly beautiful. (MS)

Note: This exhibition travels to the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, in March 2006.

Aernout Mik: Vacuum Room

carlier | gebauer
Now through October 29

  Aernout Mik's video installations depict true-to-life objects and events — from escalators to evacuations — that are either oversaturated with or completely devoid of explanation and story lines. His sociopolitical and spatially conscious work mixes chaos with an anxiety about reality. Vacuum Room is no exception. In a whale-shaped enclosure, Mik has placed six projections, all below eye level. Each screen presents a surveillance-camera record of a tribunal-like interior, where delegates argue among themselves or with messy revolutionary types. The piece frustrates expectations by muting the dialogue. As the viewer struggles to complete the story, it soon becomes clear that Mik is playing with the very definition of a "vacuum." (ML)

Note: Vacuum Room is also on view at MCKunst in Los Angeles through October 22, 2005.

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[ Akino Kondoh ]

Akino Kondoh

Girlish, with just a touch of the sensual, the work of Akino Kondoh offers a splendor of female-associated ephemera — brightly blooming flowers, rivers of red, lifted skirts baring slim, tightly held legs. Eclectic with respect to media, her pieces range from simplified marker-and-ink drawings that make playful use of negative space to lushly colored acrylic works on canvas, as well as short animated videos. Based in Tokyo, Kondoh had a solo show at Gallery Es in 2003 and has been featured in group exhibitions in Tokyo and New York, including Psionic Distortion, which showcased the work of artists who wear their manga influences on their sleeves.

Kondoh's most fascinating and well-circulated animation, The Evening Traveling, was shown at Barcelona's Loop '04 Video Art Fair & Festival and the 2005 DiVA Fair in New York. Multiplying into her own chorus line, the piece's central figure is a poncho-clad ingénue who serves as both passive dreamer and emboldened performer of her own fantasy. Evoking M. C. Escher and Busby Berkeley, Kondoh depicts identical adolescent beauties, all bearing the same face and physique. A docile, sleeping figure seems to have dreamed them all.

Similar depictions of interchangeable beauty recur in several of Kondoh's recent paintings. In My Pendemonium-Line, a cascade of naked young girls, each seemingly begetting the next, is swarmed by abbreviated butterflies. The multiplicity of slender legs and arms makes for a chaotic stew of desirable parts — it's a pattern juiced with the charge of a coquettish yet semi-abstracted beauty. (LG)

Akino Kondoh's work can currently be seen at Mizuma Art Gallery at FIAC 2005 in Paris through October 10.

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[ Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries ]


Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries

Paul Laster interviews Young-hae Chang and Marc Voge of YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES about their art and their participation in the 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (FT3).
AK: What is Net art? How does YHCHI make, exhibit, and sell it?

YHCHI: Net art is a subset of art, and since art can be anything, so can Net art. Or, to put it mathematically, A (a) = ? ergo Na. YHCHI makes Net art with its dedicated staff of writers, animators, technicians, designers, PR suits, personal trainers, and feng shui advisor. It exhibits it in its Ginza storefront, next to the Sony Building. It sells it to the corporate boards of the major heavy industries groups throughout East Asia that, we're told, project it on the hulls of tankers in their shipyards every morning so the workers can watch it while they do calisthenics.

AK: How many years of work does your website represent? How has your style advanced over that time?

YHCHI: We're as old as Google. Our style, like all artistic styles, has never advanced. It is, period. But, unlike all other artistic styles, we have the right to terminate ours. We've even notarized this right and set up a special function key to execute it in a crisis.

AK: Why is the provocative CUNNILINGUS IN N0RTH K0REA available in English, German, French, and Spanish, but not Korean?

YHCHI: Good observation. We're learning to be prudent. See, the reaction to CUNNILINGUS hasn't been what we expected. We thought that people would throw flowers at us for helping the Dear Leader to put a human face on North Korea. Instead, God only knows why we continue to get some hostile missives. Stuff like, "Why do you hate N. Korea so much?" or "Why do you hate S. Korea so much?" It's confusing. We decided we're not cut out to be humanists.

AK: Does the jazz soundtrack accompany the written word or do the words accompany the jazz rhythms?

YHCHI: Neither. They're alone, unaccompanied, isolated, and desperate to meet. What we've discovered is that you can mix and match anything in life and the result is always meaningful.

AK: Did you create the scenario for the apocalyptic 0PERATI0N NUK0REA or was it based on a fictional story?

keep reading the interview »

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  Designin' in the Rain

Self-proclaimed "artoonists" who design music and music designs, the Japanese collective Delaware (Aya Honda, Yoshiki Watanabe, Morihiro Tajiri, and Masato Samata) are all about the fun. This book, with an accompanying CD-ROM, explores their bitmap creations in a variety of media — from cross-stitch album covers and mobile-phone wallpaper to gallery installations of graphics in CD-case grids and textiles. Their techno-pop music recalls the Plastics and Tom Tom Club while their colorful Flash animations serve as geometric rock videos and playgrounds for their imaginative fonts, which incorporate trees and bar codes. As a guide to the creative crew and their website wonders, Designin' in the Rain is a virtual treat. (PL)

Delaware's work can also be seen in the design book Area, published by Phaidon, and in the exhibition D-DAY, Modern-Day Design at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, through October 17, 2005.

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Cover image
Akino Kondoh
Menstrual Flowers vol. 8 My Garden (detail), 2004
Automatic pencil and acrylic on paper
8 3/4 x 10 3/4 in./ 22 x 27.2 cm
Courtesy the artist and Mizuma Art Gallery, Tokyo
All Rights Reserved

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