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Catherine Opie, Miggi & Ilene, 1995 (detail)

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SITE Santa Fe
July 12-25, 2006

In the vast American deserts, contemporary artists run wild: Andrea Zittel builds modernist utopias in the Mojave, Burning Man unleashes thousands of artists-turned-pyromaniacs in Nevada, and — every two years — SITE Santa Fe hosts an international exhibition in the high desert of New Mexico. This year, curator Klaus Ottman gives 13 artists solo exhibitions, including Catherine Opie, renowned photographer of tattooed outsiders and soaring freeways. We interview Opie in this issue, and tip our hat to another boundless innovator, Adam Kalkin, who fashions modern homes out of shipping containers. Unearthing experimentation in more populated areas as well, we review shows by Vivan Sundaram in New York and Tomas Saraceno in London.

  A dynamic new collaboration between Budweiser Select and Flavorpill, Select Flavor harnesses the talents of up-and-coming artists and designers to interpret Select — a premier hand-crafted beer — and its iconic crown through original artwork. Expect a new kind of creativity. Expect everything.

Mexico City's Burgeoning Art Scene
(New York Times, June 25)
With four-hour, tequila-soaked openings for the likes of Damien Hirst, Ed Ruscha, and Miguel Calderón, smart galleries, and an expanding array of events, such as the annual party at La Colección Jumex, Mexico City has emerged as one of the most frenzied art capitals. While crime and pollution remain problems in the Mexican metropolis, an enormous area-wide renewal project begun four years ago by telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim Helu, focusing on the Centro Histórico, has brought artists and collectors to the city in increasing numbers.

Two New Jean Nouvel Buildings
(New York Times, June 27)
French architect Jean Nouvel's new Musée du Quai Branly, located on Paris' historic Left Bank, is stirring up controversy for both its form and content. While some critics have praised Nouvel's mashed-up assortment of architectural styles and his structure's lush garden, others have condemned the new home for collections of African, Asian, and Oceanic artwork as a backward-looking colonialist hangover, "a catastrophe sunk in a swamp of hubris." Less controversial is the other major new work by Nouvel (who is rumored to be Brad Pitt's favorite architect), the metal-encased, techno-savvy riverfront Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Graffiti, Back in the Day
(New York Times, June 30)
The Brooklyn Museum's new show, Graffiti, brings together the avant-garde with grassroots art making, displaying more than 20 aerosol-spray paintings from the 1980s in an environment where visitors are encouraged to add their own tags to the exhibition walls. Affinities between street art and the museum world have been recognized in the work of Cy Twombly, Jean Dubuffet, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring, and have been expanded in the art of Barry McGee and the Clayton Brothers. In a related story, old-school graf artists marked the occasion of the exhibition with an oral history of NYC's graffiti scene.

Koolhaas Blows Bubble for Project
(Guardian, July 3)
Known as the "architects' playground," London's Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens has become one of the world's leading test labs for bold architectural ideas: over the last six years, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Oscar Niemeyer, Toyo Ito, and Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura have each offered their interpretations of a pavilion for the space. This year Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has presented a bigger and more expensive project than that of any of his esteemed predecessors. Featuring an enormous helium-filled canopy that rises into the air like a balloon and deflates during inclement weather, Koolhaas' pavilion will display video and will be the host site for discussions with, among others, artists Gilbert & George and musician Brian Eno.

California organizations leading the way in video art preservation more »

Zaha Hadid talks architecture more »

Luxury goods magnate Pinault trumps Sheikh Saud for Koons' flower sculpture more »

Cartoonist and pop video maker Shrigley forging new directions more »

Tasty exhibit mixes cuisine and culture more »

Rirkrit Tiravanija talks about his Open City project more »

More museums offering podcasts more »

The case for Melbourne as a world-class art city more »

Archduchess and her foundation commission art on the Danube more »

Two Washington DC museums reopen in renovated quarters more »

Childs reveals new Freedom Tower details more »

Christie's sale of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Picasso may have more hype than worth more »

Italian designer Anna Castelli Ferrieri dies at 87 more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try akreader1 as the username and password.

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[ SITE Santa Fe ]


Carsten Nicolai / Jennifer Bartlett / Stephen Dean / Thorns Ltd.

SITE Santa Fe has provided a dynamic, flexible venue for artistic and curatorial experimentation since 1995, and this year's biennial — the institution's sixth to date — continues the innovative tradition. Organized by independent curator Klaus Ottmann, whose massive James Lee Byars' survey recently graced six separate New York galleries, Still Points of the Turning World minimizes the artist list in favor of the audience's immersion experience. The exhibition has no quotable theme; rather, the idea is that room-size installations created by each of the 13 participating artists communicate with the viewing public in an "unmediated" fashion.

The chosen few are a diverse set, and while old hands such as Robert Grosvenor and Jennifer Bartlett mingle with those comparatively new to the scene — and those in-between — most have formed their projects on view during the last few years. Bartlett debuts a series of text paintings begun in 2004, and Grosvenor made a brand new sculptural work for the occasion. Veteran photographer Catherine Opie contributes portraits of children, and decadently minimal Wolfgang Laib presents sculptures of Burmese lacquer from a series started in 2002. French multimedia aficionado Stephen Dean adds some cacophony, premiering a video that scrutinizes the American demolition derby phenomenon, alongside one of Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias' trademark, ever-unfolding, dreamed-up spaces.

Performance and music play important roles in this biennial's call for direct address. Abramovic-inspired Patty Chang continues to make her viewers, and herself, uncomfortable, creating situations that are difficult enough to watch, let alone instigate. Jonathan Meese, known for invoking the spirit of the Viennese Actionists, further develops the unique brand of chaotically referential performance theater that augments his "total art." Also known as Alva Noto, electronic musician Carsten Nicolai presents installations that engage the senses in an artfully scientific exploration of visible and invisible dimensions, while Thorns Ltd. adheres more strictly to sound art. The Norwegian group, who collaborated with Banks Violette on his recent installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, presents a 185-day-long audio piece that will play continuously until the biennial's close.

Commissioned pieces from Polish video and installation artist Miroslaw Balka and rising collage superstar Wangechi Mutu alternately mourn past tragedies and herald a fragmented global future, and all is topped off by "some things borrowed" from Scottish painter Peter Doig. Less is clearly more at SITE this year as Still Points of the Turning World pauses to think beyond its physical location. (SK)

Still Points of the Turning World continues at SITE Santa Fe through January 7, 2007.

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Vivan Sundaram: Re-take of Amrita
New York

Sepia International
Now through July 28

  Digitally combining elements from family photographs, Vivan Sundaram constructs new narratives for the adventurous figures inhabiting the old prints. His Indian grandfather, Hungarian grandmother, mother, aunt — the celebrated painter Amrita Sher-Gil — and uncle are recast as characters in surreal and psychological settings. They pose with figures from Amrita's paintings, appear as apparitions, occupy mirrors, and become their own clones. Using personal knowledge of his worldly ancestors, Sundaram creates striking scenarios that may have never been yet might have once been dreamed. The artist himself is visible in one of the images, seated on his grandfather's lap with his hands on the old man's camera — a projection of his future manipulation of a glamorous past. In an accompanying video installation, Sundaram animates the characters to equally amusing ends. (PL)

Paraísos Artificiales

Pilar Parra & Romero
Now through July 29

  Paraísos Artificiales finds figurative painters Hernan Bas, Norbert Bisky, Jörg Lozek, and Simone Lucas knee-deep in the murky territory of adolescence. Hernan Bas reinterprets icons from mythology and art history to imagine beautiful boys lost in landscapes fraught with chaotic colors and evocative brushwork. Norbert Bisky's pulp-styled portraits of youth behaving badly suggest a gross inversion of Abercrombie & Fitch advertising campaigns. Working on large canvases, Simone Lucas studies children trapped within the confines of gloomy grammar-school environments, while Jörg Lozek's solitary protagonists occupy florid, decomposing rooms that engulf their guests in a visual cacophony of fin-de-siècle ornamentation. In these "artificial paradises," the act of painting provides enduring allegory for the ultimate instability of the self. (MW)

Tomas Saraceno

Barbican Art Gallery
Now through July 16

  Cloudspotters will be enthralled by Tomas Saraceno's latest work, created especially for the Barbican's Curve gallery. The Curve's 80-meter-long corridor is one of London's more unusual and difficult art spaces, but the Argentinian artist's ethereal installation fits perfectly. Inverting Olafur Eliasson's sunny Weather Project at the Tate Modern in 2003, Saraceno finds beauty in less clement conditions. His surreal utopian vision takes form through individual screens running the length of the huge wall. These relay footage of cloud reflections filmed by 32 video cameras at the world's largest salt lake, Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. Saraceno immerses viewers in the skyscape — providing a transcendental experience and giving new meaning to having your head in the clouds. (LD)

Saraceno's work is also on view in a solo show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York through August 4.

Josh Smith: The City Never Sleeps

Air de Paris
Now through July 22

  Taking The City Never Sleeps into the City of Light, manic scamp Josh Smith unveils two new series of work at Air de Paris. Smith is an ouroboros of authenticity, reveling in messy, serial infinitude. In Air de Paris #1 to 13, he reinvents his name as a gestural logo through textual black-and-white show announcements printed on canvas, echoing the aesthetics of German Expressionist posters. In Encyclopedia #1 to 20, sets of hand-bound books sit stacked against the wall in crates and boxes, archives of an ambitious drawing output dominated by physiognomic and linguistic manifestations. With his name as visual mantra, Smith approaches an absurdist vortex that collapses sight and recognition. (CK)

Haluk Akakçe

Galerie Max Hetzler
Now through July 15

  Divided between Max Hetzler's two gallery locations, Haluk Akakçe's current exhibit presents a series of new drawings at the Zimmerstrasse site and a recent video at the Holzmarkstrasse site. Akakçe's cadenced illustrations exhibit technical precision, combining tightly rendered geometrical shapes with waves of pastel hues or outbursts of saturated reds and blues. The artist suspends viewers between abstraction and illusionary narrative space, exploring perception’s relationship to technology and its associated aesthetics. Accompanied by a soundtrack from the ballet Coppélia, Akakçe's animated video is inspired by early memories of his father’s performance of the role Dr. Coppelius in the same production, offering disarming intimacy. (HV)

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[ Adam Kalkin ]

Adam Kalkin

Straddling industrial chic and mobile architecture, New Jersey architect and interdisciplinary artist Adam Kalkin constructs prefab homes out of recycled cargo shipping containers. While turning commercial castoffs into ready-made structures is not altogether new, Kalkin thinks outside the corrugated box and transforms everyday commodities into unorthodox domestic structures, one of which he calls home.

Enigmatic yet practical, Kalkin's work is often made of containers stacked like Legos and used as instant rooms in a broad spectrum of housing projects and art installations. The Collector's House, constructed in 2001, used three stacked containers to create a fictional home for a collector of folk art. And, for a vacation home in Maine, Kalkin employed 12 containers to serve as bedrooms, bathrooms, and a central living area. Light enters the austere interiors through skylights, windows, and doors that Kalkin carved with a welding torch or through glass fitted into the open ends. Kalkin fuses architecture with kinetic construction as well as conceptual and performance arts. His Push Button House, unveiled at last year's Art Basel Miami Beach, is a shipping container with hydraulic walls that, at the push of a button, opens to expose a furnished minimalist environment and divulges the mysteries of its formerly sealed environment.

Kalkin, who trained at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, pushes the field of architecture into new directions by making intriguing connections between shelter and junk, environmentalism and commerce, and between found objects and architecture. (SH)

Homey and Hip: Knoll Design at Shelburne Museum is on view at the Kalkin House, which was formerly known as the Collector's House, through October 3.

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[ Catherine Opie ]


Catherine Opie

Shana Nys Dambrot speaks with Catherine Opie, a 2006 SITE Santa Fe International Biennial artist with two current solo exhibitions — Catherine Opie: In and Around Home at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California, and Catherine Opie: Chicago (American Cities) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago — about her photography.
AK: Why do you think SITE curator Klaus Ottmann chose you for the exhibition?

CO: The only criteria he had for what work to include was that it be either new or never before shown in the US. In the end, hearing Klaus talk about it, he just chose artists he wanted to think about. He was tired of the biennials with all the top hits that you see over and over. This is just about interest; it's 13 solo shows and really quite elegant. There was no theme, and he would have called it Untitled, but they told him he needed a title, so he opened a T. S. Eliot book at random and there it was, Still Points of the Turning World. In a way, it's perfect; this show is not thought of from a curatorial viewpoint. It was very generous of him, and it really works. And all the artists are here, so we've had this great experience getting to know one another and looking at each other's work in depth.

AK: You ended up showing portraits of children at SITE. After photographing families and surfers more or less on location, why return to studio portraits, and why do you think children make such good subject matter?

CO: I had done the self-portrait of myself nursing; that was shown in a gallery in Italy in 2004. Before that, I hadn't done any kind of studio portraits really since about 1995, and I thought it was time. I had had a kid . . . In 1994 I did the self-portrait with "pervert" carved into my chest that was in the Whitney Biennial; and in the self-portrait from 2005, I'm holding my baby, Oliver, to my breast, but you can still see the word there. I thought it made a nice companion piece, but as with all my work, it's also about creating a different language within a language that's already been created. And I think a lot of artists use children in manipulative ways in art. They — the kids — aren't allowed to be who they really are. These portraits are about honesty. The kids are just looking at the camera. Sure, the images are aestheticized, with the colors and all, but basically it's just them there, and you can just about see what they'll look like when they're adults.

AK: Your earliest recognition was with the Freeways series in 1993 and the Mini Malls and Houses series that came later. And you have spent time in New York and Minneapolis, where you were an artist-in-residence at the Walker Art Center. What were you trying to say about America in those images? Is it fair to say you thought of them as portraits of cities?

keep reading the interview »

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  Karin Davie: Selected Works
Louis Grachos, Barry Schwabsky, and Lynne Tillman
Rizzoli International Publications

Karin Davie is a painter of stripes. This colorful monograph, produced to accompany a recent 15-year survey of the artist's work at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, charts the development of her work from provocative diptychs of curving lines in the early '90s to single canvases of tubular, overlaid gestures of the past few years. Albright-Knox director Louis Grachos, who had previously organized an exhibition of Davie's paintings at SITE Santa Fe, introduces the work; poet and critic Barry Schwabsky cites references ranging from the undulating comic characters of R. Crumb and the dance movements of Trisha Brown to the representational paintings of Caravaggio and Ingres; while novelist Lynne Tillman paints a portrait of the artist with words. Most enchanting is the work itself — the paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures — that come together to illustrate a physical yet intellectual approach to art. (PL)

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Cover Art
Catherine Opie
Miggi & Ilene, 1995
Chromogenic print
41 x 51 in./103.5 x 129 cm
Courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
All Rights Reserved

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