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Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Help!) (detail), 1992

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Politics and Art
February 7-20, 2007

In response to wartime crisis, widespread government corruption, and ongoing race and gender inequalities, contemporary artists are inventing subversive methods of confronting political issues. Blue Noses and Banksy use cheeky satire to undermine authority figures, while Emily Jacir and Alfredo Jaar build poignant installations about genocide and displacement. Our artists to watch, the Yes Men, wreak havoc in the corporate world by successfully imitating political and business figures, and the artists in Graphic Agitation 2 reinvent political posters for the digital age. We talk with Lisa Farjam of Bidoun magazine, which covers art and culture in the Middle East, and we survey less politically charged work across the globe, from Brian Jungen in Rotterdam to Jean-Paul Goude in New York.




  ABSOLUT LOMO doesn't just celebrate the creative world of lomography — it invites you into it. All you need is a camera (preferably made of plastic) to become a part of a colorful, global, snapshot movement. ABSOLUT VODKA has always had a close bond with contemporary art; now you, too, can contribute. Check in to the ABSOLUT LOMO gallery.





Steven Holl on a Roll
(Telegraph, January 13)
Architect Steven Holl is garnering praise for a number of new projects, including his $200 million extension for Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The 165,000-square-foot Bloch Building, a primarily underground space crowned by five glowing glass pavilions, will increase the museum's size by 70%. Elsewhere, in Washington, DC, Holl received high marks for his "little piece of Switzerland," a glass and concrete home he recently designed for a Swiss ambassador — though the Washington Post called it "easy to admire, hard to love." Topping off the adulation, Holl won the 2007 AIA Honor Award for Architecture for his Iowa School of Art & Architecture.

Odd Couple Gilbert and George
(Observer, January 28)
In anticipation of their Tate Modern retrospective, the Observer recently profiled nattily attired provocateurs Gilbert and George. Over the past 30 years, their art partnership has traversed everything from absurdist theatre to photomontages, including work featuring their genitals and excrement, often presented in pieces that resemble church windows. The Tate exhibition will feature a new work, Six Bomb Pictures, which was inspired by the London bombings of 2005. "We don't make art for selling," says Gilbert. "We make it to confront people." To be fair, the duo's art does sell, quite well, at White Cube, fetching prices upward of £40,000. Nevertheless, the pair claim to be art world outsiders who never go to galleries or consort with other artists. Bewildered by the couple's curious habits, which include eating at the same restaurants every single day, the article sums up Gilbert and George's charm as being akin to "two crazy but indulgent old uncles."

Mag Tracks Art of Second Life
(Artnet, January 23)
With over 2.8 million registered users, the online world of Second Life is attracting its share of media attention. Now Richard Minsky, an artist and the founder of the Center for Book Arts, has started a magazine dedicated to Second Life's burgeoning art marketplace. Named Slart (for "Second Life Art"), the publication will trace the development of the virtual trade, where works — ranging from the graf-influenced abstractions of Filthy Fluno to the now defunct, sculpture-creating magic wand of StarAx Statosky — can sell for nearly six figures in Lindens (the currency of Second Life, where 250 Lindens=$1). Because Second Life users have copyrights over their virtual creations, real money is exchanged between simulated hands. The IBM Corporation is rumored to be building a collection of virtual artwork, while Jen Bekman Gallery and George Eastman House have already set up virtual exhibitions.

Mr. & Mrs. Natural in France
(International Herald Tribune, January 23)
Sixteen years ago, cartoonists Robert and Aline Crumb moved to a French village hoping to escape what they viewed as coarsening and conservative cultural trends in America. Residing in a 13-bedroom house west of Nîmes that dates back to the 11th century, Robert — the underground comics pioneer who created Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat and was recently featured in the Masters of American Comics exhibition — works on his version of the biblical Genesis. In addition to her own drawing, Aline teaches yoga and splits her free time between her husband and a Parisian printmaker, Christian Coudurès. The Crumbs have a famously open marriage, even though their 25-year-old daughter Sophie, who is also a cartoonist and lives nearby, describes her parents' domestic situation as "gross."





Art market showing signs of a bubble more »

A mayor's influence on local arts more »

Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra looks at youth in new show more »

AIA announces 2007 Honor Awards more »

Seoul memorial marks year anniversary of Paik's death more »

New show looks at the LA art underground of the '50s and '60s more »

Moving from streets to galleries, graffiti is big business more »

Montana mining town gets art boost more »

Weisman house set to become museum more »

The Chapmans, brothers in shock art, profiled more »

Tijuana art crosses border more »

Indian art market gaining strength more »

A collector's take on the LA Art Show more »

Cultural boom in Beantown more »

A look at Tokyo's Roppongi Art Triangle more »

Art helps "wasteland" become trendy neighborhood more »

Is the art market making us stupid? 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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[ Rebels with a Cause ]


     

Guy Tillim / Blue Noses / Alfredo Jaar / Martha Rosler

As the Bush administration continues to wreak global havoc, a fresh tide of political dissent rises on campuses, airwaves, and blogs — as well as in galleries and museums. Artists frustrated with the status quo are challenging international power structures while also exposing foundational conflicts of gender, ethnicity, religion, and class.

Satirical humor is the favored strategy of many emerging artists, including Siberian collective Blue Noses and famed UK street artist Banksy. Each reconfigures images of celebrity and authority figures into wittily searing and ultimately subversive commentaries. Also playing with appropriation, Australian Tom Nicholson merges government symbols with personal portraiture in his flags, banners, protest posters, and altered books. Responding to the history of Blaxploitation in American film, Isaac Julien constructs retro filmic montages, such as 2002's BaadAsssss Cinema, which probe African-American identity. Dissident Chinese artists the Gao Brothers reinterpret a timeless protest method with their global hug-ins, requiring participants to cuddle strangers, while Mexican multimedia artist Gustavo Artigas sets off game-based experiments and unpredictable actions in public, such as releasing billowing orange smoke outdoors, tapping into the spreading fear of terrorism.

Taking a documentary approach to political conflict, South African Guy Tillim records protests and ceremonies with exquisite photographs appropriate for both newspapers and galleries. Palestinian artist Emily Jacir and Lebanese artist Walid Raad's Atlas Group both accumulate volumes of information on the history of their countries in an effort to protect, celebrate, and deconstruct present realities; Jacir's installations, such as Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages That Were Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948 (2001), use genuine pieces like a refugee camp sleeper tent to express the trauma of displacement. Chilean photographer and multimedia artist Alfredo Jaar counteracts cultural numbness to disturbing imagery by offering subtle, haunting installations on tragedies such as the Rwandan genocide. Spinning documentation into visual poetry, Shirin Neshat uses the languid, austere beauty of Arabic writing, architecture, and ceremonial dress to portray women restricted by Islam.

Pioneers of political art in the '70s, Martha Rosler, Hans Haacke, and Barbara Kruger are still making waves with their confrontational work. Rosler's crisply wrought photomontages juxtapose archetypes of genteel luxury and contentment with visceral images of war and devastation. In the 2000 Whitney Biennial, Haacke continued his love of controversial metaphors with a piece comparing Giuliani to Hitler. Barbara Kruger of Your body is a battleground fame rages against mass media, now with large-scale installations of video, text, and sound. Her influence is felt by a generation of newer voices, among them the always-evolving Guerilla Girls collective, whose latest billboard features a female King Kong demanding more attention for women directors at Oscar time. (SND)



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Gabriel Kuri: and thanks in advance
New Plymouth, New Zealand

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
Now through February 18

  Gabriel Kuri's manipulation of materials seems almost haphazard: receipts stapled to a twisted board, roughly painted glass on piles of rocks, and stacks of sod beg viewers to touch them and impose some order. Unlike the manic works of artists such as Tom Friedman, these pieces — produced during Kuri's residency at Govett-Brewster — don't imply an obsessive process, nor do they suggest representational form. Instead, they convey the sense that the Mexican-born Belgian artist is, as the title of the show suggests, tricking viewers into completing actions for him. This nudge-nudge-wink-wink quality makes each piece read like a poetic riddle, suiting the gallery's young and whimsical sense of humor. (GM)





Jean-Paul Goude: So Far, So Goude
New York

Hasted Hunt
Now through February 17

  Bursting with carnal sensuality, eclectic multicultural references, and an undercurrent of humor, the photographs of French artist Jean-Paul Goude reflect a feverish imagination and an easy appreciation of the female form. Goude, whose career spans the fields of fashion photography, cinema, and graphic design, used a rudimentary X-Acto knife to create elaborate set pieces that foresaw surrealist digital shutterbugs like David LaChapelle. Goude's iconic pictures from the '70s and '80s variously transform singer and former wife Grace Jones into an ebony sculpture, naked androgynous twins, and the glistening performer of an unbelievable arabesque. So Far, So Goude, his international gallery debut, aptly showcases Goude's unique vision and avant-garde artistry. (SH)





Joe Colombo: Inventing the Future
Manchester

Manchester Art Gallery
Now through February 25

  A '60s style icon, Italian designer Joe Colombo remade modernism with his vision for the "environment of the future." Trained as a painter and sculptor, Colombo brought artistic flair and a fascination with new technology to his designs, creating space-age living pods, like 1971's Total Furnishing Unit with folding beds and a nascent audio-visual system, and pioneering plastic furniture such as the Universale stacking chair. This international retrospective, traveling from the Vitra Design Museum and the Triennale di Milano, displays objects, sketches, models, and photographs from Colombo's short-lived practice before his death in 1971. Anticipating the current resurgence in modular design, Colombo classics like the Combi-Center and Minikitchen interlock multiple storage compartments into sleek, geometric forms. (BR)





Brian Jungen
Rotterdam

Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art
Now through February 11

  On the short list for most archetypal postmodern artist, Canadian Brian Jungen appropriates commodity goods to make sculptures fusing identity politics with leftist critiques of global consumerism. Drawing upon his First Nations heritage, Jungen earned renown for his Prototype for New Understanding, a series of Nike shoes transformed into Northwest Coast Aboriginal masks. Leather and petroleum-based products play a central role in the dozen works at Witte de With — Cetology is a full-scale replica of a whale skeleton fashioned from white plastic chairs. For the sarcastic Wild West tableau of The Evening Redness in the West, Jungen molded unraveled baseballs into skulls and remade a deluxe lounge chair into a saddle. (HGM)





Sarah Sze: A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Malmö

Malmö Konsthall
Now through February 18

  In New York-based installation artist Sarah Sze's first Scandinavian solo show, she obsessively arranges thousands of local hardware and office items into delicate, color-coded archipelagos. Viewers are invited to snoop around and occasionally kneel to examine Sze's refreshingly result-less laboratory, but must be careful not to trip over bridges of yarn, snow banks of salt, and forests of push-pins. Bathed in bright daylight or lit by the incandescence of desk lamps, the sparse, sweeping display is made specifically for the pale wood floors of Malmö Konsthall, one of Europe's largest exhibition venues. It's hard to differentiate gallery from work as everything merges in a seamless visual play. (ES)



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[ The Yes Men ]



The Yes Men

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and even Ali G have raised the bar for political satire precipitously high in recent years. But the Yes Men have been quietly surpassing the chutzpah of these masters by venturing where celebrity comedians can no longer go — into the convention halls, awards banquets, and press meetings of corporate America.

The duo of performance artists, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, stage convincing impersonations of company spokesmen, press officers, and politicos at real-world events in order to draw attention to the cruel stupidities of capitalism. Their capers have caused alarm in the control rooms of the BBC, prompted retraction statements by major US corporations, and elicited corrective press releases from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the late '90s, when the two recent college grads launched a website parody of the World Trade Organization, it was mistaken for the real thing, and they were invited to speak on behalf of the free-trade NGO at an international conference. As WTO spokesmen, they proposed new policies including auctioning democratic votes to the highest bidder and creating a market for the buying and selling of permits for committing human rights abuses. Only extremely savvy members of the media were able to see through the farce, and when the house of cards came crashing down, it was the WTO that took the blow.

Now, several hijinks later, the Yes Men are presenting their vision of a future utopia that transcends Sarbanes-Oxley in a book and a movie about their latest work. As the US gears up for another hot presidential race, the Yes Men are no doubt mobilizing to point out its paradoxes, one fake website at a time. (JK)



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[ Lisa Farjam ]


     

Celia Peterson / Paolo Woods / Negar Azimi / Tarek Al-Ghoussein

Bidoun was established in 2003 by editor-in-chief Lisa Farjam as the first international magazine to focus on the arts and culture of the Middle East. As a platform for dialogue and exchange, the publication challenges some of the stereotypes associated with the region through the language of visual art and culture. Artkrush contributor Sara Raza interviews Farjam about the magazine's history and evolving future.
AK: The Middle East is a politically charged area; what do you see as the relationship between art and politics there?

LF: Any form of expression is a political act, but you could make the case that the link between art and politics is exceptionally intimate in the Middle East, whether it's a question of representation, expression, funding, or exhibition space. In the Middle East, art-making occurs in relation to ideas about nationhood, "good art," censorship, etc., which all intersect with political discourse. One can't really talk about the arts in this part of the world without raising the question of politics.

AK: What do you feel are some of the editorial advantages and limitations of producing a magazine that initially set out to focus purely on one particular region?

LF: The limitations are obvious enough — especially when it comes to questions of representation — but the advantage is that we're contributing to a dialogue that is occasionally stagnant by filling a void of knowledge about the Middle East outside of the region. There is so devastatingly little beyond sound bites. There's also the feeling that we're part of a movement, a collective exchange that spans cities like Beirut, Cairo, Tehran, and Rabat. It's very exciting that we're linking artists, writers, and curators who would otherwise have little opportunity to meet.

AK: Satire and wit are key elements in your editorial style and selection of artists, such as Shirana Shahbazi and Farhad Moshiri, who both frequently appear in the magazine. How important is the magazine's sense of humor during a time of great uncertainty and change in the region?

keep reading the interview »


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  Graphic Agitation 2: Social and Political Graphics in the Digital Age
Liz McQuiston
Phaidon Press

A sequel to Phaidon's popular Graphic Agitation, which presented social and political graphics from the '60s to the '90s, Graphic Agitation 2 brings us into the digital age of protest with a wide array of politically engaging graphic media. London-based writer Liz McQuiston turns her scholarly eye on a compelling selection of leaflets, posters, magazines, billboards, advertisements, websites, documentary photographs, and other ephemera addressing vital topics from the '90s and the early years of the new millennium. The more than 600 powerful reproductions include Gran Fury's Kissing Doesn't Kill AIDS-education poster, PETA's campaign of celebrities and supermodels protesting fur as fashion, a still from the Flash movie The Bush Energy Monkey, and Karmarama's anti-war poster Make Tea Not War. Functioning as a guide to high, low, and DIY graphics supporting countless causes, this book inspires us to fight the powers that be. (PL)



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Cover Art
Barbara Kruger
Untitled (Help!), 1992
30 x 21 in./ 76.2 x 53.3 cm
Photograph
Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York
All Rights Reserved

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Paul Laster

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Allison Kave
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Mark Mangan
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Jessica Kraft
Gerry Mak
H.G. Masters
Sara Raza
Elna Svenle


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Anjuli Ayer
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Teel Lassiter
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Artkrush is a twice-monthly email magazine, featuring current news, people, and events in the international art community. All stories and links are pure editorial, never paid advertisements.

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