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Type A, Cheer (detail), 2006

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Art and Recreation
August 8-21, 2007

Responding to the symbolic power of athletes and competitive games, artists such as Paul Pfeiffer, Brian Jungen, and David Hammons use sports imagery to comment on society at large. We survey new work in this genre and highlight Kristin Baker, who creates dynamic paintings inspired by automobile racing. We interview Ed Templeton, a pro skateboarder whose edgy photographs and paintings have defined a new street aesthetic, and our media pick is an anthology of retro British football programs. In our roundup of current exhibitions, we review new drawings from Michael Landy in Sydney and photographs from Nontsikelelo Veleko in Johannesburg.

Blake and Duncan in Double Suicide
(Los Angeles Times, August 3)
One of the art world's most glamorous couples recently met a grisly end in an apparent double suicide. A week after blogger, filmmaker, and video-game creator Theresa Duncan took her life in the East Village apartment she shared with her boyfriend of 12 years, video artist Jeremy Blake, he was seen walking into the surf at Rockaway Beach. Five days later, a New Jersey fisherman recovered Blake's body, which was identified by dental records. Friends of the artists remarked that the couple had been behaving strangely in the last few months, saying that Duncan and Blake were convinced that they were being stalked and harassed by Scientologists. Writer Glenn O'Brien posted an e-eulogy at Duncan's blog, The Wit of the Staircase.

Stirling Shortlist Stirs Criticism
(Guardian, July 26)
The recent announcement of the shortlist for the Stirling, Britain's top architecture prize, has drawn the ire of both architects and critics. David Chipperfield, who made the list for his America's Cup building in Valencia, Spain, as well as his Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach am Neckar, Germany, blasted the current state of British building, saying, "In Britain no one wants to take any risks, and good architecture often comes out of risk. In Anglo-Saxon culture everyone is terrified of things going wrong." Guardian architecture critic Jonathan Glancey, meanwhile, derided the competition as a "glorified gameshow."

Belgians Open Art Center in Beijing
(Bloomberg, July 27)
Retired Belgian businessman Guy Ullens and his wife, Myriam, began collecting contemporary Chinese art 20 years ago — and never stopped. In November, they will open the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in a 65,000-square-foot former factory in Beijing. The new institution will display both Chinese and Western art in rotating exhibitions. Ullens recently sold his collection of 14 J.M.W. Turner watercolors for a "painful" $21.7 million at auction in order to better focus on the burgeoning Chinese market.

UK's Adjaye Coming to America
(New York, July 23)
With his highly touted Museum of Contemporary Art opening this fall in Denver, a New York office slated to open later this year, and a current exhibition on view at the Studio Museum of Harlem, civic-minded British architect David Adjaye is enjoying a starchitect moment. Of the Denver project, Adjaye said the building was a microcosm of the Mile High City in that "You never go from one exhibition space to another: you always come out into a kind of street and then you meander into another exhibition space," which engenders the "ability to perceive art, digest it, then go on to the next thing. You get away from the exhaustion when you are relentlessly pounded with stuff."

Woman charged with kissing Cy Twombly painting more »

Guggenheim director leaves to take a top position at Sotheby's more »

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Zaha Hadid finally makes her mark on England more »

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LA Weekly blogs street art more »

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Chinese Coca-Cola painting valued at 50 times original cost more »

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Willard Wigan's micro-version of Lloyd's building auctioned more »

A look at Malaysia's contemporary art scene more »

John Duncan and Paul McCarthy unveil Close Radio archive more »

Tsang Tsou-choi, Hong Kong graf legend, dies at 86 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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[ Sport and Spectacle ]


David Levinthal / Janet Biggs / Paul Pfeiffer / Ari Marcopoulos

Painter and avid baseball fan Neil Jenney ­astutely declares in a 2000 silkscreen print, "Baseball Is Drama Constructed." As microcosms of society, sports are rich with cultural myths, heroes, and morality, rivaling movies and other art forms as realms of empathy and catharsis.

The image of the athlete — part media celebrity, part hero — is undressed in several resonant works of recent years, which expose sports' metaphoric appeal. Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno's 2006 feature film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait captures the legendary French footballer's every movement on the field during a game, emphasizing the brooding star's isolation and mounting frustration. American video artist Paul Pfeiffer elevates basketball players to totemic status by digitally erasing the basket, other players, and team logos in his ongoing photographic series Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Endemic to certain cultures, professional sports reveal societal aspirations and fantasies. David Hammons' ironic meditations on the status of basketball in the African-American community take shape in his improvised scrap-metal hoops and his Basketball Drawings, made by bouncing dirtied balls against white sheets of paper. Brian Jungen, a Canadian of First Nations descent, equates the savagery of sports with cultural imperialism in his series of basketball sneakers reassembled into aboriginal masks, titled Prototype for New Understanding. Duo Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg — in hours-long video compilations of hockey fights, full-scale replicas of a Zamboni and crushed scoreboard, and a broken-off hockey stick resting in a bucket of blood ­— probe the latent and explicit violence in a game tied to Canada's national identity. David Levinthal photographs toy figurines of legends from America's pastime in realistic tableaux, from Red Sox great Ted Williams to the Yankees' Reggie Jackson.

Californian photographers Catherine Opie and Ari Marcopoulos delve into thriving alternative subcultures. Opie's portraits of amateur surfers capture them fresh from the surf, boards in hand; other photographs document foggy oceanscapes dotted with small figures waiting for a wave. Marcopoulos' photographs of snowboarders and skateboarders — both in action and hanging out — walk a delicate line between professional sports photography and amateur snaps.

For many artists, the particular rules of athletic contests are potent allegories. Laurent Perbos, following Gabriel Orozco, reconfigures ping-pong tables to alter the rules of the game, and situates tennis courts in unplayable locations. Janet Biggs titles her videos after neurological disorders — for instance, Apraxia, a 2002 video of synchronized swimmers — and psychotropic drugs, such as Tegretol, a two-channel video from 2003 featuring two pairs of high-school wrestlers. Finnish photographer Salla Tykkä's Power, a 1999 black-and-white film of a shirtless woman boxing a much larger man, explores traditional ideas of vulnerability and aggression between the sexes. A pair of American artists who investigate male rapport, Type A invent their own inane "urban" competitions, such as leap-frogging over pilings or racing around concrete pillars in a parking garage. (HGM)

Neil Jenney's work is on view at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut until September 3; Douglas Gordon is exhibiting at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg through August 12 and at the KUB Kunsthaus Bregenz through September 9; the film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is now available on DVD; and Paul Pfeiffer is exhibiting new work at Thomas Dane Gallery in London in January 2008.

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Michael Landy: Man in Oxford Street is Auto-destructive

Sherman Galleries
Now through August 11

  British artist Michael Landy works with concepts of destruction and rebirth. His most famous installation, Break Down, was an ad hoc factory that systematically recorded and then destroyed all of the artist's possessions. For his debut show with Sydney's Sherman Galleries, Landy presents a series of large-scale oil stick drawings depicting Jean Tinguely's 1960 sculpture Homage to New York in roughly executed black-and-white silhouette views. Landy ironically comments on his own practice and uses Tinguely's machine — a sculpture that was designed to self-destruct but didn't — as a metaphor for his own, more successful, experiments in annihilation and recreation. (AF)

Automatic Update
New York

Museum of Modern Art
Now through September 3

  Organized by MoMA's venerable video curator Barbara London, Automatic Update presents five digital installations and a plethora of films made since 2000 by a talented group of international artists. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer presents an interactive work that fills a wall with 21 small LCD screens connected to a computer where viewers enter questions that never get answered. Xu Bing displays another interactive work, where viewers communicate with one another via a keyboard that uses a language of symbols. Paul Pfeiffer's video John 3:16 features a basketball in motion, stripped of all human engagement, while Jennifer and Kevin McCoy's miniature reenactment of the Godard film they watched on their second date gets videotaped and remixed in tableau and full-screen projection. Rounding out the mix, Cory Arcangel uses outdated VCR technology to create a geometric abstraction, reminiscent of an Ellsworth Kelly painting. (PL)

Check out MoMA's upcoming schedule of related new-media feature films, shorts, and lectures.

Antony Gormley: Blind Light

The Hayward
Now through August 19

  From Gateshead's colossal Angel of the North to the controversial statues of Another Place dotting Crosby Beach, Antony Gormley has challenged the conventions of public art. Blind Light is the artist's first major retrospective in London, featuring 30 years of work plus newly commissioned installations. For Event Horizon, Gormley perched 31 self-modeled steel figures atop landmarks such as the National Theatre and the Shell Mex House. Positioned to face the gallery, these suicidal nudists subtly alter the capital's skyline. The title work is a glass room filled with dense mist that is disorienting and claustrophobic when entered, but when observed from the outside, forms a strangely beautiful box of flickering silhouettes. (LCD)

Backjumps — The Live Issue

Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien
Now through August 19

  At Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanian, international street artists transform the museum into the third "Live Issue" of Backjumps, a Berlin magazine on urban communication and aesthetics. In Copenhagen-based HuskMitNavn's butter-yellow mural, bubbly animals and schoolgirls tumble and bounce over a corridor's doorways. Blu, from Bologna, installs his stop-motion video Walking in a room that echoes its creation: the paintings that comprise the animation remain visible beneath a thin whitewash on the gallery walls. Backjumps leaves its mark beyond the Kunstraum: partnerships with projects including Tristesse Deluxe, Planet Prozess, and CUBABRASIL cover walls as far away as Havana and São Paulo, while a massive map of Berlin's street art by effectively turns the entire city into a living magazine. (ASA)

Nontsikelelo Veleko: Mute!Scream!Mute!

The Goodman Gallery
Now through August 11

  Nontsikelelo "Lolo" Veleko's signature street portraits of Jozi youth sporting candy-colored outfits with a defiant, sartorial flair communicate uniquely African style and have brought her international acclaim. Fashion, Veleko believes, is an expression of contemporary identity. Fittingly, Mute!Scream!Mute! collects three colorful photo series that use clothing to explore themes of race, perception, and beauty. Here, documentary street shots mingle with shape-shifting self-portraits that challenge South Africa's mixed cultural heritage — for example, by transforming Veleko into an Afro-Asian character through makeup, wigs and kimono-like props. Invoking spiritual godfather Seydou Keita, Veleko offers sophisticated, entertaining critiques on what it means to be African today. (SH)

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[ Kristin Baker ]

Kristin Baker

With an amateur race-car driver for a father, Kristin Baker attended Formula One and other racing events as a child. Now, the New York-based artist expresses the tension and explosive energy of auto racing in her colorful, large-scale paintings. Baker treads the thin line between order and anarchy in her volatile compositions, capturing the sport's suspense in varying degrees of figuration and abstraction. One painting renders a racetrack's hairpin turn in broad, clean strokes; another arrests the airborne shards of a massive collision. The artist's style has been likened to abstract expressionism, but her more legible disaster scenes evoke futurism gone haywire.

Form and content are inseparable in Baker's oeuvre. Working with trowels or squeegees in lieu of brushes, she employs industrial materials (acrylic, PVC, Mylar, and steel) to realize her compositions. Paint is slickly layered on panels to create the illusion of depth, and immaculate, freestanding architectural structures often hold up the paintings, rendering Baker's works three-dimensional. For Surge and Shadow, her recent solo exhibition at Deitch Projects, the artist elevated a curved painting off the gallery floor with a white, steel scaffolding, echoing the bleachers of her youthful experiences. The abstract work itself, titled Flying Curve, Differential Manifold, epitomizes the fusion of glee and impending catastrophe so peculiar to a day at the racetrack. (SK)

Works by Kristin Baker are currently on view in Sequence 1: Painting and Sculpture from the François Pinault Collection at Venice's Palazzo Grassi through November 11.

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[ Ed Templeton ]


Ed Templeton

An icon of street culture, Ed Templeton is both a skateboarding legend and a prolific artist. His photographs, paintings, and collaborations with his wife, Deanna, capture the gritty, autodidactic aesthetic of the skateboarding lifestyle. Templeton is still a professional skater, landing pro sponsorships and running his Toy Machine skateboard company, but he also was a star of the traveling Beautiful Losers exhibition and is one of the founding editors of ANP Quarterly. Artkrush contributor Carlo McCormick talks with Templeton about his fusion of skateboarding and art.
AK: What do you find different, as well as similar, about art and skateboarding?

ET: There's some common ground between skateboarding and art, though skating is a lot different in 2007 than when I started out in 1985. Then, skaters were very much an alienated group — the kind of kids who weren't into team sports and weren't particularly liked around school. It was much more about individuals: punkers drawing their own fliers, making tapes, and putting out zines. As that scene evolved, people got into photography and putting out magazines, but it was all very natural and organic, with a much cleaner and clearer connection between skate and art. Now, with big business and stuff like the X Games, there's more of a jock element, so it's gone from something that you'd get your ass kicked for doing to BMOC status. But what I think skating has in common with art is that it's an unjustifiable recreation. Many people can be good at it, but that part is really up to interpretation — which seems a lot like art.

AK: Skateboarding, particularly as it became more urban, has changed the way people relate to their surroundings. Most of us try to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible; do you think the active navigation of skating encourages a different kind of engagement?

ET: Mark Gonzales is a great example of that. Just watching him walk down the street, you can tell he sees the world differently from anyone else. Even when I'm walking, I still see stuff as potential skate obstacles. Skating does transform you as a person from just existing in the world to being much more aware of your environment.

AK: Many of your efforts have been DIY: you started your own skateboard company, Toy Machine, rather than riding for a bigger name, you made your own art zines before working with publishers, and your paintings are very much self-taught. How do you maneuver the forces of the art market and the pro-sports world as an idealistic independent?

keep reading the interview »

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  Match Day: Official Football Programmes
Bob Stanley and Paul Kelly
Fuel Publishing

Football (or soccer, as it's known in the US) is the most popular sport in the world. Bob Stanley — journalist, filmmaker, and member of pop band Saint Etienne — grew up loving "the beautiful game" and the old programs that his father collected. For this book, Stanley joins forces with filmmaker and Saint Etienne collaborator Paul Kelly to present more than 450 official programs from the golden age of British football — 1945 to 1992 — before digital technology began to standardize the design. A variety of program covers, ranging from one-color illustration and letterpress designs to sophisticated cut-and-paste graphics, are reproduced in alphabetical order by club name; action shots of players, club crests, and aerial views of stadiums dominate. But, more than just a collection of sports memorabilia, Match Day is an overview that chronicles evolving styles, from haircuts and uniforms to graphic design. (PL)

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Cover Art
Type A
Cheer, 2006
19 x 30 in./ 48.3 x 76.2 cm
Courtesy the artists
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

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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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