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Liam Gillick, Consciens Lobby (detail), 2001

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Art and Language
December 12-25, 2007

From Barbara Kruger's aggressive slogans to Xu Bing's delicate pictograms, contemporary text art exposes and subverts everyday language. We discuss the latest generation of text artists, who employ rock posters, comic books, and bubble letters for their cultural criticism, and profile up-and-coming conceptualist Adam Pendleton. Lawrence Weiner talks to us about his seminal text pieces, now on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and we review the catalogue for Richard Prince's current retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Of the latest exhibitions, we spotlight Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's interactive installations in Miami, as well as Cory Arcangel's retro projections in London and Richard Wilson's deconstructed machines in Bergamo.

Wallinger Snags Turner Prize
(BBC News, December 3)
He may have lost the 1995 contest to Damien Hirst, but Mark Wallinger now has a Turner to call his own. The artist won Britain's top art prize — worth £25,000 — for his State Britain, a replica of Brian Haw's 2001 antiwar-protest installation in Parliament Square. Recreating every element of Haw's setup, including the shelter, hand-painted signs, and tea-making station, took six months and required the efforts of 15 collaborators. In an interview, Wallinger said, "It seemed like a public service, almost, to recreate what the police had removed."

New Museum Opens to Mixed Reviews
(New York Sun, November 29)
The New Museum's new home has inspired myriad critical responses, ranging from rhapsodic to lukewarm. The New York Sun's James Gardner wrote that the 60,000-square-foot structure designed by Japanese firm SANAA, with seven staggered floors and a gray facade, is an exciting concept that nevertheless "ultimately disappoints." Alternately, the New York Times described the building as graceful and full of surprises, with "a hint of mystery." The New Yorker, meanwhile, says that the structure is "like a thunderbolt from another world," but is "at risk of becoming a victim of its own success," due to the housing and condo developments, not to mention the galleries, springing up around its Bowery confines.

Foster's Design for U2 Panned
(Guardian, December 3)
Though admired the world over for their music and politics, U2 are facing some staunch opposition in their own backyard for their proposal to build a Norman Foster-designed skyscraper that would be the tallest building in Ireland. Environmentalists have accused Bono and Co. of not properly surveying the building's Dublin Bay site and have also criticized their plan to turn the Clarence, another U2-owned property, into one of Europe's most lavish hotels. What's more, the group had already come under friendly fire for moving their music-publishing company from Ireland to the Netherlands in order to pay a lower tax rate on royalties.

Waiting to See Turrell's Crater
(New York Times, November 25)
Though it won't be open to the public until 2011, light artist James Turrell's Roden Crater is already one of the most eagerly anticipated works in the art world. Turrell has been working in a 400,000-year-old, two-mile-wide extinct volcano outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, since 1979, but the project has been repeatedly delayed for various artistic and financial reasons. This is not to say that no one has seen the emerging work: Ann Philbin of the Hammer Musuem and Michael Govan of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have visited the site, and a few enterprising photographers have ventured into the desert to snap some images.

Unfinished Jeremy Blake work gets a posthumous helping hand more »

Cai Guo-Qiang's gunpowder paintings blow up at auction more »

New York gallery fakes Banksy installation to sell prints more »

Miami unveils plans for Herzog & de Meuron museum more »

Turning email spam into art more »

Chicago museum offers art-inspired PDA more »

Scientist shoots down putative Pollocks more »

Excavating Paul Gauguin's well more »

Raves for Frank Gehry's unfinished AGO redesign more »

Converting masterpieces into pixels more »

Carl Andre keeps things minimal at new show more »

Divorce means dividing an enormous photography collection more »

Barnes Foundation contretemps nearer to a resolution more »

Ai Weiwei spins "spider web" for Tate Liverpool more »

How hard is it to lead a museum? more »

Claudio Parmiggiani snags Vatican contemporary-art commission more »

Exploring the unsettlingly realistic sculptures of Duane Hanson and Charles Ray more »

Five developers pitch proposals for NYC's Hudson Yards more »

London show tackles energy debate more »

Paul Chan waits for Godot in New Orleans more »

Digital artists need support, too more »

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

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[ Text Art ]


Olivia Plender / Barbara Kruger / Xu Bing / Lou Laurita

From Dada to conceptualism, avant-garde artists have mined the phonetic and visual possibilities of language, exploring its singular importance in human interaction. Carrying the fascination with text art forward from the '60s and '70s, contemporary artists are embracing language as a means of analyzing culture. Offering a site for contemplation, contemporary text-based art reflects on everyday manifestations of language in mass media, signage, and literature.

With a bold palette of red, black, and white, Barbara Kruger's signature works use advertising tactics to present messages with subversive agendas. Lambasting consumerism and conservative political agendas alike, Kruger's stark images speak terse slogans, such as her iconic proclamation "I shop therefore I am." Adrian Piper tackles similar issues of identity politics by hijacking visual strategies from minimalism and conceptualism. Challenging the earlier dry, male-dominated methodologies of the '60s and '70s, her 1980 It's Just Art series features disarming observations on race and gender written in cartoon thought bubbles. Also investigating language and racial identity, Glenn Ligon renders quotes from sources as varied as Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Pryor in the heavily symbolic materials of oilstick and coal dust.

Employing quotations of a different kind, Chinese artist Xu Bing attempts to write a novel using only international icons in his project Book from the Ground. Modeled after hieroglyphics and Mandarin characters, Xu Bing's pictograms bridge cultural boundaries by embracing contemporary visual shortcuts. Generating free-form literature, Allen Ruppersberg weaves a winding plot using posters from fairgrounds and rock shows for his ongoing installation piece The Novel That Writes Itself. British artist Olivia Plender embraces the aesthetic of underground comics and DIY publishing with her epic narrative of graphite drawings, The Masterpiece, in which she combines comic-book cells and film-noir pacing to question preconceived notions of artistic genius.

Other artists focus more on text as a visual design element. Lou Laurita's gouaches on paper present giant words filled with sentimental images of ponies, butterflies, and half-naked couples, with the textual statement adding surprising contrast to the imagery. Drawing on her training as a professional sign painter, Tauba Auerbach creates meticulous works on paper and sculptures that rearrange the graphic elements of letters and codes to reveal their fragile structural components. Dan Miller, an artist who works at Creative Growth Art Center, reaches beyond the limitations of his autism to create intricate layers of words that resemble elegant birds' nests, emphasizing the abstract visual pleasure of language. By using language in art, either to explore embedded meanings or visual patterns, artists expose an ever-present, often subliminal force that constantly shapes our lives. (CK)

Barbara Kruger's early work is on view at Mary Boone Gallery in New York through December 22; Glenn Ligon: Some Changes is on view at the Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg through February 19; and New York's Elizabeth Dee Gallery is mounting an exhibition of Adrian Piper's work in March 2008.

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Julie Rrap: Body Double

Museum of Contemporary Art
Now through January 28

  Body Double is the aptly titled career retrospective of Australian multimedia artist Julie Rrap. Obsessively concerned with depictions of women's bodies, Rrap works in a range of media, from photography and video to sculpture, using her own body as an exemplar of the female figure. In Disclosures, an installation from the early '80s, Rrap deconstructs the creation of a photograph in a series of black-and-white prints depicting herself from all angles, nude, in a darkroom. Recent video work Body Double shows the gradual transformation of a nude female body into a nude male body and back again. Despite the integration of new technology, Rrap's expressions of physicality and eroticism address age-old psychoanalytic concerns and mine the symbolism of the human form. (AF)

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: The Killing Machine & Other Stories

Miami Art Museum
Now through January 20

  The Miami Art Museum's engaging Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller retrospective features ten installations by the Canadian couple, whose visceral work incorporates sound, film, and raw material. The duo is known for their absorbing, three-dimensional environments, which draw viewers into intriguing narratives. Based on Kafka's short story about a barbarous torture machine, "In der Strafkolonie" (In the Penal Colony), The Killing Machine centers on an electric dental chair, around which robotic arms meander and occasionally reach down to strike with pneumatic pistons — a haunting work enhanced by dramatic lights and a threatening soundtrack. Other highlights include walk-in cinema The Paradise Institute and Opera for a Small Room, a music-producing cabin with a life of its own. (OS)

A catalogue, with an accompanying DVD, was recently published by Hatje Cantz.

Do-Ho Suh: Cause & Effect and Reflection
New York

Lehmann Maupin
Now through December 22

  Cause & Effect is Korean sculptor Do-Ho Suh's room-sized, whirling tornado, created from his signature red and yellow miniature figurines and suspended from the gallery ceiling. The piece anchors an ambitious two-part exhibition by the artist that includes drawings and sculptures such as Karma, a column of successively smaller figures stacked on top of one another and receding up to the ceiling. To inaugurate Lehmann Maupin's new space on the Lower East Side, Do-Ho Suh installed an earlier, even more sizable work, Reflection. Two identical re-creations of a traditional Korean gateway from the artist's childhood home are rendered in diaphanous, ice-blue nylon mesh. One half hangs above the other, divided by a layer of the same semi-transparent fabric, evoking both the specificity and haziness of memory. (HGM)

Cory Arcangel (beige): Request for Comments

Max Wigram Gallery
Now through December 16

  In Max Wigram's new warehouse space, Brooklyn-based techno-wiz Cory Arcangel presents twelve recent works. Using TVs, computers, an archaic VCR, and an old-school film projector, Archangel creates a technological fantasy world. Three Keystoned Projectors (one upside down) is a projection that looks like a minimalist sculpture, with three black boxes sending an oblong, three-colored image onto the opposite wall. I Don't Want to Spoil the Party appropriates vintage Beatles footage, but adds a red laser dot flirting with Paul McCartney's forehead. Any office worker will recognize the sporadic boings of Permanent Vacation, a two-channel projection of two computers that continually exchange "out of office" email replies. Arcangel's clever creations borrow from pop, geek, and art culture, all tweaked to both mock and admire. (LM)

Cory Arcangel's a couple thousand short films about Glenn Gould runs concurrently at two galleries in England: the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland through January 26 and the Spacex Gallery in Exeter through February 23. The exhibition travels to the Castlefield Gallery in Manchester in February.

Richard Wilson: The Ape Piaggio

Galleria Fumagalli
Now through January 31

  Sculptor Richard Wilson is renowned for his large, site-specific installations — most notably 20:50, a mesmerizing room filled waist-high with used sump oil. The English artist also harbors a preoccupation with dismantling vehicles; his latest exhibition at Galleria Fumagalli features a multifaceted reconstruction of a food-vendor cart, titled Hot Dog Roll, along with 5-Piece Kit, a drum kit slickly divided by five planes. As with his previous sculpture of a caravan-on-a-spit, Trailer Trash, The Ape Piaggio features the iconic three-wheeled van in constant rotation on the gallery's ground floor. In Wilson's work, the process of creation is as important as the finished product; a screen documenting Ape's development accompanies the piece. (LCD)

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[ Adam Pendleton ]

Adam Pendleton

An experimental conceptualist, Adam Pendleton manipulates language to provocatively juxtapose signification and abstraction. In his early poster-sized silkscreen paintings, Pendleton fused politically charged photographs with suggestive love poems, while in his more recent Reading Series, he fills canvases with phrases "in no particular order" from thinkers as diverse as Jean-Luc Godard and Malcolm X.

A Virginia native and Brooklyn transplant, Pendleton has shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition to creating visual works, Pendleton also co-edits LAB MAG with writer Bartholomew Ryan. The magazine brings together experimental architects, poets, graphic designers, and visual artists in a fluid PDF format that resists conventional layout and reading styles.

For New York's PERFORMA 07 in November, Pendleton presented The Revival, a commissioned performance that merged the fervor of the gospel tradition with the avant-garde practices of conceptual art and poetry. Pendleton delivered a sermon based on the writings of playwright and ACT UP founder Larry Kramer and poet Paolo Javier, and his words were accompanied by passionate music and declarations from jazz pianist Jason Moran, vocalist Alicia Hall Moran, poet Jena Osman, and artist Liam Gillick. As with many of Pendleton's works, The Revival offers insights on language and rhetoric by splicing together wildly disparate source materials. Throughout his practice, Pendleton remains concerned with how language shapes human experience. His work engages viewers as both objects and agents of meaning, as their perceptions, desires, and identities simultaneously generate and are generated. (TJL)

Yvon Lambert brings Adam Pendleton's work to the Armory Show in March 2008.

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[ Lawrence Weiner ]


Lawrence Weiner

One of the founders of the conceptual art movement in the '60s, Lawrence Weiner is a sculptor who uses language to reference materials and actions. Presented on gallery walls, building facades, objects, posters, and in books, Weiner's texts convey ideas that can be realized in real space or simply imagined. The subject of a traveling retrospective currently on view at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, Weiner recently responded to Artkrush editor Paul Laster's questions via email.
AK: What was the point of departure for the conceptual art that you and others created in the '60s?


AK: When did you start using words to represent physical works of art, and what inspired that action?


AK: What was the initial public response to your text-art wall works?


AK: Do you consider these works to be paintings, drawings, or sculptures?


AK: Does it matter if the work is actually executed, as with your 1968 piece TWO MINUTES OF SPRAY PAINT DIRECTLY PAINTED UPON THE FLOOR FROM A STANDARD AEROSOL SPRAY CAN, or can it exist abstractly as an idea to be imagined?

keep reading the interview »

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  Richard Prince
Nancy Spector, Glenn O'Brien, and Jack Bankowsky
Guggenheim Museum

Richard Prince first received critical acclaim in the '70s with his postmodern re-photographed images of stylish models, luxury goods, and cowboys — all culled from magazine ads and editorials. In the mid-'80s, Prince began appropriating cartoons and jokes for his drawings and paintings, and over the past 20 years, he has re-used that content in a variety of ways. This comprehensive exhibition catalogue, produced for his Spiritual America traveling retrospective, presents a historical analysis of the artist and his work by show curator Nancy Spector; a series of interviews with collectors, writers, comedians, and rock stars by fashion and music writer Glenn O'Brien; and an essay on Prince's rebellious rise to fame by Artforum editor-at-large Jack Bankowsky. From one-liners such as "I never had a penny to my name, so I changed my name" to iconic images of the Marlboro Man, biker chicks, and pulp-novel nurses, Prince transforms and delights us with his mirror vision of the underbelly of American pop culture. (PL)

Richard Prince: Spiritual America is on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York through January 9. The exhibition travels to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in the spring and London's Serpentine Gallery in the summer of 2008.

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Cover Art
Liam Gillick
Consciens Lobby, 2001
Installation view at the Telenor Headquarters, Oslo
Powder-coated aluminum
12 x 12 x 12 ft./ 3.7 x 3.7 x 3.7 m
Courtesy the artist; Telenor, Oslo; and Casey Kaplan, New York
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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