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Fred Tomaselli, Glassy (detail), 2006

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Contemporary Collage
February 6-19, 2008

Ever since the cubists began splicing newspaper images into disorienting compositions, collage has been a potent medium for expressing social concerns. Now, as print gives way to digital media, contemporary artists turn to multimedia collage to capture the whirlwind of global culture. We discuss artists including Javier Piñón, Deborah Grant, and Hong Hao, who are steering collage in new directions, and spotlight the rough, layered work of Kirstine Roepstorff. We interview Marnie Weber about her eerie, theatrical tableaux, and recommend Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung's net art Because Washington Is Hollywood for Ugly People. Looking at gallery shows around the world, we review Luis Gispert's film about the healing power of hip-hop and Josiah McElheny's glowing glass tributes to failed utopian visions.








Nauman to Rep US in Venice
(Philly.com, January 25)
The Philadelphia Museum of Art's proposed exhibition on American artist Bruce Nauman has been selected to represent the United States at the 2009 Venice Biennale. One of 11 proposals sent to the State Department, the successful bid is a coup for the Philadelphia institution. Nauman is no stranger to Venice, having shown there before, including in 1999, when he took home the festival's Golden Lion award. Said Nauman: "It's very much an honor to be invited, but on the other hand it involves a lot of older work, and it's hard to deal with that — having to rethink it, how to reinstall it."

Interview Names New Editors
(WWD.com, January 25)
With masthead stalwarts Ingrid Sischy and Sandra Brant having recently tendered their resignations as editors of the magazine started by Andy Warhol, Interview owner Peter Brant quickly named Glenn O'Brien and Fabien Baron as the new co-editorial directors. O'Brien and Baron will also oversee the two other Brant publications, Art in America and the Magazine Antiques. Brant plans to augment the magazine's web presence, while O'Brien said, "We're going to try and do something really different," adding, "we're going to make it young, surprising, funny, and beautiful."

Hadid Lands Broad Museum
(New York Times, January 24)
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid has been tapped to design the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, slated to open in 2010 at Michigan State University in East Lansing. The 41,000-square-foot, $40-million building will be dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Hadid's sleek aluminum-and-glass plan beat out proposals from Morphosis, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, and Randall Stout Architects. Broad said that he would likely lend pieces from his own collection to the new institution. In a related story, news of the commission prompted a Cleveland paper to poke fun at the New York Times' coverage of Midwestern architecture.

Artists Play Well at Sundance
(Artinfo.com, January 23)
Besides the requisite star-filled parties and bidding wars for the latest breakout indie features, the Sundance Film Festival gave art-world luminaries a fair bit of attention, too. The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, a warts-and-all look at Vanessa Beecroft and her attempt to adopt two African children, drew praise. Olivo Barbieri's short Seville Biennale piece also received accolades, as did Yang Fudong's Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest and Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung's political animations. Jim Campbell's wall-mounted LED Home Movies and Jennifer Steinkamp's Mike Kelley Trees were also on display as installations.





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A week in the life of photographer Martin Parr more »

Brazilian street art goes underground, literally more »

No art for sale in new Chelsea gallery more »

Grayson Perry on art, religion, and censorship more »

Robert Irwin teams with landscape architect for LACMA tree installation more »

Village Voice art critic let go because of conflict of interest more »

Martin Creed's new project will have art lovers on the run more »

Chelsea Art Museum in dire straits after air-rights sale fails more »

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Anselm Kiefer commission installed at the Louvre more »

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Conceptual artist David Askevold dies at 67 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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[ Paper Cuts ]


     

Jorge Galindo / Javier Piñón / Jeff Koons / Deborah Grant

With information flowing so frighteningly free in the 21st century, fine-art collagists have infinitely more material available to parse and synthesize. At the same time, the task of originality is taller when the very act of cutting and pasting — the basic meaning of "collage," from the French coller, meaning "to glue or stick" — is as simple and quotidian as ctrl-C, ctrl-V. Nevertheless, many contemporary artists are rising to this omnivore's dilemma, creating new means to hack through the noise, or even emphasizing the noise itself.

For her exhibition By the Skin of Our Teeth, American artist Deborah Grant draws on a vast array of sources, encompassing broad concepts (the history of slavery, the Iraq War), the work of other artists (Bill Traylor, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jacob Lawrence), and personal considerations (her Barbadian heritage, her Hasidic neighbors). The show's centerpiece, In the Land of the Blind the Blue Eye Man Is King, is a fugue of brightly colored images — worn magazine cutouts mix with silhouetted top-hatted figures, scattered animals, and religious iconography in an interpretive free-for-all.

With less far-flung influences, Texas-bred Javier Piñón's collages tap into the symbolism of the Western frontier. In his show Don Quixote and other stories, Piñón recasts cowboys as mythical literary figures on whimsical manifest-destiny crusades; a rodeo rider sails across a photorealistic sea atop a heap of mismatched antique chairs in Odysseus. Chinese artist Hong Hao also creates uncanny juxtapositions with his hand-painted digital photographs. In Elegant Gathering at Nanping, a smattering of people wander through a classical Chinese landscape painting while a bevy of nude women bathe outdoors, undisturbed. Using cutout imagery, resin, sundry botanicals, and acrylic, Brooklyn-based artist Fred Tomaselli creates richly layered works, such as Migrant Fruit Thugs, in which two shimmering birds, created from tiny photographs of beaks, flowers, and eyes, perch in a fig tree while psychedelic starbursts glimmer through the branches.

New York-based Wangechi Mutu and Dutch artist Amie Dicke repurpose mixed media to disturbing figurative ends. Working in ink, acrylic, photocollage, and contact paper on Mylar, Mutu creates female (dis)figures that often appear to be constructed from toxic color bursts or glowing tumors, with tentacles and spatters of blood blooming from their heads, as if their terrible thoughts could not be contained. Dicke, on the other hand, is a poacher, hunting the elemental characteristics of female beauty. Working from magazine cutouts, she slowly shears away most of the model's identity until only a few accents (usually hair, lips, and hands) and an artfully carved network of dark, gooey seams remain.

Moving beyond actual collage to works that exploit the aesthetic, American kitsch master Jeff Koons and Spanish painter Jorge Galindo create surreal mashups that mimic collage techniques. In his Easy Fun-Ethereal series, Koons combines poolside vapidity with unglamorous '50s-ish images of food and a healthy interweaving of hair and wigs. Some works are even more disconnected, as with Bagel, which layers images of grass blades, a woman teasing her hair, and a smeared bagel with cutouts of a blue tank top and fishnet tights floating underneath. Strangely, if you relax your vision, the work echoes Georgia O'Keefe's iconic blooming flowers and steer skulls. In Galindo's Bodegón ornamental, a collection of odd elements encroach upon an opulent tabletop spread: an ashtray floats in the foreground, while a human hand protruding from a hen grasps a red inkpot, and another disembodied hand paints a woman's face scarlet.  - Jocelyn K. Glei

For another take on collage, which can be viewed in real life or by way of the catalogue, check out Collage: The Unmonumental Picture at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, on view through March 30.



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Tim Hawkinson: Mapping the Marvelous
Sydney

Museum of Contemporary Art
Now through March 5

  Tim Hawkinson's first Australian retrospective is a focused collection of 16 works that evince contemporary art's ability to communicate, entertain, and engage with theoretical concerns. The show highlights the celebrated LA-based sculptor's fascination with materials and puns; in Blastula, green pens form the cornea of an eye, their inwardly stabbing tips suggesting the agony of the artistic process. A drawing created with those pens hangs opposite, with organic lines evoking a brain. Moebius Ship is an impossibly configured sailboat whose inverted, looping form plays with the laws of physics and on the exhibition's antipodean venue. The artist's eclectic interests in automatism, science, and anatomy are evident in Bat, a comic beast made from shredded shopping bags.  - Ian Shadwell





Katy Grannan: The Westerns
San Francisco

Fraenkel Gallery
Now through February 9

  For over ten years, Katy Grannan has made sensual and revealing portraits of people who manifest a desire to expose themselves. Lounging half-naked on beds or in parks, these individuals are validated by Grannan's lens. For this exhibition, the artist focuses on three strange residents of Northern California, each with aspirations to seduce the camera. Two middle-aged transsexuals, Dale and Gail, lounge provocatively at home and on the beach while wearing awkward, matronly dresses; in another series of photographs, Nicole, a younger woman, contorts herself into an array of personas, messily approximating centerfolds and images of motherhood. By capturing these vulnerable moments, Grannan points to the painful gap between these eccentric people and their mainstream ideals of sexuality.  - Bryony Roberts





Steven Shearer
Toronto

The Power Plant
Now through February 10

  Steven Shearer is not only an obsessive collector, but also a fervent chronicler of heavy metal's proletarian subculture, with its masculine excesses, sexual anxieties, and perpetual adolescence. For this survey exhibition, the bacchanalian Shearer assembles a vast array of objects, including sculptures, paintings, drawings, and printed Poems composed of the most ridiculously obscene death-metal rhetoric. His massive, spellbinding collages loosely group selections from his personal archive of 36,000 images, which range from teen pin-up Leif Garrett in I Thought I Was a Visionary — But I Learned I Was a Channeler to photographs of various oral fixations in Puffs. Similarly, the Baudelairean reverie of Shearer's many long-haired androgynous boy paintings (such as As a Boy), illustrate the salience of his work: it's raw and hormonal, but its queer-feeling desires remain hazy and unconfessed.  - Jon Davies





Luis Gispert: El Mundo Es Tuyo (The World Is Yours)
New York

Mary Boone Gallery
Now through March 1

  Shown in immense widescreen proportions at Mary Boone Gallery, Luis Gispert's 26-minute Smother film is a psychosexual journey into the lurid environment of '80s tropical-deco Miami. Beginning with a nightmarish bed-wetting scene, the loose narrative follows a boy's wanderings from the clutches of his castrating mother through the city's underbelly, a pulsing world of music where the stereo system is a potent symbol of masculinity. While Gispert's Oedipal scenario may not be new, his insistence on the emancipatory potential of hip-hop is. Across the street at Zach Feuer Gallery, a series of Gispert's sculptural installations reconfigure the film's outlandish and iconic props, while photographs of customized truck interiors add another layer to the artist's social analysis.  - Cynthia Lugo

Luis Gispert's exhibition at Zach Feuer Gallery is on view through February 16.





Josiah McElheny: The Alpine Cathedral and the City-Crown
Stockholm

Moderna Museet
Now through February 17

  A skilled glassblower, New York-based sculptor Josiah McElheny creates elaborate glass objects based on art-historical sources. His current installation at Stockholm's Moderna Museet, The Alpine Cathedral and the City-Crown (originally created for MoMA's Projects series), consists of two glass towers presented on a white plinth of hexagonal tiles. Bathed in fluctuating colored lights emanating from both above and within the structures, the towers recall the visionary "alpine architecture" of German modernist Bruno Taut. This architect envisioned a utopian world in which crystalline buildings, mirroring the mountainous landscape, would prompt higher levels of understanding and thereby improve humankind. By leaving the glass surfaces rough-hewn and semi-opaque, however, McElheny questions Taut's idealistic fantasies.  - Elna Svenle



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[ Kirstine Roepstorff ]



Kirstine Roepstorff

Revitalizing collage by pushing the medium into the realm of painting and installation, Kirstine Roepstorff creates complex works that explore politics, consumerism, and desire. Using appropriated images and materials such as fabric, glitter, and foil, she combines figurative and abstract fragments to construct dynamic, poetic pictures. Roepstorff calls her experimental process "approprio-arranging," and in her hands, the result is a kaleidoscopic mix of form and content.

Although the Danish-born, Berlin-based artist first began exhibiting work in the mid-'90s, she broke out after graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 2001. London's Saatchi Gallery boasts two Roepstorff works from 2002 — You Are Being Lied To and Hidden Truth — displaying a motif common in her practice: the conflict between man and nature. Roepstorff's 2004 exhibition at Copenhagen's Galleri Christina Wilson, The Queen of Diamonds, further exploited that theme while metaphorically transforming the diamond into a visual instrument for viewing the political, aesthetic, and moral values of our mediated world.

Roepstorff's multimedia image-making is often contextualized within the framework of contemporary sociopolitical issues, as with her inclusion in the 2005 traveling group show Populism. But the artist also forays into the abstract; her 2006 solo show at Peres Projects in Berlin featured pictures, dominated by pattern and decoration, that explored "the absence of the present." However, Roepstorff returns to the body politic in It's Not the Eye of the Needle that Changed, a new series of work co-presented by Peres Projects in Los Angeles and New York's Drawing Center. Confident in her craft and bold in her concepts, Roepstorff challenges the viewer to look deeply into her refractive mirror.  - Paul Laster

It's Not the Eye of the Needle that Changed runs at the Drawing Center through February 7; the counterpart exhibition at LA's Peres Projects closed December 22, but Roepstorff's work is on view in the group exhibition Read My Lips at Peres Projects in Berlin through February 23.



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[ Marnie Weber ]


     

Marnie Weber

Los Angeles-based artist Marnie Weber makes genre-defying work. Her flights of eccentric fancy are part costume drama, part opera, and part film and photography; but the organizing principle of her art is collage. Artkrush contributing editor Shana Nys Dambrot asked Weber for a peek behind the curtain and talked to the artist about her use of disparate sources, visual idioms, and experiences, and her love for the crafted object.
AK: What was your first approach to collage?

MW: My early years were spent making limited-edition records of my music, for which each cover was a different collage. I would do hundreds of these, using found paper materials and women cut out of men's skin magazines. I did three releases of a hundred records each. That was a real boot camp for collage-making; it honed my skills and taught me that collage isn't about throwing things together, but being specific about imagery and combining elements to create psychological metaphors. For me, it's also about storytelling and theatrical narrative. Those early collages, although interesting visually, lacked the operatic drama that I try to achieve now — but that was when I began to view all my other work as figuratively collaged together. The music was a lyrical, sort of arty pop, but since I was recording it myself at home on a reel-to-reel 8-track, I thought of it as a form of collage as well. My performances would feature props and costumes pieced together from thrift stores, homemade video backdrops, and music and absurdist spoken word between the characters. Collage was the perfect approach to express my homegrown, DIY sensibility.

I still try to carry on with that homemade aesthetic, even though I have assistants and the theatrical productions have gotten larger. When you look at the costumes, you can see the loving craftsmanship that goes into making them. That's also true with my collages. Every piece is hand cut and glued by me. Nothing is rephotographed or reprinted, so every collage is unique. The only print editions I do are stills from my films. I really want to show that the collages are labors of love, with that feeling of reverence that can only come across through the human touch.

AK: When did you first become interested in using original photography as a major element of your collages?

keep reading the interview »


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  Because Washington Is Hollywood for Ugly People
Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung
tinkin.com

A master of cut-and-paste, Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung creates savvy, supersaturated media works; his past projects include illustrations for WIRED magazine and the album cover of Felix da Housecat's Devin Dazzle & the Neon Fever. Hung's 2007 video Because Washington Is Hollywood for Ugly People takes a satirical look at American politics and pop culture, beginning with a "2008 Residential Erection Dance Off," in which the recent round of presidential candidates — including a cheerleading John McCain and a three-headed Hillary Clinton robot — strut their stuff in the Oval Office. Because Washington then rollercoasters through the past decade, mixing celebrity with conflict as the Statue of Liberty flips the bird to the huddled masses, Osama bin Laden is martyred on a cross, and Karl Rove craps out a blundering Condoleezza Rice. It's a dizzying but riveting ride, filled with Hung's outrageous imagery, MC Paul Barman's sarcastic narration, and John Blue's scene-setting music.  - Paul Laster

Because Washington Is Hollywood for Ugly People is part of Rhizome.org's online exhibition Montage: Unmonumental Online, which runs from February 15 through March 23.



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Cover Art
Fred Tomaselli
Glassy, 2006
Mixed media, acrylic, and resin on wood panel
12 x 12 in./ 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York
All Rights Reserved

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