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Kota Ezawa, Two Stolen Honeymoons Are Better Than One (detail), 2007

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Animation Art
February 20-March 4, 2008

Animation art has changed dramatically in recent years, with contemporary artists integrating collage, puppetry, live-action video, and even virtual reality to create multimedia narratives. We discuss the vanguard animation work of Robin Rhode, Kota Ezawa, and David Shrigley, and interview Chinese artist Cao Fei about her avatar adventures in Second Life. We spotlight emerging video artist Bec Stupak, who mixes Technicolor visuals with outrageous choreography, and recommend the catalogue for the San Diego Museum of Art's recent Animated Painting exhibit. Meanwhile, on the gallery circuit, Jonathan Meese debuts grotesque paintings in Mumbai, and Anne Collier exhibits conceptual photographs in Vancouver.








A Farm Grows at P.S.1
(Archpaper.com, February 7)
Visitors will see green at P.S.1 this summer, thanks to WORKac's design for the museum's annual courtyard installation. Their entry, Public Farm 1, snagged the institution's Young Architects Program honors and will comprise a working farm, replete with a sun shelter constructed from interlocking greenery. The project represents an effort "to create a neighborhood-based ecological infrastructure," according to firm co-principal Dan Wood. WORKac's proposal was chosen over submissions by Matter Architecture Practice, Monad Architects, su11 architecture & design, and Them.

Getty Gets Penn Photographs
(New York Times, February 7)
The J. Paul Getty Museum announced its acquisition of 252 black-and-white portraits of working-class men and women by photographer Irving Penn. The series, titled Small Trades, comprises Penn's largest body of work and was begun in 1950 in Paris. Penn carried on the series for a year, also documenting workers in London and New York. "There is something quite theatrical about the presentation of Penn's subject to the camera," said Getty curator Virginia Heckert of the photos, adding, "It's a more psychological relationship between the artist and the subject." In a related story, Penn's portraits of artists and writers are currently on view at New York's Morgan Library & Museum.

Dr. Death Sells Body Parts as Art
(Timesonline.com, February 5)
Damien Hirst may have amped the art market for anatomical specimens, but are you ready to display a human pancreas in your home? Following the international success (well, excepting Poland) of his Body Worlds show of preserved corpses, Gunther von Hagens is bringing his plastinated body parts to a collector near you. Dubbed "Dr. Death" for his macabre wares, von Hagens plans on selling 150,000 body parts to individuals as well as universities and clinics. Corpses — or pieces of corpses — don't come cheap: 16 "robust quality" slices of a human head will run about $4,000, while a single slice of stomach will fetch $500.

Foster's Crystal Island Approved
(Los Angeles Times, February 10)
Norman Foster's $4 billion Crystal Island project recently received the green light from Russian authorities. A site on the Moscow River will be developed into the world's largest building, a tent-like spire comprising 27 million square feet overall. Set for completion by 2012, the structure will hold 3,000 hotel rooms, 900 apartments, a school, a shopping center, offices, a museum, and a sports complex. The building's design has been gingerly celebrated for its complex welter of art-historical and architecture references, even as its profligacy has been criticized as an empty celebration of Russia's burgeoning rich.





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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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[ Images in Motion ]


     

William Kentridge / Paper Rad / Robin Rhode / Jacco Olivier

In the process of animation, two-dimensional images become miraculously dynamic. This transmutation is inherently multidisciplinary, involving the exchange of imagery between one medium and another — drawing, painting, or puppetry passes into film or video. Connected to a variety of forms, animation can easily slip around aesthetic boundaries and re-imagine contemporary artistic practices.

South African artist William Kentridge creates hand-drawn animated films that address apartheid and desegregation with expressive and layered narratives. Kentridge constantly erases and redraws his autobiographical white characters on the same sheet of paper. By leaving behind traces of his previous drawings, the artist reforms traditional animation methods to evoke the lasting effects of history on the present. Like Kentridge, African-American artist Kara Walker suggests that fragmented, subjective memories can contest the grand narratives of nationalism. In her shadow-puppet film animations, Walker's stock characters — insurgent slaves and ill-fated masters — act out her signature tropes: racial subjection, queer ontologies, and masochistic witnessing. In 8 Possible Beginnings or: The Creation of African-America, a Moving Picture by Kara E. Walker, murky silhouettes are begat by mastication, defecation, and sodomy.

Pakistani-born, transnational artist Shahzia Sikander was first trained in the tradition of Indo-Persian miniaturist painting. Best-known for her intricate gouache, ink, and graphite works on paper, Sikander also works with digital animation. Her Dissonance to Detour features rotating figures superimposed with decorative motifs and stylized scripts. Another painter turned filmmaker, Jacco Olivier creates short reflections on incipient moments — men walking across a field, a whale taking shape in water — by photographing his lush, casual strokes at each stage of development. The Dutch-born artist's ethereal yet challenging works move between figuration and abstraction to document their own making. Another unconventional practitioner, South African artist Robin Rhode animates everyday street objects into meditations on hip-hop, sports, fashion, and the flow of capital. In his performative photographic series, such as Spade and The Stripper, Rhode enlivens public places by pantomiming narratives using simple drawings and props.

Addressing social themes with a graphic aesthetic, German-born artist Kota Ezawa creates computer-generated cartoons that investigate the histories of image-making (The History of Photography Remix) and American politics (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, depicting the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and JFK). American art collective Paper Rad culls images from television, video games, and advertising to create a digital synthesis of pop-art ephemera; the cheery message in videos such as Problem Solvers provides a fitting narrative to its funk-meets-punk aesthetic. With a drier sense of humor, British artist David Shrigley uses line figures to approach violence and abjection. In his short animation What Happens After You're Dead, two anthropomorphic creatures throw a casket over a ledge, where it meets a skull and two simple words: "The End."  - Thomas J. Lax

William Kentridge's work is on view in the group exhibition Africa On at Galleria Lia Rumma in Milan through March 15; Kara Walker's traveling retrospective My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love opens at LA's Hammer Museum on March 2; and Kota Ezawa's work is on view in the video show Two-Fold Faction at PKM Gallery in Beijing through March 8.



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Jonathan Meese: General Sweetie (Polly, Revolution, SOUTH, Cookie)
Mumbai

Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke
Now through February 22

  Jonathan Meese melds the realms of good and evil in his own mythology, conjuring up a grotesque fairy tale in General Sweetie, his first show in Mumbai, India. The German artist mutates his own image into baby animals, political figures, and generals in five expressionistic paintings, nine sculptures, and twenty works on paper, often incorporating photographs of himself into the colorful chaos. Disparate references to nursery rhymes, consumer culture, the Third Reich, and Caligula run throughout these works, and also surfaced in Meese's stentorian performance at the gallery this past January. Demonic deformities feature in seven nickel-silver casts, a bronze bust, and a life-size sculpture of a diabolical figure holding a gun to another ghoul's head. Meese juxtaposes absurd levity and degeneration while embracing the individualistic and the primal.  - Sarah Stephenson

Jonathan Meese also has a solo show at Berlin's Contemporary Fine Arts through March 8.





Anne Collier
Vancouver

Presentation House Gallery
Now through March 2

  Featured in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, Los Angeles-born Anne Collier re-photographs popular imagery from retro sources, including '70s film stills and record covers. In this survey show, Vancouver nonprofit Presentation House Gallery displays her photographs from the last decade, with a focus on works from the last three years. Collier's deadpan, conceptual images feature provocative pop artifacts stranded against black or white backgrounds. In the photograph Woman with a Camera, two white frames contain images of Faye Dunaway from the 1978 movie Eyes of Laura Mars, while Double Marilyn captures two side-by-side, faded Marilyn Monroe album covers. In her method of direct reproduction and her choice of subject matter, Collier often audaciously approaches Andy Warhol, but she introduces a more cryptic and tender attitude toward cultural icons.  - Noah Becker

Anne Collier also has a solo show at New York's Anton Kern Gallery through February 23.





Dan Perjovschi: You Remember My Pin?
New York

Lombard-Freid Projects
Now through February 22

  Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi takes his exhibition title from a drawing, displayed at the gallery entrance, in which a man at an ATM asks for a reminder of his PIN number from the security camera behind him. This darkly humorous perception of modern dilemmas permeates Perjovschi's floor-to-ceiling installation of black-painted walls covered in doodle-like chalk drawings, with references ranging from capitalism to religion. One sketch points out the incongruity between the status symbols of a bloated McMansion and a stick-thin wife; in another, Perjovschi substitutes a pair of crossed Islamic swords for the Soviet Union's hammer and sickle. A pocket-sized artist's book and a back room of canvas portraits round out Perjovschi's universalizing depictions of the issues faced by a vast global population.  - Catherine Krudy

A book of Dan Perjovschi's work, Mad Cow, Bird Flu, Global Village was recently published by Verso.





Catherine Yass
London

Alison Jacques Gallery
Now through February 23

  Turner Prize-nominee Catherine Yass' lens-based artworks at London's Alison Jacques Gallery contemplate the impact of human construction on natural ecology. The centerpiece of the show is Lock, a two-screen film projected at opposite ends of the gallery. One screen shows the stern view, the other the aft of a ship floating in a massive transport lock as it passes through the Three Gorges Dam on China's Yangtze River. Lock's nonlinear narrative technique defies any set structure, playing instead on the mounting tensions of impending environmental catastrophe. In addition to displacing over one million Chinese citizens due to rising water levels, the dam is also responsible for deteriorating soil and aquatic life. Accompanying the film is a series of enchanting light-box photographs depicting the lock against the backdrop of the epic Yangtze.  - Sara Raza





Artists Anonymous: Virus
Zürich

Haunch of Venison
Now through March 1

  London- and Berlin-based collective Artists Anonymous (AA) concludes its three-year-long series Apocalyptic Warriors with Virus, an all-enveloping, multisensory show at Zürich's Haunch of Venison. In a wallpapered room, an oil painting of a woman in a latex mask personifies the specter of Virus; a nearby video installation sits beside a stage for pole dancing and spiked heels. Elsewhere, a female mannequin with a deer's head stands in a forest of twisted, dark sculptures under flickering lights. Wrapped around the walls are six massive, psychedelic panels that AA calls Afterimages — inverted color photographs of their paintings. In this politically provocative yet playful exhibition, AA manifests our own complicity in manufacturing our cultural downfall.  - Marlyne Sahakian



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[ Bec Stupak ]



Bec Stupak

New York-based video artist Bec Stupak creates flashy, fast-paced video works saturated with club-kid effervescence. Using collage, repetition, and shifting fields of bright color, Stupak melds live action with pulsing animation to leave viewers feeling dazzled and punch-drunk.

A former new-media art director for Atlantic Records, Stupak draws on her skills as a hula hooper, costume designer, web designer, and face and body painter to produce music videos, video installations, and animated projects. In hallucinogenic love letter Creamie Eternity, a naked Stupak contorts provocatively through a kaleidoscopic animation to kiss her mirror image. She collaborates frequently with scantily clad, glitter-dusted troupe the Dazzle Dancers, as with their joint disco remix of the Love Boat theme song.

Stupak's videos are actively experienced rather than passively watched. She aims to expand the boundaries and definition of video art, and since the start of her career, has pioneered the use of projecting live feeds in performance pieces and dance parties, creating site-specific video mixes. Whether working with assume vivid astro focus, diva Ultra Nate, or Honeygun Labs — the experimental VJ collective she founded in 1999 — Stupak celebrates kitschy fun and pajama-party hijinks, and in every project, she proves that she's both jack and master of all trades.  - Shayla Harris

Bec Stupak recently collaborated with French graf artist Fafi to create a video for MAC Cosmetics' MAC Fafi line for Spring 2008. The video can be viewed on YouTube and seen in MAC stores in New York and Los Angeles.



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[ Cao Fei ]


     

Cao Fei

Guangzhou-born, Beijing-based photographer and filmmaker Cao Fei is one of the most exciting Chinese artists of her generation. She first attracted international attention in 2004 with COSplayers, a video and photo series about Guangzhou teens dressing up as Japanese manga characters, and last summer, at the 52nd Venice Biennale, she premiered China Tracy Pavilion, a project exploring the virtual worlds of Second Life that merged role-playing, ethnographic documentary, and animation. On the eve of the Lunar New Year, Cao took a break from making dumplings to speak with Artkrush contributor Samantha Culp about animation, youth culture, and virtual real-estate development.
AK: Your COSplayers project featured real-life fans of Japanese manga and anime. Did you have any previous interest in animation?

CF: I think that animation has a huge cultural influence on the whole world, and there's an influence from the Japanese animation I watched as a child; but for the COSplayers project, my primary interest wasn't the anime itself. I wanted to focus on how global youth culture has captured China's younger generations, creating an entirely new urban lifestyle. The project is really a witnessing of urbanization.

AK: Why do you think that animation and comics are such phenomena in contemporary Chinese youth culture?

CF: Chinese youth all focus on Western culture — it's on TV, it's in books, it's everywhere. When we were younger, Western things were unquestionably good. Classic Chinese animation, like Sun Wukong from the '60s, can't engage the younger generations. When I tried to show my younger sister that DVD, she wasn't interested, because she thought the local animation wasn't good enough.

AK: Can you talk about your introduction to Second Life and how you began developing projects there?

keep reading the interview »


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  Animated Painting
Suzanne Buchan, Betti-Sue Hertz, Lev Manovich, et al.
San Diego Museum of Art

The catalogue for the traveling exhibition Animated Painting presents scholarly meditations on the moving-image work of 14 international artists, from American and Japanese art collective Barnstormers to Norwegian installation artist Ann Lislegaard and Chinese video artist Qiu Anxiong. Curator Betti-Sue Hertz considers contemporary animation art and the exhibited artists in relation to the experimental films of Marcel Duchamp, Hans Richter, and other modernists. Film historian Suzanne Buchan explores the use of painting, self-reflexivity, and collage in animation and analyzes the presentation of the art form in museums and galleries. Media artist and theorist Lev Manovich writes about the significance of animation technologies, the use of hybrid media, and the concept of a "remix culture." Each artist is discussed in detail and extensively illustrated with film and video stills, and the accompanying DVD offers selected clips from a dozen works in the show.  - Paul Laster

Animated Painting is on view at Centro Cultural Tijuana in Tijuana, Mexico, from October 1 to December 31 and then travels to the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, in 2009.



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Cover Art
Kota Ezawa
Two Stolen Honeymoons Are Better Than One, 2007
Video still
Two DVDs, 6:25 min. continuous loop
Courtesy the artist and Haines Gallery, San Francisco and Murray Guy Gallery, New York
All Rights Reserved

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Sarah Stephenson

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