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Piero Golia, Manifest Destiny (detail), 2008

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SITE Santa Fe
August 20 - September 2, 2008

Every two years, Santa Fe's contemporary art scene welcomes a host of international voices that reverberates throughout the Southwest. For SITE Santa Fe's seventh biennial, fittingly titled Lucky Number Seven, curator Lance Fung collaborated with a team of international art professionals to commission site-specific works from artists including Austria's Ricarda Denzer, Hiroshi Fuji of Japan, and French duo Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni. Artkrush editor Paul Laster talks to conceptual artist and biennial contributor Ahmet Ögüt about his automotive themes and social interventions, and we investigate Lucky artist Nadine Robinson's engaging sound and light installations. Video interviews with SITE's director and artists from VernissageTV fill out our coverage, with select footage available in our image gallery. Finally, in our reviews section, we highlight Philip Taaffe's retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Julian Opie's first major solo show in Asia, and Street Art on a facade of London's Tate Modern.

Picasso Caps 20th Century List
(International Herald Tribune, August 4)
Though likely to upset art historians, economist David Galenson's market-based approach to 20th-century art has resulted in what he considers a definitive "best of" list. By analyzing the number of times masterworks appeared in 33 art-history textbooks, Galenson determined that Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was the greatest artwork of the last century. Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International ranked second, followed by Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty. In response, John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus at New York's Museum of Modern Art, said that numbers can only explain so much: "There are great, great things being made which are not reducible to statistics."

David Byrne Peddles Bike Racks
(New York Times, August 8)
Having made a name as a rocker, an installation artist, a filmmaker, and an all-around culture maven, David Byrne is turning (some of) his attention to industrial design. A cycling enthusiast, the former Talking Heads frontman was asked by the NYC Department of Transportation to judge a design contest for the city's new public spoke-stoppers. Instead, he turned in his own ideas, and now nine of his racks, with names such as the MoMA and the Jersey, have been plunked down around town. Byrne's gallery, Pace/MacGill, will sell the racks after city bikers have used them for a year.

Was Warhol Collaborator Psaier Real?
(Times, August 7)
A British auctioneer is convinced that Pietro Psaier was a significant Andy Warhol collaborator who helped the artist pump out pop pieces at the Factory all through the '60s. Curators in charge of Warhol's estate, however, have no recollection of Psaier's involvement and have even questioned his very existence. Warhol Museum archivist Matt Wrbican said, "We've searched through all his papers. I haven't ever seen his [Psaier's] name. Zero. Zilch." One auction house claims that Psaier died in the 2004 tsunami and that his body was never recovered. Nevertheless, hundreds of Psaier artworks have been sold in London over the last few years, and more of his work continues to come up for sale.

China Takes Center Stage
(Times, August 9)
As the world focuses on the Beijing Olympics, Chinese art and architecture continue to gather gold-medal-level attention. While one critic has named Rem Koolhaas' headquarters for CCTV as "the most significant building of the century so far," others have warned that China's art scene is at a standstill. According to Artworld Salon's Ian Charles Stewart, the nation's premier artists continually produce the same kinds of work, while new artists carefully adopt styles that have been proven sales-worthy by their predecessors. Not everyone is so pessimistic, however; artist and curator James Elaine recently moved to China for two years to get closer to the scene.

Paul McCarthy's inflatable dog turd flies away, downs power line more »

Polish street mural imagines assassinated Obama more »

Green art sprouting up all over more »

Max Dean's Robotic Chair becomes YouTube sensation more »

Keith Haring protégé reworks his mentor's mural more »

Actor Kevin Spacey to give voice to sculptures at London's Old Vic more »

Damien Hirst talks up Francis Bacon more »

Sideshow exhibition brings Gitmo to Coney Island more »

New film captures NYC's Beautiful Losers more »

A psychotronic animated-GIF roundup more »

Art collective Perfect Circle Art churns out inexpensive artworks to order more »

Architect Adrian Smith has his head in the clouds more »

The public spectacle called Tracey Emin more »

Low marks for Bronx Museum's annual student show more »

Australia to legislate resale royalties for artists more »

Design interns plan park over LA freeway more »

Painting provocateur Peter Saul gets a retrospective more »

Comics artists team up to aid Holocaust-survivor painter more »

"Gang of Four" galleries bring art to NYC's Bushwick more »

Is video "proper" art? more »

New company plans to revive large-scale Polaroid materials more »

Is Rome too caught up in the past to look to the future? 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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[ Lucky Number Seven ]


Eliza N. Morse, Nora N. Morse, and Rose B. Simpson / Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni / Martí Anson

SITE Santa Fe's seventh biennial, auspiciously titled Lucky Number Seven, aims to distinguish itself from its exhibitory peers. To this end, curator Lance Fung subcontracted the curatorial work to 18 directors and curators from art institutions including Paris' Palais de Tokyo, Barcelona's Centre d'Art Santa MòniCA, and SITE Santa Fe itself. This troupe of spunky curators helped Fung put together a process-oriented biennial that revolves around ephemeral work and experimental collaborations between lesser-known artists, all uninfluenced by and outside of the art market.

With each work commissioned to be created on-site in Santa Fe, artists left the far-flung seclusion of their studios to immerse themselves in the Southwestern community and history. Works are concentrated at SITE's galleries in the city's Railyard District, although several artists have chosen to work at alternate locations around the city and the countryside. Inside SITE, artists contend with the elevated ramps and tight, angular spaces of a labyrinthine exhibition space designed by Billie Tsien and Tod Williams.

Austrian artist Ricarda Denzer subverts the SITE space by exploding a section of wall in a contorted puff of pink insulation, while the surroundings echo with murmured narratives from her encounters with Santa Fe residents. Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based Italian conceptualist Piero Golia has broken through the back wall of a painstakingly crafted viewing mezzanine, inviting viewers to jump off the elevated platform onto a padded landing.

French duo Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni recast a traditional Southwestern bronze that depicted three Navajo children on horseback into a surreal landscape of alien abduction and psychosexual confusion. At once disturbing and funny, the piece will be restored to its original form at the biennial's close.

Along a secretive hallway, Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji pins delightful illustrations of Franken-toy mashups that he created during a toy exchange with children from the surrounding neighborhood, while the playthings themselves are on view at the nearby Museum of International Folk Art. Fuji also worked with local volunteers to make plastic-bottle chandeliers to light the parking lot outside the Santa Fe Opera House. Polish artists Zbigniew Rogalski and Michal Budny invert regional tradition with their trompe l'oeil "projections," in which three faux projectors appear to limn subtle paintings on SITE's facade. The images reference the rounded, graphic depictions of area churches popularized by Georgia O'Keeffe, one of a handful of artists who established Santa Fe as an art destination.

Australian Nick Mangan chose to work off-site in an abandoned building several blocks away. Reflecting the area's reliance on Native American tourism, Mangan spoofs an archaeological dig, complete with journals and artifacts. In various locations, Rose B. Simpson and Eliza and Nora Naranjo Morse — a New Mexico-based trio of artists from Santa Clara Pueblo — readily embrace the transience of nature with mud-caked serpentine forms that slowly collapse into the dirt when it rains.

Studio Azzurro from Italy goes high tech with an interactive projection of local citizens offering an orientation of sorts to biennial patrons, while Martí Anson brings a piece of Barcelona with him, reassembling a shed-sized scale model of a Spanish flour factory. His challenge of European brickwork is subtle, but potent in a city known for its adobe structures.  - Zane Fischer

Lucky Number Seven continues in Santa Fe through January 4.

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  Julian Opie
Mito, Japan

Contemporary Art Center at Art Tower Mito
Now through October 5

In his first major solo exhibition in Asia, Julian Opie, one of the artists typically associated with the '90s UK pop-culture phenomenon of Cool Britannia, reveals a new Japanese influence. At Art Tower Mito, Opie exhibits 70 recent paintings, sculptures, and videos. Among his geometric, line-drawn figures are new animated video works made in the style of ukiyo-e masters Hiroshige and Utamaro. These tranquil landscapes are set in the modern age: in a work from the series Eight Views of Japan, the mountain scenery of the background is bisected by the gray strip of a car-laden highway and airplanes that streak the sky. Rooted in the present-day, Opie's portrayal of Japan manages to draw on the beauty of its artistic tradition and evoke nostalgia without lapsing into sentimentality.  - Ashley Rawlings

  Asako Narahashi: half awake and half asleep in the water
New York

Yossi Milo Gallery
Now through August 22

For her photographic series half awake and half asleep in the water, Tokyo-born Asako Narahashi loaded up a waterproof 35mm camera, donned a wetsuit, and went swimming along the seashores and lakefronts of Japan. The nine resulting seascapes depict the artist's vantage point of looking back at the land from the water, her camera often half-submerged. Narahashi exhibits a simultaneous fascination with and fear of water in Iwasehama, an uneasy image of beachgoers floating like hapless prey in the murky green sea. In Kawaguchiko, a lake at Mount Fuji's base, the iconic mountain, seeming nearly submerged by the crests of blue-black waves, is further obscured by droplets reflecting enchanting glints of light. Jonanjima, meanwhile, shows no sign of land at all, ironically dwarfing a solitary passenger plane with a mountainous foreground of choppy sea.  - Alexandra Chang

A monograph of the series is available from Nazraeli Press, and photographs from the series are also on view in the group show Heavy Light at New York's International Center for Photography through September 7.

  Street Art

Tate Modern
Now through August 25

The six pieces of street art now showing at the Tate Modern are hard to miss, as they span an entire length of the gallery's famed brick facade. While looking at these massive works, it's difficult not to dwell on the paradoxical marriage of a guerrilla art form to a publicly funded establishment. However, the works retain their edge in terms of visual stimulation and provocative content. Surveillance and perception are running themes: JR's pasted image of a camera-toting man tricks the eye, while duo Os Gêmeos' masked, naked giant nonchalantly holds a fistful of CCTV cameras, their wires dangling pathetically. A documentary accompanies the show, in which critics, gallerists, auctioneers, and artists opine on the street scene. Yet, as the works demonstrate, street art speaks for itself just fine.  - Helen Holtom

  Sergey Bratkov: Heldenzeiten
Winterthur, Switzerland

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Now through August 24

Viewers of this mid-career retrospective of Ukrainian-Russian photographer Sergey Bratkov can witness socialism veering precipitously into capitalism. In more than 130 images taken following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bratkov captures the everyday lives of people ranging from secretaries to street children, starting with a display of art-action documents from avant-garde '90s Ukrainian collective the Fast Reaction Group, a nod to the artist's early days. More recently, Bratkov's Kids series depicted children auditioning for advertising roles, posing like young Lolitas caught between two ages, much like post-Soviet society itself. For Army Girls, Bratkov introduced himself as a Playboy photographer and snapped female soldiers wearing full military gear in centerfold-ready poses. This ironic show title, Heldenzeiten (Glory Days), evokes the ideological clichés of heroic portraits, as exemplified in Bratkov's Steelworkers series.  - Marlyne Sahakian

  Philip Taaffe: The Life of Forms. Works 1980 - 2008
Wolfsburg, Germany

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Now through October 12

Celebrating 28 years of inventive work by New York-based artist Philip Taaffe, The Life of Forms presents more than 80 paintings and dozens of works on paper, all organized into distinct periods in specially designed galleries. Taaffe uses a variety of printing and transfer techniques to make pieces that reference art history while remaining au courant. Yellow Painting (1984), a masterpiece of appropriation art, uses linocut collage on painted canvas to riff on a classic Bridget Riley op-art painting. Works from the late '80s to the present, such as Semara (2002), are more layered, and reflect Taaffe's interest in the cultures of the Middle East, India, South America, and Morocco, as well as his studies of antiquities and natural forms. The exhibition concludes with a group of recent paintings and a Wunderkammer (miracle chamber) filled from floor to ceiling with monotypes of the artist’s favorite motifs.  - Paul Laster

A comprehensive exhibition catalogue featuring images, essays, and interviews is available from Hatje Cantz.

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[ Nadine Robinson ]


Nadine Robinson

In Nadine Robinson's latest site-specific commission, Tri-Christus, three crosses studded with marquee lights serve as the signpost for SITE Santa Fe's seventh biennial. Robinson is best known for her large-scale sculptures and sound projects, such as Tower Hollers, which wired 12 record players simultaneously distributing slave songs and kitschy "music for dining" through 455 wall-mounted speakers. The massive installation referenced the maintenance workers at the World Trade Center, where Robinson was an artist-in-residence in 1999, and was exhibited in the 2002 group show Tempo at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Robinson's 2006 solo project alles grau in grau malen ("to paint everything grey") brought an apocalyptic chorus to the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she was also an artist-in-residence. Eerie sound bites of Hollywood films, Catholic funerary chants, and Jamaican dub music played concurrently, creating a multisensory sound painting.

For this British-born, Bronx-based artist of Jamaican descent, the symbol of the cross is rich with meaning. In Tri-Christus, the XXX icon — appropriate for Santa Fe, the City of Holy Faith — references the Spanish colonization of the Pueblo people, but also evokes pornography, booze, and Constantine the Great. The installation's brilliance resides in its ability to build this shared space of discovery and discussion.

Robinson brings to her work for SITE a certain minimalist grandeur, while addressing postmodern concerns about language, the body, and cross-cultural discourse. Her unconventional yet everyday materials — speakers, light bulbs, rhinestones, and record players — speak to the social phenomena of religion, race, and sexuality in both an art historical and popular register.  - Thomas Lax

Nadine Robinson's work remains on view at SITE Santa Fe through January 4. Her work is also currently on view in After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy at Atlanta's High Museum of Art through October 5th. Upcoming shows include Second Lives at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, which opens September 27, and PROSPECT.1, the inaugural New Orleans biennial, opening November 1.

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[ Ahmet Ögüt ]  

Ahmet Ögüt
View more images »
Ahmet Ögüt's conceptual interests include speed, distance, and roads, as well as the absurdities of everyday life. The Turkish-born, Amsterdam-based Ögüt works in a variety of media to explore social structures related to power and imagination. Artkrush editor Paul Laster recently caught up with the active artist at his Amsterdam studio to discuss Ögüt's work in a string of international exhibitions and solo shows, including Lucky Number Seven, SITE Santa Fe's 2008 Biennial.
AK: Your 2005 video Death Kit Train shows a seemingly endless parade of men pushing a car — and thus one another — onward. What were you trying to convey with this simple act?

AÖ: Death Kit Train plays on the expectations of the viewer and questions the relationship between act and function. First, a red car enters the frame slowly. After a few seconds, one perceives that the car does not propel itself, but that a group of people is pushing it from behind. In the last frames, the spectator can see that as the parade continues, the people are pushing one another, rather than the car. For me, the key moment is when the viewer realizes that this simple act transcends just moving the car. I always give this example: where I am from, in a funerary procession, the number of people carrying the coffin is more than what is actually needed — the act is not about carrying, but about expressing respect. Two other examples: Fitzcarraldo's rubber-trade obsession and Fatih Sultan Mehmet's drive to conquer Constantinople — passions for, passions for which they both carried ships over mountains. So an act can surpass its functional outcome and signify something greater, which in turn can make the act itself seem absurd, or grotesque.

AK: Automobiles also crucially figure into your 2005 slideshow, Somebody Else's Car, which was shown in that year's Istanbul Biennial. Can you tell us more about that project?

keep reading the interview »

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Founded in September 2005 in Basel, Switzerland, VernissageTV has built a reputation on providing brilliantly edited shorts that plumb the art world for on-the-scene video from gallery openings, international exhibitions, and art fairs, as well as in-depth interviews with renowned art professionals. Recently, VTV editors Heinrich Schmidt and Arno Dietsche traveled to New Mexico to cover the SITE Sante Fe 2008 Biennial. A two-part interview with SITE director Laura Steward Heon ensued, covering Sante Fe's rich artistic heritage; the biennial's core themes of process, collaboration, and ephemera; and SITE's educational outreach programs. Other outstanding biennial footage includes documentation of social activist Hiroshi Fuji's site-specific sculptures constructed from discarded materials, and Nick Mangan's fake excavation site — a project that unearths both the fact and fiction of Santa Fe's history.  - Paddy Johnson

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Cover Art
Piero Golia
Manifest Destiny, 2008
Eight stunt mattresses
Dimensions variable
Photo: Bay Area Photography
SITE Santa Fe Commission
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

Deputy Editor
Joel Withrow

News Editor
Greg Zinman

Reviews Editor
H.G. Masters

Contributing Editors
Adda Birnir
Jennifer Y. Chen
Erin Cowgill
Shana Nys Dambrot
Sarah Kessler
Doug Levy
Andrew Maerkle
Marlyne Sahakian
Peter Stepek
Sarah Stephenson

Alexandra Chang
Zane Fischer
Helen Holtom
Paddy Johnson
Thomas Lax
Lauren McKee
Ashley Rawlings

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Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

Anna Altman
Andrew Steinmetz
Daphne Yang

Sascha Lewis
Mark Mangan

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