Falling with Lora Fosberg

July 26, 2010 · Print This Article

GUEST POST BY DAMIEN JAMES

Great art shows always seem to find me. I don’t really check the listings or catch the buzz, but if it’s a show I’m meant to see, it somehow happens and I don’t like to think too much about the mechanism at work which makes this possible – whether it’s “fate,” blindness,  or happenstance – for fear that I’ll lose that mechanism. Sometimes the right person will give me the tip or I’ll be wandering around and just fall into a room full of amazing. Regardless, when I do find my way into such a show, it leaves an often indelible mark on me. Lora Fosberg’s show at Linda Warren Gallery is no exception.

(Nice preamble, right?)

Liza Berkoff, a photographer whose work is worth your attention (I’ve been watching for a while now and it’s been fun), told me about the show. She conspiratorially stated – through email, if that’s possible – that she was collaborating with Lora on three pieces.  “I am beside myself excited,” Liza typed. I asked if I could visit the gallery while Liza and Lora were installing, and the answer – again via email – was given as  “‘yes’ with exclamation points.”

On the scheduled day, I walked into the gallery and met more people than I expected. The music was turned up and there was food and it felt very relaxed, like walking into an intimate party with friends you just know have some fascinating piece of information to impart since you last saw them. Then you remember that they are mostly strangers, so you hope they have something fascinating to say because you’ve volunteered to spend time with them. Lora Fosberg was installing the final piece, you can’t fall off the floor, and Liza, along with Forsberg’s paramour and the incredibly competent staff of Linda Warren were helping. Warren herself was there to offer a sort of moral support and occasional direction.

Lora Fosberg building you can’t fall off the floor.

After introductions, Berkoff showed me the collaborations. All three were made with some kind of rare equilibrium which allowed each artist to completely state themselves without losing clarity. Liza’s black and white photographs are of buildings and streets given to the kind of quiet ruin we imagine our future to be made of in darker moments, dizzyingly recognizable and Cormac McCarthy-esque. On those photos, Fosberg painted and collaged her own colors and variations, wryly balancing on a tightrope between pessimism and its inverse.

Lora Fosberg and Liza Berkoff, dare to fail, 2010, gouache and collaged digital photograph on paper.

dare to fail is a gray cityscape with brightly painted billboards advertising the ideas of truth and belief, all set against a chaotic sky full of searchlights. i fall in love every day and yes can be such a surprise are quieter gestures from Fosberg, but those gestures imply a narrative between the two photographs which allow us to project limitless meanings into the work. Her collaged paper on the photos feel like satellite transmissions emanating directly from the brains of the solitary men in each photo. Maybe they connect or mingle in space or maybe they miss each other by light years; either direction is worth considering for it’s social implications. (Or just admire how great they look.) One leads to the hope for connection and the other to empty space. Berkoff’s work has often been aimed at some iteration of that empty space, which contrasts curiously well with Fosberg’s spark for filling it.

Lora Fosberg and Liza Berkoff, yes can be such a surprise (top) and i fall in love every day (bottom), 2010, gouache, collage, and photograph on paper.

Liza and I walked through the whole gallery for a cursory look before getting back to Fosberg’s installation. Everyone had already resumed the banter that had been going before I interrupted with my entrance, and that banter seemed to almost propel Forberg as she paced along the wall to finish her piece, never missing a beat in the conversation though acutely focused on the task at hand. The energy of the whole group seemed to be hyper-focused on one single point in the gallery: Fosberg’s hands as she made – or remade, rather – you can’t fall off the floor.

Watching Lora work, the thought struck me that she might actually see the world in terms of flowing energy. Not in some Oprah-endorsed-“Secret”-or-“Dr. Phil”-The Forum- pop-psychology-Ponzi-scheme-seeming-Church-of-Scientology sort of way, though. Rather, that she understands the way we connect and uses her own expressive energy to do just that; you can even see it in her posture. She’s a walking “fuck yes” of cellular awareness.

“It’s all about flow,” Fosberg said. “Nothing can be preconceived or preplanned. It just has to happen.”

And it does. She walks back and forth before a 14-foot assemblage for hours, rarely taking her eyes more than a few inches away from the surface while looking at thousands of shapes and shades and sizes of paper to be pressed down with adhesive goo, each paper strip covered in words and strange scrawls which upon focus reveal themselves to be little vaginas and penises, breasts and severed heads, random thoughts, lyrics, and bits of collected conversation and spare words which chaotically make their rounds through Fosberg’s internal processor. But taken in together – while watching her flow and receive and transmit – the thousands of parts which make up you can’t fall off the floor speak with each other, a breathing and moving organ. The piece practically blushes at you from a distance a la Robert Irwin.

“It’s all current, you know, everything I’ve been thinking about for the last year. And I’ve been so stuck on 80’s art. Warhol and Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, I just can’t get enough of it,” Fosberg said as she filled in the lower right corner of the collage. Nothing about the work feels retro, however. It’s as tied to the present moment as Lora Fosberg is. “I want to cover the Guggenheim with this. Think big, right? It can just go on and on. It’s a piece that will never be finished.” you can’t fall off the floor is a different work every time it’s installed, which means, among other things, that it will always surprise you.

“I need more boobs!” she emphatically announced as she leaned over the table covered in pieces still waiting to go up. Everyone began looking through the strips of paper for the elusive little drawings while chuckling and cracking wise for a moment. Then there was a discernable change in atmosphere as the boobs eluded discovery, which made me realize just how much everyone wanted to please the artist. I myself considered joining the search, interested only the progress of the installation. Fosberg shrugged it off, though, refusing to lose momentum. I’m sure she knew they would turn up, despite the hundreds of pieces to sift through over the course of the evening. Occasionally pieces were discarded, having been found incorrect in some way, either with unintentionally elided words or spelling errors, and dropped in a box-top beneath the table. There weren’t many, maybe a dozen give or take, and I only actually saw one with a misspelling, which I found just as interesting as those deemed wall-worthy. Were those discarded pieces ever to be resuscitated as a collage of their own, I might argue that you could, in fact, fall off the floor.

Fosberg’s prints and paintings and collages simply work. Sure sure, it’s great art and maybe that’s all that really needs to be said. You should see it and have your own experience with it, give some time to it, get close and look at the individual lines and where they intersect. Look at the tiny roll of toilet paper she draws on if it’s heavy, put it down, a modern Atlas not yet ready to shrug off the planet-sized ball of everyday objects crushing down on bent back and stooped shoulder. And the stacks of records and books and furniture and boxes which make up the refuse-laden sprawl of 10,000 different versions of myself. It’s like a tribal tattoo of stuff, manmade objects which only have the meaning we give them and only for as long as we allow. We can see ourselves there as well. There are so many little details to see and each one is ready to soak up your stories by offering you excerpts of Fosberg’s stories, beginnings and ends, fragmented middles, threads waiting to be picked up and carried indefinitely.

Lora Fosberg, 10,000 different versions of myself, 2009, gouache on paper.

“I found them,” said Dain, an employee of the gallery, holding up a piece of paper no larger than a half-inch square with breasts drawn on it. There were cheers.

So many different things have been said about Lora Fosberg’s work; that it confronts our nearly gleeful destruction of nature, how it wittily illustrates our cognitive dissonance and invites the sharing of personal narratives, or that it asks us to engage with ourselves and with the artist, all of which ring true. It’s highly interpretable work which also happens to be beautiful to look at. But not much has been said about being around Lora Fosberg, which is why you’re not reading the standard-issue boilerplate “art review” here. You can get that in pretty much anywhere else you go for reviews. I just don’t want to read theory right now. I’d rather have the experience.

Regardless of how alluring, provocative or simply gorgeous her work may be, I’ve been leaning toward the idea that the real beauty and genius of art occurs in the making of art rather than in the exhibition of it; that the quiet and laborious and countless hours of creation are where the true brilliance resides. (No, I don’t think I’m the first to have ever thought such a thing.) And spending time with Fosberg while she remade her massive collage of concentrated and effusive thoughts gave that idea some real flesh for me. I asked her if this was how things simply were for her, a constant party with her posse? “No, this is the fun part, the sort of crazy social outcome of making art. The rest of the time I’m alone, sitting there just writing and painting, in total solitude.” Plucking our stories out of the air, putting them on paper and turning them into art. you can’t fall off the floor is the inevitable social outcome of Fosberg’s greatness.

There will be an artist’s talk at Linda Warren Gallery on Tuesday, July 27th, from 5 to 7:30pm. With Chris Cosnowski, whose show Apocolypse is in the project space. Conrad Freiburg will also be on hand performing music inspired by the art. 1052 West Fulton Market.

All images courtesy of Linda Warren Gallery and Liza Berkoff.




Episode 256: Adobe Books Backroom Gallery

July 25, 2010 · Print This Article

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Adobe Books Backroom Gallery

Mimi Moncier, Unbound, 2009. Courtesy of the artist, Adobe Books Parlor & the Pistils, San Francisco


This week: Brian and Patricia sit down with Andrew McKinley, proprietor of Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, and Devon Bella, the gallery’s current director. They discuss Adobe Books’ seminal place in the San Francisco art community, the Mission School, the gallery’s recent renovation, and the ominous installation in the window proclaiming “Everything Must Go!”

Click here to read an interview with Adobe Books Backroom Gallery!




The Battle of Trafalgar Square Continues

July 23, 2010 · Print This Article

Yinka Shonibare Nelson Trafalgar PlinthThe fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar square has been on our radar for a while and I am sure will continue to be so since the British government plans on using it as a compliment to the Turner prize or so by using it as a soapbox to debate and showcase contemporary art.

The current work  that is on display at the plinth, Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle is slotted to be taken down in 2012 and the fight to see who gets the spot in time for the Olympics has begun. Here is a quick rundown of the shortlist via UK’s The Independent (my money is on Katharina Fritsch) :

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset A sombre wit underpins the serious nature of work by the Scandanavian couple who have collaborated since they met in 1995. They have made work in memory of gay victims of the Nazi regime and, in 2005, they built a Prada boutique in the middle of the Texan desert. Whatever their proposal for Trafalgar Square, we hope they don’t lose their sense of humour.

Mariele Neudecker German born, 45-year-old Neudecker made her name with sculptures of landscapes, placed inside glass vitrines. Self-contained worlds, that come out of the Romantic tradition in art – although her work is anything but traditional. She used the cry of seagulls on London’s Millenium bridge in 2008. And she sank a boat and a house underwater that question our relationship with the environment.

Allora & Calzadilla Allora and Calzadilla are an artist couple who live in Puerto Rico. Their work is usually political and they have a strong reputation in the UK. At the Serpentine gallery in 2007 they made a large chamber, like a war bunker, and inside musicians played military music. They work in many mediums, using film, sound, sculpture, performance and photography.

Hew Locke Locke’s work explores colonial themes in an exuberant kind of pop art. He has played with ideas about the British royal family. Princess Diana became a voodoo doll and he covered a figure of the Queen Mother with skulls. He critiques the past, looking at how our world interrelates: from African wars to empire, pop culture to Shakespeare.

Katharina Fritsch Like the Surrealists, Fritsch is known for artwork that makes the familiar appear strange and uncanny. Born in Germany, Fritsch has represented her country at the Venice Biennale and had major exhibitions at London museums. Giant rats and monochrome men wearing suits appear in her work, which have popular as well as critical appeal. She is a mature artist and her proposal will be polished and spectacular.

Brian Griffiths An eccentric sense of adventure runs through sculptures by Griffiths. A graduate of Goldsmiths college, the British artist has used old furniture to construct an elaborate wooden gyspy caravan. His work plays with myth as well as history and his sculpture comes from an imaginary world as fantastical as a child’s. No doubt, his proposal for the Fourth Plinth will be made from old junk but his idea, we hope, will contain a touch of magic.

  • Also Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) has been greenlit to start construction on it’s $150-plus million development project in University Circle later this year and be completed in 2012. Read More Here
  • We talked a while back about the Guggenheim’s Youtube partnership entitled “Play” where artists were invited to submit their videos to possibly be part of a juried exhibition later this year in every one of their museums. Well that jury list has been announced: Takashi Murakami, Ryan McGinley, Douglas Gordon, Marilyn Minter and Shirin Neshat, artists known for their work in a variety of mediums; Stefan Sagmeister, a graphic designer; Laurie Anderson, the performance artist, musician and filmmaker; the music group Animal Collective; and the filmmakers Darren Aronofsky and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Read More Here
  • Sorry but I have a hard time calling something revolutionary or defying categorization when it’s been done for over two decades in general and over a decade by Michigan Avenue Ad houses. Its akin to saying an artist doing Matrix style bullet time video leaves you speechless if it was done in 2040. Film is sequential still frames that create motion, find something to write about NPR that is actually Art if you want to be breathless NPR not a music video esque work done in After Effects. It’s only slightly annoying when Artists speak of their work as revolutionary, interdisciplinary or an exciting hybrid that redefines a genre since it’s hard to promote as a artist but it is greatly annoying when a publication ruberstamps such hyperbole as true. I know it’s the NPR blog but….. still. Don’t Read More Here



Top 5 Weekend Picks! (7/23-7/25)

July 21, 2010 · Print This Article

Hey, dude, art…hella.

1. Carny at Eastern Expansion

And I quote, “Carny is a salon installation of 75 plus photographs captured during Paul’s recent observations while working for traveling carnivals around the midwest.” Photographs by Paul Rizzuto.

Eastern Expansion is located at 244 W. 31st St. Reception is Friday from 6-10pm.

2. If Nature Could Talk at Spoke

And I quote, “is an interactive event that explores the uncanny relationship between art, science, and nature. Based on the investigation of Human/Nature dynamics through marks, traces and symbols of pseudo- scientific experiments, the work suggests what nature might be thinking and feeling in an evidentiary context.” Photographs, sculptures, objects, and evidence created and collected by Grant W. Ray.

Spoke is located at 119 N Peoria St, 3D. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.

3. Looks Like A Place I Came In at The Hills Esthetic Center

And I quote, “The Hills Esthetic Center [presents] a site-specific installation titled “Looks Like A Place I Came In”. Caponigro’s response to the space draws influence from her family’s history by means of the decadent lacy fabrics juxtaposed  with gaudy laminate flooring, jungles of houseplants, screenprinted  temporary wallpaper and halls of astroturf.” Installation by Jessica Taylor Caponigro.

The Hills Esthetic Center is located at 128 N. Campbell Ave., Unit G. Reception is Friday from 8-11pm.

4. Slideluck Potshow Chicago IV at Columbia College

And I quote, “Slideluck Potshow is a slideshow and potluck to which members of Chicago’s arts, photography and media communities bring food, drink and enjoy slideshows from local artists. The evening begins with two hours of dining on the home-cooked delights of participants, while drinking and mingling. Following the potluck, the lights are dimmed, the crowd hushed as a spectacular slideshow commences. Slideluck Potshow is a forum for exposing artists, curators and editors to new work while infusing the arts community with a non-commercial vitality and refreshing exchange.” Work by various artists, bring food with ya to share.

The Conaway Center at Columbia College is located at 1104 S. Wabash St. Saturday night, food at 7pm, slide shows from 9-11pm.

5. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century at The Art Institute of Chicago

Why should you go? Because Cartier-Bresson was a fucking bad-ass, that’s why.

The Art Institute of Chicago is located at 111 S. Michigan Ave. Exhibition begins Sunday.




Sally Potter’s RAGE

July 19, 2010 · Print This Article

Before it premiered on television earlier this summer, I had fully intended to be a regular viewer of Bravo’s artist reality series Work of Art. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t care enough to actually sit and watch it.  It’s the kind of television that’s ready-made for a certain kind of cynically derisive blogosphere/twitterverse commentary with which we’ve all become familiar, and after I took a blogging hiatus I kind of felt like, eh…why waste my time when I’ve got better things to do? I’ve gotten bored with Twitter too, just as I suspected I would, though I can attribute my boredom directly to the onset of sunnier weather here in Chicago. I  don’t want to keep my face in front of a computer screen (or a cell phone) all day unless someone gives me a really good reason to do that. Call me old-fashioned that way. At any rate, one of the reasons I’d been wanting to follow Work of Art (beyond feeling the aforementioned obligation to blog about it) is because I’m interested in the ways that artists are portrayed in popular media. The figure of the artist is easily misunderstood and thus ripe for parody and exploitation, but there are also a number of films in which the portrayal of artists — be they visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, fashion designers, whatever — is complex and nuanced and surprisingly meaningful. Sally Potter’s RAGE is not a great example of this, but I’m going to write about it anyway, for reasons that will hopefully become clear by the end.

Potter, the acclaimed if still somewhat under-recognized British director, has a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art this month, which runs through July 21st and features screenings of her early shorts, her first feature The Gold Diggers (1983) as well as her acclaimed film Orlando (1992), which stars Tilda Swinton and is based on the novel Orlando by Virginia Woolf. RAGE, Potter’s most recent film, was completed in 2009 and has the distinction of being the first full-length movie released on cell phone (it is also viewable in segments at Babelgum, which bought the movie rights for distribution online, and can now also be purchased on DVD).  Because the film was made to be watched on a cell phone, its major conceit  is that what viewers are watching is a documentary on the fashion industry that is being shot on cell phone by a student named Michaelangelo and posted each day on a website.

The film employs close-up and direct address exclusively because, as Potter explained in an interview for indiewire, both are part of the language of Facebook and My Space. The narrative portrays seven days at a fashion company that’s gearing up for its designer’s big show, and consists of a series of extended close-up interviews with various people who work for the company. The fashion designer, a tchetchy fellow named Merlin (Simon Abkarian), favors black, wears a goatee, and comes from an unnamed country associated with terrorist activities. He starts out the film by asserting that as an artist/designer, “I make statements.” Later, he adjusts the metaphor somewhat by asserting, “My work influences everybody. It’s like a secret research laboratory and I am like a scientist.”

Also interviewed for the documentary are Edith “Edie” Roth (Dianne Weist), the kindly backstage manager who fondly recalls the days when her father owned the company and the fashion industry was referred to as “the garment trade;” Minx, a transgendered runway model who “loves the light” (Jude Law) and Lettuce Leaf (Lily Cole), a young female model who was last year’s New Face of the Year; the intelligently bitchy fashion writer Mona Carvel (Judi Dench);  a pizza delivery boy/aspiring model named VJ (Riz Ahmed); an ambitious intern named Dwight Angel (Patrick J. Adams) and the nervous P.R. flack Otto (Jakob Cedergren), among other characters. Despite working for a busy fashion house, somehow all of these people have loads of time to sit in front of Michaelangelo’s cell phone and reveal–knowingly or unknowingly–their personal truths. How these high-level professionals find so much time to give to a student who’s using his cell phone for a camera is never explained, but it’s clear that none of these people can help themselves. They’re drawn to the camera–any camera–as if the indiscriminate presentation of the self had become an ingrained, even primal impulse that these human beings found themselves compelled to fulfill.

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