A rarely seen collection of Robert Lostutter’s watercolors, dated 1968 – 1973, are on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey. They will be for some a sharp departure in Lostutter’s oeuvre, considering he is far better known for his images of male figure sheathed in masks made of bird feathers.
I had to see this show in order to satisfy my juvenile curiosity about the pre-homoerotic Lostutter, and fantasized that in seeing it I would be able to smartly delineate the transition in his work. I would be able to tell, I supposed, exactly when Lostutter turned his back on the exaggerated form of the emotionally detached female subjects of the earliest work and ushered in the arrival of the fierce, clandestine, and virile male figures that would populate his work forever thereafter.
It turned out not to be so sudden. In many of the works during this time, men and women inhabit the same surreal space, facing off amidst geometric zaps and zig-zags. The bodies share not only the space, but also a similar predilection for corsetry and what looks like highly refined, custom S&M wear. Their bodies are also rendered akin, like personalized sensory homunculi, with each the most crucial sexual elements bulging and ballooning with proportional importance according to the artist. In the ladies, elephantine thighs protrude from giant granny panties tightly clinging to barely concealed pudenda. (That’s right, I said “pudenda”). In the men, sturdy, block-like torsos are supported on huge square asses and trunk-like legs, nipples featured prominently and treated occasionally with garments that further accentuate their central role. Now, this might be where I go too far in acting like I see Lostutter’s transition on paper as a time-line mirror of his transition in real life, but I am pretty sure I can parse in many of the works the way in which the male figures begin to assert their dominance. In 1969 for example, a female figure, shown in profile, sports a dog’s elongated face as a protrusion from the groin area through her skirt. But by 1970, who’s wearing the strap-on dog? Big Daddy, that’s who. (Okay, I’ll quit with that, but it does bear examination if you’re interested in such things.) From that year forward, the fecund, monumental females are encroached upon by men with jutting chins in trench coats, mostly tucked subserviently into the scene- emerging from the edge of the picture or hiding behind curtains and camouflaged by graphic elements. This goes on for a few years until, at the turn of the 1970’s, Lostutter dispenses with the gals altogether and trains his vision on more and more intense psychological renderings of vulnerable bird-men.
While not officially a member of the “Hairy Who?” group of Chicago artists, Lostutter existed on the fringe of all the Imagists’ sub-groups and is often mentioned in the same breath. Like them, he eschewed prevailing trends in New York and focused on a tightly rendered, highly illustrated surrealist vision of the figure in space. His work has been remarkably consistent in its passion for precision over the years, even as his figures have softened and relaxed. In these early works, his expert handling of the watercolor medium is shown off in both broad fields of delicately managed color as well as areas where it is fit within tightly knit abstract elements and illustrative details. These flower petals and energetic zig-zags found in the early works would later metamorphose into the brilliant feathers adorning the artist’s more recent work.
This early body of work will be a welcome respite from the obsessive detail that emerges in the work as the years go by (and as fewer bristles remain on Lostutter’s paintbrush, seemingly). If you find some of the more recent work cloying in it’s florid detail and color, the broads in these early watercolors will give you an opportunity to see a more tortured and terse version of the artist’s fetishistic renderings.
Two weeks have passed and the news piles up ever higher. Switzerland returns 4,400 stolen antiquities to Italy the swiss then give a sigh of relief that they now have more room in their closets. Australian Paintings Keep Turning up in Texas in response Texas schools now add Australia to the geography curriculum (Sorry it’s low hanging fruit and I only hit those I love) & we elected a new President (which if you were outside of the country during you would have thought it was for World Emperor) but overall a slow week that was covered well by Meg.
So this week you get a two’fer of Art News Roundup “German Style” Yehaaa! Hündinnen. Last week the Lennie Small to Richard & Duncan’s George Milton checked out Preview Berlin, Art Forum Berlin, Berliner Liste & Bridge Art Fair: Berlin.
Erste up Preview Berlin:
Great location, excellent execution of booths, usage of space, and everything that goes into making a fair. The art was hit and miss but still better then the rest in many ways. There was a growing foam tower with bottle piece that was eye catching by Dieter Lutsch but faded quickly for me. The Gallery Realace from Berlin was the least interesting for me and little did I know would set the tone for the rest of the shows when it came to Berlin art. Their works were largely splashes of dynamic black and white shapes or red color fields with artworld fortune cookie thoughts.
They stood out but were really out of time and place for me. Oddly enough or fitting the UK/US galleries had more interesting works that we lower in contrast both visually and conceptually. Mixed Greens in NYC had works by Joan Linder that were large parchments with well know artists CV’s hand written. People from Mary Kelly, Lee Bontecou to Suzanne McClelland and Louise Bourgeois. Priska C. Juschka Fine Art had the most interesting work for me in the show with Jade Townsend’s “Gathering Loose Ends in a Bucket” which was a stark western town with gravestones and shops after an attack complete with black and white fire on both building and man alike. Old hat for some people and rightfully so but was a nice work for me.
artMbassy Berlin was quite interesting and their artist Dora Tass with her work with US currency imagery on lead has a lot of potential. With commentary on US military war profiteering it would be interesting to have her in a show with Burtonwood & Holmes.
Sandro Porcu’s beating live heart that reacts to a microphone was interesting but as with much of the work in Preview little beyond the obvious.
Zweite Comes Berliner Liste:
Berliner Liste was the everything and the kitchen sink show. How do you protect for a soft economy? Let everyone in who is willing to pay and a lot of people were willing to pay for Liste. Easily over 112 galleries and multiple floors where for the first time ever I can agree with the “Too much art” mafia in their complaints of having a visual overload. There was not a theme, focus or anything to Liste it was just an avalanche of art with many galleries working in souvenir art to the works. Low cost versions of the art they are selling that echo the original in one way or another. Like it or hate it this could very well be the future of art by diversifying the collectors, distributing the income over a larger spread and decreasing the risk. On paper it’s smart, in art I don’t know.
Liste was about the money though, from multiples of black and gold pugs by Maisenbacher Art Gallery who brought Black Angels to Art Amsterdam last year. Buy a copy for yourself for 100 EUR if you want. The same went for Stefan Strumbel who had German Pop Cuckoo Clocks befit with guns, dead rabbits & skulls in a Avril Lavigne album cover sort of “punk” way. Again you can get smaller versions for a lower cost. The best version of this for me was the work of Gerard Mas who I have seen many times and the more I do the more I like. He works with a very low contrast, fragile and human figurines with porcelain blushed skin. Very exciting work and in the larger context of this show some of the best for me. Lino Lago had some of the best executed work for me in the show with his works that comment on the intersection of art and commercial support which was pretty blunt but very well done. I would like to follow his work more in the years to come. The only other theme in Liste and Berlin in general was the undying love of Andy Warhol who was echoed in countless works in almost every show which was cute at first and quickly became “Where’s Waldo” with each show. Heiner Meyer did it this time for Liste.
Dritte is Art Forum Berlin:
Art Forum Berlin which is the anchor of the Berlin art fairs was also it’s weakest link for me. The work was largely the same, very bleak, very black and white, very depressing, very………. German? At least that is what I was told by many Germans I spoke to in regards to the show. Many liked it, many didn’t but all agreed this is how it works here. In fact the consensus was that Art Forum was large, powerful, stark and cold while Bridge Art Fair: Berlin was colorful, playful, young and fun. I had many conversations to this effect. Art Forum was also rather small since one wing was established art, one huge wing was young and independent art and the back was magazines, books and cafe. All in all a lot of pomp but nothing really solid. The independent artist area also was quite disappointing. It was very lean on physical work with white walls, big pillows to sit on and florescent lights being largely the only visual that sticks in your mind when you leave. The work was exceedingly minimal and many were just one installation shows or videos of flash animation. Overall not one of the best uses of independent space. All in all the show was easily missed and not anticipated in 2009. Oh and Warhol was alive and well here as well.
Last but not least is Bridge Art Fair Berlin:
It needs to be said that I will have to be limited on my praise or critique of Bridge since I am associated with them but can express that for a first showing in Berlin the work was strong and a great contrast in location, style, attitude & execution to the other shows. Based in East Berlin where the true up and coming art world is strong and growing Bridge put on a colorful, exciting and fresh show that for a first year was well reviewed. With performances by Momus which brought people from everywhere and Galleries with work unseen in Berlin it was a show not to be missed.
All in all an interesting series of shows in Berlin but not some of the world’s best sadly.
Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche; Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren; Amy Mayfield @ threewalls
Artwork copyright the original artists; text and documentation copyright Paul Germanos.
Friday, October 17, 2008, Chicago:
Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche
“ognuno vede” — Niccolo Machiavelli:
As I ride east, the sky fades to red behind me.
And according to no particular rhythm, drops of rain infrequently appear on the visor of my helmet.
Bike parked, block walked, I cross the threshold of Monique Meloche Gallery and find the photography of Carrie Schneider.
Schneider’s prints are large — an easy meter on any given side — and in full color.
The subjects are human figures, and products of human artifice, as found in landscapes of great natural beauty.
Meloche’s exhibition program has seemed at once gutsy and cerebral, demonstrating a sustained interest not only in the sensual human experience of the world, but also favoring a cool, museum-like intellectual framing of contemporary issues.
And so I suppose there’s something here in addition to pretty scenery and clever portraits.
Clue: the consistently idiosyncratic aspect of Schneider’s photography is the focus upon some type of covering.
The human figure in the piece entitled We, and the canoe in Dazzle Camouflage, are draped with a Riley-like, black-and-white canvas.
But “dazzle” is a reference not to Op Art, rather a battlefield technique that disrupts an opponent’s perception through the use of striking, high-contrast patterns wholly unrelated to the object so treated.
Certain of that, conscious of the fact that Carrie Schneider’s work has, for several years, evidenced an artistic strategy concerned with ambiguity,
it seems likely that her first solo show is in large part an exploration of the tactics of camouflage.
Continuing to view the work, continuing to think about camouflage, the self-portrait beneath a mask of juniper boughs in Queen of This Island seems not unlike a ghillie suit:
that covering of organic materials drawn from the environment into which one desires to blend,
most familiar in the form of a rude crown of grass and twigs ringing the helmet of military snipers.
The application of such substances to the human figure is a familiar process in Chicago:
A photograph of one of Nick Cave’s “suits” hung on the same gallery wall a few short months ago;
and while not “wearable,” and more distant (ten to twenty years prior) historically, there is also the example of Tom Czarnopys’ cast figures encased in bark.
Maybe most notable in their exploitation of camouflage have been local artists Tom Burtonwood & Holly Holmes.
In their piece Price War!, as see at the Consuming War exhibition, B & H applied a non-threatening commercial pattern to threatening, military shapes.
Later reversing that figure/ground relationship at artXposium 2.0, B & H applied a threatening military pattern to a non-threatening commercial shape in their piece Urban Camo Santa.
That Burtonwood and Holmes examine the relationship between commerce and war is writ large for all to read.
Coyly, Schneider looks out from her work: young, beautiful and self-satisfied.
She’s not really hiding.
What is Schneider’s interest in camouflage?
In both her projected and also in her printed films, the message, the revelation, is delivered by means of the obscurement.
What is she attempting to communicate?
Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren
There are times when the clarity and simplicity of an artist’s message, amplified by the means of delivery,
overwhelm and even stupify the viewer.
In the past, Barbara Kruger’s bold font has seemed to shout at me;
Jenny Holzer’s animation and projections have quite literally circled menacingly, and towered ominously above me.
I’ve been told that this confrontational mode of delivery was carefully chosen for the purpose of forcing certain issues into the public consciousness.
But, fighting — and the work of Kruger and Holzer alluded to above is combative — with the weapons and armor
of the enemy, they, at times, appear to belong to his camp…to be propagandists.
Exposed to loud noise, I cover my ears; in the presence of a bright light, I shield my eyes.
But when someone whispers, I draw near and listen.
And seeing something delicate and small, I’m inclined to study it with care.
And so it is at 1052 W. Fulton Market: I find myself drawn into Lora Fosberg‘s text-ladden pieces at Linda Warren Gallery.
And I attribute my reaction to her subtle treatment of the material.
Admittedly, I’ve tended to recoil when confronted by large amounts of text in what is nominally visual art.
But Fosberg’s words and phrases are well-integrated with the purely aesthetic elements of her design.
Fosberg shows a deft hand when practicing the craft of draftsmanship.
Clean, sure strokes of brush and pen define figures with what appears to be little effort.
I’m caught unaware by the content, having been more-or-less lulled into a receptive state by the combined effect of the subtle tones of her palette, the easy grace of her execution, and the modest scale of the pieces on display.
Fosberg’s made visible dialogues, dialogues that, in her own words,
“suggest the familiar while maintaining ambiguity.”
As in Schneider’s show, here there are figures active in a landscape.
But Fosberg’s models aren’t literal representations of herself;
and they aren’t looking out of the frame at me — seeking my attention and approval.
No, the subjects of Fosberg’s ink and gouache caricatures are busily about their given work.
Amy Mayfield @ threewalls
Up the stairs, down the hall, to threewalls I go.
It’s the crazy aunt’s attic in which I’ve found voodoo dolls, horror films, and even whole trees.
Tonight a heavily embroidered curtain hangs between the body of Amy Mayfield‘s installation and the external world of the gallery’s front room.
Passing through that membrane I entered a hot vermillion space.
fornus, fornax, fornix
Mayfield has wholly invested herself in the process of transforming the back room of the gallery:
choosing to place some found objects, fabricate other pieces, and treat the environment as well.
The surfaces — from the tiles beneath my feet to the walls on which framed items are hung —
are well-painted, sometimes thickly, sometimes possessing a glossy sheen.
Rising up from the floor are foam concretions that resemble stalagmites,
the floor having been re-tiled with brightly colored geometric units of her own creation.
It’s the contrast between the line quality of those two things that really strikes me.
There’s a wild, almost schizophrenic, swing from style-to-style, piece-to-piece;
the unifying compositional element being the vivid color that she favors.
Mayfield, like Schneider and Fosberg, I think, is involved in a process that is somewhat autobiographical.
Schneider, as a model, quite literally appears in her own work.
Fosberg presents artifacts of thought processes.
Mayfield manifests externally some internal space, viscerally fusing the physical and psychological.
+ + +
It says something good about the scene in Chicago that it’s now possible
to experience, back-to-back, strong shows by three women at different
points in their lives and careers. Go and compare:
Amy Mayfield @ threewalls through Nov 15, 2008
Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren through Nov 29, 2008
Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche through Dec 6, 2008
 See: The “dazzle” cars of Patricia van Lubeck, circa the early 90’s.
 See: Comments on Schneider’s Derelict Self series, 2006-2007, made by
Aura Seikkula, curator of the Finnish Museum of Photography.
 See: False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage by
Roy R. Behrens,
Professor, Art and Design, University of Northern Iowa (noting especially the text’s cover art) for more on the relationship between art and camouflage.
 See: Camouflage at London Imperial War Museum, 2007;
“The first major exhibition to explore the impact of camouflage on modern warfare and its adoption into popular culture.”
 See: Jenny Holzer: Protect Protect @ MCA through February 1, 2009.
Written by Paul Germanos
Sadly the title truthfully should read “Bad at Sports makes a mad dash in The Armory cause the phone is ringing and everyone wants you back to put out a fire” but “Goes to The Armory Show” gives it a more fun and lighthearted feel as I would have wanted the visit to be. Sadly this is the 21st century so in keeping with it; here is a caffeine induced breakdown of The Armory Show: 2008. [Read more]