Art and the 2015 UK General Election

May 1, 2015 · Print This Article

Bob and Roberta Smith's Art Party battle bus. Image (c) Bob and Roberta Smith.

Bob and Roberta Smith’s Art Party battle bus. Image (c) Bob and Roberta Smith.

Something is happening in UK politics and conviction is giving way to self-expression. The Labour Party has drifted so far to the centre that tribal supporters are at least free to vote with their hearts. And if they live in Surrey Heath (Southern England) or Hackney South and Shoreditch (London), they can even vote for contemporary artists. That creative presence on the ballot paper tells us that the 2015 General Election has more to do with making points than handing out mandates to either of the two main parties.

The sitting MP in Surrey Heath is a one Michael Gove, a visual gift to satirical cartoonists but a blight on the nation’s schools. The former Secretary of State for Education has got deserved flak for downgrading art, music and drama in UK classrooms. Considering art is one of Britain’s more successful exports you wonder about the wisdom of this. The attack appears ideological, and so his longstanding opponent, artist Bob and Roberta Smith, certainly will be.

Smith, a single confusingly-named candidate, has the bit between his teeth. He has political form, having organised a 2013 conference for the Art Party. And campaign tactics include poster design, personable conversation and psycho-geographical rambles. Given that it is just five years since Gove won here with 57 percent of the vote, Smith has a losing battle on his hands. But losing battles may be all we have left at the ballot box.

Just ask Gordon Shrigley, who is standing in East London without a single policy to his name. The blankness of his campaign slate is not just refreshing, it’s a powerful critique of all government and especially this five-yearly circus in which the public are first wooed and then betrayed. As Shrigley says, “I have nothing to offer, but offer itself”. That’s honest expression, and perfect for 2015.

The fact is that in UK politics the battle lines have been redrawn to include a smaller parties, and even lone voices. Thanks to social media and digital alternatives to the mainstream media, artists and ideologues alike can amplify their voice and enjoy greater visibility than ever before. Whatever the results on May 7th, Smith and Shrigley will have pulled off viable artistic projects. With little to lose, and little alternative, why not vote for an artist?

Recent months have seen the emergence of the phrase ‘career politician’ as a pejorative phrase. So the stage is really set for lone idealists and single issue candidates to come forward and show, or at least point towards, what politics could look like in an age of real democracy. Let professional spin, party discipline and self-interested party donors go hang.

To prove the value of expressive politics, one needn’t look far. My local constituency is Brighton Pavilion on the South Coast. In 2010 we elected the UK’s first Green Party MP and few would contest the fact that our subsequent representative, Caroline Lucas, has been one of the bravest and most effective voices in parliament. She has given us a say on drugs laws, fracking and nationalisation. Greens may never form a majority government, but they get my vote as the greater of various goods, rather than the lesser of two evils.

Top 5 Weekend Picks!

April 30, 2015 · Print This Article

1. 10:00 am Monday Impressions; 11:00 am How the Outside Leaks into the Room; 12:00 ­pm Smells Like 100 Years Old; 1:00 pm The Room Is in My Eye. The Space under My Body; 2:00 pm In the Meantime, (This Place Will Be Empty after 5:00 pm); 3:00 pm An Actual Location for This Moment; 4:00 pm Few Will Leave Their Place to Come Here for Some Minutes; 5:00 pm Did You Know Who Built Your House? at The Renaissance Society

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Work by Gabriel Sierra.

The Renaissance Society is located at 5811 S. Ellis Ave. Cobb Hall 418. Reception Sunday, 4-7pm.

2. The Grass Has Eyes at Comfort Station

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Work by Heidi Norton.

Comfort Station is located at 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.

3. FAMILIAR MALAISE at ACRE Projects

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Work by Joe Yorty, Cara Chan, Austen Brown and Ruslana Lichtzier.

ACRE Projects is located at 1913 W. 17th St. Reception Sunday, 4-8pm.

4. Refractions at Silent Funny

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Work by Luftwerk.

Silent Funny is located at 4106 W. Chicago Ave. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.

5. Kissing in Heaven at Chicago Artists Coalition

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Work by Allison Lacher, Andy Roche, Hideous Beast and Snow Yungxue Fu.

Chicago Artists Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.

Blind Man’s Bluff: Tom Torluemke at Linda Warren Projects

April 29, 2015 · Print This Article

Rolled Over 2010 acrylic, wood, and masonite 56″ x 96″

By Kevin Blake 

This is a recurring dream.

I am suspended over an in-ground pool of which I can only see a portion. The pool juts out of the bottom left corner of the frame–a rectangular frame. The edge of the pool makes an L shape–horizontally to the middle of the frame and at a right angle to the bottom boundary. The negative space is a surrounding sun-bleached concrete–an infinite wall contained only by the imaginary frame of the image. My limbs are sprawled out as if they are tied to an invisible force that keeps me from retracting. I lay idle just inches from the water, but I cannot touch. I cannot feel the textures. I cannot sense the temperature, though it appears to be warm–it appears to be late afternoon. It appears to be desert-like. Arid. Crisp. Cloudless. Stark.

The same external force that keeps me afloat, pulls me wildly in a spinning motion to an extreme height where I can see the pool in its entirety. As I reach the apex of this pull, it allows me a brief pause before dropping me and stopping me just inches before I hit the water. It leaves me there, in what feels like dangerous proximity to a glass-like surface. I have no physical control. No power. I can only wait to be pulled from idle and dropped again. As I plunge toward the pool, the water disappears, and I break through the powerless dream–returning to a powerless reality. I wake up with the feeling of being dropped that often plagues the dreams of many. That uneasiness. That bubble in the stomach. That rush to the brain.

The value of a dream is only quantifiable in the mind of the dreamer. It becomes something more than a dream only when a metaphor is established–and thereby attached–as the answer to an otherwise abstract experience. Like spinning around with a blindfold and trying to find people in the dark, the recurring dream becomes something more, when anticipatory and imaginative thinking creates an alteration of behavior, a change in consciousness, or a way to find things in the dark. It can become the blueprint for an artistic practice.

Natural Imaginings as if I Was Em’rynn 2015 irregular shaped painting, acrylic on paper on MDF 60″ x 53.25″

In Tom Torluemke’s latest offering at Linda Warren Projects, Blind Man’s Bluff, the artist seems to be fueled by the necessity to communicate his ideas–both to himself and to a perceived audience. Here, metaphors(capitulated by the title of the exhibition) are born in cultural experience, unadulterated thought, and dreams–they are the conduit by which this artist transmits his signals in this densely populated exhibition.

The main gallery is filled with paintings, mostly executed with acrylic paint on irregularly shaped MDF panels. This device is useful. It appears to extend his metaphor. To exemplify the oddity that is his commodity–his ideas. Torluemke’s ideas may be his bread and butter, but his ability to execute and transmute his thoughts into compelling objects, is equally evolved.

Torluemke’s metaphors come alive in works like Day Dream 2015. This decisively cut panel adopts the profile of a man–a shape that is repeated again and again to develop the edge of the painting. A surreal landscape occupies the mind. Faces form the face. Dark matter makes the shadowy abyss beyond the dream. Paint is liberally applied to these slick surfaces, making it a joy to discover the miniature paint galaxies in the depths of the work.

Day Dream 2015 irregular shaped painting, acrylic on paper on MDF 60″ x 49.5″

In the smaller gallery a more intimate but more direct version of Torluemke’s metaphor adorn the walls. The drawings are made while blindfolded, with one continuous line–details are added later. What is interesting to me about these works is less the product(though I like the drawings), and more so, the idea of creating an action born in metaphor.  If Torluemke feels like his artistic process is often like doing a frankenstein walk blindfolded in the dark, as a child does in Blind Man’s Bluff, then it is this thought, this metaphor, that has driven him to thoroughly explore and excavate this idea and all of its potential. As a dream only becomes understandable by way of syntactic dissection and cultural grounding, so too must a metaphor be broken down into its component parts for reassembly as something new. Something learned. Something useful to the pursuant.

Happy Smokers 2014 charcoal and graphic on board 32″ x 40″

There is a multiplicity in these works that contextualize the conditions under which these objects are made. I can sense an urgency. I can feel the excitement. I can see ideas mutate on the surfaces. The work seems to be in constant transition–from panel, to sculpture, to blindfolded drawing and back again. Torluemke’s process plays out like a dream as he traverses from one unexpected place to the next. There are no answers here, only snippets of dreams. Remnants of action. Links to a lineage of ideas that are constantly evolving.

By following the hunch, pursuing the dream, and unraveling the metaphor, Torluemke seems to have developed a method for finding his way in the dark.

Linda Warren Projects

327 N Aberdeen Suite 151

Chicago, IL

Gallery Y & Gallery X: Tom Torluemke, “Blind Man’s Bluff”

April 17 – June 13, 2015

Opening Reception: Friday, April 17, 2015, 6-9pm

Artist Talk: Saturday, May 16, 2015, 3-5pm

Orchard/Dirge, Observations on Fraser Taylor’s Null Space

April 24, 2015 · Print This Article

Guest post by Vanessa Gravenor

 

Fraser Taylor, Black Flowers, 2009-11 Courtesy of Threewalls.

Fraser Taylor, Black Flowers, 2009-11 Courtesy of Threewalls.

Fraser Taylor’s show Orchard/Dirge, on view at Threewalls gallery in Chicago, combines sculptures that suggest states of kinesthesis with drawings and paintings blackened to abject states. When entering the main room, one sees a cluster of metallic rods welded together to form angular shapes. These shapes both recall architectural origins but also clusters of beings: animals in a pack.

Fraser Taylor, Black Flowers, 2009-11 Courtesy of Threewalls.

Fraser Taylor, Black Flowers, 2009-11 Courtesy of Threewalls.

Austere and lustrous, the forms harken (like a hymn) back upon different artistic moments in the 20th century. Reminiscent of Russian Constructivism because of the linear and angular bisection of space, these specific forms in the sculptural installation Black Flowers recall Tatlin’s The Proposed Monument to the Third International. In this way, the work pays homage to the utopian vision of art being linked to political life.

Just as the shapes seem to construct and recall these modernist roots, they also enter into a state of entropy and disintegration by suggesting a Giacometti-style disintegration of the figure. Contextually, Alberto Giacometti was incited by an overexposure to violence after WWI. He embodied a sort of cataract gaze and was concerned with redefining seeing when sight was impossible. Fraser’s context is not post-world-wars but the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s where he lost many friends to the disease. The exhibition write-up explains that purging of color “spoke of the wider index of loss” that all mass death brings.

 

Fraser Taylor, Scalloway, Silk-screen on canvas, 2015 Courtesy of Threewalls.

Fraser Taylor, Scalloway, Silk-screen on canvas, 2015 Courtesy of Threewalls.

In the adjacent room, there are banners that match this already precedent visual language. Again, abstract forms and ink turn to figuration. This figuration decisively recalls post-war abstraction because of the reduction of the body to pure expression, the body broken under panoptic watch, and of the individual that becomes part of industrial production.

The connection to William Kentridge seems inevitable especially in Taylor’s handling of the suited form. Kentridge animated videos use the materiality of charcoal to reference the obliterated landscape of South Africa for mining, which references the colonized body. In Kentridge’s work, human figures become landscapes only for the landscape to be erased and blotted out by the figure. There is a shiftless, transcendental character that Taylor’s work shares with Kentridge’s particularly the bannered work most recently completed (2009-11). However, Taylor’s reference is not the black body under colonial or post-colonial Africa but the black body in America. In the sculpture installation Black Flower, on view in the main space, the exhibition write-up explains that the title references African-American painter, trumpeter, and jazz poet Ted Joans who aspired to incite revolution through a manifesto written in 1968. One can see the impact of beat poetry and soul music in the kinetic movements of banners in the project space.

Fraser Taylor, Scalloway, Silk-screen on canvas, 2015 Courtesy of Threewalls.

Fraser Taylor, Scalloway, Silk-screen on canvas, 2015 Courtesy of Threewalls.

The remainder of Taylor’s work is comprised of three large square paintings all featuring a singular large inky mass. This inky mass appears to first be a negative field but shifts to become a birds eye view of a head. In one painting Peculiarities no6, there are several collaged images on the black surface. One image is a line drawing of phalluses, the other a print out of a neck, and another a pinky red color blotch. While the main bodily organ running through the show is the phallus, with some of the sculptures resembling Yayoi Kusama’s white, sterile penile sculptures, the paintings’ negativity suggests theoretical feminine or queer space. In this, I call upon second-wave feminist theory presented by Kristeva expressing how while the space of the feminine is the space of negativity it is also the space of the new. Furthering these theories, third wave feminist author Griselda Pollock describes how the space of the feminine is a radical space for encounter and con-division. Fraser’s work seems to embody a post-colonial third-space between the feminine and the queer that shifts between forms, genders, identities, and landscapes delivering the gazer somewhere inside this void-space of creation.

Fraser Taylor’s Orchard/Dirge is on view until May 23rd, 2015.

 

 

 

Top 5 Weekend Picks! (4/24-4/26)

April 23, 2015 · Print This Article

1. VERSIONFEST 2015: 100 Watts

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The 15th annual Versionfest, held throughout Bridgeport and debuting Lumpen Radio.

VERSIONFEST takes place at various locations throughout Bridgeport and events range in price from free to $85. Versionfest runs from 4/23-5/3.

2. The Mayor at The Hills Esthetic Center

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Work by Marcel Alcala.

The Hills Esthetic Center is located at 128 N. Campbell St. Reception is Saturday, 7pm.

3. Double Dialogues at DfbrL8r

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Presenting work by Manuel Vason, in collaboration with Guillermo Gomex-Pena, Heather Cassils, Jamie McMurry, Keijaun Thomas, Linda Montano, Marilyn Arsem, Mat Fraser and Zachery Drucker.

DfbrL8r is located at 1463 W. Chicago Ave. Performance and discussion Saturday, 8-11pm.

4. When Are We? at Comfort Station

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A happening by Heinze Flores (Alejandro Jimenez Flores and Paul Philipp Heinze)

Comfort Station is located at 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Happening Friday, 8:30-10:30pm.

5. Kal Pani at THE MISSION

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Work by Maya Mackrandilal.

THE MISSION is located at 1431 W. Chicago Ave. Closing reception Friday, 6-8pm.