Top ten lists are a staple around this time of year. What they lack in shades of grey they make up for with enthusiasm. I could read them all day. My favorite top tens come from trusted sources, so when I cracked this month’s Artforum I went straight to Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh’s list of his 2011 top ten moments in music. Mothersbaugh avoids listing albums only. On his list, he includes a weird message on an answering machine cassette found in a Palm Springs thrift store as well as a cover band he saw play in a Tijuana restaurant. What really surprised me was his number five: the self-released album Bone Up from the Orlando-based electronic duo Yip-Yip. As Mothersbaugh says, “I’m a million years old, and I’ve heard a lot of music, but I’m always happy to be pleasantly surprised. Yip-Yip did that for me.”
Yip-Yip had already been performing live for a year when I moved to Orlando from my hometown in 2003. In the absence of a local artist-run gallery circuit like Chicago’s, live music filled the city’s niche for experimental culture. Playing in mutant black-and-white costumes behind pyramids of synthesizers, Yip-Yip was the closest thing to contemporary art I laid my eyes on in Orlando. They introduced me to the possibility that experimentation derived from the character of and in constant conversation with a specific place might breed something fantastic.
Yip-Yip, Live in Orlando, September 2011.
As media decentralizes, kingmakers like Artforum are no longer primary fountains of validation. That the magazine’s globalized gaze had turned to a commited local group like Yip-Yip was not what surprised and impressed me about Mothersbaugh’s top ten. Here’s what really knocked my socks off: Yip-Yip are always have been massive Devo fans. In a place like Central Florida, without widespread institutional support for things like experimental music, a pop group like Devo might be the only model to work from. Seeing one of Yip-Yip’s idols list them among his favorite things about music this year renews my faith in the stalwarts of local culture. Like Mothersbaugh, I’m pleasantly surprised.
This months edition of Artforum’s 500 words comes from performance artist Kalup Linzy. The write up is totally worth checking out. I just spent the past hour or so watching Linzy’s videos on Youtube, really entertaining.
“I SHOT TWO MUSIC VIDEOS FOR PROENZA SCHOULER, basically responding to the clothes, and we’re doing a photo shoot. This is my first time working with high fashion. I’ve been researching photographs and looking at models; it’s all pretty edgy, so I don’t think the relationship between my work and Proenza Schouler is as distant as I originally thought. I’ve seen some pretty wild, risqué stuff in fashion photography. Now the question is: How can my work flow and meld into that?
I wasn’t planning to shoot as many videos as I shot for my first album, SweetBerry Sonnet. I was more interested in developing a live performance, but when Proenza Schouler came to me and asked me if I wanted to collaborate, the idea for the videos just came to me.”
Read the entire article here.
Someone alerted me to this photo they saw of me in the gossip column of ArtForum (better known as “Scene and Herd”) and I thought I would use it to illustrate the magic of cropping:
There I am standing in front of that photograph at the opening of Walead Beshty’s show at Wallspace just on the other side of that wall that cuts into the left of the picture…
Psych, actually I’m standing behind that other more important looking guy (happens to be the Director of White Columns) at the edge of the photograph.
I found this mildly entertaining in the context of conceptual photography, a popular brand in which Beshty always has one foot. This show where I happened to be “scene” follows two veins of Beshty’s work, although I imagine they are meant to be taken together as a record of the process. The first is the prominently featured abstract photograms. These large sheets of color photo paper are somehow folded or rolled in the exposure process. This is only gleaned from looking at them, so I’m not sure what the process is actually, but it seems sufficient to take away that these colors and shapes are not chosen but rather arbitrarily arrived at through a photographic process. In the other works — black and white portraits of the people, places, and machines that have helped Besthy along the way to producing his work — he likewise lets his process do all the decision making. Notice here the photogram that actually hangs off of the center wall.
This placement was arrived at again by some system of finding the center of walls… I don’t think the point is actually to understand the system in place, but rather to see that there is a system, and recognize it as arbitrarily imposed… After all I think that is the underlying critique even found in this rhyming press release:
Whatever Marxist schadenfreude might be gleaned from black-and-white
Effectively reclaims the found object as a multivalent political site
Of the show’s relaxed attitude toward lines of demarcation
which, sexy as it sounded, felt like little more than rhetorical lubrication
Among the most special is Walead Beshty’s photo-slide meditation
Here flashy surface need not come at the cost of art historical, conceptual, and
After my brush with the art world paparazzi I’ve decided to lay low, but I will be venturing out tonight to see two openings that look promising. First, “It’s You. Not me” at Andrew Kreps in Chelsea. Second, and honestly more exciting, is the first solo show in four years for the painter Richard Phillips at Gagosian uptown. I’ll leave you with some enticing words from Phillips himself and follow up later with my conclusions on the show:
“At its core, this show is the conflict between capitalism, fascism, and communism. It looks into the nature of representation, propaganda, and misinformation, and how they redirect the ideologies of institutions.”
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 peice 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 alot 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 Cookoo 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 alot 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 crituque 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 worlds best sadly.
Richard, Duncan and Amanda venture off to the lovely home of James Yood, critic of Artforum, and professor at SAIC. We talk about the raw humorless power of the Chicago art scene and reminice about days gone by…..oh boy. Houston checks in!