Revealed is the fourth in a series of exhibitions at Norman and Norah Stones' Stonescape, their property in California's Napa Valley. In keeping with each of the previous installations, artworks presented hail from their personal collection.
Revealed takes the theme of portraiture as its point of departure, although few of the artworks included might be considered purely representational or would qualify as portraits in the more traditional sense. Rather, the intention of the exhibition is to broaden the thematic approach, thereby unveiling the identity of the artist (their personality, beliefs, ideologies, interests, desires, hopes and insecurities) through his or her practice, illuminating conditions that are more universal in nature. All the works that have been assembled, whether generated from within or without, speak to more expansive discourses, such as beliefs about community, artistic vision, celebrity, mythology of the artist, legacy, gender, sexual identity and the body.
The act of revealing suggests a moment of clarity or epiphany when the meaning is exposed, often through the peeling back of layers. Much of the significance of a work, or our understanding of the artist and his or her practice, evolves over time. This progression is due in part to the dialogue that occurs among various artworks in the Stones' collection, works that transcend both time and place. Historical contributions from artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol are seen from a new perspective, gained through an exchange with a younger generation of artists who acknowledge and respond to their predecessors, but then proceed in establishing their own voice or singular vision.
A further broadening of the theme Revealed also extends to the individuals who have collected the artworks assembled, as they tell us much about the Stones themselves. The Stones' enthusiasm for social causes is evident, as is their fascination with the human psyche. Their appreciation for all walks of humankind, as well as their curiosity for contemporary culture, is reflected in the diversity of subjects addressed and explored by the works of art in their collection. Theirs is simultaneously a broad and nuanced vision that offers a profound yet joyous reflection on our society at large, and the great potential of a global community in which an individual's idea, as seen through the many portraits in Revealed, can be embraced and even effect change throughout the world.
At first glance, Anne Collier's photographs appear rather straightforward in nature, presenting re-photographed images of album covers, posters, books and magazines (culled during thrift store visits and excursions on eBay) while mimicking the techniques and the pared down aesthetic of advertising. Using simple lighting and plain backdrops to document these objects, Collier has likened her process to one of creating a still life, rather than mere appropriation.
In an interview with Bob Nickas published in Anne Collier, the catalogue that accompanied her exhibition at The Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver, Collier described her interest in exploring the balance "between the work's conceptual or forensic aesthetics and its more informal, psychological or emotive content."1 It is this equilibrium between the architecture, or the construction of the photograph, and Collier's unique ability to invest her photographs with a sensitivity — a seemingly auto-biographical melancholy — while allowing room for the viewer to engage in the histories of the reproduced objects, that characterizes her work. It is also perhaps what prompted Collier to describe her photographs as "deflected portraiture."
Eye (Enlargement of Color Negative) (2007), which opens the Stonescape exhibition, represents one of Collier's recurring motifs, and is particularly apropos given the old adage that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Art historically, the eye and the camera have long been linked, a result of their comparable mechanics. But in Collier's work the metaphor has been extended to that of artistic or authorial vision on the part of women (see her ongoing series of photographs titled Woman with a Camera) as well as the examination of conventional representations of the female form.
In Folded Madonna Poster (Steven Meisel) (2007), an image of Meisel's photograph of Madonna subsequently made into a folded poster, the platinum-blonde pop singer is captured in bed, naked, with a cigarette hanging from her lips. Meisel's photograph, which was taken around the same time as the erotic images featured in her infamous book, Sex, reflects Madonna's exploration of her own sexuality and sexual taboos of the time. Madonna simultaneously owns her own image while at the same time she alludes to another sexual icon, Marilyn Monroe. Through Collier's photograph, we connect with the pop star, the movie star and the artist, bringing to bear our own histories and personal associations.
The Stones began collecting art in the 1980s with Pictures Generation artists such as Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Sherrie Levine, as well as other then-emerging artists such as Jeff Koons and Robert Gober. Concurrent to these activities, they also sought to ground their collection in historical antecedents by acquiring the works of artists including Andy Warhol, Hans Bellmer, and perhaps most critically, Marcel Duchamp. The Stones' collection contains important examples by Duchamp including Boîte Alerte (1959-60); a photograph of the plaster cast for the "Étant donné" (1946-48); a set of three "erotic objects," Dart-Object (1951/62), Wedge of Chastity (1954/62), and the Female Fig Leaf (1950/51); Monte Carlo Bond (1924 – 1941); and a version of L.H.O.O.Q. (1940), among other works.
Throughout his career, Duchamp investigated issues of identity and self-representation, the most well-known example being his alter ego, Rrose Sélavy. Based on a photograph of the artist taken by Man Ray in 1930, Self-Portrait in Profile (1959) was originally made for the deluxe edition of Robert Lebel's 1959 monograph, Sur Marcel Duchamp. However, to help defray the cost of the book launch at La Hune Bookshop in Paris, Duchamp authorized the reproduction of a poster version of the self-portrait, forty examples of which he signed. The signed version, one edition of which is included in this exhibition, omitted the heading "MARCEL DUCHAMP" which appeared in alternating red and blue letters on the poster. The text at the lower right "Marcel déchira vit" or "Marcel tore this quickly" refers to the method by which the deluxe edition version from Lebel's book was created: a zinc template of Duchamp's profile was placed atop squares of origami paper with the artist then tearing the paper around the template.
Ryan Gander works in a variety of media chosen to suit the context and content of the work — from lectures, to photography, sculptures, installations, performances, works on paper, and public projects. What links these disparate methods is a string of narratives or associations that Gander weaves, uniting reality and fiction, often asking the viewer to supply their own connections.
The whole world rises up, 1977, by Spencer Anthony was originally included in Gander's "Locked Room Scenario," a project which proposed to exhibit "Field of Meaning," a show featuring the works of an under-recognized school of conceptual artists active during the 1970s. This group, known as the Blue Conceptualists, included artists such as Santo Sterne, Aston Ernest and the aforementioned Spencer Anthony, but in reality it was all an elaborate fabrication.
Upon arriving, visitors found that they were unable to fully access the exhibition, but by exploring the site — stooping down, standing on tiptoes — they might be able to catch tantalizing glimpses of the artworks included. Like Gander's series of "Alchemy Boxes" or his "Associative Templates," the viewer is left to imagine that which cannot be seen. In an interview available on the Tate website, Gander states, "The interesting thing about inaccessibility is that it is frequently more intriguing than the actuality of accessing the space. When you are given something on a silver plate you often disregard it, but if you find something on the floor and you put it in your pocket… you value it a great deal more than if you were given something."
This photograph by "Spencer Anthony" is a self-consciously artistic portrayal of a female nude. The phrase, "I want to think seriously about what I can accomplish with what is left of my life," has been painted in red across the bottom. The statement can be seen as perverse given that Anthony's life is a complete fiction, existing in the imagination of Gander and the viewer. But it is also a poignant statement by an artist (Gander) who might be considering his art historical legacy. Gander's work subverts the audience's expectation that an artwork divulge some fundamental truth about its subject or its creator, suggesting that identity is transitory and left largely to our imagination.
In an interview published in Art in America, Theaster Gates states, "I like to let things emerge. Dorchester — the architecture, the programs, the people — is something that emerges from a belief that beautiful things can happen anywhere." Indeed, with Dorchester Project, named for the street on Chicago's South Side, Gates has spent the last few years buying abandoned homes, gutting and rehabbing them and opening them up for public use. One such building now houses the University of Chicago's old glass lantern slide collection from the art history department, and another building will be dedicated to film programming. Materials generated from the rehabilitation process are then made into artwork and sold, with the proceeds further funding neighborhood projects. Dorchester Project is a place in which the community and beyond can come together, but it offers up more than just a site for discussion.
One of Gates' objectives with the Dorchester Project is to provide employment opportunities for local residents. Gates envisioned a Soul Food Kitchen as a component of the project, where they could learn how to cook, run a restaurant and make the ceramic bowls, plates and cups used by diners.
Gates, who has described himself as a potter, sought to answer the question, "What is 'soul food' where?" As part of the discussion, Gates hosts 'Soul Food Dinners' where a small, but diverse group of people are invited to share food, lively conversation and ideas. Soul Food Starter Kit for 10 (2012) was produced in collaboration with Japanese ceramicists and used for these dinners. In an interview related to the Smart Museum's exhibition, Feast, Gates says that the starter kits "allow people to ask questions about the relationship between objects and ritual, between acts of generosity and the history of that generosity via food."
Listening Station (2011), included in Theaster Gates: The Listening Room at Seattle Art Museum, was fabricated from reclaimed material, including a church pew, and functioned as a DJ booth for the duration of the exhibition. The installation at the museum also incorporated records from the now defunct Dr Wax record store in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Just as the record store was a locus of exchange for the residents of Hyde Park, the installation at the museum offered an opportunity for visitors to browse albums, listen and discuss. Throughout history, and in particular for the Civil Rights movement, music has played a powerful role in political protest and the sharing of culture, and providing access to the albums is a means of keeping cultural memory alive. For Gates there is potency in the albums: "They carry really important political and social implications. … Nina Simone. 'I'm Feeling Good.' She has a way of just making the hardship of everyday black America something worth celebrating and something worth kind of overcoming."
Perhaps a more overt reference to the Civil Rights Movement can be see in three other works installed here. In the Event of Race Riot (Green, Wood, Tile) and Civil Tapestry 3, were both made in 2011 from decommissioned fire hoses that had been used against civil rights activists in the 1960s. Panther (2011), made from a found object encased in Gates' patented black concrete, can be seen as a reference to the Black Panthers, initially a political movement, but also an organization with social concerns that included poverty, housing, education and health. Through his various works, projects, installations and performances, Gates not only seeks to illuminate the past, but also to shape the future.
Gilbert and George met in 1967 at St. Martins School of Art in London, a time when conceptual art was the prevailing art practice. George recalls, "They were all doing this minimalist stuff — it was all about weight, shape, color. Real life didn't come into it." Frustrated at the rarefied and elitist attitudes that prevailed, the pair sought to return art to the real world. Dropping their surnames, Gilbert & George became "living sculptures" in which almost every aspect of their existence, from eating to dressing to their public comportment, became part of the performance. Their motto: "Art for All."
Gilbert & George are best known for their large-scale multi-panel photo pieces. What is common to all of their work is taboo imagery and incendiary text that opens up discussions about sexuality, identity, politics, religion, and class, an approach evident in Henry Ainley, A Post-Card Sculpture. The duo began making postcard sculptures in 1972, first exhibiting them at Situation Gallery in London. The postcards, sourced from antique and junk shops, were consciously chosen for their nostalgic and antiquated imagery. Gilbert & George have continued the postcard series into the present day, calling them the "Urethra" postcard pieces, comprised of images such as the Union Jack or Big Ben, more readily found in contemporary souvenir shops.
Henry Ainley, A Post-card Sculpture (1980) includes sixteen images of the Shakespearean stage and screen actor whose name provides the title of the work. Ainley (1879 – 1945), who is depicted in both modern and stage dress, appeared in the 1936 film "As You Like It" which featured Laurence Olivier as Orlando. It has long been rumored that Olivier, who was married for a time to actress Vivien Leigh, had an affair with Ainley. Olivier's biographer, Terry Coleman, was given unprecedented access to his papers and writes that a number of letters from Ainley are "explicitly homosexual" in content and point to a sexual relationship, a suggestion that has been rebuffed by one of the actor's sons. In this postcard sculpture, Gilbert & George employ imagery of Ainley in turn-of-the-century clothing and Shakespearean costume, suggesting the existence of homosexuality in what is often considered a heteronormative past.
Richard Hamilton was a member of Independent Group (1952 – 1955), a band of artists, architects, writers and critics living in London who explored popular culture and were known for their use of found objects. In this way, Hamilton's work foreshadowed Pop Art, with some claiming him to be among the first proponents of the movement. His influences stemmed from mass media sources, such as contemporary advertising, and extended to high culture, exemplified by his lifelong interest in the artist Marcel Duchamp.
The Independent Group met at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London, and it was there that Hamilton met Roland Penrose, a co-founder of the institution. Penrose introduced him to Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, published in 1934 by Rrose Sélavy, Duchamp's alter ego. The box contained Duchamp's notes related to the making of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, also known as The Large Glass, which is generally thought to represent unfulfilled, erotic desire between the "Bride" on the top plate of glass and nine Malic Molds, or the "Bachelors," on the lower plate.
Hamilton first set about diagramming a set of notes from the box translated by the academic George Heard Hamilton (no relation). The notes were sent to Duchamp, who encouraged the two Hamiltons to continue their study of the box, which eventually resulted in the publication of Richard Hamilton's typographical version in 1960. The typographical version made use of a variety of fonts and other markers in order to more accurately represent Duchamp's notes. Hamilton had further occasion to study Duchamp's masterpiece when, in 1966, he was charged with making a copy of The Large Glass for the Tate's retrospective, the original being too fragile to travel.
Typo / Topography of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass (2001-2003) can be seen as a combination of Hamilton's efforts in 1960 and 1966 to comprehend Duchamp's intentions. In this version, a scale diagram of The Large Glass is reproduced with the original typographic notes made by Hamilton in 1960. The Large Glass is widely considered Duchamp's masterwork, his magnus opus describing the inner workings of the human body as a machine-like assemblage, where desire between the sexes will continually and forever be frustrated. Typo / Topography is a record of Hamilton's tenacity and his dedication to Duchamp's very complex explication of the human subject. If the Green Box is, as the scholar David Joselit has described it, Duchamp's own "cognitive process," then Typo / Topography is the road map by which Hamilton further unveils the workings of Duchamp's own mind.
Gary Hill is a pioneer of video art, recognized for his artworks that explore the relationship between words and moving images. In his videos from the 1970s and early 1980s, "language" was sometimes rendered as abstract sounds, where the interplay between language and image functioned in a purely electronic sphere. For example, in Electronic Linguistic (1977), electronically-generated sounds are pegged to abstract, pixelated digital imagery. Three years later, in Around and About (1980) the language in the video is more typically narrative while the imagery is representational (a wall, jackets hung on a door). The video has been edited to match the syllabic pace of the text. Hill explains, "The speech was 'automating' the event, making whatever happened happen, at times drawing the viewer of the screen to the hypothetical space outside the box."
Returning to virtual or electronic space, Hill's single-channel video, Conundrum (1995−98), is screened across six monitors, giving it the appearance of a multi-channel piece. The video presents the prone artist, who seems to move across the screen in staccato pulses. Hill appears to be constricted in the shallow depth of the television monitors, struggling in an attempt to rise off the floor.
Hill has employed a simple mathematical system, generating an image that suggests movement. The body is visually dissected by the metal armature of the monitors in what Hill describes as "an exquisite corpse of time,"24 creating a thoroughly alienating and ghostly self-portrait. Conundrum coincides with the early stages of the internet, a time in which electronic space transitioned into the complicated terrain of virtual space. It could be argued that Hill's video is a precursor to contemporary investigations into technology, the internet and identity, and is a fascinating contribution to the discussion of the body in a time when we are pushed further into digital or simulated territory.
Alongside artistic giants such as Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, Martin Kippenberger is widely considered one of the most important post-war German artists. Kippenberger spent the late 1970s and early 1980s immersed in Berlin and Cologne's avant-garde art scene. Not just a painter, he started a punk band and opened an alternative art space called Kippenberger's Office where he curated exhibitions of his work and that of his friends. He was a prolific and wide ranging art-maker and his works took shape in the form of sculpture, installations, collages, and drawings on hotel stationery.
In few other artists, perhaps with the exception of Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys or Jackson Pollock, is a mythology or persona so intertwined with an art practice. Kippenberger was larger-than-life, gregarious, and a legendary drinker who died young (at the age of 44) from liver cancer. Much of his work was autobiographical in nature, un-idealized, poignant and often humorous, as Kippenberger sought to address the myth of the artist as creative genius. By way of example, Kippenberger made a series of paintings in which he depicts himself in underwear pulled high on his stomach — a riff on a famous photograph of Picasso. In this series, Kippenberger counters the virile image of Picasso, portraying himself in an unflatteringly light as fleshy and ageing. In another body of work that can be seen as autobiographical, the artist anthropomorphizes street lamps, making them appear unsteady, swaying in their inebriation.
Fred the Frog Rings the Bell (1990), a sculpture of a cockeyed amphibian holding a beer stein, is yet another double for Kippenberger. Fred is shown "hammered," crucified to a cross resembling painting stretchers — an artist suffering for his art as well as his predilections. As an aside, even after his death, Kippenberger's work continues to provoke: the exhibition at Museion in Bolzano, Italy of a related work called Feet First, again featuring Fred the Frog this time painted green, prompted a denunciation by Pope Benedict XVI and a politician's hunger strike in opposition to the sculpture.
Leigh Ledare's photographs are often described as "difficult" or "complex," though this might be an understatement considering that his work runs the gamut of contemporary issues, such as constructions of identity, sexuality, desire, intimacy, vulnerability, and societal taboos. Ledare most frequently focuses his lens on his own family, in particular, his mother, Tina Peterson. Peterson was a beautiful young woman who was featured in Seventeen Magazine and was a member of the New York City Ballet Company and the Joffrey Ballet. After her career ended, Peterson turned to stripping and took out advertisements that solicited herself as a companion to rich men. In Ledare's photographs, the once demure ballerina is now an ageing woman whose sexuality, and her overt expression of it, is offered for public display.
Pretend You're Actually Alive (2008) is a photograph from the deluxe edition of Ledare's artist book of the same name published in 2008. The book contains Ledare's diary entries, ephemera and photographs of his mother. As part of the deluxe edition, Ledare invited those who acquired the work to collaborate with him on a photo shoot in which the collectors were asked to direct the process, thereby involving them in the creation of Ledare's identity. The photograph included in this exhibition was taken in the Stones' San Francisco residence. Ledare sits, legs crossed, in a banquette beside Monte Carlo Bond by Marcel Duchamp.
An image of Ledare's mother, on a bed with legs spread, is the foundation for the artwork Grace (2013), an ongoing series of unique photographs. For the series, Ledare gave a photograph and crayons to a friend's toddler and allowed the child to draw on the surface. The child's age and developmental stage is significant: unlike an adult or an adolescent, the child brings no associations to the project; her scribbles emanate from Peterson's eyes and run amok across the floral bedspread, almost completely ignoring the genitalia. Grace is a portrait of both Ledare's mother and of the child who modifies the photograph, and perhaps it also highlights our own unease as we confront perceptions of what familial relationships and sexual boundaries ought to be.
Aubrey Mayer is a self-taught photographer and painter as well as a producer of 'zines, self-published texts intended for small-scale circulation and produced using basic printing techniques such as photocopying. Over the past few years, Mayer has devoted his energy to photographing artists primarily in their studios, but also in the artists' homes or in Mayer's own apartment. Through his photographs, Mayer captures the sheer physical energy of art-making, but also finds moments of introspection, both of which are necessary for the act of creation.
Brillo V 69 (2013) incorporates and expands upon Mayer's vast archive of photographs including portraits of Christopher Wool, Charline von Heyl, Jacqueline Humphries, Laura Owens, Larry Clark, Emily Sundblad and Elizabeth Peyton, among many others. Mayer is not content with printing and presenting contact sheets, simple documentation of the photographic session; rather, each bears the trace of his own manic manipulations, both analog and digital. Patterns in the print are created using computer technology and the photographic imagery is sometimes completely effaced by paint, pastel or graphite that Mayer applies by hand. These prints are not precious. Instead, Mayer revels in the tactile quality of the paper and the paint, demanding the viewer's attention and handling. Mayer's interventions serve to activate the artist portraits, multiplying the creative energy by adding his own.
For the opening of Revealed, Brillo V 69 is exhibited as a performance in which a woman presents the contents of Mayer's box of portraits to the audience. The title of the work is a reference to Andy Warhol's iconic Brillo Boxes, sculptures that collapsed the space between commercial products and high art, effectively signaling the onset of Pop Art. In Mayer's performance, the model showcases the portraits of the artists and the box as if it were merchandise, highlighting the market's desire for the artistic gesture to be tied to an artist's identity.
Henrik Olesen explores identity and sexuality from a variety of perspectives: from art historical imagery and methodology, to scientific theory, as well as the histories of legal codes, politics and technological development. Olesen's practice takes the form of texts, assemblages (or de-assemblages as the case may be), archival boards, posters, sculptures, and less frequently, painting.
The works "The Beginning of the World" and "I don't believe in Father, in Mother," both from 2010, are part of Olesen's continued exploration of homosexuality and its representation in art historical sources, a subject that he mined in an exhibition at the Migros Museum (Zürich) in 2007. In relation to this line of thinking, the figures Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) and Aby Warburg (1866-1929) were of particular inspiration to Olesen. The former was a sexologist who attempted to de-criminalize homosexuality in Germany and who argued against a simplistic notion of sexual identity, believing that it existed along a spectrum. The latter, Warburg, was an art historian who specialized in the Classical period through the Renaissance and is credited with introducing iconography as a methodology. He also conceived of what is now known as the Mnemosyne Archive, a series of panels to which an evolving archive of visual imagery, both art historical and from mass media sources, was pinned and arranged into categories or relationships devised by Warburg.
Olesen applies Warburg's methods to the visual history of homosexuality and the history of its criminalization. "The Beginning of the World" includes text such as "Orpheus the First Sodomite 1484" and "Feminine Men 1236;" sub-categories such as "Monsters of the World" and "Violence;" images of the Tetrarchs, scenes from the crucifixion of Christ, and art historical etchings, among others. "I don't believe in Father, in Mother," details the art historical progression from a feminized male child to adult males bathing, swooning and kissing other men.
"I Am, Sir, Your Obedient Servant," (2011) continues Olesen's investigation of sexuality and introduces the idea of the body as a machine. The work is a reference to Alan Turing (1912 – 1954), a World War II code-breaker who was instrumental in solving the Nazi's Enigma code, effectively shortening the war by an estimated two years. Turing is also credited as being the father of modern computing and for predicting artificial intelligence. Tragically, when Turing's homosexuality was discovered, he was offered the choice of incarceration (homosexual acts being illegal in England at the time) or sexual castration. He chose the latter and eventually committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide. In an interview with Mousse magazine, Olesen explains his interest in Turing as both symbolic of the sexual limitations of the day, and pointing the way to a post-human future. "In 1936, he [Turing] published a theoretical model of a machine that was to constitute the basis of all post-war computing, making him the father of all modern computer science. And this part of his biography is a futuristic tale about thinking machines, artificial intelligence and the appearance of possible future bodies. And to me, this is a long-needed escape from biological, heterosexual reproduction."
Portrait of Scott / PowerBook G4 and Portrait of Kirsten / Canon PIXMA iP4200, both dated 2011, expand upon Turing's notion of artificial intelligence or the thinking machine. Here, the "bodies" of Scott and Kirsten are revealed via their computer and printer, dissected so that each organ or mechanism, a record of memory and past operations, is individually displayed. The art critic Jan Verwoert links Olesen's exploration of Turing via these portraits saying, "Turing begins to embody an unfulfilled promise: that of a man who sires machines instead of becoming a biological father; and then, in the interplay of zeros and ones, these machines multiply over and over, forming the conglomerations of partial bodies laid out by Olesen in his de-assemblages."
Josephine Pryde works primarily in photography, but also in various media including drawing, sculpture and installation. Her photographic work is defined by its experimental nature, inspired both visually and technically by a variety of sources such as fashion and advertising, portraiture, the natural sciences and early 20th-century modernism; and employs an arsenal of techniques such as solarization, double exposure, and color filtration. Her subject matter has ranged from the beautiful (Issey Miyake clothing) to the banal (babies and animals), but in each instance Pryde peels away the layers of visual culture to offer a shrewd social critique and, at times, a window on her own psyche.
The photographs on display are from Pryde's Scale series, comprised of 36 images of guinea pigs photographed on site at the Kunstverein für die Rheinland und Westfalen prior to her retrospective there. The photographs are, essentially, portraits of the guinea pigs, each individualized through props: decorative materials such as iridescent wrapping and ribbon, bubbles, shoestrings, and mens' ties. Pryde uses the props as well as the recognized language of portrait photography, such as the three-quarter or frontal view, in a way that reminds one of the "Glamour Shot" phenomena, the kitschy photographic studios that could be found in malls across America in the 1990s.
In Artforum Tom Holert remarks on the history of artists like Jeff Koons and Mike Kelley who have explored the abjection of the "cute." In reference to Pryde's Scale series he writes, "Here, however — in the realm of contemporary art, that is — a carload of guinea-pig pictures runs against the grain of serious art practice and seemingly counter to any aspirations of criticality. So, 'Scale' must be considered provocative, even ridiculous."
Eleganz (Downward Dog) (2007), is from a group of sculptures that Pryde first exhibited at Galerie Neu in Berlin. Each work was made of a different color Plexiglas on which metal chains outlined the shape of yoga poses: Warrior I, Warrior II, and Dancing Shiva among them. In addition to the rather minimalistic and industrial appearance of the works, there is also a sly comment on our digestion of a yogic movement made fashionable by models, celebrities, and New Age culture. In Pryde's yoga sculptures, the figures have been rendered in chains suggesting something altogether more oppressive.
Simon Starling's artworks create a web of references to the history of science, economics, design, and architecture. Their physical form might take the guise of functional objects (for example a series of lamps based upon Poul Henningsen's design), or as sculpture, photography, film, or an installation. In some cases, the work can even be a performative gesture through which an object or idea evolves or is transformed. In works like 24 hr. Tanzenziale (2006), included in this exhibition, the performative process is unveiled through a documentary-like presentation.
24 hr. Tangenziale takes its inspiration from Italian artist Carlo Mollino (1905 – 1973) and the Bisiluro Damolnar he designed in the hopes of winning the 1955 Le Mans, a 24-hour car race. Parenthetically, the Bisiluro (meaning "twin torpedo") was asymmetrical, featuring a 750cc engine mounted to the left side of the car in order to counter the weight of the driver. Purportedly, it reached speeds of 136 miles per hour and, with an aerodynamic, molded radiator, it weighed in at approximately 990 pounds. It was so light that during the Le Mans race, the car was blown off the track by a passing Jaguar.
Mollino was prolific and his interests included photography, furniture design, architecture and technology, and in particular cars and airplanes. In the catalogue, Simon Starling [24 hr. Tangenziale], the artist explains his fascination with Mollino, saying that he "very consciously orchestrated his own history as it was unfolding through photography, writing, books, etc. The car seems an integral part of everything he was involved in. One of the fascinating things about his work is that while it is very eclectic it is also somehow seamless." In sum, the car stands in as a portrait of Mollino's interests, desires and working methodology. The process of documentation, so integral to Mollino, is paralleled by Starling's own practice. For instance, 24 hr. Tangenziale examines not only Mollino's Bisiluro design and the racing of the car, but also Starling's documentation of his own exploration and re-enactment.
The components of 24 hr. Tangenziale are a series of vitrines containing documentation of Mollino's Bisiluro and Starling's attempt to re-create the radiator of the car and subsequently, over a 24-hour period, drive a FIAT outfitted with the reproduction. 24 hr. Tangenziale might appear purely analytical, but Starling's installation is an intimate portrait of two artists from different eras whose methodologies and concerns are amplified by their convergence.
Revealed is the second Stonescape exhibition to include untitled 2011 (police the police) (2011). It is an installation that evolved out of an ongoing series of "Demonstration" drawings, works that were sourced from photographs of demonstrations or protests published in the International Herald Tribune. The Stones commissioned Tiravanija, who formulated an installation based upon the history of the San Francisco / Bay area, a region which has a long tradition of political activism and engagement.
The installation is meant to develop over a period of time. Art students from Thailand and San Francisco initially spent two weeks reproducing images on the walls of the art cave on fresh ground, as well as layering image over image. Per the intention of the artist, over the past two years, the students have come back periodically to add further demonstration drawings to the wall, obscuring some of the original drawings and making other areas illegible. The process is intended to continue until the wall's surface is completely black.
Tiravanija is most often associated with "Relational Aesthetics," a term branded by the theorist Nicolas Bourriaud to describe a type of art that functions as a site for discussion and exchange. Here, collaboration between artist and viewer is essential and Tiravanija's piece, police the police, is emblematic of this approach. The artist who conceives of and directs the work, the students who generate the work, the audience who views the work, even the historical facts of the protests that inspire the work, are all implicated in the meaning of this piece, bringing to light different perspectives on political and social concerns while reaffirming the power of both an individual as well as a communal voice.
Turner Prize-winner, Keith Tyson, is a multimedia artist, working in sculpture, painting, video, installation, and as can be seen here, works on paper. Regardless of media, Tyson employs mathematics, the sciences, generative systems and chance to illustrate the interconnectedness of the universe.
Tyson's "Studio Wall Drawings" (SWDs), were originally used like sketchbooks for working out ideas and are notable for their sense of immediacy. In an interview with curator Beatrix Ruf, Tyson describes the SWDs as such: "Singularly they are very specific and often hermetic works, but when they are arranged together as a group they form a kind of non-linear journal, all these interconnecting lines of energy presented in a plane." He continues to describe how he breaks the works into three different veins: as a creative process for his other work; as evidence of his psychic state; and as a record of happenings or world events.
Each SWD measures 62-1/4 × 49-5/8 inches, dimensions that could be accommodated on the wall of Tyson's old studio. They can be installed individually, or in large groups, abutting each other, or as in the case of a few works including the example here, as a single, multi-panel work with text and /or pictorial elements that extend from one panel to the next. The panels that comprise A Broken Back and Morphine to Split the Symphony of the Self… are dated between July and December of 2003, though the piece is not installed chronologically, allowing for an experience that is more associative. Tyson explains, "We don't go down the street chronologically, we have associations from 1979, followed by 2006, followed by today. It's a big mishmash of stuff and I think that the meaning of the drawings comes from experiencing a big mishmash of them."
In the case of A Broken Back…, textual and visual references abound; including the wallpaper in Tyson's grandmother's home; the Egyptian god, Anubis, attending to a mummy; a city nightscape against which we see a man diving or falling; and a map or web representing happiness, including phrases such as "sexual guilt" and "fear of abandonment." Through this group of SWDs, we sense the vulnerability and the dark emotional depths of the artist, as well as his potential for inspired and dazzling thought.
Danh Vō's work bridges past and present and cannot be extricated from his personal history or the colonial and military history of southeast Asia. As a young boy, Vō and his family left war-torn Vietnam on a boat hand-made by his father. They were picked up by a European cargo ship and taken to Denmark where the family was given assistance by the local Christian community. The history of religious colonialism plays no small part in Vō's work, in particular the history of the European missionaries who came to Vietnam to proselytize and were often tortured and martyred for their efforts.
Vō's practice, rather than being restricted to a reading based upon his personal history, is rich with suggestion and expansive in nature. In an interview with Mousse magazine, Vō states: "I don't really believe in my own story, not as a singular thing anyway. It weaves in and out of other people's private stories of local history and geopolitical history. I see myself, like any other person, as a container that has inherited these infinite traces of history, without inheriting any direction."
There is a deep sense of loss of home and identity that pervades Vō's practice. As a result, he is an inveterate collector, often incorporating in his installations found items from his travels, personal effects, as well as artworks by other artists (or another artist's collection of ephemera, as was the case with his recent show at the Guggenheim in New York, which could be described as a portrait of Martin Wong). Perhaps this act of curating objects serves as a means of locating himself in this world, which by extension, helps us to locate ourselves, reminding us of the challenges inherent to self-investigation. Holland Cotter writes, Vō's "purpose is not to nail down a culturally specific sense of self, but to suggest how diffuse and elusive a thing the self is, and should be."
FedEx (2010) is from an ongoing series of work made from humble packing materials that Vō has covered in gold leaf, a material that is used throughout southeast Asia, and is commonly found on Buddhist sculptures. The work on view is a flattened Federal Express box, but other iterations include product packaging that suggests the increasing influence of Western products: beer, Carnation instant breakfast, energy drinks. In Vō's work, an item that would be thrown away or perhaps used as a doormat in his native country is, instead, unveiled as a valuable art object through the use of a precious material. Here, the gold leaf has been applied to resemble an American flag, but one with thirteen stars, reminding us of the emancipation of the United States from colonial rule, a period before the United States became a colonial or military power in its own right. In FedEx, Vō offers a portrait of shared and divergent cultural histories, the meaning of which shifts with time.
Like Kippenberger, Andy Warhol's persona is inextricably linked to his artistic practice. Just as his "Brillo Boxes," "Campbell Soup Cans," "Coca-Cola" paintings and portraits mirrored the growing consumer and celebrity culture, the artist positioned himself as a commodity, a brand name. Warhol's carefully constructed identity extended to his pronouncements or sound bites such as "15 minutes of fame," which has been paraphrased and repeated endlessly, especially in this age of reality television.
Warhol delegated much of the production of his work to others in his Factory, in effect obscuring the hand of the artist. Warhol once said, "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it." His assumed identity and pithy comments kept others at a remove and promoted Warhol's intended superficiality.
Warhol began a series of abstractions in 1977 called the "Oxidation Paintings" in which he asked fellow artist Victor Hugo to urinate on canvases that had been primed with copper-based paint. Hugo, in turn, involved Factory assistant Ronnie Cutrone in the production of the work. Reportedly, Cutrone took Vitamin B resulting in a particularly beautiful "patina."
The pooling and splattering seen in Six Oxidation Paintings (1978) is an indexical marker or portrait of the makers, their movements, and if the Vitamin B story is accurate, a record of their daily habits. The manner of production can be seen as a witty allusion to the myth of the macho male artist, in particular to Jackson Pollock and his method of dripping and flinging paint onto the canvas. And perhaps it is not too far-fetched to point to the legendary story of Pollock drunkenly urinating in Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace during a party. With the "Oxidation Paintings," Warhol challenges the mythology surrounding Abstract Expressionism's brand of masculine mark-making, reducing the preciousness of the artistic act to one based purely on natural or animalistic bodily functions.
Ai Weiwei is arguably the most recognized Chinese artist working today. Known for his collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium (also known as the "Bird's Nest"), Ai has been the subject of countless museum exhibitions, including a large-scale installation in the Tate Modern's vast Turbine Hall; and he is outspoken on issues of human rights and governmental abuse, leading the Chinese government to incarcerate him, (though the official charge was tax evasion). He works in a multitude of media from photography to sculpture, installation, video and architecture, not to mention his curatorial pursuits and his online presence via social media.
Fairytale (2007), Ai's project for Documenta 12, is a reference to the city of Kassel, host to the exhibition, and also home to the Brothers Grimm Museum as well as an original copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales, published in 1812. For the project, Ai invited 1,001 Chinese citizens to Kassel; they arrived in groups of 200 (plus 1), each for a duration of 28 days. Ai documented the journey of the participants, from a questionnaire that he devised to the recording of the delegation at various moments in their journey, such as applying for passports, departing China and their arrival in Germany. Once in Kassel, their time was un-programmed, with each individual left to explore and experience Documenta and its environs on his or her own.
Throughout the Documenta exhibition, Ai placed 1,001 Qing Dynasty chairs, six examples of which can be seen here, to serve as both stand-ins for each of the Chinese participants as well as sites for discussion and reflection — a place in which the participant and the viewer are one. The number 1,001 is significant in that it represents the macro and the micro: a number large enough to suggest the entirety of China and its diverse people, while also allowing for the idea of individualized experience. In Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Kataoke Mami writes, "Fairytale is not one large project but a compilation of 1,001 distinct and unique fairytales, each containing the environment, situation, feelings, and life of a particular individual."
In addition to addressing Eastern and Western notions of the group versus the individual, Ai's work also explores high and low culture, traditional versus contemporary art-making practices and materials, and circuits of exchange. Marble Toy Car (2010) converts what was once a cheap, plastic toy into something akin to classical sculpture. The work replicates in marble a toy car that was gifted to Ai's son during the opening days of Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern in 2010. Amusingly, the plastic car had been made in China and was subsequently purchased in London where it was presented to the Chinese child and eventually shipped back to China. The mass-produced item was then converted into an object of high artistic and, it could be said, monetary value. For the Stones, who were present at the exhibition preview, the sculpture goes beyond the theoretical discussions that surround Ai's work. The car will always be a reminder of Ai's sweet son, whom they met as he sat amidst the millions of hand-painted sunflower seeds, each one a reminder of the uniqueness of the individual among the masses.
Ai is also known for his use of the readymade, whether painting the Coca-Cola logo on an ancient Chinese vase, the re-purposing of Qing Dynasty chairs, or in the case of Hanging Man in Porcelain (2009), an homage to the master of the readymade, Marcel Duchamp. Out of a simple wire hanger, Ai has fashioned a profile of Duchamp. The work's references are twofold: visually, it alludes to a self-portrait by Duchamp and as well, materially, to Duchamp's most famous readymade, Fountain, a porcelain urinal.
The career of Heimo Zobernig began in the late 1970s. A contemporary of Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, Zobernig's work is more conceptual and referential in nature, often adopting the formal vocabulary of 20th-century artists including Piet Mondrian, Yves Klein, Kazimir Malevich and Robert Indiana. While related to the act of appropriation, Zobernig's process is more one of homage and integration, or "paraphrasing" (a term Zobernig prefers), in which he absorbs the lessons of modernism at the same time that he creates work that could be none other than his own.
Untitled (2012) is from a series that first had its inspiration while Zobernig was installing his exhibition at the Kunsthalle Zürich in early 2011. During breaks in the installation of his show, he spent time in a major Pablo Picasso exhibition on view at the Kunsthaus Zürich. The exhibition was a reprisal of Picasso's first museum retrospective in 1932, which had originally taken place at the very same institution. In an interview with Beatrix Ruf, Zobernig recounts: "I was fascinated above all by works from the late 1920s. Some are like playful anecdotes about abstraction and figuration. The provocative effect that must have had back then can still be felt today… with the delight in drawing lines that I discovered in Picasso's pictures, I went to work in my studio and tried to see what could be done."
Untitled takes as it's point of departure Picasso's masterpiece, Guernica (1937), painted in response to the bombing of a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica speaks to the horrors of war in which it is the innocent that suffer most. Untitled is an extreme close-up of a detail from Picasso's canvas, the "lifelines" from the outstretched hand of one of the dead. Zobernig has retained Guernica's grisaille palette but has so assimilated and digested the formal and spiritual qualities of Picasso's painting, resulting in a work where his own visual language — the careful layering of paint, the gridding, and tape lines that are fundamental to Zobernig's practice — emerges dominant.