Sunday, July 26, 2015

Queens Museum Show Part 2

{{{click on images to enlarge them}}}

In part 2 of this review, we see that we’re asked to think about, among other things, how creating art from and not with pencils and crayons might be interpreted, how tape can be used to confer meaning, what it means to obscure parts of classic books and what self-vibrating metal might mean.

In Christian Faur’s artistic statement, he points out that he tries to mimic the elegant structures of nature by creating his own systems, ‘…so that the medium and the message appear as one’. 

I did a review of Faur's work earlier in the year:

In the pieces at the Queens Museum, Faur uses the tips of crayons as pixels to present portraits of, in this case, one little boy. Faur also seems to bring an interest in linguistics to his work, and certainly did this recently in his last show at the Kim Foster Gallery, when he used strips of color on canvases to approximate phonic sounds or letters and challenged viewers to decode his brief and often enigmatic sentences buried in the color combinations based on a code he had developed. He feels various expressive material forms are a type of language in themselves, exhibiting various limitations, and dictate what we can and can’t say through them. So to Faur an essential element in the definition of ‘language’ would be the fact that it can never adequately convey or represent everything we would like it to and we have to struggle with it and find ways to use it creatively to point, as it were, toward what is usually not expressed but needs to be expressed.

I like what I wrote recently for one of his shows at Kim Foster: If we use the Boltzmann-Plank definition of entropy, and view entropy as a means to assess disorder, Faur’s work represents a type of ektropy (the opposite concept of entropy) – or amazing, flabbergasting, Prussian and angelic order. Each piece seems eternal in its anti-entropic order, yet we are also hit with the realization that these crayons could be converted at any time into miles of frivolously joyful childlike expression. Maybe the big message here is that all art is a type of conversion of matter into energy, with the artist as the intermediary.

Federico Uribe seems to be doing something similar to Faur, yet Uribe’s medium involves colored pencils that have had their tips cut off. So whereas Faur’s work pulses with apparent potential energy, Uribe seems to go in the opposite direction and works with a suppression of possible creative potential in order to regenerate a new creative capacity. 

It’s like Faur embraces order and Uribe embraces entropy and wasted energy. He negates the potential expressive capacity of each pencil in order to use it as a type of colored line which exhibits an expressive potential but also extreme expressive limitation. The length as well as color of each pencil becomes the alphabet for his language, as it were, as the visual components of the piece.

Tim Rollins founded K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) over 30 years ago and they still create meaningful work based on classic works of literature and music.  He and a group of middle school kids recently dunked pages from a first edition of W.E.B. Du Bois’ book Darkwater into a type of solution including gold acrylic and watercolors. So we get a partially obscured message. What does this mean? To me, it can mean a couple of things. We – as a people – the American people – never got this message about the necessity of overcoming our racial divisions in the first place. Du Bois wrote that race was going to be the question of the 20th century and it has continued into the 21st century with a vengeance. The message was obscured and we didn’t get it.

This should leave us with a choice – do we want to get it or should we throw up our hands and forget the horrific consequences of racism and an economic, educational and political system that does absolutely nothing to address it. Even with a ‘black’ president nothing significant has been done to help black folks, in general, meaningfully integrate into the American dream. Like the pages of DuBois’ book, the plight of poorer black folks is now being obscured. You simply don’t hear or read about them until they get good and angry by how abused they are and take it to the streets. That’s my second interpretation, the message and the people are both being obscured.

Mark Khaisman says that his work is about images of images. He’s the guy in the show who uses different layers of brown translucent tape over images from art history, the movies or whatever. He says he wants to focus on the process of recognition. In his work you’re recognizing a material you’ve used as well as recognizing something from a film, book, the papers, the internet etc.  Frankly, the layered tape makes the images look more sculptural and grandiose. He is using a cheap material to elevate an experience of something we’ve probably seen before. Maybe it’s a remnant of his experience studying in the Soviet Union, where the worst monsters were lionized into paragons of integrity, public service and deep humanity. If I can raise enough money I’m going to commission this guy to do this to an image of the crook who is my current Congressman. Basically I think Khaisman has a hell of a sense of humor, horses around a lot and parodies the whole public relations process of elevating greedy, corrupt and sickening human garbage into respectable human beings. He could make a better living in Washington D.C. than in Philly.

To me Dan Miller’s layers of text, geometric figures and grids etc. are dense with attempts to get something compelling down for further examination and as evidence of meaningful cognition and insight and maybe even as an expression of pain and a cry or demand for an end of suffering or a desire for a type of deliverance.  

The layering and repetition seems to indicate to me that humane development or progress is not linear – it’s more like Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. We get stuck on certain levels for periods of time and only until we gain the proper amount of experience through the proper expenditure of time can we jump to the next level. Miller’s art seems to reflect the anxiety, pain, chaos and desire one feels stuck on one level, desperately waiting and hoping for transition to the next.

{{{image from the Queens Museum}}}

Jacques Jarrige has contributed a sculpture called Waves, made of aluminum strips dangling from the ceiling, part of which seemed at the opening to be vibrating with no discernible cause. There are some mystics from the past who divided the world into three basic features (mineral, vegetable and animal) and believed our spiritual development could be represented symbolically by a progression from the mineral to the vegetable to the animal. The vibrating strips seemed to me to herald transition from the mineral to vegetable, as well as exhibiting a freakish mocking by the inorganic of the organic.

{{{image from the Queens Museum}}}

Finally, as one enters the museum doors facing the Unisphere, one sees a huge installation of tabs by Alice Hope. According to what was emailed me, “Hope has strung over 700 feet of used can tabs on a continuous line of ball chain and IV tubing. This work is part of an ongoing project, reckoning the tab's fluctuating value in a consistently changing context. Related to the tradition of Land Art, this installation is meant to be experienced in situ, reflecting the changing view of the iconic Unisphere, the consistent flow of airplanes, and the passersby.”  The functions of post-industrialized global capitalism work beautifully in some countries to potentially provide universal nutrition, healthcare and comfort. But there’s one big flaw in the system – materials are being created that are more permanent than the most permanent organic material (even more permanent than, say, bones) but these materials are not absorbed back into nature in a benign manner.  No one seems to have adequately determined what to do with these materials and the more we try to hide or bury them the more deeply they become embedded in our lives. In the meantime, as this work shows, even the smallest bits of this junk are ever accumulating.

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