Monday, December 29, 2014

My Top 10 Art Gallery Solo Shows of 2014

This past year, starting in February, I began collaborating with Arte Fuse and posting most of my reviews there (and also cross-posting here to continue serving the readers who got used to this blog). This top-ten list is, however, exclusive to this blog.  You can see all my Arte Fuse reviews here: 

I reviewed over 75 shows this past year, and it was hard to narrow them down, but I chose these ten for purely subjective reasons.  I loved every show I reviewed, or I would not have reviewed it.

The Proletarian Art Snob's 10 Favorite Shows of 2014! 

Without further ado, we start with number 1.

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1. Paul Glabicki at Kim Foster Gallery

Glabicki first gained notoriety in the experimental film scene. He created work of ingenious complexity and humor. He brings the same complexity and humor to his visual art pieces. 

"Glabicki is inviting you not to focus on individual equations or images but to contemplate an underlying nature behind these symbols of science. He seems to be validating and rejecting these symbols at the same time. The symbols have worth, in a limited application, but the method is not applicable, say, to introspection or examination of our inner motives, emotions and thought processes. Glabicki’s work, to me, always invited a greater scrutiny of the process of science while also inviting a look at what science might not be capturing but which needs to be experienced and grasped through some deeper process on an individual basis.

The equations, symbols and measurements become, basically, dead but functional statements for the understanding and manipulation of the outer world. They are formulas as much as combinations of Nordic runes were.  Sir James Frazer, after all, pointed out that science was, basically, magical formulae that always ‘worked’ in the world and that magic and science both contained the same basic logical structure.  These attempts to document events in the outer world become insufficient, however, to fully examine the inner world."


2. CHANG jia at Doosan Gallery New York

CHANG jia is a rising star.  After her NY City show she was chosen as one of 4 Korean artists, by one of South Korea's most prestigious museums, for an ‘artist of the year’ competition. Although she didn’t win, she should have. She brings elements of experimental performance into her visual art and confronts the viewer with real suffering (voluntarily endured by her subjects) to make a statement about the extent to which art can be used to reach and transform others. If a New York City gallery were smart, it would sign this girl up. She deserves to go global. Please read my review, above, for more info about her and what she does.

Unfortunately, she didn't get a lot of press in NY City for her AMAZING show (most of the art rags and 'critics' in NY need to be told, themselves, what amazing art is and have no instincts to trust since they are desiccated buffoons), so I'm proud that I might have been able to promote her a bit. She's doing truly provocative work. She's represented in Chicago by a gutsy gallery - let's hope someone swoops her up here.


3. Beth Carter at Bertrand Delacroix

"In 'Wolf with Deer' (2013), we see the wolf is not carrying the deer in a triumphant or exuberant manner.  The posture of the wolf belies the joy of the kill that seems to be reflected on the wolf’s face.  The mood seems mournful and apologetic.  Deep down inside, the wolf rues the loss of the deer and involuntarily expresses grief for the killing.

Furthermore, Carter’s minotaurs are not the bloodthirsty killers from mythology – they are pensive and introspective.   Some of her minotaurs are seated and reading books.  These are minotaurs between meals.  They are using their leisure time to engage in the examined life. They are trying to understand and come to grips with themselves – examining their actions and expressing the dolor of those who cannot change what brings them moral anxiety and pain. In “Sitting Minotaur” (2013) we see such a creature slumped over and dejected."


4. Kathy Ruttenberg at Stux

"There’s symbolism in the work of Ruttenberg, but it hearkens back to the type of pre-industrial, pre-urban symbolism often equated to the pagan religions (i.e. the Celts).  Her figures have become re-embedded in a subservient and hapless manner in nature, as nature is seen to be deeply embedded, often literally, in many figures.

Has Ruttenberg gone completely Schopenhauer now that she lives upstate and can commune more easily with all creatures great and small, while watching nature’s cycles more keenly? No, she seems to be saying, however, that our notion of inner or spiritual development is too limited because it is too urban.  Our spiritual narratives often neglect the earth and nature and more meaningfully integrated relations between ourselves and the whole of life. "


5. Alex Gross at Jonathan LeVine Gallery

"In ‘Drones’ we see the sad effects of a culture dedicated to narcissism and hedonism and oblivious of ethical values or the search for meaning.  The smiling broadcasters cheerily report on the latest drone strikes, Obama experiences a type of ecstasy of self-glory, a sheep passively looks on.

In ‘Shopaholics’ the brand buyers are sheep-headed and surrounded by vultures, as if the shoppers have little to offer the world other than flesh to be consumed, someday, by carrion. Or are the shoppers ignoring this vanitas theme – recognize your mortality, repent, do penance, prioritize your values, see and engage the world and strive for meaning."


6. Boyoung Lee at Hyun Contemporary

"The most salient feature of Lee’s buildings would be the windows, through which you see little details denoting middle class, urban, professional life.  Through the windows everything seems perfectly in place and immaculately tidy. The units seem to be empty, the places of solace and comfort we seek to get to after work to get away from each other in order not to go completely nuts.  

The windows become symbolic of our inability to really mesh emotionally with each other – we live separate and secluded, surrounded by the best stuff we can buy, in lieu of feeling a meaningful sense of community.  Nature seems to serve its function in this scheme – in one drawing the roof is overrun by vegetation and the stuff used to enjoy such outcroppings is strewn willy nilly. In another building nature asserts itself by growing wildly from some upper floors. Perhaps biophilia has morphed into some stronger form of dedication to the world we abandoned."


7. Ian Davis at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks and Projects

This didn't hit me at the time, but I think Davis and Neo Rausch are on the same track, but I think Davis is better and more complex.

"In each piece Davis presents groups of men engaged in various types of ritualistic activities, but these don’t seem to be the sorts of activities my dad engaged in at the Loyal Order of the Moose. There are rituals here that are so arcane and perplexing that the participants seem to be engaging in something so higher order as to not be understandable to the uninitiated.  So it’s fun to try to figure out exactly what might be going on in some of these paintings.

In Priests we see many men dressed in white robes who are pouring blood on some type of machinery. It could be some type of nuclear generating machine or it could just be your basic run of the mill factory machine.  Like the real-life activist rituals above, it’s a type of action which just highlights the futility and helplessness of the men to truly change something they feel is wrong.  It’s a meaningful, heartfelt gesture of huge symbolic significance, and no practical change.  

So why do it? Well, it probably has to be done, what else is someone who opposes something that’s wrong supposed to do, sit and do nothing? It also highlights the ‘logic’ of magical rituals that Frazer wrote about in The Golden Bough – the core of any ritual is an approximation of what you want to see happen.  For instance, in some preindustrial societies people would dance and leap high in the air because they believed this would make the crops grow higher. So men in white pouring blood on a machine means, I guess, you want to see this machine bleed and die or become more human or take on more humane qualities (your guess is as good as mine!)."


8. Mary Henderson at Lyons Wier Gallery

I have a special place in my heart for Lyons Wier Gallery. Once I placed an ad on craigslist to meet a 'platonic' art gallery partner (yes, I'm still looking) and a very friendly 65 year old retired Jewish lady answered my ad and we went trekking through Chelsea on a Thursday night (no it didn't turn into a Harold/Maude situation - and she hated the atmosphere of the openings since she could see there were a lot of frivolous people getting free drinks).  The owner of Lyons Wier patiently answered all of her questions about art even though he knew she wasn't going to buy anything.  Kudos to that super cool guy.
In any case, please support this gallery - they have nice people there and amazing art.
What I'm really proud of is that I came up with the title "Nothing Fails Like Success" by myself and was later told Arnold Toynbee got there first. Great minds think alike baby.
Henderson paints yuppies.
"First, yuppies seem to represent those folks who were able to pursue their own excellence and success while blithely ignoring the plight of those who were not as privileged. Sure you voted for Obama and do volunteer tutoring at the local Presbyterian church.  But didn’t it bother you just a little bit that your prestigious university was only comprised of 4 % black and Latino students?  When you were studying for your GMAT and/or LSAT, did you ever wonder how the other half lives?  Did you ever really, really, really do pro bono work because you wanted to, or did your firm make you do it?
Secondly, well, here’s a nice quote from the artist Martin Firrell: “No one would wish suffering on themselves but equally a life with nothing remarkable in it would be a kind of bland hell.”  This is the key, I feel, to unlocking the rest of my raw hatred towards these lovable urban creatures."


My favorite line from the review: I’m looking at an image of Garrard’s Blue III on the floor in front of me, and it looks like a robot floating in a sensory deprivation tank.

"In Vessel by Rachel Garrard at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert (curated by Mitra Khorasheh), Garrard uses her own bodily proportions to create geometric, cruciform structures often contrasted with gentle and swirling abstract backgrounds.  Did you know that almost every Catholic Church is also ‘cruciform’? Also the cruciform shape is, obviously, an abstract form of the human body.
So when Garrard calls her body ‘a vessel’ I think there are parallels to church architecture. You enter a church and amazing things happen. The body of Christ is (theoretically) present in the Eucharist, a ritual is performed and spiritual union with the Trinity is accomplished. Within this proscribed structure of the human architecture amazing things can also occur. So the body as vessel implies that there is an interface between outer and inner reality – but, I think she is also asking to what extent our inner reality can reorder and perfect itself. Is our inner world just a response to stimulation (as science would have us believe) or is there an inherent factor or capacity within us to determine our own responses to stimuli and to what extent can that capacity be used?"

10. Kyoshi Nakagami at Galerie Richard

"What he does with light, though, goes even beyond the Nihonga tradition.  He shows those qualities and aspects of light, in itself, that allow it to become meaningful to us on a deeper or symbolic level.  He shows us what it is about light that makes light such an important symbol in our religions, mythologies and philosophies.  Basically he seems to be saying “This is the essence of how light is most meaningful to us”  – and he further plays with light and darkness to tweak this “archetypal” relationship and make it more direct and engaging to the viewer."


By the way, I have noticed that many people from foreign countries view this blog. If you want a very good and very inexpensive English book to help you improve your reading, vocabulary and grammar, please consider buying my ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Still Want To Come Here

Sunday, December 28, 2014

History - A Sampling of African American Art at Bill Hodges Gallery

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To me the current group show at Bill Hodges Gallery asks such questions as: Historically, how have African American artists had to navigate through an art world dominated by white artists, gallery owners and critics? How have things changed since the time of Norman Lewis and Jacob Lawrence? To what extent do black artists owe the black community something in their work and to what extent should they ignore race? Can a black artist truly ignore race in his/her work? Has art reflecting the black experience been finally ‘integrated’ into the dominant culture ‘white’ gallery scene or are ‘black’ artists still marginalized and considered ‘black artists’ instead of just plain ‘artists’? How might we change things so that all meaningful experience is validated?

Due to racial segregation and discrimination in the USA, African American visual artists often learned of the latest trends and movements in the contemporary art world, but could not necessarily expect to become active contributors. At the Bill Hodges Gallery, one of the artists in the “History” show is Norman Lewis, often called ‘the first African American abstract expressionist’. Indeed, he seems to have known and worked with Pollock and Rothko and although he got gallery shows and some attention, he certainly did not get the attention or acclaim he deserved for his contributions to Abstract Expressionism.

This was definitely due to the racism among art buyers and art critics of the time and also due to the fact that Lewis, even when engaging in Abstract Expressionism, never seemed to wholly abandon some representational features, which made his work seem less personal and more politically oriented toward statements about the black experience in America. So if you were black and drew upon your experience within an oppressive dominant culture, to make an existential statement to enrich the lives of others of any race, your experience was not valued and you were marginalized as an “African American” artist, the same way women were marginalized. Unfortunately, Lewis is still sometimes known for the novelty of being the black guy who was doing what the famous white guys were doing, although, in my humble estimation, his work seems deeper, more meaningful and more experimental than the work of most Abstract Expressionists.

In the show we see a priceless earlier work by Lewis, when he seemed to still be in his Social Realism stage, just before painting his most famous representational work: The Yellow Hat.  There is an aging, bulky African American lady, dressed up for an occasion and clutching something with her right hand (flowers?). She is at a table with a bottle beside her. The delicacy of her right hand, draped over her knee, is in contrast to the left hand clenched around the stems. The tilt of her head and closed eyes indicate some type of (romantic?) reverie. It could be that Lewis was poking fun at someone in his community, a bit past her prime, dreaming of love, but the artist also allows us to witness a person experiencing an inner event and in trying to understand her inner state we can see the possibilities and limitations for shared experiences –  what do we do, exactly, when we want to understand how another is feeling? Why are we drawn to do this? To what extent can we replicate another’s experience in ourselves just by observing it? Paradoxically the drawing puts us into a position of trying to understand a real inner experience in a fictitious person, which is often the central endeavor we engage in looking at art and reading literature.

Jacob Lawrence (the first African American artist to have work displayed at MoMA) once said, “If I have achieved a degree of success as a creative artist, it is mainly due to the black experience which is our heritage – an experience which gives inspiration, motivation, and stimulation.” Lawrence, as evidenced by the quote above, embraced his identity and used it to break into the mainstream of the art world. He enjoyed painting various series of paintings and is most famous for the 60 piece series titled The Migration of the Negro, which represented the movement of black folks from the South to the North after the end of slavery. African American history was of the utmost importance to Lawrence. In his piece Children at Play we see the sense of community and celebration he found in his racially segregated community, in lieu of despair or apathy.

A number of amazing artists are represented in this show, but one of the highlights for me, and the eye-catcher that brought me into the gallery one Saturday afternoon, was a photo by Mickalene Thomas called Les Trois Femmes Noires. Thomas is an amazing artist who examines issues of black feminine beauty within an over-arching culture where the ideals of beauty may not reinforce a sense of acceptance or joy for black women and she is known for her paintings covered with rhinestones, acrylic and enamel. So how would you characterize the postures and facial expressions of the women to the left of the photo? Thomas is interested in the history of art from a feminist perspective and in previous pieces (like one recently shown at MoMA) focuses on the exploitation of women by male artists as sexual objects of desire. So perhaps this is why the viewer’s gaze is met with a sense of contempt and even confrontation. Their comfort with their bodies and sexuality and their direct gaze at the viewers of the photo create a strong, arresting presence. They seem to enjoy their bodies and their sexuality but they also seem to resent the intrusion.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Jack Shainman Gallery on 20th Street

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All images: ©Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.  Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Corvi-Mora, London

If we look at the history of portrait painting, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s work, at Jack Shainman’s Gallery on 20th street, is quite subversive of this genre on a few levels, but in subtle and even disarming ways.

First of all, these pieces just don’t seem to fit any of the previous categories in the field of portraiture. These are not psychological portraits, these are not ego-stroking portraits commissioned by the well-heeled, these are not documentary portraits - a la Géricault - to show social exclusion or aberration.  In fact, these portraits by Yiadom-Boakye seem to violate a central premise that most of western portraiture has been based on – you start with a real subject, learn his/her overarching nature, and you capture it.

From Van Eyck’s Arnolfini portrait, through Raphael’s Baldassare Castiglione, through Géricault to Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and beyond, you’ve got some real person as the source and artistic success is measured by the extent some interestingly salient feature about that person can be perfectly revealed. Yiadom-Boakye throws all that away and just paints what have been described, in previous reviews of her work, as ‘fictitious’ subjects. She just creates the portraits out of nothing, from her own imagination. 

Perhaps what’s even a little more subversive – in our contemporary art world or culture in general - is that the fictitious subjects are black folks who are not depicted as, on the one hand, impoverished, violent or suffering, or, on the other hand, as overachievers who beat the odds and should be admired. In fact, this show is called “The Love Within,” and I assumed, based on the good will of the characters portrayed, that this title might refer to the love and sense of unity and community that often exists within any segregated population within a dominant culture. We could go even further and say Shainman is being a bit subversive by even hanging this show in New York City’s lily white art corridor: if not subversive then certainly provocative. Dare I say that this show might even look a bit out of place given the usual offering of white people stuff in Chelsea and given the usual racial demographics involved in the folks who go gallery hopping and who buy art? 

So Yiadom-Boakye has her fictitious subjects presented as if she is following in the tradition of portraiture, but the fake subjects violate the most sacred tenet of portraiture. So why is she doing this? Well, since she is not observing the traditional practices of portraiture, she doesn’t have to depict real people. Her art is not about documentation or psychological revelation. I think she’s trying to depict black ‘subjects’ or black folks apart from the charged contexts in which we usually see them in our cultural offerings. They are not being glorified, they are not being vilified – they are just black folks.  Basically, this is just a bunch of paintings of black folks, but that’s what makes the show so amazing – nobody ever seems to just do paintings of just black folks. 

Given all the racial conflicts and dilemmas and controversies that pervade our society, it becomes significant when black folks can just be depicted as black folks. I guess this is the big secret of the show – when we look at a portrait of a black man in this show, what do we expect to see and what are we actually seeing here? For the most part, we see guys who seem to be totally benign, if not engagingly warm and open. The artist seems to be asking: what will it mean, or how will people be affected, if she presents a black person without any social or cultural baggage whatever? In fact, the artist is so interested in removing her subjects from any possible context, that she does not even paint shoes on them. She feels that shoe style might reflect the period of time or social or cultural context in which the subjects live.

I think this is an interesting show to see given the recent racially charged stories that are pervading our news sources.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Simon Brown - The Weight of Knowledge - at Benrubi Gallery

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The Benrubi Gallery is in the historic Fuller Building on 57th street, along with a sizeable number of other galleries, so this one destination could keep you busy for some time on a gallery-hopping afternoon (in the elevators you see a listing of the various galleries and which floors they are on).  Indeed, the Fuller Building itself is worth experiencing. This building was designed in an Art Deco style and opened in 1929. In fact, the building was created specifically to hold art galleries at a time when 57th street was, perhaps, the place to go to see art in New York. A number of historically famous galleries have been housed in the Fuller Building through the years and the current galleries do a yeoman’s job of continuing the tradition of the building.

Benrubi currently has a show of photos by Simon Brown which any bibliophile will enjoy viewing.  The show is called The Weight of Knowledge and consists of photos of, primarily, groupings of books.  But, many of the books seem quite old and are literally bundled up in small stacks and often stacks are piled on stacks.

This is actually what caught my eye, because this binding and stacking lends itself to a number of interpretations. We could come up with a prosaic, literal interpretation and say that these are just useless, damaged old books that need to be abandoned because the knowledge contained has become obsolete – and, therefore, we could draw a blasé interpretation about the continual expansion and refinement of knowledge. But on a deeper level, I’d like to think that the content of these bundled books has now been made deliberately inaccessible, as if someone has realized a limitation to what can be conveyed or grasped through the written word. The person who has bundled up these books is now dissatisfied with the written word, and is seeking for something more. To me the person who wrapped the thin rope around the books loves the inner engagement of ‘the word’ but also realizes that language is not a sufficient tool for complete self-awareness and humane development.  

Perhaps this book bundler is like the hero of Canetti’s Auto da Fe – the rabid and obsessive lover of books who, ultimately, burns himself to death among his priceless library (Canetti is such a good writer, please check him out!). Even Ecclesiastes warns that “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”

So to me the binding of the books with rope is a deliberate process by a person who realizes that you can only get so much from the written word before you have to dive deeper into yourself and plunge more forcefully into the world to really determine what you’re made of and how you respond to others and how you might be able to better, and more humanly, respond to others and change stuff that’s wrong.  But the interesting thing is that behind many of the bundles of books it seems as if Brown has photographed an artist’s easel. So how does this add to the interpretation?  Perhaps the easel and the medium of painting or visual arts represents the ability of the person who has closed his books to now create based on his/her own insights derived from direct experience.  But, then again, this is my interpretation and what I love about pieces like these is that a zillion different interpretations can be engendered.

Brown also has one painting in which he piles the books in such a way that as the books get higher, they get smaller, thus creating a type of pyramid of books.  So it’s as if the textual content of the books literally disappears into thin air the way a Pharoah’s soul was supposed to be able to ascend through the pyramidal structure into the next world. Brown also has fantastic photos of collections of books in an empty room and in a sumptuous library along with one photo of scrolls and portraits. So the show might not just be implying that the word is insufficient, it also highlights the value and love we feel for books and the process of discovery we relish from them. These types of photos are the best advertisements against e-books possible.  One of my favorite photos is of a book collection that was saved from a fire – one can only imagine the glee felt by the bibliophiles who preserved those books.

This show is only up until December 20th, so I would encourage you to drop by the see the Fuller Building, see this great show and to pop into some of the other galleries before then.  The galleries in this building should definitely be on every gallery hopper’s to see list every month.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ursula von Rydingsvard at Galerie Lelong

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Ancient folks thought of the tree as a type of bridge between the earth and the sky. A tree’s roots dig down deep into the earth and anchor it there, drawing water and nutrients, while the trunk, branches and leaves soar into the air.  The tree is sustained by the photosynthesis in the leaves from the sun at the same time as it is sustained by the water and minerals from the earth. The inner core of the tree is, therefore, the synthesis of processes of the sun and earth in union with each other. So the tree represented a bridge between the earth and the spirit realm or even between our animal nature and our higher nature.  The cross (used well before the Christian era) could well have been a type of ideogram for a tree (the horizontal line represents the earth, the vertical line under the horizontal represents roots and above the horizontal the trunk and branches are depicted).

Ursula von Rydingsvard, at Galerie Lelong, uses the wood from cedar trees to create amazing abstract sculptures that seem to radiate the essence of the union between the processes of the sun and earth that is incorporated in wood. What’s so special about cedar? I’m not sure why, exactly, she uses cedar wood, but it is wood from an evergreen which seems to outlast other types of wood and which has built up resistance to insects and mold, thus secreting a wonderful, soothing smell due to the oils it has evolved for its own self-defense. It seems that the artist takes four by fours of cedar and a power saw to create contours at the ends of the four by fours, covers the contours in graphite to better bring out the inherent design within the wood, and then glues everything together to get the effect that she’s shooting for.

So she gets a kind of upward rising flame-like effect in the wood sculptures. That’s what I mean when I say she captures the union of sun and earth – this combination of solar and earthy energy sources is what creates the unique slow-burning “flame-like” vitality of trees.  Also, it’s as if by cutting into the cedar she is exposing the inner life of the wood, where all the significant growth and development processes occur. So her process involves creating structures that eschew the outer, protective layer of the wood and expose the most vulnerable part. The bark of the tree is merely protective in function and she exposes that part of the tree responsible for its capacity to ascend while sculpting this inner portion in a way that brings out the vitality and strength of the material. Her cedar structures are brick-like, yet creating a stone-like texture (especially with the graphite). So the odd but piercing effect the pieces have seems to be due to the fact that they look craggy and stone-like while being, of essence, a soft but durable type of wood.

So we get a sense of calm ascendancy in these pieces. The bricks of cedar are not used to construct something useful, the bricks are involved in the creation of another type of ascending organic structure that would seem to result naturally from the nature of cedar once it is freed, as it were, from the imposed structure of the tree.

The show is up until the 13th of December and I would encourage you to drop by and experience these pieces directly.  For many years von Rydingsvard has been doing something unique with her cedar sculptures and the effect of the pieces needs to be experienced directly. The show also contains some work in bronze and some work on paper.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

John Messinger at UNIX Gallery

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When the English and German Romantic painters created pieces, they began with an aspect of nature which seemed to evoke something meaningful but ineffable, and they then created a super-enriched version of that aspect of nature on paper or canvas. The viewer then engaged the super-enriched nature, which was divorced from nature through artistic creation, and then was able to go back into nature and engage other aspects more deeply or fully due to the exposure to the artwork. The Romantics realized that gazing intently at ruins, rock formations, gnarled and twisted trees in old cemeteries, the moon etc., could engender a euphoric and trance-like state approximating (or even accomplishing) a type of communion with the world. It seemed to be their goal to spread this experience.

Lyle Rexer, the curator of the John Messinger show at UNIX, references the Romantics a couple times in his notes to the show by way of contrast. While discussing Messinger’s new pieces, he even conceives of Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ as gazing instead at a giant video screen enhanced by Dolby Surround-Sound.  So what is Messinger doing?  Using a Polaroid camera, he takes zillions of photos of a large computer monitor either as it is blank (but glowing a soft blue color) or after he has accessed various images, often of some natural phenomenon/a.  He then organizes these photos of a blank screen and images from the internet into patterns on a large grid, creating a large but soft, abstract design.

So what’s going on here? Well, since Rexer mentions the Romantics, let’s start there.  The important thing about the Romantics is that they were not interested in super-realism. Turner once said, “Indistinctness is my specialty.” Friedrich was said to have painted the ‘tragedy of landscape’ and suffered due to his desire to fully embrace, in his art, everything nature really made him feel. The Romantics were the middle-men of experience. They engaged nature, found something amazing about this engagement and tried to pass it on. 

Messinger does not start from nature as a source. Messinger, to quote Rexer, “…sits in front of a computer screen, prepared to merge with the images gathering there, but separated from them by the camera he holds, a Polaroid, which he snaps compulsively, generating a mounting pile of paper and chemical images, a ‘real’ alternative to the virtual world that threatens to engulf him.” The photo removes the image again from the electronic gadget and brings the image back into the world as a three-dimensional object. The internet was supposed to be the information superhighway, but the information and image sewer, which the internet has become, is now scoured for anything meaningful among all the dross, and this is photographed as a way to save the image from being lost among what the internet has become. Messinger is not the intermediary the Romantics were, he is the ‘curator’ combing for that which can engage and enrich.  

A grid can be used by an artist to develop perspective. Or a grid can be used to demonstrate movement or action. Muybridge, also mentioned in the notes, used a grid of photos to show how individuals moved through space. Here the grid is serving another function.  It provides the opportunity for the creation of an over-all geometrically abstract image comprised of the absence and presence of engaging imagery.  The blue screen, not meant to ‘represent’ anything, nevertheless, when photographed and brought into the world on its own, becomes as pacifying, if not more so, than the image of the sea, waves, soaring birds or clouds.  So what type of experience is Messinger shooting for?  You can scrutinize each of these large pieces and see the individual aspects of nature being photographed, in contrast to the blank images, or you can step back and be affected by the overall structure developed by contrasting types of images.  In either case, the artist awakens the sense that there is some type of extraordinary, indefinable immanence to be experienced here. What the Romantics tried to do by highlighting certain aspects of nature, Messinger tries to do, perhaps, through repetition and contrast. He begins his process completely divorced from the natural world and works back to find and present an immanence as engaging as that presented through a direct encounter with nature.