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Sylvia Kouvali on Rodeo Gallery / London, Istanbul

Having initially opened their gallery doors in Istanbul back in 2007, occupying a former factory building, Rodeo Gallery has recently expanded to open a space in London’s west end.

With a stable of artists including recent Turner Prize winner Duncan Campbell, the gallery is regarded for its role in navigating Istanbul’s shifting arts scene, as well as having a program with a trans-geographic approach. Reaching a broader audience following the opening of its second gallery, founder and director Sylvia Kouvali discusses the growth of Rodeo Gallery and her distinction between what it means to be a gallerist rather than a dealer.

Rodeo began by representing artists from Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. What were the reasons for this?

I was pretty shocked by the lack of knowledge that existed between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. The reasons are political, of course — or, let’s say geo-political. There were so many different people who didn’t know each other, who were working around very similar questions and thematics. For me, that was the starting point. There were similarities or connections between the art practices. At the time, there was no gallery bringing things together and creating a rodeo — which is the name of the gallery. In Latin, that word means to circulate and to surround. I’ve put together all these people who didn’t necessarily know each other. It’s always interesting when artists meet; some things succeed and some things fail.

What have you felt to be particularly successful?

I think the gallery is a pioneer in not necessarily looking into the Middle East as the Middle East. When I started the gallery, I was working primarily with artists from the three countries that we mentioned. But it’s been extremely important to have a trans-geographic approach. There are key artists in the program who deal with historical references and historical traumas, memories and the unconscious, sometimes appearing through the form of a found image or appropriation. Appropriation and archaeology have been very important in the gallery program.

And failures?

Failures are part of our daily lives. Some things don’t work. Istanbul has changed a lot; the way people behave has changed a lot, or use art, the excitement around what art is and can generate.

Do you think art’s use value has shifted in accordance with the development of the city?

I actually think that’s happening everywhere. It’s not specific to Istanbul.

What are some of the most resonant shows in the gallery’s history?

The gallery’s very first show was called “This Then That.” We produced a really great piece by Ahmet Öğüt that had to do with politics and power — state power over geography. Later, it was also shown by Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic at the fifth Berlin Biennale. The show we did with Banu Cennetoğlu called “Sample Sale” in 2010 was also extremely important — Banu introduced her problematics with editioning and photography. We opened the gallery in London with another version in October 2014. It was a compilation of all the newspapers that are printed in the UK in one day; they present the story of a country’s history in that one day. They become this kind of mapping, or an archive. For me, Banu Cennetoğlu is a key figure for the gallery and our approach to making exhibitions.

Another exhibition that has been quite important for me was a show we did with Iman Issa in 2011. Iman is a very important artist from Egypt who lives and works in New York and who we’re showing in London in March 2015. In this particular body of work, she’s dealing with how a public monument can be seen through the eyes of a conceptual artist today. She comes up with re-evaluations or remakes of monuments; she’s using language in an abstracted form to describe something that exists. In 2009, we mounted an important show with Christodoulos Panayiotou — a Cypriot artist who is representing Cyprus in this year’s Venice Biennale. We showed a work called Neverland. Its material comes from research done in a photographic archive in Cyprus. The artist was taking the 1980s and 90s as a time frame within which to examine images of daily life that speak about the history and influences of a country like Cyprus — the Western influences it receives and embraces, and the travesties that these influences create within the society.

You opened your new space in London at the end of 2014. Has that expanded your activities as a dealer and what you’re able to do with the program?

I’m not a dealer; I’m a gallerist. I think that’s quite significant for me. One of the reasons that the gallery expanded had to do with the market. But the market is something that’s not necessarily just financial. There’s a curatorial market and then there’s a market for journalism. In moving to London, we’ve achieved a lot in terms of making people more aware of what we’ve been doing as a gallery.

Is there anything specific regarding the gallery’s program for the coming year that you’d like to mention?

There are a lot of exciting things ahead, both inside the gallery and out. Christodoulos Panayiotou’s Cypriot Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is something that is really very important. Then Tamara Henderson has a show at ICA Philadelphia in April. Also, there is Iman Issa’s participation in the Sharjah Biennale, and then Iman has a solo show at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, which we’re also looking forward to. It will be followed by her show here at the gallery, which will be her first-ever show in the UK.

by Louisa Elderton

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Mélanie Matranga
 Karma International / Zurich

Mélanie Matranga’s “A perspective, somehow” turned Karma International into the kind of tasteful interior design store found on Zurich’s tonier streets. Two oversized paper lanterns expose the clean off-white space to the outside, in what would seem to be a lodestar to oncoming gentrification.

The works immediately look like yuppie design. Besides the lanterns (complex are complicated, 2015) there are butterfly chairs (overreacted chair, 2015), those hallmarks of efficient modern taste since their creation in 1938; hanging curtain­like room dividers (emotional not sentimental, 2015); a low platform bed (straight, overwhelmed, 2015); and white wall-to-wall carpeting (complex are complicated, 2014). Should I take off my shoes? It could be a one­stop shop for your yearly bonus.

But this is not the wall-to-wall carpeting of investment bankers and career academics. It’s cheap, and under it is a composed grid of electrical cables that gather tracked-in dirt in a way reminiscent of Brice Marden’s “Cold Mountain” series (1989–91). The lamps are clearly handmade, with speakers that emit a playlist. The chair covers are silicone, and cast within them are unusable depressions — a cup of coffee in the seat, for example. The wall hangings are silicone as well. Matranga borrowed doors from her friends’ flats in Paris and cast them against these curtains, creating expressive forms of personal spaces in a way that Rachel Whiteread knows well. The bed, while crusty and unmade, is not Tracy Emin’s; Matranga can emote without oversharing.

All of these objects traffic in one thing but deliver another. The pristine is replaced by the used and the cliché by the engaging. One has the sensation of the physicality of memories when in the space. Most compelling is Matranga’s repossessing of these symbols of soulless success and her repositioning them as signifiers of a creative life worth living.

by Mitchell Anderson

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Dancing Capsules / Los Angeles

It can be difficult to separate the work of Charles Atlas from that of his subjects: for four decades, he’s guided a spotlight onto other artists, choreographers and personalities by documenting their practices — and sometimes merely their presences.

For several days in March, “ATLAS IN LA,” a multifaceted program of screenings and talks organized by Los Angeles artist Paul Pescador, spread across venues including the Los Angeles Film Forum, the Hammer Museum and Cal Arts, provides a long-overdue West Coast survey. Authoring influential dance-for-camera experiments and technology-driven video portraits, the artist is unambiguous in his own styling, constructing documentary from fiction, script and theater.

Atlas slides his camera between two and three dimensions, pioneering the spliced medium of videodance. Filming performances choreographed specifically for the screen, these works are unable to rely on the excitement that physical proximity provides in live work; rather, they transmit their energy through the projector, flattening experience into a low-resolution square.

Mostly, he’s collaborated with his friends. After working as the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s filmmaker in residence beginning in 1978, the two made Blue Studio: Five Segments (1975–76); their relationship was bookended by Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance (2001). In 1984, he established an ongoing relationship with the Michael Clark Company. British choreographer Clark’s productions incorporating graphic fashion and popular music are as contemporary and accessible as Merce Cunningham’s slow, sweeping movements are abstract and Minimalist. They made Hail to the New Puritan (1986), a parody of a made-for-television sketch that followed Clark around to show the public a typical day in the life of a modern choreographer. The buoyant, tongue-in-cheek piece was screened at nonprofit Chinatown space Human Resources as part of the evening program “Charles Atlas: Dance! Dance! Dance!” along with companion piece Ex-Romance (1987).

A night at the historic ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries was dedicated to queer icon Leigh Bowery. “Charles Atlas: Leigh Bowery and Friends” rounded up the feature-length documentary The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2001), contextualizing the notorious downtown personality, a nightlife legend who was rarely spotted anywhere before midnight. Marked as an immoral freak by the mainstream in the heated AIDS-scare late 1980s, the story of the mythic and misaligned character is told through anecdotes from his immediate family in Australia; his close confidant and eventual wife, Nicola Bateman; and artists for whom Leigh was a constant muse, including painter Lucien Freud and fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Atlas’s ongoing support for and fascination with Bowery resulted in the experimental short film Ms. Peanut Visits New York (1999), a snippet of Leigh navigating the cobblestone streets of New York’s still-dodgy west side in high heels and an impossible costume, and Dizzy Remix (2008), a multi-screen installation made for Kunstverein Hannover.

Within a more traditional film format, the artist’s work culminates in the grand, ambitious Ocean (1994). At the bottom of Rainbow Granite Quarry in Minnesota, the artist, joined by a five-person film crew, documented the Merce Cunningham Company performing to the music of a 150-member live orchestra before an audience of 4,500. He skipped generations again for the touching, emotional TURNING (2012), a concert film made together with Antony, following a European concert tour by Antony & the Johnsons. Interspersed among performance footage of the group are video portraits of thirteen women who uniquely define femininity — among them Kembra Pfahler, Cinema of Transgression actress and lead singer of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black; transgender DJ Honey Dijon; and underground performance artist Johanna Constantine, taking the stage in her signature look of caked blood and twisted wires — all take turns both “turning” on a rotating platform onstage as well as backstage for a moving, intimate interview.

Adjoining the screening program is a group exhibition at Park View gallery. Titled “A New Rhythm,” the show clusters Atlas with Benjamin Carlson, Nancy Lupo and Silke Otto-Knapp, all illustrating motion in ways other than moving gestures. Videos Fractions I (1978, with Merce Cunningham) and Jump (1984, with Philippe Decouflé) loop on one wall, wobbling between the grainy black-and-white footage of Cunningham and the latter’s acid-bright new-wave dramas cut by stylistic edits and sharply cadenced moves, more resembling a pop music video than fine art choreography. The achromatic Fractions I is directly reflected across the room by Otto-Knapp’s gray-scale canvas Seascape (third movement) (2013); in the same palette, Nancy Lupo’s floor sculpture Tuxedo Feeder (2014), an abstract sofa form of black and white quinoa and epoxy, three-dimensional but smoothly rounded, completes this gray-scale triangle. The fuchsia and teal melodrama on view in Jump bounces to Benjamin Carlson’s jumpy cobalt and indigo square hiding around the corner, scattered in aquamarine triangles that circulate incomplete with visible nervous energy, a visually hypnagogic pop work from 2015.

Watching videos stacked one on top of another throughout the city reveals how many time capsules the artist has created. Standing as the living record of so many historic live performances and turning points in visual culture, the various films richly flesh out deflated screen images, eagerly received in any space with room for the new.

by Jennifer Piejko

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InVisible AFAC / Dubai

If, as media pundit Marshall McLuhan proclaimed, we become what we behold, then most Dubai residents are likely to be some form of outdoor advertising.

The public space, choked by strident billboards and neon sloganeering, is fundamentally inhospitable to public art: two gigantic Farhad Moshiri canvases gracing the Dubai International Financial Center’s mighty lobby are as close as it gets. So when the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) unveiled the five public artworks it had commissioned under the title InVisible, eyebrows were arched in hopeful disbelief. Beirut-based curator Amanda Abi Khalil has skillfully handpicked regional artists whose verve for conceptual thinking is only outshined by their fascination with material. InVisible purports to disentangle what is both concealed and revealed in Dubai’s cultural, historical and architectural context.

Unsurprisingly when fathoming a city boasting the world’s tallest building, monumentality crops up. For Changing Clouds of Gas and Dust, Lebanese artist Vartan Avakian sampled water from the Burj Khalifa site, boiling it down to extract minute crystallized components — the unseen residue of the towering Burj’s monumentality. Displayed atop a glass-covered plinth, the jewel-like micro-sculptures are organic manifestations of memory on matter. In Dubai-based artist Vikram Divecha’s Boulder Plot, hoarding conceals a regiment of monolithic stones covering a plot the size of the artist’s apartment building. Each jagged boulder bears a neat, man-made hole, the residual mark of the quarrying process in which stones are blasted from the mountain mass. The resulting chunks generally constitute the urban underbelly — used as bedrock for artificial islands — yet are drafted here into a haunting site, potent with a silent, primeval force. Kuwaiti artist Mounira al-Qadiri, of artist collective GCC fame, translates the cog-laden structure of the stealthy oil drill into a flower-like monument in Alien Technology. Shimmering in oil-slicked pearly hues, the sculpture embraces, in one chromatic masterstroke, the historical extremes of the Gulf economic spectrum — pearls and petrol.

Most works are begrudgingly corralled into the theme-park-cum-souk cluster known as “Heritage Village,” where they will remain until March 2015. (Only Emirati artist Sheikha al-Mazrou’s perception-bending minimalist sculpture Stand Here escaped the Village confines.) If work of this caliber cannot ravel itself into the urban fabric, rather than being sidelined by the city’s capricious attentions, then the prospect of public art in Dubai is grim indeed.

by Kevin Jones

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Mathias Poledna Renaissance Society / Chicago

Two works — an architectural intervention and a new film — comprise Mathias Poledna’s exhibition at the Renaissance Society. Together, these pieces mark out axes of space and time, along with the mechanisms by which memory is apprehended institutionally and commercially.

At the entrance of the space, Poledna feigns sticking to sedimented concepts of spatiotemporality as a means of stable location: two text panels appear to exhaustively account for the histories and conditions of production by which these works are realized, and that seems to be that. Only latently, then overwhelmingly, does Polenda fold chronologies over on themselves, so that neither architecture nor time management endure amid the abyssal excesses onto which both works open out.

Since the Ren was relocated to its current home in the University of Chicago’s Cobb Hall in 1979, its exhibition space has juggled a mash-up of architectural stylings: the requisite “white cube” interior treatment, vaulted ceilings and shallow alcoves which correspond to the neo-gothic exterior of the building, and a steel truss ceiling grid that horizontally bifurcated the gallery from its sloping heights starting in 1967. For Poledna’s exhibition this latter feature has been totally removed as a permanent re-design of the space, permanently embedding one of his gestures into the institution. Yet, for all of these enduring promises, the cavernous room now looms sublime; one fewer architectural quirk and the whole place unfurls uncertainly.

Likewise, the six-and-a-half-minute film strikes at one myth about time that lasts despite the atemporal throes into which instantaneous global networks have freed us: that time can be commodified, purchased, harnessed into one-minute-or-less television commercials that swell with seduction then subsequent desire (then subsequent loss). Poledna’s commercial runs long, first making softly unfocused passes across the face of a gold-plated Rolex wristwatch before slowly angling around the timepiece as it drifts away into a darkened field. Just four years since the cohesive montage of time in Christian Marclay’s The Clock, Poledna fractures through edits of film clips and architecture. The empty space of the film opens out from the newly emptied gallery, a doubled chasm into which a stabilized historicity’s impossibility is cast.

by Matt Morris

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Mónica Manzutto and José Kuri on kurimanzutto / Mexico City

Mónica Manzutto and José Kuri opened their gallery together over fifteen years ago. Today kurimanzutto has become one of Mexico’s foremost galleries. The owners recount how the gallery has grown “in a very natural way.”

What was the context when you opened?

José Kuri: We opened the gallery in the summer of 1999. At the time there were only a few galleries in Mexico and not a contemporary art market the way we know it today — it was uncharted territory. It would have been unthinkable to transport a New York or a Paris gallery to Mexico City because it would not have worked, there was no infrastructure for it.

We were lucky that the artists gave us so many ideas about what form the gallery should take. It was a great experience to have Gabriel Orozco coaching us, giving us the fundamentals for the project. He had already been working for eight or nine years at an international level with galleries worldwide, so he could share with us their inner workings and the knowledge about how to run a gallery.

We realized we didn’t need a space, but needed to see what was happening outside, to engage with whatever was going on in the streets. We also had no money for a space, so we were always meeting in cantinas and bars, or at home, drinking and thinking how we could make this happen and what our next step should be.

Mónica Manzutto: Gabriel Orozco came up with the idea of representing the artists without a fixed space and taking over different places for short periods of time. The first show we did, “Economía de Mercado,” took place in an indoor market, and the whole exhibition lasted less than 24 hours! We showed works by a very specific generation of Mexican artists that included Abraham Cruzvillegas, Damián Ortega, Daniel Guzmán and Gabriel Kuri. We also invited a younger generation of artists who were already working in a collaborative way, self-organizing exhibitions and developing their careers, such as Minerva Cuevas, Fernando Ortega and Jonathan Hernández. Rirkrit Tiravanija also participated in that first exhibition.

We had virtually no budget; all we had was the energy of the artists, but that was plenty. During the first two years of the gallery, all the shows were the product of a collective effort: we would meet up and someone always had an idea. Our exhibition spaces ranged from a parking lot to an amusement park, the airport and our apartment.

JK: The first couple of years we focused on developing the artists’ careers and the art market. There was no market at all for these artists. We had to travel a lot and act as ambassadors. We needed our artists to be present at an international level to develop their careers. One tends to forget that it was just the dawn of electronic communication. E-mails were just starting, and we only had one e-mail address to represent all the artists!

It’s always a problem for an institution, a magazine or a gallery to evolve when it starts from a group of people. How did you evolve?

MM: I think it is important to learn from and through others, to revisit things as seen by those around you. In the end it all comes down to expanding your knowledge and understanding of ideas. You evolve in so far as you immerse yourself in an artist’s work, and their perspective allows you to see things differently. An artist’s practice becomes a kind of instrument with which you can understand reality from a different point of view, take it apart and apprehend it in a more critical, in-depth way.

JK: We have also grown by following the recommendations of the artists.

MM: They are the ones who have pointed us toward most of the new artists we work with today, who have said: did you see Monika Sosnowska’s work? Or, did you hear about Alexandra Bachzetsis’s latest performance piece? Or, did you go to Tarek Atoui’s concert? And so on. We have never really worked with curators in the gallery — we only did the “Panamericana” show with Jens Hoffmann in 2010. From that experience we started working with this younger generation of Latin American artists, such as Adrián Villar Rojas, Gabriel Sierra and Wilfredo Prieto. You could say that the gallery has grown in a very natural way, listening to what the artists find exciting and worth looking into.

JK: With time we started having a better understanding of things, with travel and communication. Once the gallery became a bit more established, we started thinking of working with artists abroad. The community grew bigger — we now work with thirty-one artists, double the number we started with, and roughly half of them are international.

MM: We also decided to work only with artists who stood to gain a lot from being in Mexico. We wanted to be sure we would give them something back. A gallery should be much more than just a brand name, representation, money or a spot in an art fair booth. We try to create an experimental situation for artists, to drive them outside of their comfort zone and push them in new directions. That’s exactly what happened with Sarah Lucas, for example. When she came over she worked the whole time in Oaxaca. There she discovered the clay bricks that she then used instead of pedestals to show her sculptures.

Every single artist that you’ve worked with has a subtle way of critiquing the world in which we live. Danh Vo, for example, is a very political artist…

MM: Yes, you could say the same about Akram Zaatari, Roman Ondák or Abraham Cruzvillegas: they all question daily life and the world that surrounds us. They are all raise similar issues, although they each come from radically different latitudes.

JK: Yes, with Danh for example, we share a similar colonial past. Roman, although he comes from Eastern Europe, is still talking the same language as Abraham. They are talking about the scarcity of resources that permeates everyday reality for a vast majority of people today.

Mexican intellectual and political life has been an important part of your work. Now Mexico has changed. How do you engage with political communities?

JK: It has changed a lot and we have changed a lot. Obviously it was very different when we were completely unknown and had very few resources at hand. It was hard to see how we could change things. Now we have this responsibility and that makes it a little difficult, but there are still many spaces waiting to be activated, many ways to make a statement.

by Donatien Grau

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