Review /

Rascal House Half Gallery / New York

The “Rascal House” show is the outcome of a mindblowing experience that happened during the artist’s childhood. It wasn’t a trauma, but an awakening.

As a child, when his mother was a museum curator in Boston, Blair Thurman saw the Kienholz’s Beanery (1965). The California artist Ed Kienholz — one half of the mytical Los Angeles-based Ferus gallery — had re-created the legendary LA dinner with smell of beer and turning faces behind clocks. This surrealistic and carnavalesque installation made a great impact on little Thurman. A few decades later, the memory still vivid in his mind, the latter decided to go investigate the real place. By then, he had learned the cultural aura of Barner’s Beanery: a popular diner in the 60’s among the Ferus Gallery artists, and the Americana art scene.

His experience of the real place didn’t end the trip, but rather started another. Like an answer calling another question, his visit inspired him another piece of art, his own version of Barner’s Beanery, namely “Rascal House.”

Thurman proposed his friends and heroes to collaborate on this show, in an attempt to recreate with them the California dinner place. The main piece is a booth, as a form of cadavre exquis: John Armleder painted the tabletop, Stephane Kropf made one booth backing with a material he calls “interference painting,” whereas Thurman made the other booth backing using his recent neon artworks. Justin Adian produced the cushions. The booth is paired with an Ed Ruscha drawing from 1963. On the other gallery’s stories are displayed a couple of Kropf’s interference paintings with a few Thurman’s neon grids.

Pop, geometric, ad-free neon lights, a colorful, dense, volcanic booth, and paintings we could stick a straw into and drink like smoothie, “Rascal House” recapitulates the essence of a the 80’s LA dinner. But which one exactly? The one Thurman visited as a child, the one he visited years later in LA, or a fictitious one he had in mind? What if they were all the same: they may just only refer to a special moment in time where four friends decide to sit together and share food, stories, and culture. A moment Thurman might have missed, so he fell the need to shape his nostalgia.

From a more global standpoint, Thurman’s sculptures seem always to activate the space to engage, or refer to human interactions (see his recent show at Gagosian.) One well of inspiration for Americana art might be the dinner booth itself: a second home, next to the road, facing possibilities of expansion, exploration, encapsulated in a wooden ship that stays still, with comrades within to decide what path their imagination could venture next. With the diner booth’s inherent communal and physical implications, Thurman and friends stage the Americana ritual with refreshing limelights.

by Alexandre Stipanovich

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Arena /

Adam Weinberg on the reopening of the Whitney Museum / New York

We are only one month away from the opening of the Whitney Museum’s new Renzo Piano-designed building, scheduled for May 1, 2015. Director Adam Weinberg shares with Flash Art some thoughts about the future of the institution.

Situated in the Meatpacking District, will the Whitney Museum’s new location change its role and influence?

After years of watching the new Whitney building come together, we finally completed the relocation of our entire staff into our new home last month. It’s the first time in over a decade that we’ve been in one place, so it was a special moment for us. Meanwhile, work on the building is happening at a furious pace as we lead up to our May 1 opening, and we just began installing art in the galleries. We are excited to return to the same neighborhood where Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded the Museum 85 years ago. There are several wonderful arts organizations nearby including The Kitchen, White Columns and soon Dia, and the Whitney looks forward to being another cultural resource for the community. The Whitney’s role remains the same as it was at its founding: to support and inspire the artists of our time and present the best of 20th- and 21st-century American art.

After the critical success of “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective,” what can we expect from future programming, other than the permanent collection display for the opening and a few shows already announced for 2015/16?

One of the most exciting features of our new building is that after the inaugural exhibition of our permanent collection closes, we’ll have two floors devoted to it. There will always be a wide breadth of the Museum’s holdings on view, which wasn’t always possible when we were uptown. We’ve announced large Frank Stella and David Wojnarowicz retrospectives, a show of the Jazz-Age painter Archibald Motley and an exhibition of the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras; and, in 2017, we will present the first Biennial in our new location. The Whitney will continue to strive to offer a balanced exhibition program that presents the work of lesser-known emerging artists, artists in their mid-career and more senior artists.

On the West Coast, the Hammer Museum eliminated its admission fee in 2014. The Broad, set to open in fall 2015, will offer free admission too. Is this a conversation you are interested in having?

I think it is wonderful that these institutions are able to provide free admission. While we are not able to, we are happy that the entire first floor of the Museum, which includes a gallery, will be accessible free of charge. Individuals eighteen years old and under receive free admission, and we will continue to run reduced-fee programs such our pay-what-you-wish evenings at the new location.

The new Whitney Museum will dedicate a substantial budget increase to performance, with a theater and a multimedia gallery on the fifth floor.

Performance has always been a vital part of the Whitney’s mission from the days of the Whitney Studio Club, which hosted performances by avant-garde composers of the day, including Edgard Varèse and Carl Ruggles. Jay Sanders, our curator of performance, has been working tirelessly to continue that legacy. In addition to the theater, all of the galleries have been designed with sprung floors to be performance ready. Already Meredith Monk, Carolee Schneemann and Glenn Kotche have performed in the new building.

Online resources play an increasing role, and you have just expanded your collection online to over 21,000 works of art. How do you envision the evolution of the online platform?

We recently saw how influential social media and online resources were during our Jeff Koons retrospective, which reached millions of people who could not come to visit the exhibition. So it’s incredible to make almost the entirety of our permanent collection accessible through our website. We will continue to publish images of works and improve the site’s functionality. We will also continue to post original content through our Education department and the Whitney Stories series, which have shared behind-the-scenes looks at exhibitions, filmed interviews with artists such as Cory Archangel, and recorded audio of our public programs, among many other features.

by Patrick Steffen

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Review /

Anna Sew Hoy Various Small Fires / Los Angeles

Anna Sew Hoy is interested in the ability of materials to facilitate some sort of intimacy. Often she works with clothing, using the effects that clothes can carry: warmth, breathability, veiling, wrapping and, ultimately, a sort of coziness.

Sew Hoy’s sculptures do well in houses, and she has likened her exhibitions to bedrooms or living spaces. She often performs in and around her work, as if to add additional psychic memory to fabric and forms already lived in. Her other preferred medium is ceramics, hand worked and full of Sew Hoy’s presence even after the sculptures are fired.

Post-performance, Sew Hoy’s exhibitions exist somewhere between the cold, analytic repetition of Donald Judd’s forms and the traumatic, stuffed ready-mades of Mike Kelley. Sew Hoy’s spaces can feel sparse and almost too empty: in the past, she has left the impression of a lightly populated clothing boutique or a small gathering of strange antennas with no clear idea of what is being transmitted. For these reasons, most rewards in Sew Hoy’s work comes from close looking at her off kilter craftsmanship, the little knots and accumulated gestures that become her art.

Sew Hoy’s exhibition at Various Small Fires is her best yet, clever in its ability to use emptiness to directed ends. Vaguely organic, Sew Hoy’s new sculptures are made of stoneware (often with the addition of slip during the firing process) and dispersed around a polite garden of gravel. Each has a circular hole of some kind. Some holes appear like empty goal posts or rings hung in the air, others are like mouths or caves. At times, black mirrors appear, able to both absorb and reflect an image.

The gravel gently tunes the space; the crunch underfoot is a nice complement to the changing textures and depths of the various voids. Instead of boredom taking over, the new sculptures are in a good position to offer their intrigues. This is a meditation garden, a place where the self can emerge and then disperse into small details.

by Ed Schad

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Arthur Fink, Fabian Marti, and Oskar Weiss on Hacienda / Zurich

Is Hacienda an “off space”?

Yes, but we don’t like to call it that. To us Hacienda is an exhibition space. It’s a hybrid, an artist­-run space. Arthur is a curator, Oskar has had a gallery and Fabian is an artist.

You’ve just moved into a new space. Last summer it seemed like every art space in Zurich lost its home: you, Taylor Macklin, Plymouth Rock, Muda Mura Muri. Is this symptomatic of Zurich right now?

It’s something that comes from Zurich’s economic structure. All of these spaces are temporary or precarious; nobody can really afford a permanent space. Even after receiving money from the city and the canton you’re lucky if it covers the rent. It’s almost impossible for a nonprofit to have a permanent space. It’s a choice that favors the commercial, and we’re not at the point where we want to do that. When we started Hacienda a year ago we knew we were going to have to move because the lease was limited. This is a good format though, because otherwise things get repetitive. For a year every project can be sort of site specific. The new location is a former childcare center, and it’s exciting for us. There’s all this history it holds: Zwingli, the Swiss reformer, worked here, and Hans Fischli, the artist and architect, renovated it. There’s a connection to recent and older Swiss history. The space is the reason we invited Andreas Dobler to do the first show here, whose childhood imagery and esotericism fits perfectly.

Last year you did projects with both Dobler and Anton Bruhin. What is Hacienda’s interest in working with these very Swiss artists of an older generation?

First of all we are huge fans of their work. Both Bruhin and Dobler have been around for a long time, but they didn’t really have shows in a younger context. Nevertheless, they are artists that had and still have relevance in the local scene. They have been actively working and showing, but in our certain group it just wasn’t seen. Individually both are relevant to contemporary positions. Dobler’s paintings add to discussions around post­conceptual and postdigital imagery, but he began working on them in the 1980s. Anton Bruhin was one of the first artists in Switzerland to experiment with performance, doing them at Bellvueplatz, near here, when nobody was even thinking about these things. Our logic hasn’t been one of rediscovery because we didn’t frame it historically; it’s important that we showed new works alongside older ones.

The other consistency I notice is that of a West Coast connection: Keith Boadwee, Liz Craft, Pentti Monkkonen…

At the core we neither want to dig up old artists or find the new shit. We don’t follow a specific agenda. When we were first talking about doing Hacienda, Fabian said that he wanted to do this thing for one artist, Keith Boadwee, whom he met through Liz and Pentti. We looked at his work and thought of course it would be great. It has to do with friendships and personal biographies. There isn’t any East Coast vs. West Coast thing. It always has to do with us. The last time that Andreas Dobler had a solo exhibition in Zurich was in the context of Amberg & Marti, an exhibition series Fabian ran with Annette Amberg in their apartment when he was a student. From this point of view we do shows with people we know personally and like.

Can you discuss the idea of noncommercial spaces like yourself participating in art fairs like NADA and Paramount Ranch?

We don’t see these fairs as commercial platforms as much as places to meet with fellow artists, curators and gallerists. NADA asked us several times and invited us as an institutional project space. As the models for these kinds of exhibition spaces are changing, we also find that the fairs are trying to connect or build themselves in nontraditional ways as well. We take these opportunities to show Swiss artists that are not known internationally. At the first edition of Paramount Ranch we showed Anton Bruhin, Urs Zahn & Annina Matter and Bernhard Hegglin, who has never been shown in the US before. By definition, of course, you could say it’s a problem to do a fair as a nonprofit. But, fairs and art are merging in different ways than they did even a decade ago. Honestly, we’re happy to sell at an art fair. We’re supported by the state a bit, but the project should work on its own. It shouldn’t be the three of us putting too much money of our own into the project.

What do you all have planned for the rest of 2015?

In December we hosted a Daniel Spoerri show. The centerpiece of the show was the work Rezept Mappen Bibliothek, which consists of ten recipe books by Spoerri illustrated by his friends. We cooked one of the recipes at Hacienda ourselves, and invited friends for the dinner, as an homage to the infamous dinners Spoerri used to host himself. In March we will have a show with Swiss artist Bernhard Hegglin. Also during the month of March Heike Karin Foell will live at Hacienda to prepare her show in April. We are also very much looking forward to the exhibition of Timothée Calame, a young Geneva based artist that will show new works of his in May. We will end our year at Neustadtgasse 11 in June with a show by New York artist Lucky DeBellvue.

by Mitchell Anderson

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Review /

Akram Zaatari Salt Beyoglu / Istanbul

“Survey,” as a word, is always associated with the action of asking questions in order to bring a comprehensive overview to a subject matter.

In this same sense, the galleries of SALT Beyoglu, filled with Akram Zataari’s works, do ask questions: quite intimate, challenging and confrontational ones. Upon entering these enchanted zones, the viewer inevitably starts following the same paths of curiosity taken by the artist. Each inquiry leads to another one; each shame covers the next; each secret grows as a notion; and each acquaintance echoes with a personal memory.

The exhibition encompasses a selection of projects and works that were produced between 1998 and 2014, including Letter to a Refusing Pilot (2013), first presented in the Lebanese Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. The viewer becomes a part of the experience by conflating the works with their own cumulative memories. With such loaded excerpts from the past, the border between the archival and the archeological constantly fades and reappears. Even his latest video work, Beirut Exploded Views (2014), carries a feeling of familiarity and curiosity through a seamless web of shots from construction sites. While asking hundreds of questions to gazing men, who obviously belong to a narrative about labor rights, the conditions of workers, the appearance of communication technologies, the social problems of fast-developing cities, and the detachment-inducing artificial nature of daily reality, the attention of the viewer is distracted by concealed erotic implications amid touching, mundane scenes — an undercurrent that reappears in other works.

Another Resolution (1998), a work on body language and posture, is an installation of twelve wall projections. Dance to the End of Love (2011) processes or even translates archival material into a shared visual language of today’s communication technologies. They bring familiarity through distance. Meanwhile Studio Shehrazade – Reception Space (2006) presents clues to photographer Hashem el-Madani’s studio, as if a childhood dream. In Untitled (2010) and Endnote (2014), Zaatari even positions himself as part of this dream.

Another floor hosts On Photography, People and Modern Times (2010), a display of vernacular photography, and 28 Nights and A Poem (2006–2014), another extensive multimedia installation that mines the physical and mental aspects of a photography studio. The first floor exhibits Zataari’s latest research, undertaken while on a Bogaziçi Chronicles residency at Bogaziçi University and later developed by SALT, in which he presents a case for a future work to be made, based on an excavation in Saida in 1887 by Ottoman statesman and founder of Turkey’s first museum Osman Hamdi Bey. The work is a constellation of his findings and documentation, along with interviews with descendants of archeologists that took part in the original excavation.

by Basak Senova

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Artists in Residence on the Rise / Singapore

With Ryan Gander’s new print works currently showing at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Koh Nguang How wrapping up his exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art, and The Art Incubator recently opening its 6th exhibition aptly titled ‘Residency as Method’, I was prompted to take a look at the developing trend of artist residencies that is clearly on the rise in Singapore.

The Singapore Tyler Print Institute was one of the earliest art galleries to establish such a program in 1997. With a strong focus on production, their model is also a unique one—a commercial gallery that directly facilitates the development of an artist’s practice and output. Director and Founder Emi Eu said: “The residencies have always been a central activity and objective. Back then it was called the Visiting Artist Program, basically to have the artist stay with us, to produce a body of work and have an exhibition afterwards. The gallery part was an outlet for people to see the works that were being produced, and also an avenue to make sales.”

Invited artists tend to have a strong conceptual practice. In 2015 alone, the space has already hosted Carsten Holler, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Anri Sala, and Tobias Rehburger, Shirazey Houshiary, Do Ho Suh, and Ryan Gander whose show ‘Portrait of a Colorblind Artist obscured by Flowers’ is on display until June. Speaking to Gander about his experience, he confessed that he enjoyed the challenge of being restricted to the medium of print. Armed with around 20 expert technicians at the ready, the endless possibilities of print mean that artists can take on bold new directions. Gander said: “It’s the only place I have been in the world where the physicality of making is the same speed as my ideas.”

A research centre that forms part of Nanyang Technological University and headed by Professor Ute Meta Bauer, it is no surprise that Centre For Contemporary Art’s residency program is research-based. Established as the second part to their ‘three pillar’ program of Exhibitions, Residencies and Research, they are essentially the beginning point of a conversation—there is no expectation to produce. Curator Vera May told us: “We support the idea of field work; of being here; of really understanding research and its processes, such as the ability to access archives or to meet with different people.” Allocated to an even mix of Singaporean, Southeast Asian and more broadly international artists who are selected by an international panel through a submitted research proposal, the seven adjacent studios are found nestled among the quiet tropical surrounds of Gillman Barracks. Currently in the studio are Newell Harry (Australia), James Jack (Japan), Arjuna Neuman (Australia/UK) and Charles Lim (Singapore), who will be representing Singapore at the upcoming Venice Biennale.

Independent space The Art Incubator, founded in 2008, has a residency program that sends emerging Singaporean artists out rather than hosting. Director Charmaine Toh said: “I think 5 or 6 years ago it was really about giving artists exposure. Southeast Asian artists are now getting invited to big international shows so it’s not so much about that anymore. The residencies are more a way to fund their practice and to provide a place to experiment” Currently on show is an exhibition of three emerging Singaporean artists anGie Seah, Godwin Koay and Sufian Samsiyar who completed their residencies at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Bamboo Curtain Studio, Taipei, and 98B, Manila, respectively. Curator-in-residence Kimberly Shen chose to reflect on how artists respond to foreign locations through their work. Toh points out the unique and nuanced nature of the art scene in Southeast Asia: “The networks here are so important and you need to know who to talk to. Our role is facilitating these relationships.”

Grey Projects, housed in the hip neighborhood of Tiong Bahru and under the direction of Jason Wee, is one of the only artist-run spaces in Singapore after a number have closed in recent years. Their core focus is cross-cultural exchange through partnering with similar spaces including Platform3 in Bandung, Thailand, The Taipei Artists Village in Taipei, Hangar in Barcelona and the Casa Tres Patios in Colombia. Wee says: “We hope that artists can begin conversations with one another that doesn’t always have to have a gallery or museum act as the intermediary; without always having to talk through art history, or through the market.” Another part of their program is “a little more opportunistic”. They have a studio for a small number of Singaporean artists to work in whose work might be an experiment or where the subject matter is controversial and cannot easily be shown in galleries or institutions. Godwin Koay, for example, makes works about surveillance, police states, activism and institutional critique. Ironically, his propaganda posters created during his Art Incubator residency were required to be covered up due to a breach in funding requirements.

While the nature and experience of the residency differs from artist to artist—some providing longlasting and meaningful connections with place, others allowing a temporary platform for research or experimentation, there is no denying that the perpetual stream of artists coming in and out of Singapore adds a certain vibrancy to the art scene. As Jason Wee adds: “Singapore is a small place in the end.”

by Lucy Rees

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