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Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman Marlborough Chelsea / New York

“A fever dream” is how Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman refer to their own work. Collages, imaginary books with fake and hilarious titles, improbable props, issues of their fictitious magazine Artichoke, vintage wallpapers, crystal cactus or rice sculptures, mirror canvases, capsule installations, dusty corridors and rooms inspired by another era, architectural scale shifts, music and poetry… Their media seem infinite.

Smell is the only sense they haven’t explored yet. Their art suggests a Venn diagram with three circles overlapping: real references, illusions, and fictional narratives. As spectators, we constantly shift from one circle to the other. We navigate through different realms of consciousness: aesthetic awe, hallucinatory excitement, blurred memories, sensations of déjà-vu, and this strange feeling that we are on an investigation, about to solve a mystery. Or maybe we are just trekking through a dreamscape.

The centerpiece of the show is a thirty-two-minute-long film entitled Floating Chain (2014), composed of shorts inspired by ’80s vintage commercials. Organized like a Rube Goldberg machine, a psychedelic musical score alternates with surrealistic spoken words. This soundtrack creates a feeling of hypnosis. Many of the props used in the movie are on display across the different rooms.

Like their previous shows, “Floating Chain (High-Res Toni)”is a linear succession of installations. Through curtains, broken walls or secret doors, each room-to-room passage has a different affect. The progression is an art form, the passage an art piece that acts like a mental palate cleanser: we are not the same person, nor have we the same mindset, when entering as a guest (though a welcoming door) or as a intruder (through a broken wall).

The duo also refers to Superstudio, the Italian architecture firm, using the small scale of their white, tiled and bent designs as telescopes to glance between rooms. Lowe and Freeman have created nostalgia for a world that never existed; that might be the strongest way to impact our imagination. As Justin told me: “The more you look, the more there is. It’s all there for you if you want to dig deep.”

by Alexandre Stipanovich

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Stuart Krimko and Arlo Haskell on SAND PAPER PRESS / Key West

A small poetry press based in Key West, Florida, featuring authors such as Harry Mathews and Héctor Viel Temperley, Sand Paper Press is about to publish an anthology of two writers from Buenos Aires, Cecilia Pavón and Fernanda Laguna, founders of the art space Belleza y Felicidad, which gives the collection its title.

Belleza was also a publishing house and a literary salon of sorts, and became a turning point in the contemporary intellectual history of the city. Translator Stuart Krimko and co-founder and lifetime friend Arlo Haskell tell a bit about the book and their commitment in publishing to the most secret of objects — poems and relationships.

 

Your involvement with Buenos Aires and its literature is very peculiar.

Stuart Krimko: I first read Héctor Viel Temperley and Osvaldo Lamborghini when I came to study in theUniversidad de Buenos Aires as a guest student in 1999. And I began translating them right away after coming back home. Then I came back in 2010 to work on Lamborghini and I happened to meet César Aira, who then introduced me to La Internacional — a bookshop where many writers gather — and I first met Fernanda and Cecilia there. Everything then evolved naturally. We became friends and I came back in February 2011 and in the winter of 2012 to work and to spend time with them.

 

At the same time you began translating Cecilia, she began translating you and other young poets from the USA, like Ariana Reines and Dorothea Lasky. Two separate strains of contemporary poetry came into rich contact.

SK: I was happy to learn that some of what I love about Ariana’s poems — for instance disarming frankness, from a feminist perspective, about sex and relationships and metaphysics alike — could also be found in Cecilia and Fernanda’s writing going back more than a decade. This is very much on display in their co-authored epistolary work Ceci y Fer (2002), which served as an initial inspiration for the Sand Paper Press volume. Given this common ground, it made sense that, through translation, an extended literary family would be formed.

 

Sand Paper Press is based in Key West, and though its literary landscape is much wider, it seems to conserve a local flavor. To quote you: “Key West is a beautiful town they will succeed at one day in ruining.”

Arlo Haskell: Key West is my home, where I was raised and where I live still. As a child I was acquainted, through my mother, with some of the great poets who were then still living there — people like James Merrill, Richard Wilbur — and later on, at Bard College — where Stuart and I met and became friends in the late 1990s — I became aware of how important the island had been to poets like Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Olson. This Key West is a thing that inspires both of us — the idea of a small place marked by (and leaving a mark on) close or casual relationships and friendships that radiate out through poems and novels to impact the larger literary world: the personal and the intimate as launching pad for literature of broad impact. We share that, I think, with Cecilia and Fernanda, and that has made this project very dear. As for the poem you quote from — it’s true. Key West has been ruined before and will be ruined again. Lots of people say it’s ruined now. But the literary energy here remains very vital, and I think that’s apparent in our books.

SK: This reminds me of a kind of deal Arlo and I had with each other when we finished our studies at Bard College. The two of us went on a road trip to Northeast Canada, we made our way through the state of Maine and then through Nova Scotia and then finally to Newfoundland, way out in the North Atlantic… At this moment Arlo and I had conversations about putting together some kind of book of our friendship, a record of our correspondence, something, in a way, like Ceci y Fer. That book never materialized, but I think that Sand Paper Press, in a sense, has become that book, which makes this Belleza compendium even more personal and intense for us. Over time, we realized that it was more important to broadcast our shared view of the world, of literature, of what it is really capable of as a vessel for virtues, through careful scholarship and bookmaking, through conversations. Because “writing” is not just composition, it is listening and care and editing and feeling drawn toward things for reasons that can’t be chalked up to paper and pen. Books need to make you travel and they need to give you people and they must, in the end, help clarify the spirit. This very much informs our approach to the mundane aspects of the books too, as we tend to take overwhelming care over the editorial details, sometimes to a degree that draws out the length of the process beyond what we originally envision.

 

In a sense Belleza and Sand Paper were like mirror initiatives — a brother and sister separated at birth, who acknowledge each other in the final act.

SK: Of course Sand Paper Press didn’t have the sort of cultural impact Belleza had in Buenos Aires, as a gallery, etc., but yes, I guess the important idea is that relationship is often where art happens. Of course we produce books, we work hard to make them beautiful and believe in the integrity of them as physical objects, but I still believe the real work is the process of personally relating to someone, of having conversations and maintaining a friendship. For instance, I met Cecilia and Fernanda almost by chance. The relationship comes first; it’s the foundation for the literature and all the rest.

by Claudio Iglesias

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Philippe Decrauzat Centre Culturel Suisse / Paris

Philippe Decrauzat is known for his multidisciplinary practice. Shifting from one medium to another, his paintings, films, installations, drawings and sculptures find common ground in their complex geometrical compositions. Although often associated with abstraction and Op art, his work precisely amalgamates contrasting influences.

Decrauzat positions himself not far from a historian’s perspective, investigating the past in order to divulge the future. Creating bridges through space-time, the references in his work are abundant but always discreetly integrated and are never completely visible on the surface.

As in a game, the artist deftly collects his source material from eclectic fields: popular culture, scientific literature, graphic design, experimental cinema. A point of departure might be the logo of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, the cover of a scientific review, the geometric carpet in Kubrick’s The Shining or the mirror paintings of Roy Lichtenstein. Decrauzat often distorts those found elements and sets them into motion, questioning the notions of perception and the status of the image in a passive poetic manner.

For “Anisotropy,” the artist is showing a succession of filmic sequences that take for their subject a scientific object produced as part of research on the misappropriation of waves. The object rotates on an axis and evokes the zoetrope, the early filmic animation device that produced the illusion of movement due to the persistence of vision.

Decrauzat invited New York–based musician Alan Licht to compose live over and in response to the black-and-white graphic images. Merging layers of perception, the audio-visual installation leaves the viewer in a state of consciousness in which sound, images and speed reverberate and meld into a single form. Reality is abruptly erased, only to become heightened through a synesthesia of the senses.

by Tatiana De Pahlen

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Matthew Barney MONA / Berriedale

At an epic six hours, River of Fundament (2014) is an operatic film that combines scripted scenes with three elaborate live performances that took place across Los Angeles, Detroit and Brooklyn between 2007 and 2013.

Loosely based on Norman Mailer’s book Ancient Evenings (1983), the film sees the transmigration of the human soul as symbolized by three American automobiles that are ritualistically destroyed and transformed. The monumental sculptural “remnants” of these staged actions, along with a series of drawings, vitrines and storyboards, make up a large-scale exhibition at MONA. Traveling from the Haus der Kunst, Munich, this version is distinctly unique; Barney included fifty pieces from the museum’s impressive collection of Egyptian antiquities as a means of speaking to the Egyptian subtext of Mailer’s story.

Considering that the film will only be screened four times in Hobart and is inextricably linked to the show, the eight “storyboard vitrines” are an essential component and demonstrate the multitude of historic and cultural references at play. The delicate drawings also serve to map the project’s conceptual arc.

The sculptures reveal a new aesthetic sensibility in which the artist departs from his characteristic use of petroleum jelly and thermal plastic and embarks on an intense exploration of ancient and experimental casting processes. First and foremost a sculptor, Barney essentially translates the narrative of Ancient Evenings through a material progression, starting with base metals like iron and zinc, moving through the alloys to copper and bronze, eventually reaching brass. The blackened bronze Canopic Chest (2009–11)was cast with the remains of the front of the 1967 Chrysler Crown Imperial from the first act, while Crown Victoria is a zinc cast of the third vehicle’s undercarriage.

A highlight is four new sculptures created using a primitive water-casting process. The resulting cavity-filled “heads” sit atop MONA’s ancient Egyptian coffins, reminding us of the perpetual cycle of creation, destruction and regeneration that is at the core of this project.

by Lucy Rees

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Franz West David Zwirner / New York

“Franz West” is a clean shard of a retrospective, smartly limiting itself to a single decade, the 1990s, of the late Austrian artist’s diverse career.

The iconoclast, who died in 2012, left behind a mess of designed objects, artworks, styles, cross-pollination with his peers, and treasured wares, all arranged here, material affirmation of a lifetime of pursuing the path drawn by his promiscuous inquisitiveness, deadpan humor, and prodding of societal rites and etiquette. A massive constellation, heavy in visual volume — oversized papier-mâché or aluminum forms on iron pedestals [Untitled (10 Sculptures), 1990–1997; Lemurenköpfe, 1992]; large wooden cupboards, rather empty inside [Dortmund und Gmünd (Die Visualisierte Rhythmik), 1993/1999]; deep sofas draped in rich textiles, held up on pencil-thin iron frames (Untitled, 1993) — rests lightly in pristine white rooms, spacious enough to take up the greater part of a city block in Chelsea. Scattered videos playing on small screens feature friends Kasper König, Mike Kelley and Joseph Kosuth, among many others. Invitations to use certain pieces on display — one can sit on Divan, 2003, or “make an ergonomic gesture” with a Paßstück (Adaptive) from 1996, the accompanying Video with Usage Tips handily playing next to it — all impart the warmth and intimacy of a visit to an old friend’s home.

Slipping through the crevices on both sides of the sealed time restraint of the show is a loose series of West’s Passstücke, or Adaptives, which debuted around 1980, and which he continued to mold until the end of his career. The abstract, pale plaster shapes, available for individual interpretation and performance, served as a gentle poke — an oblique, literal question mark inserting itself into relational norms and expectations in social interactions. Absurd, unassuming and wryly in line with the artist’s sense of humor, the tactile Adaptives continue to present themselves with an odd (f)utility.

by Jennifer Piejko

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Pentti Monkkonen High Art / Paris

“Wind Parade,” inaugurated at High Art gallery, is the latest entry in Pentti Monkkonen’s trans-alpine exhibition trilogy devoted to his “Box Truck” paintings. Previously presented at Truth and Consequences, in Geneva, and Hacienda, in Zurich, the works are relief sculptures that replicate side views of trucks.

They display enigmatic branding that has been partially covered with graffiti tags. If these cartoon trucks at first echo Tom Wesselmann’s shaped canvases, the skull head suggested by the silver teeth on the front bumper put them closer to Maximum Overdrive, Stephen King’s 1980s sci-fi slasher movie.

The aerodynamic trucks parody the Californian food suppliers Worldwide Produce, thus helping erode the Los Angeles-based myth of the luxurious ecotopia: a world that sells avocado/quinoa salad as the new junk food. The pastiche of “glocal” marketing is accentuated by sad anthropomorphic vegetables, rendered with a few strokes of black spray paint. Bent plastic palm trees are scattered throughout the space. The fascination for freeways can be traced back to Monkkonen’s neopaganist Herfhaf-Maahaf Ceremony (1997) inspired by J.G. Ballard’s novel Concrete Island. In this performance, a group of people perform an ode to the freeway inspired by African rituals. The procession culminates in the installation of a Control Tower in the intersection of two roads. A few years later, this urban liturgy was followed by the realization of a skull car prototype and a duo of Swan and Duck mini-motorbikes that are now part of the Hammer Museum’s collection.

Until recently, Monkkonen’s interest in highway aesthetics and alien architecture was bound to a technical heroism. From the conception of props for the Baldwin Hills Space Agency to his reproduction of various vernacular features from the Renaissance to L.A “duck” architecture, his activities coalesced within a studio-based practice. While still relying on Los Angeles tropes, this series is more engaged within the nexus of street materiality and digital procrastination.

by Charles Teyssou

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