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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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Tim Fleming on ALAC 2015 / Los Angeles

As ALAC enters its sixth year, how have you seen the fair evolve? What concepts are you returning to from past fairs, and what aspects are new?

The main thing we’ve done is really believed in the recipe — the time of year, the location, the city and the galleries. The ratio of LA galleries versus out-of-town galleries has changed from what was important in the first years, when it was half and half and then one-quarter new galleries from out of town. A few years ago, without getting larger, we shifted to a slightly adjusted model, one-third from LA, two-thirds from the rest of the world, and really honed in on that recipe, with January as the time slot, not wanting to grow the fair. This year, keeping that recipe almost unchanged, we’re working with the same concept of scale while building and building on quality.

What’s different is that we’ll be working with wHY Architecture and Design — who worked on David Kordansky’s new space — to focus on the user/visitor experience and open up public spaces within the fair to hold on to people longer. Our international roster has also broadened and shifted, adding some galleries from all over, including i8 from Iceland and Johann König from Berlin. And we’re always excited to work with new galleries, so this year will feature LA-based Grice Bench, founded by artists Jon Pylypchuk and James Bay, as well as And Now from Dallas, which has only been around for about a year or two.

 

For some time now, ALAC has featured a range of artworks — from installations to performances — above and beyond pieces that can be bought and sold. How will you build on this in 2015?

That’s not an easy question to answer, since so many different people help build the program. Certainly, many galleries have ideas and are interested in moving beyond the white box into a more performative arena. Mark LeBlanc, a curator I’ve known since my Chicago days, is putting together a video/film program with some galleries in the fair — it’s a fun thing to have someone just walk in and do. In addition, our development director, Alex Couri, has been working closely with Amber Noland, the founder of Art Management, who works with a ton of amazing clients, and she’ll be giving an amazing talk on collection management — it won’t be dry at all, she’s very tuned into these types of things. If I had to pick one thing that will be new this year, it’s that we’re going to be doing a lot of lectures and talks and more traditional conversations.

by Jared Baxter

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Flash Art International no. 300 January – February 2015

We are pleased to announce that the January – February 2015 Issue of Flash Art International, a special edition celebrating the art scene in São Paulo, is out now.

In this issue:

In conversation with Bruno Dunley, Adriano Costa and Paulo Monteiro discuss the mundane dimensions of their art.
“I think nowadays there is a homogenization between the ‘objects of the world’ and the ‘objects of art.’ What I am interested in is the transition of the common object into something “living.” I am interested in transforming a piece of wood, for example, into something that barely looks like a piece of wood.”
— Paulo Monteiro

Toni Maier reviews the mix of urban life and political debate in São Paulo’s recent theater productions.

Kiki Mazzucchelli introduces the practice of Beto Shwafaty.

Michael Asbury explores Anna Maria Maiolino’s art of becoming.
“Unlike artists whose work is identified with the breakthroughs of their youth, with Maiolino it is the cumulative nature of the practice that reveals its overall sense, its poetic purpose and belongingness.”
— Michael Asbury

A portfolio of Hudinilson Jr.’s Sem Título (c. 1980).

Pedro França introduces the practice of Ana Prata.

Erika Verzutti talks with Michele D’Aurizio about sharing the experience of making.
“Art is a system that embraces miracles and magic. Nevertheless, it taps into an act of courage. You think, OK, this arrangement happened casually on my table, and I believe it’s beautiful. I want to perpetuate it, share it. So it’s a very human ambition: the desire to be ‘bolder,’ to do something a little bit more audacious than staring at the incidental.”
— Erika Verzutti

A portfolio of Alfredo Volpi’s Bandeirinhas and other paintings.

Maria Peres de Pontes introduces the practice of Pedro Wirz.

Nathaniel Wolfson explores the recurrence of soccer in concrete poetry.

Jacopo Crivelli Visconti digs into the almost exclusively autobiographic art of Leonilson.
“Becoming less figurative and more literary, his late works have been interpreted by critics as a reflection of his personal Calvary, despite the fact that many of these iconic traits actually showed up before the disease. Although arguable, this absorption remains perfectly cohesive in the case of Leonilson, an artist who, since the beginning of his career, struggled to inextricably link personal life and artistic production.”
— Jacopo Crivelli Visconti

Gabriel Lima introduces the practice of Adriano Amaral.

Tenzing Barshee recounts a seven-day trip to São Paulo.
“The subsequent city of São Paulo is anonymous and vast. Not only in itself but in comparison to the other big places in our world, São Paulo seems less sophomoric; there is no signifier working as a symbolic stand-in for the city. São Paulo merely represents itself, in its totality. It’s too much information for one representative image.”
— Tenzing Barshee

Reviews:

R.H Quaytman Gladstone Gallery/New York; Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho 47 Canal/New York; Prospect.3 New Orleans; Pierre Huyghe LACMA/Los Angeles; Michel Auder & Józef Robakowski Fahrenheit/Los Angeles; Raimundas Malašauskas & Jason Dodge UTDT/Buenos Aires; Alighiero Boetti Luxembourg & Dayan/London; Mark Leckey Wiels/Brussels; “Regenerate Art” Kunstverein/Munich; “American Producers” Between Bridges/Berlin; Anthony Symonds Eden Eden/Berlin; “Theater Objects” LUMA Westbau/Zurich; Pentti Monkkonen High Art/Paris; Philippe Decrauzat Centre Culturel Suisse/Paris; “Soleil Politique” Museion/Bolzano; Shirin Neshat Mathaf Museum/Doha; Yu Honglei Antenna Space/Shanghai; Matthew Barney MONA/Berriedale (Tasmania)

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Regenerate Art / Kunstverein Münich

The group show “Regenerate Art” examines different conditions and functions of public art projects, bringing together proposals by Chris Evans, Aleksandra Domanović, Lukas Duwenhögger, Scott King, Joanna Rajkowska and Alan Kane and Simon Periton.

All works are connected by their lack of realization, yet the reason for this differs: while some present deliberately hypothetical works, functioning as a witty commentary on public art politics, works by artists such as Duwenhögger or Rajkowska have a complex story behind their unrealized state.

Joanna Rajkowska’s presentation The Peterborough Child (2012–14) shows the cancellation of a public art project commissioned by the city of Peterborough due to a religious controversy in the community. Next to original sketches and an already-manufactured information plaque, a newly produced film narrates the chronicle of events, while the real motivation behind the project’s termination remains obscure. Scott King’s Anish and Antony take Afghanistan (2014) is a brilliant commentary on the instrumentalization of artists for political regeneration purposes. In the comic strip, the UN sends public art greats Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley to construct a public monument in the war-ridden country, in order to start its transition process into a Westernized, stable Afghanistan. With great humor King reveals the underlying cynicism in the political exploitation of public art projects.

“Regenerate Art”brings together all participating works within one single room, leaving a large part of the exhibition space deliberately empty. Emphasizing visual over archival material, each artist responds to different notions of regeneration, turning the rejected or unsolicited proposal into an analysis of its public context. This concentrated form of presentation allows for an immediate drawing of connections between the works and public art politics, meanwhile referencing the display of an architecture exhibition.

by Anja Lückenkemper

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