Review /

Bojan Šarčević Modern Art / London

“I have only ever experienced intellectual pleasure on the level of analogy,” declared André Breton in a 1947 essay titled “Ascendant Sign.” Analogy, both direct and indirect, pervades the practice of Serbian artist Bojan Šarčević. “Invagination,” the title of his third solo exhibition at Modern Art, London, is defined by the gallery’s press release as “the idea of something being turned inside-out, turned-in, or folded back on itself.”

First used by the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the term became dear to Jacques Derrida, who employed it to describe a narrative that folds upon itself, perpetually swapping the observer and the observed.

This exhibition stands as a unique cognitive exercise extended over three rooms, each different but echoing the others. The entrance desk has been transformed into a brutalist desk sculpture, exhibition element (MA-SARCB-00075) (all works cited, 2016), made up of gray stones and pink metal, whose raised position confers a sense of displacement on the gallery assistant, typing away. Two wall works, exhibition element (MA-SARCB-00081) and (MA-SARCB-00076), are positioned in the opposite corner, forcing viewers to pass the desk awkwardly as they enter into private, intimate space.

The last room is occupied by just one piece, exhibition element (MA-SARCB-00085), a four-sided monumental construction of lacquered aluminum and cream plasterboard that challenges the viewer’s sense of perception. Hidden at the rear, a blue plastic bag containing dried meat is the source of an acute odor that imbues its ambient surroundings with a macabre tone.

Within this last room, what was previously unsettling at the entrance is all of a sudden pleasantly familiar. To fulfill the “invagination” premise we should start all over again.

by Attilia Fattori Franchini

read more
Review /

Edgar Orlaineta Proyectos Monclova / Mexico City

“History is taking flight and passes forever,” Edgar Orlaineta’s current exhibition at Proyectos Monclova, is a multilayered examination of formalism and history. Specifically, the exhibition is an incisive consideration of the intersections of modernism and design, and how both were influenced by the Japanese internment camps created in the United States following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The gallery is filled with sculptural vignettes carved to detailed perfection. However, upon closer examination, each object begins to reveal a dark history. Formally the works are reminiscent of Isamu Noguchi’s interlocking sculptures, in which discrete pieces fit together to form a larger piece. Anachronich Library-Historical Sources (after Isamu Noguchi) (2016) is one such interlocking sculpture. The work is also multifunctional; the negative spaces house historical ephemera and antique objects that illustrate anti-Japanese sentiment, such as a Japanese hunting license, two carved Japanese caricatures and anti-Japanese literature.

Moving from piece to piece within the space, the complexities of the stories, the references and the ephemera work together to illustrate a history within modernism that is not often told. The title of the exhibition, for example, is a sentence taken directly from a letter written by Noguchi and addressed to Man Ray while Noguchi was captive in an internment camp in Arizona. Indeed, many of the formal elements that Orlaineta borrows in the exhibition via Noguchi, Satama and even Komai, were created at a time when the artists themselves were held at internment camps. The corresponding ephemera is strategically placed to connect their stories with the formal decisions of the artists. Orlaineta illustrates the irony of modern design being influenced by cultural contributors who continued to produce even in the face of blatant racism.

by Leslie Moody Castro

read more
Review /

Etel Adnan Institut du Monde Arabe / Paris

The first solo exhibition in France of the works of Etel Adnan, organized by the Institut du Monde Arabe, whose home is a Parisian landmark designed by Jean Nouvel, brings together a selection of paintings, drawings, films, poetry, and tapestries by the ninety-one-year-old Paris-based artist.

Born in Beirut in 1925 to a Greek mother and Syrian father, and known primarily for her small, abstract paintings in bold colors, Adnan has also produced textile works inspired by Persian rugs, as well as a series of leporello sketchbooks that combine drawing and watercolor with writing and poetry. One of these, The Lost Mother and Daughter (1970), incorporates the words of Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, whose revolutionary verses calligraphed in black ink contrast with a luminous blue-and-yellow background.

The exhibition is divided according to four themes. The first: “Texts and Poetry,” is based on her infamous 1980 poem “The Arab Apocalypse,” written during the Lebanese Civil War, and emphasizes the importance of writing to her practice; “Mountains” details the recurrent motif of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California, across her oeuvre; while “Colors and Sounds” focuses on her production of tapestries. Her most poignant chapter, titled “Exile,” is organized around her frequent travels between Europe, the US and the Middle East. This section is rich in oil-painted landscapes, pastels and drawings but also films, such as the Super 8 movie Motion (1980–90), which portrays a shadowy, dreamlike New York as seen through the window of a friend’s apartment.

Throughout this intimate retrospective, Adnan’s voice, both feminist and pacifist, reveals itself through her interwoven influences, languages and techniques. She observes her itinerancy, from Smyrna to Beirut, and from Sausalito to Paris, with a generous and engaged eye — an inspiring empathy for our inward-turning age.

by Martha Kirszenbaum

read more
News /

Untitled / San Francisco

Joining the ranks of art fairs recently cropping up in Northern California’s Bay Area — proliferating as in so many urban locales worldwide — Untitled launches its initial bid for distinction by basing its main exhibition site within the repurposing-before-your-eyes shipyard buildings of Pier 70 on the Bay itself.

The pier sits on the industrial-chic margins of San Francisco’s rapidly gentrifying Dogpatch neighborhood, an area embodying yet another cycle of creative placemaking in urban centers throughout the US. The topic of art practices as an attractor and particular bleeding edge of real estate development will be addressed specifically in a panel talk as part of Untitled’s programing by the well-resourced initiators of two such projects: Minnesota Street Projects in San Francisco and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami.

Untitled will also be reaching for distinction in its inaugural effort by featuring a small range of nonprofit art spaces among the invited presenters in the fair’s booth spaces, along with some other unique programming led by a panel on the Berkeley Art Museum’s upcoming version of the touring “Hippie Modernism” show. Featured off-site will be a series of boat tours launched by The Lab and meant to highlight the precarity of Bay Area housing for many of the region’s past and current residents, especially artists (made extra poignant and raw by the recent, highly fatal Ghost Ship fire in Oakland).

At the fair, from January 13 until January 15, the mingling of booths occupied by highly local cultural purveyors alongside those landing from international sites will make for an idiosyncratic mix of commercial galleries and alternative spaces, whose offerings could be as impelled by thematic concerns as those of the marketplace and collecting. Among the artist projects specially programmed for the fair are Paul Clipson’s filmic treatment of elements of the unique former home of deceased Bay Area creative favorite son David Ireland, and Brent Green’s quirky musical performances that include custom-made musical instrument costumes.

by Brian Karl

read more

Flash Art International no. 312 January – February 2017

We are pleased to announce that the January – February 2017 issue of Flash Art International is out now.

While reviewing past issues of Flash Art, we stumbled upon an article by British artist Victor Burgin discussing the show “Difference: On Representation and Sexuality,” held at the New Museum, New York, in 1984. According to the show’s press release, it was premised on “recent interest in the issue of representation [that] has prompted many artists to explore the cultural formation of our notions of sexuality.” In Burgin’s article, which we reprinted as this issue’s “Time Machine,” he analyses in terms of the “difficulty of difference” the critical response against the “political conceptualism” embraced by many of the “Difference” artists, whose works were dismissed as démodé during a time when formalist and expressionist fashions were ascendant. “What was at issue in the work was not a transient aesthetic form but a long-established semiotic form — text/image — encountered in most aspects of the everyday environment.” Defending his and his fellow artists’ lack of concern with the development of a recognizable style, Burgin explains that “the work of such ‘works of art’ was upon systems of representations which were not confined within the institutions and practices of ‘art.’” Amid the hostility encountered by the “Difference” works, Burgin discerned “a reflex refusal to admit difference that has more to do with our ‘large-scale’ politics than we care to imagine.”

This issue of Flash Art takes Burgin’s meditation as a starting point to stimulate a discourse around difference within the current political climate. On the one hand, as theoretician Walter Benn Michaels suggests in this issue’s “Macro,” reflecting on the recent Kelley Walker show at CAM St. Louis, the politics of representation may be a red herring with regard to the problem of economic inequality and the critique of capitalism; on the other hand, artist Jimmie Durham, also featured in this issue with an essay by Jennifer Piejko, boasts a lifelong engagement in civil rights struggles, mastering the “specificity of the political in art” that emerged through the political dissensus of Burgin and his fellow “political conceptualists.” To highlight a vivid distinction between the representation of politics and the politics of representation — both in art and in life — should be our goal for the year we are entering.

Also in this issue:

Olivian Cha examines the transitional paintings of Sadie Benning.

“Benning possesses a singular ability for identifying the most elusive spatial and temporal shifts in form and further embodies them across different media and mediums.”

— Olivian Cha

Associate Editor Eli Diner discusses the images and objects of Oliver Payne.

“As much as Payne’s objects and images present a glimpse onto other worlds, they are two-way portals — the gaze passes this way as well.”

— Eli Diner

In conversation with Assistant Editor Alex Estorick, Paul Pfeiffer addresses what the age of augmented reality means for art.

“I’m trying to find a form that includes a jump from one dimension of reality to another, because in a way that’s the aesthetic experience essential to our consciousness now.”

— Paul Pfeiffer

Associate Editor Laura McLean-Ferris talks to Anna-Sophie Berger about the care and attentiveness at the heart of a social life.

“To me care is not confined to the realm of objects but is naturally also expanded to care of oneself — notions of the fragility of life and finitude as an ultimate bracket to existence.”

— Anna-Sophie Berger

In “Micro”:

Responding to Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope, Cristiano de Majo reflects on shifts in representation of power in recent TV shows.

“In The Young Pope, the sovereign is left with little to do other than exercise free will, in its more or less rational manifestations.”

In “Reviews”:

Georgie Nettell at Reena Spaulings, New York; Alex Da Corte at Maccarone, New York; Pietro Roccasalva at The Power Station, Dallas; Fred Lonidier at Michael Benevento, Los Angeles; Paul Sietsema at Matthew Marks, Los Angeles; Matthew Hale at José García, Mexico City; Bojan Šarčević at Modern Art, London; James Richards at ICA, London; Leigh Ledare at Office Baroque, Brussels; Hannah Perry at Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin; Etel Adnan at Institut du monde arabe, Paris; Sarah Charlesworth at Campoli Presti, Paris; Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement, Geneva; Wael Shawky at Castello di Rivoli and Fondazione Merz, Turin; Bianca Baldi at Swimming Pool, Sofia; Naama Tsabar at Dvir, Tel Aviv; Chen Shaoxiong at Boers-Li and Tang Contemporary, Beijing; He Xiangyu at Kaikai Kiki and SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo.

We are pleased to announce Flash Art’s participation in the 2017 editions of artgenève, Geneva; Arte Fiera, Bologna; Zona Maco, Mexico City; Arco, Madrid; and LA Art Book Fair, Los Angeles.

read more
Review /

Urgent Conversations: Athens – Antwerp EMST / Athens

For Athenians it’s been a long time coming. In 2002, a fifty-year lease was signed with the owners of the vast former Fix Brewery with the aim of opening the city’s first museum dedicated to contemporary art by the 2004 Olympics. Now, and with justified fanfare subdued by astonishment that it finally exists, EMST has been properly inaugurated. Sort of.

“Urgent Conversations,” the museum’s first temporary exhibition, invites dialogue between the Greek state collection and that of M HKA in Antwerp. It is structured with reference to twenty-two thematic blocks which arose out of a thought experiment: the curators chose one piece from each collection and balanced these with a third once a word or phrase had been decided upon. Around seventy works from sixty-six artists were selected using this process.

Utilizing interchangeable phrases like “The Unstable Self” and “Secular Devotion,” the curation could be dismissed as a forced gimmick. Notwithstanding this, we are treated to several wonderful works, many of which have been long hidden from public view. A large welcoming canvas by Apostolos Georgiou (Untitled, 2004) depicting two seated gentlemen, one reading a dirty magazine, the other cowering beneath an icon of the Virgin Mary, is paired with Marlene Dumas’s dark and troubling Sacrifice (1993) in which a naked woman sits on the floor facing a row of three identical men, heightening the tension present in both works.

A series of photographs by Rena Papaspyrou (Stilponos 7 – Episodes in Matter, 1979) show the artist peeling away plaster from an historic building, accelerating the urban crumble ever-present in the city, suitably appropriate in the freshly whitewashed gallery space. Further responding to the location, Allan Sekula’s Middle Passage, Chapter 3 from Fish Story (1990–93), a fascinating ethnographic venture into maritime life, resonates purposefully, despite being from the Flemish collection, with Greece’s maritime history.

While the exhibition achieves what it sets out to do, one often feels at a loss as to why it set out to do what it did in the first place. Nevertheless, the range of works on show examine the versatility of the structure, with further charm to be revealed in stunning upper floors which will eventually house the permanent collection, hopefully in time for documenta 14. An air of optimism flows through the spaces, and I left charged with confidence that the museum has a long and exciting future.

by Andrew Spyrou

read more