Flash Art International no. 308 May 2016

We are pleased to announce that the May 2016 issue of Flash Art International is out now.

Following the death of Italian novelist, semiologist and philosopher Umberto Eco, this issue takes as its point of departure questions posed by Eco’s eponymous theory of the “open work.”

Eco’s collection of essays Opera Aperta [The Open Work] was published in 1962, when chance operations and indeterminacy became constitutive elements of the creative process. In today’s cultural climate, Eco’s thinking on “openness” remains relevant to art practice and criticism, providing “an urgent, irksome protest against the organization and management of all which lives,” as British artist Cally Spooner writes in this issue’s “Macro” essay.

The newly introduced “Micro” essay, placed at the end of the issue, responds to “Macro” from the perspective of Italian art, earnestly bringing into the conversation the creative panorama from which this magazine was born. Here, Michele D’Aurizio finds echoes of Eco’s theory of the “open work” in the phenomenon of Italian Radical Design. Envisioning “objects that assume shapes that become whatever the users want them to be,” Radical Design is probably the most successful but understudied embodiment of “openness” ever born on Italian soil.

The question of “openness” — and its valences — resonates throughout the entire issue, above all in our cover story devoted to American artist David Hammons. Conceived as a series of “open” questions, posed by a Wattis Institute research group under the guidance of Anthony Huberman, this feature riffs on an uncommonly raw, spiritual and politically charged art practice. Like a jazz musician, Hammons reinterprets art-making procedures in ways that result in unexpected, free-form resonances. But, as Huberman reminds us to ask: “What’s the relationship between improvisation and control? Isn’t it similar to that of a needle and thread?”

Also in this issue:

Tatiana De Pahlen talks with Bret Easton Ellis and Alex Israel about their collaborative text paintings and the centrality of Los Angeles’s landscape in both their practices.

“In Los Angeles you only think that you’re coming here to reinvent yourself. While, what actually happens is that the city forces you to become who you really are.”

— Bret Easton Ellis

Myriam Ben Salah discusses the tension between individuality and community in Mélanie Matranga’s environmental installations, objects and videos.

“By giving space to the intimate and allowing singularities to blossom, Matranga creates situations that are saturated with emotion.”

— Myriam Ben Salah

Matthew Evans talks with Bill Kouligas about the role Kouligas’s Berlin-based record label PAN plays in documenting the growing significance of music and art crossovers.

“It’s important for me to accommodate all these types of people who can’t really participate in the really specific, genre-type labels.”

— Bill Kouligas

åyr elaborates on the themes behind their upcoming installations on walls and orbs, to take place at the 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art and at the British Pavilion of the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale.

Eli Diner explores Martine Syms’s inquiries into representations of blackness.

“Syms draws her fragments from the vast store of images of black figures. She reifies them, animates them, presents momentary specificity, and each fragment, in turn, slips back into generality. Remember that hers is a show about nowhere.”

— Eli Diner

In “Time Machine”:

In a late-in-life interview with Alan Jones, from Flash Art International no. 140, May–June 1988, William N. Copley discusses his inspirations and working methods.

“Had I taken painting seriously I don’t think I would have had the freedom that I started with. If you know what art isn’t, the whole world is before you.”

— William N. Copley

In “Reviews”:

Fischli and Weiss at the Guggenheim, New York; Adam McEwen at Petzel, New York; Olivia Erlanger at What Pipeline, Detroit; Mathieu Malouf at Jenny’s, Los Angeles; Nathaniel Mellors at The Box, Los Angeles; Jorge Macchi at MALBA, Buenos Aires; Das Institut at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London; Jesse Darling at Arcadia Missa, London; Elif Erkan at Weiss Berlin; Ceal Floyer at the Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau; “The Playground Project” at the Kunsthalle Zurich; Oscar Tuazon at Chantal Crousel, Paris; Guy de Cointet at Culturgest, Lisbon; Lorenzo Scotto di Luzio at T293, Rome; Evgeny Granilshchikov at the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow; Hemali Bhuta at Project 88, Mumbai; “Digging a Hole in China” at OCAT Shenzhen; Miho Dohi at Hagiwara Projects, Tokyo.

Flash Art will be part of the “Reading Room” at the next edition of Frieze New York (May 5–8).

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Review /

Jessi Reaves Bridget Donahue / New York

Anyone Knows How It Happened (Headboard for One) (2016), is the most formally straightforward work in Jessi Reaves’s solo exhibition at Bridget Donahue: two shelves flank a large sheet of plywood with a piece of raw foam stapled bottom-center.

In spite of the candor of the presentation and plainspoken materials, Anyone Knows… absorbs a full abécédaire of art, design, and other vocabularies. The shelves are surreal, biomorphic protuberances; the headboard distorts International Style’s industrial planarity; the staples inscribe medieval crenellations; and a crafty faux-marble swirl decorates the foam. Or it’s trussed dolphin fins, John Chamberlain’s foam contortions, oyster lips, and a bad reaction to an oil spill. The title’s bare-all evocation (and possibly exaltation) embodies the spirit of Reaves’s furniture-sculptures. With basic, short-shelf-life materials, she imbues her Frankenstein-forms with a life-span, and like the monster, they reveal the inscrutable desires—exotic, romantic, abject and ecstatic—behind the dual acts of classification and use.

The remainder of the exhibition is a showroom display of shelves, chairs, couches, cocktail tables, a lamp and an armoire. Viewers are invited to sit on a few of the pieces, which affects the try-it-out comforts of furniture retail, but the experience of any individual work playfully warps the scenario. From its exterior, the use of Night Cabinet (Little Miss Attitude) (2016), is not immediately apparent. But, if one unzips the semitransparent silk bodysock, keys and other valuables can be safely stored on the shelves that comprise its spikey internal skeleton. Night Cabinet undresses intention, its purpose performing a burlesque between object and observer.

Twice Is Not Enough (Red to Green Chair) (2016), is upholstered in iridescent silk, which fluctuates along a chemical-bath gradient of red, green and orange. A square edge suggests it was cut from a loveseat, and its overstuffed plush renders its ad-hoc and unnaturally tumescent appearance pregnant with further upcycling reinterpretations. It is tempting to relegate Reaves’s furniture-sculptures to art’s systems of critique and value, but their generosity, as well as their ironies, traffic just as potently (and perversely) in other function-oriented contexts. Within Reave’s punk theatricality, there is no passive service; her furniture-sculptures free the desire to define, and let it run its course.

by Sam Korman

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There and Back Again /

The Temptation of the Center

Art history exists as a set of critical relationships to what has been created in the past, and to what is currently being produced, in a dynamic relationship with the future (or at least what we can glimpse of it). Thus, art can be thought of as a way to “give form” to our present, through imagination and innovation.

The work of Mario García Torres, consisting of videos, installations and, more recently, sculptures, relates to this constitutive process. His practice mostly engages artistic practices from the second half of the twentieth century, which García Torres considers as crucial to the inherited Western concept of modernity. “Let’s Walk Together,” his current exhibition at Museo Tamayo, curated by Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy, aspires to be the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work in Mexico. The curatorial proposal looks past the museum walls, venturing into various locations in the city according to a logic invented by the artist and linked to an earlier project, his Museo Arte Sacramento, an imaginary museum he mentally established on a piece of land in the Mexican state of Coahuila, where he is originally from. This labyrinthine display, which can be considered a work in itself, affirms the artist’s practice as primarily concerned with the elasticity of time, space and biography, in a problematic attempt to affirm art as a mostly intellectual activity whose relevancy isn’t ultimately linked to its physical substance. García Torres’s endeavor is a kind of ceaseless quest for ghosts, using the art world as a privileged territory to investigate past anecdotes and generative a posteriori narratives, which are in turn susceptible to added meaning from our present time.

García Torres’s work is not often exhibited in his own country as one could expect — possibly suggesting a different understanding of the work outside of US and European contexts. Deliberately mimicking archival and documentary formats, appropriating the auras of other artists’ works and using ready-made objects as validating artifacts that are often only very distantly linked to the core narratives discussed, Garcia Torres plays with the idea of authenticity. His seeming ambition to be poetic and playful could be read as naïve. The artist’s interest in the idea of the border, be it imaginary, social or physical, is often betrayed by the temptation to repatriate the possibly ambivalent figures he chooses (in the majority white, male and upper class) on the side of artistic genius. Their potential function as heroic alter egos can hardly be concealed.

If these appropriated tales can appeal to a Western audience inclined to valorize them as humanistic displays of interest in the figure of the marginal Other, one might consider, from a more “marginal” point of view, that this universalistic posture unconsciously central to Garcia Torres’s work is ultimately rooted in “the idea of ‘difference’ as pejoration.” ¹ Still, this might just a be a reminder that the Museum, the secondary character within the artist’s practice, anthropomorphic yet spectral, remains a place still to be decolonized, and that the white cube, in its most bare form, continues to be haunted by many ghosts talking out loud on behalf of many others. García Torres’s conscious denial of such matters attests to an interesting refusal to stay in the territory assigned to Latin American artists, to acknowledge his otherness, his pejorative difference. In a peculiar way not exempt of its own form of courage, he has decided to remain blind to the spectacle of decay that the world increasingly has to offer, and to use the safe place of the institution as a an endless territory to conquer — and I actually envy the nostalgic, boyish drive that makes him able to yield, again and again, to the temptation of the center.

by Dorothée Dupuis

¹ To paraphrase Rosi Braidotti’s words in The Posthuman, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2013.
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News /

From Planet Haturn Gypsy Sport / New York

The newfound visibility of fashion label Gypsy Sport comes at just the right moment. From the outside, Gypsy Sport strokes our current delectation within contemporary art for a bespoke revivalism, with material qualities emphasized in the handmade textiles and quilts, one-off garments and small-scale jewelry-inspired works coming out of many artists’ emerging or rediscovered productions (everyone seems to be sewing or at least interested in sewing).

Take Susan Cianciolo’s recent exhibitions (a version of the artist’s solo show at Bridget Donahue Gallery recently closed at 356 S. Mission Road in Los Angeles). Cianciolo’s quilts and garments, crafted and hand-stitched to reveal the personal idiosyncrasies of both wearer and maker, embed identity within themselves — an effect that resonates on an atelier-scale with Gypsy Sport designer Rio Uribe. For both Cianciolo and Gypsy Sport, the formation of an identity along a garment’s folds and textures is slippery; it may contain a constellation of references that both cohere and rub against one another. Elements are physically and metaphorically sewn together in fluid ways that manage to establish a healthy sense of humanistic openness to error or complication within that process. For Uribe, this humanist attitude or ethos is symbolized by Planet Haturn, a fictional place of universality, openness and timelessness, where Gypsy Sport was born. Planet Haturn is futurist in orientation and positive in outlook, but nonetheless aware of the complexity in that position, always taking into account its past.

Uribe grew up in LA’s Koreatown, an area whose mixed demographics run opposite to the city’s typically sharp lines of segregation. A clear influence on his collections’ blends of colorful and grunge multiculturalism, K-town nevertheless possesses an historical underbelly of social upheaval, as one of the centers of the 1992 Rodney King riots. Through the brand, Uribe manages to speak to this friction, offering up utopian, unisex and distinctive designs that reflect our racial melting pot while also, not unlike Miuccia Prada, taking from readymade, mass-industrial designs, utilizing them as a socioeconomic ground. You see this in the styling of women in their FW 2016 presentation, in pulled-up calf-length hosiery and orthopedic shoes — a look of mid-century hospice care — to the wide cuts of layered unisex garments in vertical green stripes, sagged down to reveal Gypsy Sport–brand underwear in earth tones. Blue-collar and street.

Gypsy Sport’s collections are broadcast in buoyant, elementally fun and entertaining runway shows and edited videos, looking like a successor to the spectacle-laden showmanship of Miguel Adrover in the late ’90s and early ’00s. At a Gypsy Sport show, weight is given to its irreverent post-sexual attitude and look, which also strays toward earth-laden and familial, with the brand sending out a model carrying her newborn for the finale of their latest presentation.

Adrover, also an apparent influence on the more singular, destroyed garments from previous Gypsy Sport seasons, struggled to keep his brand alive after losing financial backing in 2012. Uribe was working merchandising at Balenciaga at that time, and only two years after that designing a line of hats that would end up at Opening Ceremony. The label owes its meteoric rise to that accessories line, which would prompt a studio visit with Anna Winter and a CFDA award only last year. Displaying an acumen that seamlessly blends design and business, Uribe and Gypsy Sport build a unique look that also emphasizes a heavy brandedness on par with a label like Hood by Air. Gypsy Sport’s destroyed beachcomber forms and cuts become more organically sci-fi with the incorporation of the Planet Haturn logo, featured prominently not only on accessories but also in patchwork coats and shorts, stitched into reverse seams amid variously skin-colored and sheep’s-fur squares in a line from FW 2016.

Saturn as a symbol means business, but it also means life-affirming joy and grounded freedom, a Gypsy Sport mentality that blazes forward with rose-tinted glasses, fearlessly looking toward the past while butting up against all of the apocalyptic potential of the present and future.

by Paul Soto

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Report /

Glasgow International 2016

Glasgow, a Macintoshian architectural pearl in the Scottish Lowlands, is a city stippled by its histories of trade and manufacturing — a perfect representation of the effect of a globalized capitalist trade on local communities. The city rose to prominence and wealth in the nineteenth century with the success of its textile production and shipbuilding under the Industrial Revolution, resulting in abundant architectural growth and grid-structured urban planning.

However, with the closure of many factories, the city eventually suffered a decline and widespread poverty, now visible in the impressive amount of empty and repurposed warehouse space around the city. These processes of value-generation, and the central place of labor conditions within these discourses, were explored in the curated program of Glasgow International, the twelve-day biennial arts festival now in its seventh edition.

At the main site, in the vast exhibition spaces of the former tram depot Tramway in the south of the city, a five-person group show explored the histories of Fordist and post-Fordist female labor. Amie Siegel’s documentary video piece Provenance documented with poetic precision the globalization of the furniture trade through the depiction of a factory in Chandigarh, India. This nicely mirrored Mika Rottenberg’s tactile cinematic video pieces in another room, one of which interspersed surrealist Jeunet-and-Caro-like images of a macabre underground human manufacturing line with a pensive but equally forceful depiction of female South Asian rubber plantation workers. It was surprising how successfully the labor histories of Glasgow, so specific in their historical and geopolitical context, could be extended with relative ease to worlds far beyond it, highlighting how the value-generation of art itself operates through post-Fordist chains of global trade.

In recent years, Glasgow International has become a prominent and important destination for the touring art world — particularly with the arrival of curator Sarah McCrory (previously at Frieze Projects). As discussed eagerly in the opening days, many artists and art professionals from London find in Glasgow a more affordable and less market-driven environment to develop their practices. A few galleries, including the five-year-old Koppe Astner, have installed themselves in run-down but picturesque townhouses around the city.

The famous Mackintosh-style art school, long hailed for having produced Scotland’s best artists, remains the center of this scene, even after surviving an extensive fire in 2014 that saw all graduate work and an important architectural cultural heritage go up in flames. Here, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd presented on Thursday night her most recent performance with the collective “ad hoc theater group” MEGA HAMMER (a lot of glow paint, some obscure crooning and a lot of art students in costume). More successful was Cosima Von Bonin’s pleasant impro-gay house vocalization at the opening of her exhibition at the palazzo-like GoMa (Gallery of Modern Art) earlier that evening. Her sculptural work takes up quilting and pairs it with a Pop-art sensibility to discuss the gendered histories of popular culture and craft — specifically Bavarian stuffed sea animals riding phallic rockets and occupying voguing ballrooms. Upstairs, Tessa Lynch proposed a less masculinist version of psychogeography with her sculptural abstractions of objects encountered on her daily commute.

Beyond the curated program, there were some really fantastic exhibitions across the city that further cemented Glasgow’s institutional significance. At the Center for Contemporary Art, a large exhibition showed recent work by Finnish artist Pilvi Takala, who immerses her performance practice so deeply in the banality of everyday life that it almost vanishes. Her most famous piece, The Real Snow White, captures on hidden camera the escalation of events as Takala, dressed in an impeccable Snow White costume, is denied entrance to Disneyland Paris due to “issues of authenticity.” As a growing hoard of amazed children flock around the princess/artist, and a security guard tries to explain that “the real Snow White is already inside,” the ubiquitous but invisible codes of human conduct are exposed. However, in Broad Sense, wherein Takala navigates the strict security measures of the European Parliament building, the artist poignantly addresses larger themes of accessibility, institutionality and the aesthetics of modern democracy.

In the Montmartre-like quarter at the top of Kelvingrove Park, the nonprofit space The Common Guild showed the work of Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari, who pairs sexual desire with archive theory. Zaatari personifies the vast virtual archive of Internet pornography through delicate drawings of Xtube video stills — and in another piece, inversely tells the story of a personal love affair through a meticulous process of self-documentation.

From derelict warehouse spaces to fully operational public libraries, Glasgow International engages the city on its own idiosyncratic terms, imaginatively responding to the thematics and histories embedded there.

by Jeppe Ugelvig

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Review /

Dadaglobe Reconstructed Kunsthaus / Zurich

Cutting across national borders erected in the aftermath of World War I, Tristan Tzara’s publication Dadaglobe was to be the definitive statement of the Dada experiment begun five years earlier in Zurich, before it unraveled in a mix of interpersonal arguments and financial problems.

This historical jewel of an exhibition, helmed by Adrian Sudhalter, brings together the original correspondence and responses to Tzara’s call for reproductions, portraits, layouts, texts and original works. It’s a dense hanging where everything, from John Heartfield’s sensual and shirtless Double Portrait of Johannes Baader and Raoul Hausmann (1919) to Max Ernst’s small collages, like Chinese Nightingale (1920), is worth lingering over. Why aren’t all historical exhibitions this rich and stimulating?

Literally arranged along colored territorial lines, the exhibition presents Tzara’s project as illustrative of a shattered postwar Europe that still held creative possibilities. As Europe today questions the free movement its union has allowed, it’s important to once again note the cultural costs of geographic segregation. Kurt Schwitters, holed off in Hanover, Germany, was only able to send photographs of assemblage and collage works. They’re beautiful, low-contrast images that show how cognizant Schwitters was of the importance of reproduction in its own right —especially considering his remote situation.

A real highlight is Theo van Doesburg’s response to Tzara’s call. Stating that, as the founder of DeStijl, he could not possibly participate in a movement that was the antithesis to his, he instead submitted under his Dada pen name, I.K. Bonset. Portrait of I.K. Bonset (1921) shows the back of van Doesburg with a textual halo, written in pen, surrounding his head: Je suis contre tout et tous. I am against everything.

by Mitchell Anderson

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