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Social Fabric / Atelier E.B

Atelier E.B, the studio practice and collaborative fashion label run between Edinburgh and Brussels by artist Lucy McKenzie and designer Beca Lipscombe is preoccupied with dress as a phenomenon emerging from a lineage of industry, craft and labor.

On the occasion of the group show “’33 – ’29 – ’36,” curated by McKenzie and on view at the UM Gallery of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, and their latest book, The Inventors of Tradition II, published by Koenig Books, McKenzie and Lipscombe spoke with Flash Art.

What is the methodology behind how and when you disseminate your collections?

We do not work with the fashion timetable. Instead, we work slowly to let things develop at the pace it needs around our other work and lives. Nothing is fixed, and with each new collection we try something new — working with different graphic designers, photographers, models and mannequins. The clothes are something of a pretext to do other things we like to do together and with collaborators.

What does it mean to exhibit fashion objects in a gallery space? What does art’s critical framework offer Atelier E.B?

Within an exhibition format our work can be part of broader discourse around showing design objects in a gallery or museum — where hierarchies of status dictate how it should be read. Through showing in galleries we get financial and moral support without having to submit to the pressure and self-interest of the fashion industry, with all its gatekeepers in the form of editors, buyers and stylists.

There is often a feminist orientation to your work, particularly in “’33 – ’29 – ’36.” How do you relate to dress and its history as a women’s industry?

Examining history from a feminist point of view is especially rich for fashion as a field with many great female producers that are now being written about seriously. Academic writers like Elizabeth Wilson, Caroline Evans and Tag Gronberg all explore fashions’ inherent radicalism instead of regarding it only of interest because of its proximity to existing grand narratives. As if fashion is only relevant because male figures like Mallarmé, Benjamin, Loos or Simmel permit it. Atelier E.B wants to be part of the project that uncovers lost histories and celebrates marginalized figures, especially women.

Does your work attempt to critique or destabilize of fashion’s market framework?

We don’t start from such a negative or conceptual starting point. Primarily, we make clothes for ourselves and our friends for working and that make us feel strong. That we can only go about that in a way which ignores the traditional fashion market framework is secondary. If that is read as inherently critical then it shows how entrenched those market rules are. We are more preoccupied with finding a way for Atelier E.B to flourish with our set values and ethics; this is more invigorating and empowering than critiquing.

by Laura Gardner

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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

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Faux Oedipus Complex / Omer Fast

The only thing in life that one can be certain of is death — or at least that’s the current status of the human life cycle. Omer Fast’s immersive seven-film installation, part of a retrospective organized by the Berliner Festspiele and Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, however, asks us how certain can we really be of authentic life and death.

Tripping through 231 minutes of film imagery in various locations, several of them physically restaged in the museum or on screen, the viewer moves through airport departure lounges; hot, acrid war zones in Afghanistan; family-run funeral parlors; and the unglamorous, stiffly staged Los Angeles porn industry. Fast takes us on a journey that transcends our own narratives on and off camera as we dissect the terrain of his multidimensional screened works.

The artist’s direction is reminiscent of both a LARP (live-action role play) and a glitch in the system — think of David Cronenberg’s cult gaming platform as depicted in the sci-fi film Existenz (1999). Within his immersive viewing spaces, Fast uses replay and reenactment as tools to flood the viewer with familiarity. Looking Pretty for God (After G. W.) (2008) is set in a replica waiting room in the museum, and his companion films Spring (2016) and Continuity (2012) deal with replay through plot devices. In the latter, a desperate couple pays a young boy and then several men to impersonate their deceased or imaginary son. But they have to hire new surrogates as the years go by; there are inconsistences in the men, passionate moments of tenderness, confusion and painful needs. This spews over into sexual proclivities of failure and discomfort resulting in an unsettling faux Oedipus complex.

Most of Fast’s works delve into the psychology of contemporary trauma, often relying on the blurring of memory and the re-telling of actual events via moving image. His work renders the formalities of the cinematic genre at once useless to the audience. Playing with absurd, looped plots and surreal contexts, he pushing us into a space where we must confront our most erratic phobias and values — including incest, homophobia and the fear of death or loneliness. He is a modern-day Georges Bataille, relentless in trawling through our waking lives, uprooting the unthinkable and leaving us stranded in our own minds.

by Penny Rafferty

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Against Mediocrity / Donald Judd Writings

Donald Judd engaged a lifelong struggle against mediocrity and its hazards. “Mediocrity is lazy thinking,” the artist’s son and Judd Foundation co-president Flavin Judd told Flash Art. “Don was very curious, and this innocent idea — that you can’t know enough, that you have to dig deeper and look wider — is what he thought everybody should do.”

A new book of Judd’s essays, published this fall by the Foundation with David Zwirner Books, expounds on this notion. Its modest orange, cloth-laminated cover and minimalist typeface, reading simply Donald Judd Writings, belies its weighty contents: one-thousand-or-so pages worth of the late Judd’s musings on his vast body of interests, written between 1958 and 1993. Many of his essays, both the well-known and the previously unpublished, with some of the later hailing from his college days, are pedantic, incisively critical evaluations of the art world. Topics include the virtues of Lee Bontecou’s reliefs (“primitive, oppressive, and unmitigated individuality”); the decline of new art over the fifteen years leading up to 1983; navigating New York, the “world’s leading art center”; and why a young Yayoi Kusama should receive a US visa. Other essays, alongside scattered notes — wry one-off epiphanies that the Foundation has painstakingly deciphered and organized — explore other topics: architecture, design, politics, consumerism. “Some TV sets are not so bad,” he wrote in 1982, “and some are awful, like Zenith and Johnson and Burgee.”

“Just as the language cannot have the physical, visceral effect of the art, the art cannot tell you where it came from and why it matters,” writes Flavin Judd in the book’s foreword. The artist’s writings give a deeper context to his artwork by constructing a portrait of his understanding of the world, his curiosity and his piercing wit. But the foreword ends in disclaimer: “It would be a mistake to think that after reading nearly nine hundred pages of Don’s writings you will know him, but that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be to find something within the writings that is useful, something that can be a tool for future use… Ideas are tools and this is a toolbox.”

by Janelle Zara

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Ten Years on the Waterfront ICA / Boston

Throughout the first ten days of December, the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston will be celebrating a decade of activity in its current location on Boston Harbor. Filling a sleek water-facing building designed by the architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the relatively new museum space has become integral to the landscape of the city’s bustling Seaport District.

Over its eighty-year existence, what is now the ICA has undergone numerous changes in both name and location. Since its inception as the Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936, when it was intended to be a sister institution to MoMA in New York, the collection and programming have moved to different buildings around the city thirteen times. The emphasis has been consistent despite these various transitions: to present challenging contemporary art across media and introduce the concepts of current art practice to the greater Boston area through a range of education programs.

The current facility on the waterfront has allowed the ICA to increase the scale of both its gallery exhibitions and general programming. (The museum also claims that audience attendance has risen tenfold since the move.) Recent exhibitions have included surveys of work from Nalini Malani, Geoffrey Farmer and Walid Raad, as well as the first comprehensive museum overview on the legendary cross-disciplinary activities at Black Mountain College during the first half of the twentieth century.

To celebrate ten full years on the Harbor, the ICA is hosting ten days of performances, artmaking and educational programming, all with a reduced admission cost. There will be chefs cooking new takes on traditional New England cuisine, innovative choreography, “movement installations,” creative workshops and dialogues for area teenagers, multiple tours of the collection with curators and a wide array of concerts from across the musical spectrum.

A highlight in the galleries is the show “First Light: A Decade of Collecting at the ICA,” which “brings together new acquisitions and permanent-collection favorites in a series of interrelated and stand-alone exhibitions.” Works by Kara Walker, Paul Chan, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin and Andy Warhol, among others, are included in this diverse overview of the museum’s aesthetic. The overall emphasis of the ten-day program will echo the museum’s mission since its early origins — of bringing together the local Boston community and demonstrating the broad possibilities of contemporary art.

by Matthew Erickson

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Cardi Gallery’s expansion / London

London’s prosperous Mayfair neighborhood — known as a center of art and wealth since the seventeenth century — has been enriched at 22 Grafton Street by the new headquarters of the historic Cardi Gallery, founded in Milan in 1972.

Housed in a proportionally elegant late-eighteenth-century brick townhouse building, in a style conventionally recognized as Georgian, the gallery’s entrance, as well as the two large white windows that face the street, suggest a fusion of English and Palladian architecture.

Extensively renovated, the atmosphere inside is warm and welcoming. There are one thousand square meters across six floors, each of which is divided into two rooms with fireplaces that retain (at least on the ground floor and the first floor) the preciousness of the original marble. The meticulousness and care used in restoring this traditionally British environment is perceptible in the preservation of the original plasterwork, where possible; in the highly polished railing that surrounds the dense internal staircase; and in the highly characteristic upholstery patterned with gray and mustard tones that is matched to the light-gray carpet that lines the stairs.

After nearly fifty years of activities, here Cardi presents a selection of works from Arte Povera, American Minimalism and the Zero group. The Arte Povera works in particular take on a newly minted aura in this setting. For example, Maria a colori (1962–1993) and Tre Uomini (2007) by Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Rete Ghiacciante (1990) by Pier Paolo Calzolari, so perfectly inhabit this environment that they nearly eclipse works by Kounellis, Zorio and Penone.

In the basement, the essential humanity of Mario Merz is celebrated through a selection of works from the 1980s, among them Igloo (1983). Establishing it’s own spatial confines and while being enhanced by penetrating natural light, the work confirms the connection with nature and the open-mindedness that the artist’s job demands.

by Eleonora Milani

(Translated from Italian by Vashti Ali)
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