Review /

Cauleen Smith University Art Galleries / Irvine

Once ushered into the dark chamber there is a flush of sound. For self-defense, “The Warplands” is an exhibition pared of all administration. And short: the films extend to less than twenty minutes.

First comes an iPhone bibliography, the Human 3.0 Reading List (2015-16). A hand silently flips through books drawn on delicate graph paper crumpled by graphite and acrylic. Here, poverty of form and means are markers of humility that lend transparency to what she transmits. Cauleen Smith is learning to draw, producing works of both naivety and precision.

Farther along the wall, Lessons in Semaphore (2016) flows from a young man to an elder. We see the dancer taisha paggett dipping herself into a vibrant green pond of tall grasses that is an abandoned lot in urban Chicago. With two red and blue flags she signals the plenitude of her breathing life to a young boy, who mimes for her in semaphore.

The silent flickering of their 16-mm exchange is drowned out by a recording of Alice Coltrane’s One for the Father, pulling one toward its sound past a wall of banners from Smith’s 2015 Black Love Procession in Chicago. The words of Gwendolyn Brooks, “Conduct your blooming in the noise and the whip of the whirlwind,” shimmer in the light of their fabric. Now you sit before the film Pilgrim (2017).

You could watch it endlessly, this iteration of a longer project to be shown at the ICA Philadelphia in 2018. Coltrane’s voice announces once again the title of the song dedicated to her husband. Images follow of the California ashram to which she moved with their four children after his death, all calm readiness: the organ under its Plexiglas case, the reposing orange kirtan cushions, the temple in a valley below a mountain peak. Then come images of a tree in molecular fusion, and the blooming of daisies in an ecstatic shaker dance. It’s a happy thing watching how Cauleen Smith so accurately and soulfully bows to transmission.

by Noura Wedell

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Review /

Jean Pigozzi Galerie Gmurzynska / St. Moritz

Johnny Pigozzi’s photographs have always had a specific allure – allowing access to pool parties with Bianca Jagger in the 80s or New York clubs with David Geffen a decade on. If it weren’t for the changing fashions and increasing visibility of mobile phones, Pigozzi’s pictures would seem ageless; their medium format and characteristic black and white rendering them permanent snapshots.

In “Pool Party in the Snow”, the title of the show at Gmurzynska Gallery, Pigozzi captures moments around the “blue pool”, of people we have somehow always been curious about, including Geffen, Calvin Klein, and Mick Jagger.

The show features over thirty black and white photographs that offer a rare glimpse into a world that, over the course of the 1980s and 90s, would converge on the Ettore Sottsass-designed pool in Antibes; a world that included Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Douglas, Naomi Campbell, Kristen McMenamy and Helmut Newton, among numerous others. In one interview, Pigozzi states: “I’m obsessed by the future. That’s why editing my photographs is painful. Even if the picture was taken three days ago it’s already the past and I’m not interested anymore”.

He got his first camera at the age of ten, a Leica that had belonged to his father. It’s a brand he still uses today for its convenience. For Pigozzi, photography is a way of maintaining a journal, yet one he doesn’t necessarily go back to; a way of freezing a memory before it’s gone.

Reading his words: “When you’re an obsessive collector, you collect friends, companies, and art” – while examining his pool inflatables – you want to cry out like Charles Baudelaire: “Hypocrite collecteur, – mon semblable, – mon frère”.

by Victor Lucas

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Review /

Do Ho Suh Victoria Miro / London

Do Ho Suh’s first solo exhibition at Victoria Miro coincides with his recent decision to relocate to London. Entitled “Passage/s,” the show reflects on the notion of home as a physical structure and platform for the exploration of issues relating to identity and our relationship to our chosen locations.

The centerpiece of the show is a sculpture made up of nine modules that Suh refers to as “Hubs” (2015–16), each of which isolates architectural elements from far-flung buildings that the artist has inhabited during his lifetime. Composed of polyester fabric sewn with gelatin tissue and discreetly supported by stainless-steel pipes, the “Hubs” in question all join to form a corridor through which visitors may traverse places in London, Seoul, Rhode Island and Berlin, all in the space of a few meters. Although extraordinarily detailed, with sockets and door handles meticulously replicated, Suh’s reconstructions are nonetheless abstract enough to maintain their spatial anonymity. Each identified by a different color, the hubs successfully conjure up metaphorical journeys to match the artist’s vision of life “as a passageway with no fixed beginnings or destinations.”

If “Hub” doesn’t come across entirely as a surprise to those familiar with Suh’s work, the series of thread drawings exhibited on the gallery’s ground floor are a genuine novelty. Based on a process the artist developed during his residency at Creative Workshop & Gallery in Singapore, the drawings compress Suh’s architectures into two-dimensional form. After immersion in water, the polyester is pressed onto paper to produce almost skeletal compositions; the overlaps caused by folds in the material create the only color change in otherwise monochrome images. In contrast to “Hub,” the entrances to these thread drawings are walled off, converting the sculptures’ initial fragility into strong, cohesive forms, and subverting the premise of a “passage.” They reaffirm architecture as a temporal yet incisive presence in the path of life.

by Michele Robecchi

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Alex Baczynski-Jenkins Chisenhale Gallery / London

In Alex Baczynski-Jenkins’s newly choreographed work The tremble, the symptom, the swell and the hole together (2017), eight performers circulate the gallery space. The set up is minimal, its focal point an octagonal four-tiered stage whose platforms are reconfigured over the course of the exhibition.

Red electric heaters punctuate the walls, while folded blankets act as both props and seating. Stark artificial lighting and an intense soundtrack of looping rhythmic samples and continuous low drones charges the atmosphere with palpable tension.

Time is crucial to the work’s exhibition format, articulated according to a rigorous structure of four self-contained fortnightly “episodes.” Longer “fugues” take place on weekends, at which three performers at a time incorporate elements from the previous episode in an adapted and extended sequence. Designed to evolve over time, one only ever garners a partial perspective.

Framing itself within the legacy of postmodern dance and queer performance, Baczynski-Jenkins’s choreography is one of intimate, habitual gestures — fingers delicately stroking a face or absentmindedly tapping a surface — which break from moments of personal withdrawal into an internalized dance of rave intensity. Spoken word recurs in the form of poems and short exchanges, the repetition of lines and gestures building a sense of continual rehearsal of interconnected subjectivities.

The body becomes at once a material measure of its surroundings and of wider social parameters. As they move on and off the stage, the performers determine how viewers negotiate the gallery space. Moments of direct address ensue when performers balance at the perimeter or hold the viewer’s gaze in tacit exchange. Using basic theatrical devices, Baczynski-Jenkins creates a social choreography in which an experience of estrangement materializes through mechanisms of self-reflexivity and non-normative modes of subjectivity as owned and developed in common with others.

by Silvia Sgualdini

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Geometry of Now GES-2 / Moscow

The widely discussed transformation of the former power station GES-2 into a new museum complex for the V-A-C Foundation was suspended for the short but ambitious exhibition-cum-music festival “Geometry of Now.”

Curator Mark Fell invited seventeen local and international artists to baptize the space and give communion to its potential visitors. For one week, industrial rooms, chambers and mazy corridors were reanimated with singing voices, hissing noises and spectral images. One of the biggest halls was populated with Jana Winderen’s amplified recordings of snapping shrimps and echo-locating whales. In the smallest space, Philipp Ilinskiy organized a claustrophobic and disorientating dark labyrinth where one could navigate by aural means only. In this compellingly interactive work, sound art’s lack of spectacle art turned out to be spectacular in itself.

Attentive viewers may have noticed Edmund Husserl’s book Origin of Geometry in the show’s reading room, thus revealing the exhibition’s hidden intellectual overtones. Indeed, the very idea of phenomenological presence was especially key to an evening concert program that bound the public to strict rules of behavior. An almost inaudible composition by Éliane Radigue; Terre Thaemlitz’s heavy video essay on transgender and emigrants rights; and Luke Fowler’s celluloid film shot at the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture: all required intense concentration and self-reflexive awareness.

An evening “rave” program radicalized the experience by rendering it visceral and carnal, testifying to Fell’s own interest in neurological theories of music. Accompanied by cries of “give us techno,” the lineup gradually progressed from aggressive performances, like Hannah Sawtell’s militant strobe lights or Russell Haswell’s lasers, to locomotive music with a familiar 4/4 beat. Attendees with the most enduring organs of perception were gratified by late-night sets by Mumdance, Anthony Shakir and DJ Sprinkles. Thus, through the process of natural selection, “Geometry of Now” winnowed its audience down to an “elite within the elite” who prefers music, deconstructing club culture itself.

by Andrey Shental

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Emily Sundblad Xavier Hufkens / Brussels

Charline” shouldn’t exist, as there is something contradictory about mounting a monographic exhibition by an artist who has always preferred collaborative work, who herself sometimes hides behind a fictional character.

Emily Sundblad entered the art world in 2003 by cofounding with John Kelsey the Reena Spaulings Fine Art gallery in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Since then she has been playing the ambiguity game of being an artist, a gallerist and, occasionally, a singer. The gallery’s name comes from an eponymous novel by Bernadette Corporation: the story of a young woman who achieves success as a top model while working as a museum guard. The book is a collectively authored work about fame, thus embodying the two characteristics that must have caught Sundblad’s attention in her search for new ways to exist as an artist without having to follow the rules.

“Modesty” and “spontaneity” are the two most appropriate words to describe the show at Xavier Hufkens. Except for one large canvas, all the works are small, color pastel drawings, or rather sketches, on paper. For some of them, Sundblad used black eyeliner on letterhead from the El Paisano Hotel in Marfa, Texas. They look like fragments of a travel diary, mainly dedicated to portraits of the artist’s friend, the painter Charline von Heyl. By restricting herself to a single graphic medium, Sundblad pays tribute to Von Heyl, who, as curator Anne Pontégnie puts it, “has battled to win a place in the very masculine world of German and American abstract painting. Engaged entirely in her medium, von Heyl has devoted her life to reinventing it.”

by Pierre-Yves Desaive

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