New Wave /

The Paintings are Dead

Matt Copson’s installation at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, entitled Blorange, consists of three laser projections of animated birds. One flies gracefully before shards of light impale it in various places; another, seemingly alive and well, rotates on a skewer, intermittently collapsing into a horizontal line, and ultimately transforms into a vortex; and the third is still recognizably a bird, but comprised of cubistic geometric shapes, into which it ultimately dissembles. These animations are backed by a soundtrack consisting of a monologue by Copson read by a child, ostensibly delivered by the skewered bird, accompanied by various electroacoustic whirrs, creaks and squelches by experimental pop producer Felicita.

At one point in this monologue it is declared that ‘The fascists are dead. We are the fascists now! The paintings are dead. We are the paintings now.’ The first couplet might be understood as pure cavalier provocation, especially irresponsible in an age when Fascism is certainly not dead. It calls to mind Anarchist (2015), one in a series of sound pieces by Copson documenting scattergun prank calls across the political spectrum made under the guise of his alter ego Reynard the fox, in which he baits an anarchist bookshop by implying that leftists are jobless layabouts. The second couplet, on the other hand, is more interesting. The notion that painting is dead was of course one which occupied a lot of thinkers throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. Whether they marked its demise with Malevich’s square, Duchamp’s fountain, or Reinhardt’s monochromes, this conviction was usually premised on a teleological conception of art inherited from the once-hegemonic American critic Clement Greenberg, whereby painting had exhausted all of its possibilities.

Matt Copson, Blorange, 2018
Matt Copson, Blorange, 2018, installation view at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris. Courtesy of the artist.

While this question might seem quite antiquated now, I think this claim on the part of the bird that he and his two companions are paintings after the death of painting is telling in terms of something fundamental to Copson’s multidisciplinary praxis, even if not intended on his part. Greenberg often characterised his concept of painting’s medium-specificity in terms of artworks mapping out the essential conditions of the art-form. Yet, it is arguable that what he was actually talking about was painting’s capacity to do justice to particularity. This, I think, is precisely what Copson does in his work.  As he claims in reference to the impetus behind Blorange, ‘the bird is a symbol which has been co-opted by almost every political party and ideology I can think of. I want to give it autonomy.’ However, I would contend that in allowing the elements of his artworks to speak on their own terms and escape political co-optation, his work models order without inherited hierarchy, and thus has political import which belies its content’s flagrant lack of political coherence.

This is all the more remarkable for the fact that Copson so often skirts narrative form, a mode whose elements are usually only of significance in terms of an overarching story. Much of Copson’s work up to now has concerned the antics of the aforementioned Reynard, a character based on the anthropomorphic red fox from Medieval European fables. The most explicitly story-based example is A Woodland Truce, a play ‘performed’ by fake fur and polystyrene animal sculptures in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in 2016, in which Reynard coaxes the other animals into a death pact from which only he escapes unscathed. However, Copson has elliptically told tales in many of his other solo shows. In Reynard Reforms (2015), a monologue accompanied by painting, drawing, sculpture and illuminated drums, tells of how Reynard repents his nefarious ways and grows a human leg. In Reynard Reprised (2016), Reynard’s decapitated head converses with his body, backlit by painted LED panels featuring various of his body parts. And in Reynards Fundament (2016), Reynard’s soul inhabits a massive meteoroid, his mortal form having ‘exploded in revolutionary disdain.’ In all of these shows, the various parts do not exist for the whole. Contrarily, the opposite is true, and the whole seems to exist for the parts. That is to say, the shows operate as constellations, in which each element maintains the visceral integrity of its particularity as an autonomous work, while at the same time gaining significance in relation to the other elements.

Daniel Neofetou is a filmmaker and writer living in London.

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In Residence /

Closing Attunements

In the aftermath of organizing an unrealized exhibition at artist-run institution Odium Fati in San Francisco, K.r.m. Mooney offers a set of relations between figures. These six installments, contributed to Flash Art’s “In Residence” column, are a means for the artist to pursue the significance of each context-specific practice and the potential actions, kinships, and alignments between these figures.

Throughout the year and a half that n/a operated out of a small Oakland storefront, I was in charge of constructing eight benches made to support gathering, allowing various programs to exist alongside the six exhibitions that took place throughout 2013–14. Altering the space several times a month, from domestic site where dishes were washed and someone slept, to one of convening, this constant shifting in living relation implicated a dusting but also a decorating. A basement, a shed, a garage or kitchen nook, these spaces were cleared as a means to reach one another. In their initial context, the perennial edges of a living space might facilitate a slow accumulation, whereas when we exhibit our work where our lives enfold these sites take on a sense of urgent necessity. This strategy to embody away from insolation results in a third condition: a means to reconsider these sites as a more horizontal form of worlding and sharing our work. Generosity as attention becomes synonymous, and the hierarchies between objects, their interpersonal attunements and spatial determinations, perhaps lose their edges. Speculating so far, these values inform the exhibition at Odium Fati, imaginatively including Trisha Donnelly, Yute Cine, and June Schwarcz. The artists span three generations and varying forms of canonization. While two of them have ties to the Bay Area, Trisha Donnelly, born in San Francisco and living and working there throughout the early 2000s, including her role as an educator at the San Francisco Art Institute, continues to cast a version of the Bay Area’s historiography into specific form. Up until her passing in 2015, the late June Schwarcz was declared a living gem of Sausalito County, where she allowed the behavior of the marine layer fog to inform the color, surface, and tone within her work, inviting the viewer to penetrate the enameled surfaces of her vessels only as much as their transparencies permitted.

Providing a location for an exhibition and gathering the works that share space within involves a decision to make a specific type of interaction happen and at a particular scale. Operating as a small community of artists outside of a center, we are mandated to learn how place can mean, and the ways in which we are individually and jointly responsible for our own and one another’s development. The exhibition organized in co-articulation with Benjamin Ashlock and Diego Villalobos is a means for thinking through practices that require an intensified involvement on behalf of the viewer and the locale in which the exhibition takes place. The artworks operate both as an open line and a context-specific practice in which the political implications of the work arise not through explicit content but abstract form. The works within the exhibition consider a specific physical sequencing: a tonal cue for the capacities in which an artwork or material may refract, imparting the conditions from which the viewer beholds it. Making exhibitions outside of the formal codings of a traditional space, our routines are adapted, expanded for the company of others and the major and minor ways that space is lived in and altered. Through the more recent arrival of immoderate access and excess, the Bay Area currently sits at a dialectic; artist-run institutions persist through an economy of means. With the opening but mostly shuttering of artist-run spaces, we inherit this particular temporal scale where emerging and sustaining is ongoing and contingent.

K.r.m. Mooney is an artist living and working in Oakland, California.

Previous installments:
Constructive Gal
If It Need Be Termed Surrender
The Spear Verses the Net
An End in Itself
The Bottle, The Net, The Shell, The Clay Pot

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Review /

Tatiana Trouvé Petach Tikva Museum of Art / Tel Aviv

The most striking element in Tatiana Trouvé’s current exhibition “The Great Atlas of Disorientation” is the sharp contrast between its two main environments. Each creates a distinctive mode of disorientation through an entirely different aesthetic, while also being inconsistent in their artistic quality.

In the first space, the concrete floor has been shattered as if by an earthquake. Amid the cracks and ruins are scattered various structures, cast in bronze, aluminum, and copper, that mimic makeshift shelters made of used cardboards. These vagabond lodgings are embedded with various objects: books and diaries, as well as maps of ancient and current migration routes, celestial navigation diagrams, geological timelines, sketches of solar systems, and phylogenetic evolution charts. It is a culturally and historically-varied display of attempts at cartographically representing our worldly time and space, as well as its geopolitics. Other cast objects such as blankets and cardboard sheets peep out of the ruined ground, as if swallowed by the chaos. The scenic handling of the floor grants the space a catastrophic, postapocalyptic air, as well as a heightened sense of theatricality. Here, Trouvé’s crafted structures, some exhibited previously at the 15th Istanbul Biennial, lose their intensity and become mere props in a set, referring a bit too literally to the contemporary refugee crises.

Tatiana Trouvé, The Great Atlas of Disorientation, June 7 – September 29 2018
Tatiana Trouvé, The Great Atlas of Disorientation, June 7 – September 29 2018, installation view at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Tel Aviv.

The second installation, called “Prepared Space,” is a white, luminous room dissected by long slits running throughout its floor and walls and confusedly converging into multiple vanishing points. The arrangement is based on one of the ancient space navigation maps inscribed on the structures in the previous room; the image has been translated into a mathematical, almost abstract 3-D environment, turning the room into a kind of digital “non-place” inhabiting a sense of “non-being.” The only disruption to this sterile plateau are triangle-shaped spacers (the kind usually used in construction), which are cast in bronze and inserted into the slits as if supporting the unfinished structure.

Trouvé’s work is usually discussed in relation to its uncanny manipulation of space and time, while her use of casting, in which everyday objects are turned into illusionary, hyperrealist sculptures, is often understated. These reverse ready-mades function more effectively in the second room than in the first, as they create a disturbance in the coherence of the mise-en-scène, baffling the viewer’s sense of matter and space. Trouvé’s transformation of mundane artifacts into shiny metal affords them durability but deprives them of their functionality, exposing a root of immigration and displacement not only in the dispossession of land but also resources.

by Keren Goldberg

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Ways of Eating /

On the Fundamentalist Pastry: Lunch at the Trie Café

Have you ever watched an adult man eat a muffin? The scene I encountered at the Trie Café at the Met Cloisters should be familiar to anyone. A guy carrying a brown plastic cafeteria tray takes a table all by himself. He’s got the muffin with him, plus a fruit cup and an unidentifiable hot drink (UHD). The patio is open, and the air is nice. It’s mid-afternoon, and the shaded arcades overlook a running fountain surrounded by wild grasses — “a rustic garth,” you remember from Renaissance art history class. The man sits upright in a black metal patio chair and absentmindedly picks at the muffin. Casually, he stops, having reached an invisible barrier. You guessed right: he’s not going to eat the bottom half.

That no one eats the bottom, or muffin stump, is by now a tired joke, and it speaks to why muffins are kept an arm’s length from contemporary food standards (or reasonable taste). But it’s 2018. Why do we continue to let ourselves be fooled? Taken at face value, muffins are moist, sticky, oily, and sweet. The crumb is good. And there’s that glimmering crust of sandy sugar. To sink your teeth into the common mass-produced muffin conveys substance, but we all know its real name: cake. Specifically pound cake. Another lukewarm explanation concerns their democratic appeal. Nostalgic delight, cheap compromise, unabashed junk, ersatz delicacy, ironic treat, empty carbs, yummy snack, or caloric overkill, they are versatile, and suit a variety of people and needs. Ultimately, though, a more captivating mystery lies in their inexplicable color. Don’t look for lemon, vanilla, or even banana flavor on the ingredients list. No one knows why they’re bright yellow. In the end, the easiest answer is tradition. Because, in truth, the muffin is a fundamentalist pastry.

The muffin is but a byproduct of a monopoly operated by the craft services industry. Charging high prices for mediocre food and, most of all, convenience, for years they essentially wrote the rules for places like the Trie Café. So my encounter with the muffin man seems especially strange in light of a growing trend among traditional museums, zoos, and even airports to finally adapt their menu to more worldly tastes. Why didn’t this guy go with a Pilsner Urquell or a weissbier instead of the UHD? What drove him to choose a muffin over one of the newly available artisan sandwiches? Really, he didn’t have to. The Trie Café’s menu reflects this sea change, in spite of the intransigent demand for muffins.

One glance at the menu reveals there’s something with “broccoli raab” in it. That’s impressive. The novel inclusion of bitter greens amid the pantheon of processed foods was reason enough for me to order it, no matter what form it took. Unfortunately, though, it came as a really bready sandwich. Disappointment was easily thwarted by turning it into a more appetizing, open-faced option. Sweet pepper sauce and salty olive spread season the greens, which, in spite of the dulling effects of being served right out of the refrigerator, retain their bite and tang. In the end, it’s the surprise complement of sesame seeds that makes this sandwich a keeper.

Pilsner and M&M cookie
Pilsner and M&M cookie

My tray was also filled out with a ham and gruyère sandwich, a garden salad, an M&M cookie, and the aforementioned Pilsner. Perhaps given the context, I might be forgiven for my selection of the ham and gruyère. The Trie Café has a euro theme, and ham sandwiches are the thing you buy in the capitals of Europe. But seeing as the meat was disturbingly sweet, I felt silly and sentimental for making the association. Jambon-beurre this was not. The salad, too, lacked the freshness I’d have expected while eating sur l’herbes (or at least next to l’herbes). The appearance within the plastic container was enterprising enough: a crisp lettuce mix, some buttons of English cucumbers, and two different types of radish, including the show-stopping watermelon variety. Yet even a sparing amount of the supposed champagne vinaigrette drowned the salad’s earlier promise, and none of the vegetables, even the spicy radish, could overcome the unctuous flavor. I would have gained a better sense of the garden if I had just used some straw grass to pluck my teeth.

My meal would have earned a fairly plain distinction, but the appearance of the muffin man bothered me. Why hadn’t I ordered like him? How could I so unthinkingly dismiss tradition? Though I have no idea if he enjoyed his meal — and he looked kind of schlubby — his selection nonetheless revealed my own lack of imagination for never considering muffins as an option. We were clearly split regarding the Trie Café’s principle appeal. I wouldn’t order the other two items on his tray either. The fruit cup, like all fruit cups before it, included way too much honeydew. But the appearance of one or two orange slices always suggests the anonymous chefs know better; to cut along a horizontal axis, rather than using the orange’s natural segmentation, barely saves on product and still requires the arduous removal of pith from the fruit’s exterior. Basically, fruit cup purveyors are neither lazy or dumb — they know what they’re getting away with. And as for the UHD, a light tilt of the head gave it away. Muffin man was mining for milk froth. I ask this knowing it will appear in an Italian publication: What’s up with middle-aged men and cappuccinos?

The point is, no one really wants to get to the bottom of the muffin. Especially me, because, like I said, I went with an M&M cookie for my pastry/dessert option. Overbaked, dry, and crunchy, it was the exact opposite of how I like a sugar cookie. Furthermore, the unfortunate biscuit also suffered gargantuan girth, a common problem of most generic baked goods. But the real genius behind the restaurant, and perhaps the craft services industry on the whole, was at work here, too. And I knew it. At the Trie Café, nothing distinguishes the red pill from the blue one (or the red M&M from the blue M&M, for that matter). I ate my stupid cookie. The only difference is that, unlike the muffin man, I demolished the whole goddamn thing.

Ways of Eating is a column by Sam Korman dedicated to the museum dining experience.

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Out Now /

Flash Art 322 September – October 2018

We are pleased to announce that the September – October issue of Flash Art is out now. The cover of this issue of Flash Art portrays Tony Conrad, an avant-garde filmmaker, pioneering musician, artist, theorist, philosopher, committed teacher, and activist. On the occasion of Conrad’s traveling retrospective, soon on view at the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, we dedicate a twelve-page dossier to this unique figure in the recent history of arts and culture.

An essay by Nora N. Khanconsiders Conrad’s vast creative output, the result of his dedication to challenging the boundaries between artistic categories. “Nearly every piece in Conrad’s oeuvre shows evidence of a shifted frame, from the instruments made from rusty Band-Aid boxes, coke bottles, tin foil, copper tubing, wire, scraps of wood, and tape, to the many hours of rangy, hysterical, buoyant, and strange video works,” Khan writes. “Creating new taxonomies by pushing the frame was a political act: not only the literal frame, but any attempt to frame, to position, to establish criteria that go unexamined… The choice of a frame was the moment of creating meaning.” Along with Khan’s text, musician and artist Charlemagne Palestine pays homage to Conrad’s memory by recounting their musical partnership — fifty years of what he calls “aural symbiosis.”

This issue includes also the “CCCO (Cultural Capital Cooperative Object) License Agreement,” a document drafted by artists Nikita Gale, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Candice Lin, Nour Mobarak, Blaine O’Neill, and Patrick Staff, working as the Cultural Capital Cooperative (CCC). The licensing agreement, which the cooperative drafted in dialogue with lawyer Daniel McClean, provides an answer to questions about how to collectively produce works of art, and moreover, how the cooperative as a model of mutual ownership might envision the future sale and transfer of works. In CCC’s words, “[it] seeks to counter the contemporary art market’s usual focus on the individual isolated artist.” In doing so, the license agreement is a legal mechanism available to other artists — “as an instrument, as a proposition… and with a knowing possibility for its further unauthorized reproduction or adaptation.”

Also in this issue:

Yaniya Lee on Tony Cokes’s 1988 video Black Celebration (A Rebellion Against the Commodity)

“Using a simple collage of text and sound and moving image, Cokes conveys a lucid antiestablishment sentiment to criticize mass culture and undo the mechanisms that obfuscate a better, different, possible world.” —Yaniya Lee

Eli Diner on the vagaries of geography and history in the work of Raul Guerrero

“If a Chicano conceptualism was a tough sell in its own right, the irony, playfulness, even capriciousness in Guerrero’s work made it altogether unmanageable, out of step as well with the expectations of what would come to be enshrined under the banner of identity politics.” —Eli Diner

Julia Moritz on fact and fiction in the art of Tobias Kaspar

“You can never really tell if Kaspar’s object-works are intentional one-liners — a no-frills appropriation of commodification’s deadpan functioning to expose that fact alone — or if their well-crafted superficiality only serves as a thread in a broader tissue of contemporary skepticism, a flagship circumnavigating its product.” —Julia Moritz

Luca Cerizza on the minimalist tendency in Rasheed Araeen’s work

“If American minimalism embodies a unity that evolves and transforms within a permutation, Araeen’s minimalism corresponds to the equivalence and equality among the elements within a group, to a totality which only the dynamism of an external gaze can activate, invoking its kinetic potentialities.” —Luca Cerizza

In “Reviews”:

“Readymades Belong to Everyone” at the Swiss Institute, New York; Frances Stark at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York; Diamond Stingily at ICA, Miami; Made in L.A. 2018 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Helen Cho at Trinity Square Video, Toronto; Feminist Land Art Retreat at Audain Gallery, Vancouver; Mira Schendel at Bergamin & Gomide, São Paulo; Julien Nguyen at Modern Art, London; Evan Ifekoya at Gasworks, London; Los Carpinteros at Peter Kilchmann, Zurich; Alexander Kluge at Belvedere 21, Vienna; Liz Magic Laser at Centre Pompidou, Paris; Manifesta 12, Palermo; Lito Kattou at Point Centre for Contemporary Art, Nicosia; 13th Dak’Art, Dakar; 2nd Yinchuan Biennale.

We are pleased to announce Flash Art’s participation in the 2018 editions of Art Berlin; Contemporary Istanbul; Viennacontemporary; Frieze and Frieze Masters, London; FIAC, Paris (booth A25); and Paris International.

Buy this issue

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Review /

Miles Huston Reyes Projects / Detroit

For his recent solo exhibition at Reyes Projects in Detroit, New York–based artist Miles Huston has created seven virtuosic drawings that seem to atomize their subjects, encoding color and proportion into visual algorithms, ecstatic open compositions of planar and axonometric polychromy. In front of each drawing sits the generic object that inspired it — all common products that according to the artist represent the irreducible building blocks of contemporary civilization.

Irrigation, supply chain distribution, food preparation, waste management, air conditioning, refrigeration, and construction are represented by ubiquitous items easily purchased on the internet, such as a green garden hose, a black rubber tire, a red charcoal grill, a yellow rubbish bin, a white box fan, a blue workman’s cooler, and gray rolls of duct tape. Each item imparts a color hierarchy to its respective wall work that would be otherwise imperceptible without the sculptural subject’s presence. Contributing to the multiple layers of signification embedded in “The Style: Dweller on the Threshold” is the artist’s intentional deployment of the primary-color palette popularized by Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian, and Gerrit Rietveld. Huston seemingly recontextualizes the De Stijl school as a lens through which to understand not only the surface of the city, but the increasingly automated and artificial infrastructures that bring global machinations to bear on daily life. 

Miles Huston, The Style: Dweller On the Threshold, installation view, 2018
Miles Huston, The Style: Dweller On the Threshold, installation view, 2018. Courtesy of Reyes Projects, Detroit. Photography by Clare Gatto.

As one of the co-founders of the Brooklyn-based artist-run exhibition space Know More Games (2011–15), Huston has been an important presence in New York’s emerging art scene. Through his involvement with the project space and as an independent curator, Huston has supported an increasingly visible community of emerging artists, helping to give early exposure to ascendant peers such as Jamian Juliano-Villani, Win McCarthy, Michael E. Smith, Avery Singer, and others. Not unlike organizing artwork in a gallery, Huston uses a refined curatorial sensibility to transpose the subjects of his current exhibition onto the picture planes of his “Verse” drawings.  

Looking at Huston’s work can be a meditational experience during which one becomes aware of a profound pictorial and spatial intelligence in the adjacencies of color and form, as well as the use of positive and negative space. Executed with exceptional dexterity, for example, is Huston’s Verse, Red Grill (2018), an architectural composition whose structure seems to stutter, causing what at first appears to be discrete elements of solid, void, figure, and ground to become unexpectedly interrelated. Huston’s visual poetry reflects an increasingly contemporary condition of inextricable urbanistic and digital interconnectivity. Looking at the disassembled red grill on the floor in front of the drawing is like looking upon a crumpled outfit, the occupant of which has been dissolved into its quantum constituents that now hover before you on the wall, unrecognizable yet somehow familiar.

by David Andrew Tasman

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