After Vasari

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

Tag: installation

Embodiments

by Paul D'Agostino

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Embodiments: Exquisite Corpse
Exhibition essay by Paul D’Agostino for M. David Studio Residency

The culmination of weeks of planning and a ten-day, intensive on-site period of residency in Brooklyn, Exquisite Corpse will amount to a collective installation of works by Deborah Kapoor, Winston Mascarenhas, Bonny Leibowitz and Francesca Schwartz, all of whom find inspiration in various understandings and expressions of the body, and of bodies. This is a subject they examine and represent with marked abstraction, in visual terms, and conceptually as something internal, external, protean and interactive — and as the means for and locus of invasion and trauma, healing and recovery, stillness and grace.

The layout that curator and residency director Michael David currently envisions for this exhibit of ambitious new works by all four artists is based to some extent on counterbalances and junctures, perhaps not unlike certain aspects of bodily structures themselves. This should be considered in material as well as conceptual terms, not least with regard to how the four artists’ works will be spatially though somewhat casually paired: two artists will be installing their pieces primarily in the gallery’s front area, the other two toward the back. On the one hand, the idea is to create two separate spheres of bodily or meta-bodily expressions; on the other hand, it is to see what kinds of unexpected equilibrium might be attained as a result.

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Filling in and encircling the gallery’s front space with airs of dynamism and spareness will be projects by Deborah Kapoor and Bonny Leibowitz, who have been working with one another’s pieces in mind without necessarily reacting to them. Working now in a minimalist, whispery palette, and with a set of materials somewhat new to her, Leibowitz will complete a sequence of sculptural works hanging from the ceiling. Delicate, airy and slightly astir, Leibowitz’s works will suggest internal tissues and physiological networkings, or perhaps extra-bodily transplants or spiritual emissions. Kapoor, meanwhile, taking cues from birds’ flight patterns and readings thereof, is planning to complete an array of small, variably abstracted, heavily mixed-media wall sculptures intended to surround, perhaps somewhat scavenger-like, Leibowitz’s pendant pieces. Small individually yet imbued with material gravity, Kapoor’s works will cohere with one another visually as a circling flock of abstract objects, or as a composite body composed of an array of bird-like bodies.

Francesca Schwartz and Winston Mascarenhas will present 2D and 3D works that explore notions of the body in ways both far more literal and markedly more abstract. In an extensive suite of variably sized mixed media paintings on handmade composite panels, Mascarenhas will encourage viewers to look at and consider not a body, but our bodies, hoping to communicate how so many of our corporeal and identity-related trappings make us all quite the same, while also individuating us within the very same sameness. In other words, he’ll be creating a series of textures and hues suggestive of our organs — large and small, internal and external — such as our hearts and, primarily, skin. As a retired physician, Mascarenhas certainly knows a thing or two about how we’re all made of the same stuff, and about how our hearts, the things that truly make us tick, were never designed to house the harmful biases that we might harbor in our minds. A practicing psychoanalyst, Schwartz certainly knows a thing or two about how and why we come to greater or lesser understandings of ourselves as individuals, and about how experiences of pain, trauma, anxiety and grief can inflect, inform, confuse, inhibit or enhance these same understandings. Although Schwartz brings a wealth of clinical expertise to the planning of her works, she tends to eschew any imaginable clinicality of style or approach in her assemblage-heavy pieces that incorporate photographs, texts, textiles, and a range of drawing and painting media as well as — since she’s also trained as a butcher — bones. Schwartz will present several manifestations of all such types of work.

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A great deal of new art is being made for Exquisite Corpse. A great deal more has yet to be made. Soon it will all come together in the same space to be completed, tweaked and reworked. We’re all eager to see how the envisioned counterbalances and junctures take shape as an exhibition. And of course, we’re very eager to share all of these results with you.

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This essay was composed for Exquisite Corpse, an exhibition produced by M. David Studio Residency. It was on view from 9/28/2018 – 9/30/2018 at 56 Bogart Street in Brooklyn, New York City.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Scrims & Blurs

by Paul D'Agostino

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Scrims & Blurs: Theresa Volpp, Mads Lindberg, Kinu Kamura, Julie Leidner
Curated by Paul D’Agostino for Residency Unlimited

Hosted by El Museo de Los Sures, and featuring current Residency Unlimited artists Kinu Kamura (France), Julie Leidner (USA), Mads Lindberg (Denmark) and Theresa Volpp (Germany), Scrims & Blurs presents a navigable pathway of paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages, photographs and partially site-specific installations. It’s an exhibition that invites visitors to look at, into and through a variably interactive array of objects while pondering notions of blurry translucence, reflective transparency, dematerialization and rematerialization, and self-refraction and self-discovery. In ways active and viewer-activated alike, the carefully considered surfaces of all of the works — layered materially as well as conceptually — serve as sieves and concealers, revealers and obscurants. Behind their textures, filters, scrims and screens lie clues, secrets and discoveries.

Broad and expansive like a sprawling tapestry, Theresa Volpp ‘s multi-panel mixed-media painting on transparent vinyl is an amalgam of gestural, energetic, and at times frenetic marks and layered applications involving household paint, ink, glitter and spray paint. Her treatment is thin yet chunkily abstract in formal ways. Her palette is deep yet punctuated by vibrant yellows. Transparency lies beneath her materially complex surface, but it’s all but hidden. Your act of seeking it out then becomes exploratory; locating its ulterior surfaces is thus excavational.

Hidden in Mads Lindberg’s sequence of mixed-media paintings, meanwhile, is neither transparency nor translucence, but rather various forms of representation. What Lindberg hides, in other words, is paintings or other kinds of imagery that he finds and repurposes, intervening with his own additional marks and forms. These already somewhat hidden works are then hidden even further behind scrims, as it were, of not only resin, but also an additional ‘outsourced’ layer of a different sort: plastic shopping bags. Lindberg’s implicit commentary on the cyclical nature of the trappings of commerce thus runs from the surface to the core of his works.

Julie Leidner, working in parallel on two interrelated bodies of work featuring a common protagonist — a possibly timid, possibly audacious, possibly fearful, possibly fearsome, perhaps even feral young girl the artist identifies as ‘Pebbles’ — has created a series of small paintings on canvas and a suite of larger paintings on paper. Both bodies of work involve not only overtly differentiable layers of paintings, but also of cultural and historical interpretability. In the smaller works, Pebbles is identifiable behind visual sieves of text that that read, to various extents and in various forms, “Dirty ain’t I?”, a cryptic question that seems as if someone wrote it with a finger into caked-up dirt on a car window. Here, Pebbles peers out of the paintings to see not only the ‘filthy’ messaging, and not only her real and implied ‘viewers,’ but also herself. In Leidner’s other body of work, “I Come Creeping,” one large representation of Pebbles crawls across and atop several large sheets of glossy paper, each proportioned like Playboy centerfolds, and each featuring — behind ‘pieces’ of a ‘creeping’ Pebbles — a very differently formal oil rendering of a rural landscape. Here, history meets mystery, and Leidner’s bodies of work look back and forth at one another while we, the viewers, become an additional ‘scrim’ of complicit voyeurs.

Kinu Kamura’s work is all about additional scrims and layers of looking. Inspired by levels of clarity and blur in our own acts of seeing, and by ideas of experiential and spatial reproduction, reflectivity and transference, Kamura has created an ultimately site-specific, multi-piece sculptural installation that invites visitors to look at, into and through it. Her broadly scaled and spatially expansive objects, to some extent a ‘bridge’ between the front gallery and the back, are composed of various types and formations of plexiglass and other reflective, refractive, sight-altering surfaces. Viewers thus see themselves as they look through such pieces, while seeing also manifold layers of reflections of the works in the room. The room, of course, becomes an active part of the work and ‘act of seeing’ as well: it is the site, and it is also ‘in sight.’ The frame-within-a-frame modality of Kamura’s work doesn’t quite end there, however. She incorporates choice photographs and photocopies as well, some nodding directly at the space itself, and others to other works in the show. Residing in our eyes for a time, Kamura’s labyrinth becomes infinite in our minds.

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The above text was composed for Scrims & Blurs, an exhibition produced for Residency Unlimited. It was on view at El Museo de Los Sures in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from 19 to 28 July, 2018. More information about the show can be found here. Photographs by Paul D’Agostino.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Evolutionary States

by Paul D'Agostino

 

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Evolutionary States: Ruth Hardinger

Ever since following her learner’s instincts, anthropological curiosities, researcher’s mind, ecologist’s sensibilities, and artist’s hands and eyes along a creative path leading her to work in landscape art in the 1970s, Ruth Hardinger has passed the ensuing decades seeking out keener, more elementally informed, more environmentally conscious, and more responsibly, relevantly collaborative modes of crafting her consistently arresting sculptures, paintings, drawings, tapestries, site-specific installations and exterior interventions. She ranks among the pioneers of a certain earthy, earthily timeless aesthetic—a middleground of sorts between the quietude of paintings by Agnes Martin, for instance, and the hulking monumentality of sculptures by Richard Serra—that renders some of her works in abstraction no more abstract than a mountain, say, and that has inspired so many artists following in her wake. Working in an astounding breadth of media, yet never adding to her material docket without conceptual reason for doing so, Hardinger is also a boundlessly prolific artist, and an apparently tireless one at that.

Close inspection of Hardinger’s techniques and materials evidence that she employs the former to somehow compel the latter into states that might be described as evolutionary. She uses graphite in all manner of drawings and sometimes sculptures not merely for its technical utility, but also for its materially intriguing virtues as a kind of essence of carbon. She uses concrete in her generally minimalist sculptures—which are at times large scale and subtly anthropomorphic, and often wont to bow in deference to the ancients while referencing a kind of future antiquity—not merely because of its spartan look, grave heft and functional practicalities that nod to infrastructure as well, but also because its constituent elements make it materially kindred to the bones and shells of animals of the land, the sea and the air. She employs select fabrics for their undying anthropological pertinence and rugged tactilities; she uses certain finishes for the ways in which they impress deeper temporal stamps into the grains and veins of surfaces; she incorporates cardboards and other pulp-based materials for their fibrous strengths, familiarity and recyclability; and she maintains subdued palettes so as to prevent chromatic ornament from mounting experiential barriers between viewers and the hearty thingness of her creations. For certain bodies of work, Hardinger has even collaborated with traditional artisans in distant villages to imbue her artworks with the broadened knowledge of so many past generations, and to readily place her activities as a maker of fine art within a vaster chronology of object making in general.

Hardinger’s works are anachronistic, in a sense, and sympathetically rustic, yet always presented with considered pristineness and rigor. To regard them is to ponder the vastness of time, the relative eternity of certain materials, and the mysterious confluence of elements and circumstances that place us here, where we are, wherever we are. In light of the urgency of environmental issues in today’s sociopolitical discourses, now is an auspicious and important time for this inspiring, ecologically enlightened artist to receive the brighter spotlight she richly deserves.
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This essay was composed for David & Schweitzer Contemporary as an accompaniment to the gallery’s solo presentation of works by Ruth Hardinger at Volta Art Fair during New York Armory Week, from 1 to 5 March 2017. The fair is held at Pier 90, and David & Schweitzer’s showcase is located at booth C23. More information about Volta Art Fair is here.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Take Us Lying Down

by Paul D'Agostino

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Take Us Lying Down: Lisa Levy & Paul Gagner at Spring/Break Art Show

With just the right mix of awkward humor, self-effacement and intelligently irreverent seriousness to evade didacticism while making observations that are both piquant and relevant, Lisa Levy and Paul Gagner poke fun at and gainfully critique artists, the art world, art history, and people in general all at once—implicating all the while, perhaps even principally so, themselves.

Lisa Levy’s performative therapy sessions and related engagements with her audience are funny, to be sure, and at times pointedly cynical. But these same interventions are also sincere attempts at coming to an understanding of how people think, and of why they do the things they do—creative people, primarily though not exclusively. Through actions including a variety of performance pieces as well as her radio show, “Dr. Lisa Gives a Shit,” Levy gets into people’s minds and probes their pasts, not invasively but also not really pulling any punches. Her casually non-clinical approach—she’s not really a doctor, after all—truly caring disposition and well-honed humor are utterly disarming, indeed even charming, encouraging her interlocutors to open up in surprisingly candid ways. At the same time, all this ‘therapy,’ as Levy readily shares with her subjects, is also very much about her—about her own insecurities and shortcomings, about her own creative and social anxieties. In a most literal way, Dr. Lisa’s therapy sessions are also a therapy of the self.

Enter Paul Gagner, a painter whose past few years of output have resulted in scores of similarly amusing, self-reflective, art-refractive works of quasi-clinical criticality. Pictorial analogs to Levy’s practices with performative therapy, Gagner’s abstractly figurative paintings question the viewer’s and artist’s agency and mental stability all at once, yet in a way in which the humor is so blatant as to even factor into the painter’s own self-portrayal in many compositions, as well as in his rather intentionally chunky, at times almost clunky material handling. Most exemplary of these tendencies are Gagner’s paintings featuring ‘books’ that have been ‘written’ by a certain Dr. Howard Moseley, M.D., with disquietingly hilarious titles such as A Beginner’s Guide to Home Lobotomy, Coping With Imaginary Foes, and Do It Yourself Coffins. The absurdity of such titles, and of the goofball ‘book jackets’ Gagner creates for the volumes, make them invariable crowd-pleasers. At the same time, there’s a profound honesty to the works as well, as they must also be read as only subtly exaggerated expressions of Gagner’s own insecurities regarding his capacities as a painter and interpersonal savoir-faire.

Take Us Lying Down will bring the materially divergent yet conceptually linked practices of these two artists into spatial and interactive confluence. The setting will be a therapist’s office of sorts—complete with an obligatory chaise longue—where Levy will offer her ‘expert’ counsel to any and all passers-through who are willing to lie down for a few minutes and open up. Prior to engaging in such ‘sessions’ with Levy, however, visitors will have to navigate a bookstore-like ‘waiting room’ featuring a selection of paintings and faux Moseley volumes crafted by Gagner. Gagner himself will be there too, a kind of strange but friendly receptionist who happens to be surrounded by canvas-bound depictions of himself.

Visitors to Take Us Lying Down will be amused upon entry, then probed in the rear. And they’ll receive bespoke snacks and silly tchotchkes for all their ‘troubles.’ On levels literal and euphemistic alike, this fully realized apparatus of somewhat dark, generally humorous, in part charlatanic, overall sincerely empathic ‘therapeutic’ interactions quite fittingly reflects ‘black mirrored’ notions of self. Care to schedule an appointment?

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Lisa Levy is a conceptual artist, comedic performer, painter and self-proclaimed psychotherapist with a professional background in advertising. Her visual art has been widely exhibited at many venues, including The New Museum, The Bronx Museum, Pulse Art Fair, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Christopher Stout Gallery. Levy also performs live. Her most popular character is Dr. Lisa, S.P., who psychoanalyzes people on screen, stage and on the street, and whose ‘patients’ have even included celebrities such as Joe Gordon-Levitt and Amy Schumer. She currently hosts a weekly radio show called “Dr. Lisa Gives a Shit,” in which she conducts funny, emotionally revealing ‘psychotherapy sessions’ with creative guests.

Paul Gagner received his BFA from the SVA in 2005, and his MFA from Brooklyn College in 2009. He has exhibited throughout the US, including at Halsey McKay, Driscoll Babcock, Lesley Heller Workspace, The Maryland Institute College of Art, the Housatonic Museum of Art, and The Richmond Center for Visual Arts. Gagner has been featured in New American Paintings, Baltimore City Paper, Art 21 and Hyperallergic. The Museum of Modern Art holds a series of Gagner’s collages in its print collection. Paul Gagner lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
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This essay was composed as a curatorial statement for Take Us Lying Down, featuring Lisa Levy and Paul Gagner, on view at Spring/Break Art Show during New York Armory Week, from 28 February to 6 March 2017. Spring/Break Art Show’s location this year is 4 Times Square, 22nd and 23rd floors. Take Us Lying Down is situated in a duplex office setting on the 22nd floor, Suite 2246. More information about Spring/Break Art Show is here.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

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