Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maziar Behrooz at Salomon Contemporary Warehouse

In the unit: Maziar Behrooz (left) and Michael Halsband, (right)

When Maziar Behrooz's architectural sculpture, Rapid Deployment Functional Unit at Salomon Contemporary opened to the public, it was as if spaceship Behrooz had landed in East Hampton. Visitors couldn't wait to don blue booties and climb inside its glowing, minimal interior.  

"One of the challenges I had was to extract every sense of function that one would ordinarily associate with a building to bring the unit to a point where it is pre-functional," said Behrooz. "I want you to be able to project your own fantasy on the space."

By all indications, the award-winning architect did just that. People's reaction was vigorous, physical and interactive. It was as if this container, devoid of reference, was a modern oracle that spoke through a language that is elastic, open-minded, electric.

Look for my profile of Maziar in the September 2nd issue of the East Hampton StarJMG

Hope Sandrow at Art Sites, Riverhead

"Store bought eggs look unnatural to me now"

Everything changed for Hope Sandrow a few years ago when she crossed paths with a cockeral in the woods near her home. No ordinary farm animal, "Shinnecock," as he came to be known, is a Paduan rooster, one of the most prized birds in this species. Like a fugitive from some aviary "Project Runway," Shinnecock is, in a word, majestic. Tall feathers erupt into plumage atop his white head. 

Once prized as egg layers, Paduans have had their "mothering" traits bred out by breeders who value them for exhibition only. So, when a new brood of chics busted out of their pearly whites a few months later it was clear: love was in the air. Despite warnings from specialists to the species' inability to procreate, six healthy offspring were born.

But the real surprise was the derivation of Shinnecock's offspring. They popped out all different varieties and now, some four years later, dozens of wildly different colored birds -- orange, black, dappled, white -- populate Sandrow's meandering property. Rocking the proverbial boat, Sandrow's chickens have produced mostly purebred offspring who have vastly different coloration and characteristics of their parents, anathema to the things we know about genetics. You are invited to witness the complex social interaction among this blended family through a live video feed and the four streaming cameras Sandrow has installed in the open air studio. 

Recently, Sandrow and I exchanged thoughts in an online interview for Blinnk: 

Janet Goleas: Tell me about the broken eggs. Is this a response to the gigantic egg recall in the U.S.?

Hope Sandrow: This artwork predates the salmonella outbreak, but, you're right -- eggs created by the Shinnecock Family are not subject to contamination.

This heritage breed is the oldest known fowl dated to a 1 A. D. sculpture in the Vatican Museum. One idea explored in this work is the act of "creation," both singularly and in the context of the universe. It's one of the first questions posed to children:

"...the problem about the egg and the hen -- which of them came first -- was dragged into our talk, a difficult problem which gives investigators much trouble. And Sulla, my comrade, said that with a small problem, as with a tool, we were rocking loose a great and heavy one, that of the creation of the world..."    
                                                                                                   Plutarch, Table Talk, Moralia, 120 A.D

Also, the cracked shells are the remains of each egg consumed and they document the hen's original works. Consuming food -- or art -- is the reasoning for the title, "Food for Thought" given by my collaborator Nixon Beltran, a dancer and performer. It was Beltran's and the Building and Grounds manager at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center idea to feed these works of art to the artists-in-residence.

JG: The large egg is so beautiful. What's it made of?

HS: This egg's plaster composition projects a sense of delicacy in spite of its size. It's exhibited here just as it was displayed in the A.G. Edwards office in Watermill: Caring for nest eggs...that's what we do. It was printed on a placard as the company motto. Ironically, this was prior to the 2009 banking and mortgage financial crisis.

JG: Tell me about this image that introduces the show. It's a boy and a bird.

HS: This white Padua rooster is the patriarch and founding father of the flock. He followed me home one day and made it his home, too. Shinnecock, named for where we met, is poised here in my open air studio alongside a young boy who is watching his father climb up a dead, 100 year old Oak tree that he's about to fell.

Each day that Shinnecock has lived with us he's taught us how intelligent and resourceful he and his flock can be. As he's learned English and begun to communicate his needs, he inspired us to change our lives to accommodate him (proving Michael Pollan's point in his book, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World). 


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Best bet: Peter Saville (& Co) at Glenn Horowitz

Will Cotton, Josephine Meckseper and 2 of Saville's plinths
Peter Saville: Accessories to an Artwork -- John McWhinnie at Glenn Horowitz

From the gallery website: "Saville’s plinth provides a framework for a collaborative exhibition. It is an artwork which transfers the power of curatorial decision-making to others, namely the individual artists in the exhibition, but also to the individual collector who purchases a plinth from the edition. Saville once observed that, ‘it all looks like art to me now."
Peter Dayton
                                                                                                 comments to come...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The once and future Barbara Kruger ignites Guild Hall

Barbara Kruger installation, Thomas Moran gallery, Guild Hall
Still subversive after all these years: Barbara Kruger at Guild Hall (Aug 14-Oct 11) has electrified the gallery floors, ceilings and walls of this historic institution like never before. In her signature style, Kruger incites a kind of declarative poetry that is subversive and hypnotic. Evoking a sort of group swoon -- her installation is dizzying, provocative and very black and white.

Although her career began back in the 70s, (she was in the 1973 Whitney Biennial) Kruger really burst on to the scene in the 1980s with what would become her signature agitprop style of seductive epithets and savage quips. 

Part cultural critic, part pissed off feminist, Kruger became the voice of a generation that looked askance at the rhetorical nature of advertising, consumerism, corporate greed and racial and gender stereotypes. Her works seemed to have unlimited power to expose truth, often with shocking clarity. One of her best known pieces, Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am), 1987 seemed both an indictment of American culture and a feminist call to arms. "Barbara Kruger is one of the most important artists of her generation," said Guild Hall curator, Christina Moussaides-Strassfield. "It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with her on this exhibit. It's everything I thought it would be, and more."  
Throughout the last three decades, Kruger's terse vernacular and pertinent observations have made the world sit up and ask, "Who's in charge here?" At Guild Hall, she reasserts her relevance.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A conversation with sculptor William King

Mama's Boy III, bronze

Bill King has been making art for over sixty years now, and his exhibit of bronzes at Pamela Williams Gallery in Amagansett reveals the sort of sureness of hand, sagacious wit and the deft and economical poetry that only a lifetime of focus can bring. What a pleasure. The sculptures, mostly pedestal size bronzes of figures engaged in a variety of contortions and bon mots, are touching and farcical and they exude a playful tragi-comedy that conjures the likes of Samuel Beckett, Moliere and America's quintessential "everyman," Dagwood Bumpstead. The artist Dennis Oppenheim, whom, it's fair to say is bewitched by satire of another kind, and I talked with Bill last Monday at the home and studio he shares with his wife, the artist Connie Fox.
Mama's Boy II
                                                                              Here are a few excerpts from our conversation:

Janet Goleas: When did you realize you were an artist, or that you could make art?

Bill King: When I was 20. The first day, the first year at Cooper Union. I went there to study architecture -- so before that I thought, "what's an artist? Somebody with an organ and monkey on a string?" One of the instructors took us to the Museum of Modern Art to a show of Elie Nadelman. There were about 15 people in this drawing class and we all went. Anyway, I looked around and thought, "I can do this." The arrogance. Wow. turned out I could.

Bill King at his East Hampton home, summer, 2010

JG: Did you have a gallery back then?

BK: I was with Charlie Allen and a place called Roko Gallery -- Mike Freilich's gallery on Greenwich Avenue. They had just started Skowhegan up in Maine. It wasn't much of anything then, but it's a big deal now. They had a city-wide contest to win a scholarship to Skowhegan -- one prize for painting and one for sculpture. I won the sculpture prize. They showed us in the village -- down on Greenwich Avenue. I sold a couple of pieces, and that was it.

JG: You were still a student?

BK: I was graduating that spring. I had ideas about what I wanted to do. So many things were uncomfortable to me -- like the Cedar Bar, Greenberg. 

Dennis Oppenheim: Did you know De Kooning?

BK: Oh, yes. I liked talking to DeKooning -- that was an education. He was always so smart and so perceptive.

Dennis Oppenheim in King's studio
DO: There was a bit of shyness about him, wasn't there? 

On DeKooning and the Abstract Expressionists, Clement Greenberg and the Tanager Gallery:


JG: Your work stood apart among the abstract expressionists. 

BK: Oh, yeah, I was harassed for that. But, I still considered myself one of them. In the end, you just have to do what you're going to do. I was snotty. Maybe every artist feels superior -- looks down on their fellow creatures.

JG: I'm surprised to hear that. You seem like the antithesis of the ego driven artist.

BK: Don't you believe it.

DO: What were those early sculptures like? 


DO: Pop art emerged in the 60s -- did you find yourself drawn to that sensibility? 

BK: I guess I thought there was something missing in art history and I wanted to fill it up. But I didn't invent anything. Picasso invented it all. We went to Italy one summer and stayed in a friend's flat in Vallauris -- perfume country. It was 1950. To our surprise, Picasso was there working in the property next door. After supper we'd go over and hang on the fence and watch him work. His whole place was surrounded by barbed wire -- he would have been pestered to death, I suppose. He worked at night in a greenhouse with bright fluorescent lights. So there he was. He was a little guy, working on a goat and a monkey mother. We'd just watch him all night. I saw him on the street there  a few times. Once our eyes met. He had eyes just like the ones he painted. They weren't so big, but they were so intense. There was something going on in there that I didn't see at the Cedar Bar.

                                                                        Bill King, Dennis Oppenheim and me, Monday, August 9, 2010