Spiritual Awakenings: Langdon Graves’ “Month’s Mind” at Victori+Mo

In Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” the story’s protagonist, Mrs. Alving, is a woman driven nearly mad by the profligities of a husband since deceased. Her suspicions, agonies and fears manifest into lingering presences that she summarily labels as ‘ghosts’. “I am inclined to believe that we are all ghosts,” she mutters to a family confidant. While for Ibsen these ‘ghosts’ allude to one man’s sins, ghosts have remained a frequent reference point in literature throughout the centuries, as ghosts and hauntings have persistently crept into society’s consciousness. Every culture has held onto their own form of ghost stories. Yet, can ghosts remain congruent to our present reality in which data and security camera leave little room for subjectivity and conjecture?

“Month’s Mind” solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (toward the rear of space)

One artist who is convinced they can is artist Langdon Graves, whose formidable solo show “Month’s Mind” remains on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020. The subtlety of this curious exhibit lingers in the mind long after a visitor encounters Graves’ work. The exhibit features seemingly everyday objects often with a peculiar twist: pencils bend around tables, while maggots crawl through lifelike apples and flowers. These works appear in suprising configurations and cavalcades, locked in a frozen procession – a funereal march across a pastel-tinged space. Rooted in a carefully meted blend of autobiography and research-based practice, “Month’s Mind” marks an exhibit that hints at the delicate relationship between macabre and memorial, grief and the occult. The title itself refers to an old English practice of marking the memory of someone one month since deceased, and the contrast between soothing and morbid – a ‘finger’ hangs suspended from six feet below a spray of daisies on one wall of the exhibit – shifts its weight carefully throughout the expanse of space.

Another carefully balanced juxtaposition held firmly in place by Graves’ sure hand is the dissonance separating empricism and the supernatural. While data can indicate correlations, it cannot always explain: Graves knows as much from life experience. Raised with a strong memory of her grandmother, who recalled the artist’s great-grandfather’s mortician vocation and the religious experience of boarding school life at Georgetown Visitation Monastery, the artist recalls her grandmother’s tales of gruesome hauntings. Her earliest memory of her grandmother sharing a haunting occurred at a young age: as she recalls, her grandmother remembers that after a close relative passed on, she fell asleep only to awaken to gloves emerging from a nearby wardrobe. This mysterious tale became lodged firmly within the artist’s consciousness, spurring her onto a greater understanding of death: the attitudes toward it and how grief and trauma are processed.

If one seeks the very core of Graves’ practice, it rests rooted in the ideals we hold about the world around us. “All of my work starts out about belief, ” notes Graves, “I’ll study one subject and it leads into the next thing.” Here, the procession of research that Graves uncovered marches in step much like the ethereal arrangements spanning “Month’s Mind.” Spiritualism and women’s rights hold court alongside floriography, figures of speech and medical protocol. Most notable about the exhibit as a whole is not what is necessarily displayed physically, but how each work holds a palpable psychological presence that presages what is absent. Substance emerges from these objects, yes, but also from the shadows of meaning they cast.

 

“Month’s Mind”: a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (rear of space)

Another masterstroke of Graves’ exhibition is the seamless connections between seemingly disparate aspects of the works on view: a custom-made, sculpted “pencil” bent around a table’s edge references the Spiritualist movement of the late 1800s and the mediums of Lily Dale, New York. A bar of soap reaching out from the wall toward the viewer in the next room portrays women’s rights icon Susan B. Anthony. These two seemingly disparate objects contain a shared reference point in Lily Dale, New York. The town just one hour south of Buffalo, NY, was a canonic site for Spiritualists of the late 19th century, and a generative, supportive site for the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  Susan B. Anthony herself had close friends and supporters based in Lily Dale: she spoke at the memorial service of a dear friend and fellow activist who passed away in the town in 1890. Graves forms tightly held associations that link together her artworks as surely as we are linked to those who maintain their presence in our lives, yet just as tenuously as we hold onto those connections that fade with time after the passing of the ones we love.

Detail image from “Month’s Mind” : a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view

“Month’s Mind” is on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020; the gallery is open on Saturdays 10-6 pm and by appointment. This marks Langdon Graves’ second solo exhibition at the gallery. Graves is a visiting professor at Pratt and teaches at Parsons School of Design, and her studio is in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website.

All’s Fair: Miami Art Week 2019 Edition

This is the beginning of a new column, “All’s Fair”, in which writers recount major art exhibits, festivals, biennials and, especially, art fairs through a personal lens. Recounted below is Editor-in-Chief Audra Lambert’s whirlwind Tues-Sat tour of Miami Art Week 2019. Opinions below reflect Lambert’s views only. 

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Dear, dear readers.

Well, a week is enough time for reflection. And what do we have – one banana eaten, one sold and the last one spoiled – or was that the entire fair?

While discerning dealers put forth their obscura and identity-driven inventory (a pantheon of which lovingly graced the main fair of Art Basel Miami Beach, curated by the Mexico City-based Magalí Arriola – titled the Meridians section), other galleries employed the go-big-or-go-home Instagram strategy (Urs Fischer @ The Modern Institute, Austin Lee @ Peres Projects and -of course- the slippery stylings of Maurizio Cattelan, which was absent on Sunday due to the haphazard work necessary to properly guard the installation.)

Spoiler alert: shock art a la fruit baskets seems more suited to our soundbite culture than the lyrical reflections of artists such as Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien and Flavior Garciandía.

Art Basel wasn’t the only fair employing the stop-in-your-tracks Instagram mentality, with Art Miami presenting a monumental Yves Klein-blue installation by artist Jason Martin at the main entrance (other sculptures placed around the periphery was sadly rendered nearly invisible during the later hours of the fair + the VIP opening). Even UNTITLED got in the game with a Facebook-produced interactive installation (umm…) and some choice offerings of installations both inside and out by Antonia Wright + Ruben Millares, Coral Projects and EXILE x CENTER FOR SUBTROPICAL AFFAIRS. Even the Betsy Hotel’s inimitable egg sculpture featured some slides of works in partnership with For Freedoms. 

Fairgoers got in on the Instagram-able fun, while serious collectors buzzed about from booth to booth checking on sales status of works at Lehmann Maupin, Jack Shainman, and PACE. Some heavy-hitting artists with solo exhibits occurring around this time of year got in on the act, including Nevelson (ICA Miami), Teresita Fernandez (PAMM) – similarly, Elmgreen + Dragset could be spotted at Victoria Miro, featured in works which echoed their nearby Pride Park installation.

There was much to see and do, and much hype to struggle through, so below we’ve summed up – in the broad over-generalizations that our detail-oriented art critical brains love so much – the takeaways from this years Miami art week presentations.

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Elmgreen + Dragset sculpture at Miami Beach, “Pride Park” near Design Miami

Five Winners

Public Installations / Projects – What a year for public art in Miami & Miami Beach! From the get-go installations by the likes of Leandro Ulrich on the beach side stole the show. Unmissable performances and installations over the course of the week included “After the Fracture” at PAMM featuring duo Marvin Fabien and Nyugen Smith. Joiri Minaya stunned with installation art in partnership with Miami-based Fringe Projects. UNTITLED’s Monuments section featured the truly stunning Antonia Wright + Ruben Millares installation. Passing the beach at night it was even possible to watch the incandescent works of Pablo Valbuena’s WAVE light up the nearby shoreline. An effort was made to create high quality public art offerings and it showed.

Oh, and also there was a Fernando Botero show on Lincoln road but that doesn’t belong in this highlight…

Meridians @ ABMB – Meridians (see above note) was both an art critic’s dream as well as an Instagrammers’ – that rare combination of critical rigor and visuals-driven approach that will stand out for years to come. Featuring a great mix of local and emerging versus global and firmly established artists, Meridians at the main fair featured standout work by Oscar Tuazon, Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien, Portia Munson, Woody de Otello and more. A real crowd pleaser and rightly so… but it is a fair ten minute walk away and upstairs from the main fair exhibitors. Maybe set up a golf cart service? I don’t mind the walk but it’s key to remain mindful of the mobility of your guests…excuse me, your collectors.

UNTITLED – Did anyone have something bad to say about UNTITLED? Queer art, artists of color, feminists, environmentalists, art criticizing religion, outsider artists – everyone was welcomed with open arms (and strong sales, from what I’ve gathered) at this prestigious showing of UNTITLED. You could also just as easily ignore the cultural underpinnings of some such work (ahem, as some collectors will) and relish the fine skills and inquiring minds that were behind the artworks on view at the fair. With incredible works on view by Damien Davis of LatchKey Gallery, Leah Guagdanoli at Hollis Taggart, Remy Jungerman and Nate Lewis at Fridman Gallery, Jenna Gribbon at Fredericks & Freiser, and more, visitors could really come away with a sense that the art on view at UNTITLED was fearless and provocative, with something to say in addition to its value as fine art.

EDEL ASSANTI at UNTITLED: Installation by Sheida Soleimani on the main wall flanked by an Oren Pinhassi sculpture

Art Miami + CONTEXT – Close to a museum, check.

Featuring old to new to back again, check.

Engaging visitors in conversation, check.

Art Miami still manages to drive the conversation around what is possible for art dealers who are willing (or are happier) to exhibit outside of the Art Basel stable. With similar offerings to the main fair, while maintaining a diverse selection in its own right, both art Miami and context offer an alternative to the globe-trotting – and often unaffordable- trappings of ABMB. Sure they could use more programming, but they’ve remained sustainable – more than ABMB parent company can say (allegedly) at this point…

PAMM – How does the Pérez Art Museum Miami just keep getting better and better? This Franklin Sirmans-led institution has not only featured the meticulous and fantastically spoken hometown (now NYC-based) Teresita Fernandez, their programming for art week – including aforementioned After the Fracture and the phenomenal art Miami VIP event – only served to highlight how they manage that precarious balance of serving the community while welcoming visitors to indulge in the concepts and curatorial vision that puts the museum – and Miami- onto the art world map.

Teresita Fernandez at the PAMM is prescient, haunting and idyllic

Bonus: The New Rubell Museum

Ok, I admit it. I didn’t make the trek out to the new Rubell museum. I know – stop reading now. Seriously though, other than some mild criticism about the very “New MoMA”-esque organization of their collection, how rewarding is it to see the greatest hits of the monumental Rubell collection in its new museum home? Yes, it’s not close. Yes, it was basically (likely) created for a better tax cut. But, as the kids say, I ain’t mad at it.

Five Losers

NADA – Man, poor NADA just can’t catch a break. While “resting on its laurels” might seem like a strong statement, Schachter was onto something when he flippantly observed “UNTITLED is the new NADA”. The energy does seem to have shifted beach side, as ever since NADA has left its admittedly funky haunt over at the now-defunct Deauville hotel, the ice palace just hasn’t quite filled the same carpeted and low-ceilinged hole in fairgoers’ hearts. The public projects as usual made an impression and showings were strong, but it would be a far cry to say that everyone who went down for the fairs made it over to NADA….more brunches in their programming, perhaps?

Pulse – Pulse, oh, pulse pulse pulse. What happened? Did you spend all the efforts you used for past iterations in vetting appealing art gallerists toward a chic, undiscoverable Wellness section instead? New leadership still finding its feet, perhaps, but alongside Pulse stalwarts guests found just an uncomfortably few too many offerings that would’ve been equally at home at Scope. This is a fair seeking its identity somewhere between copy and paste imitation art and genuine emerging artists with a practice based in Concepts.

Art Critics – “It’s so nice to meet a writer here.” A non-East coast gallerist’s lamentations hit me where it hurt. Where were the critics? Other than those of us dispatched over to the main fair for market coverage, there was a woeful lack of critical engagement with art presented at this year’s fairs according to conversations with various gallerists around the fairs. UNTITLED is commendable for employing a writer-in-residence for this year’s edition; here’s to hoping the next one around is a woman or gender non-conforming colleague.

ok, so Idris Elba opening for Diplo @ the EDITION, Miami Beach Basement was dope af

Nightlife – maybe it was just me, but the late night offerings seemed a bit low-key or retail market-driven this year (Desigual at the Temple House, anyone?) Aside from the fabulous Rashaad Newsome x Swizz Beatz Annual King of Arms Art Ball, a strong VIP party for art Miami a handful of beachside parties, offerings during the week were rather time. Surprisingly, the brunches were where it was at this year. While Pulse brunch was a hot mess this year, anyone who made it over to fête the collection or museum brunches came away feeling the better for meeting their alarm clocks halfway and trekking over to these chic morning affairs.

Streets – the traffic, am I right? Between construction on the mainland-to-beach side exits to disoriented Lyft drivers totally out of their element trying to navigate the nooks and crannies that are downtown Miami, the streets – and those who used them – were just plain out of luck for Miami art week.

Bonus: Art Pop-up projects – you know they were there. I know there were there. Neither of us went though, right? Right? Even the smattering that existed (yet were impossible to find) on Lincoln Road.

Phos Hilaron Brings a New Religion to the Heartland

On first impression, Ventiko’s Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints installation transports visitors to an altered state of Indiana. On view at Schwitzer Gallery, CCIC, 1125 East Brookside Avenue, Indianapolis, IN through November 29, the project draws from religious source imagery to transport viewers to an art experience for the masses. 

Phos Hilaron Altar View: Installation View at Schwitzer Gallery, CCIC, Indianapolis, IN
Phos Hilaron Altar View: Installation View at Schwitzer Gallery, CCIC, Indianapolis, IN

Corn hangs suspended from the ceiling, forcing the viewer through – all the while upending expectations the viewer may have of Indiana and its people. Once through the corn, the viewer is confronted with a scene reminiscent of a sacred Roman Catholic grotto. Candles are arranged delicately on an altar, draped with dark velvet and gold trim, and sacred relics used in the photographs on the same candles are displayed alongside them. As Santa Geri Berry, the Patron Saint of Inquiring Minds notes, “transported through the lines upside-down corn stalks and feeling immersed in them reinforced associations with the harvest, suggesting a very different sort of sacred realm, just as the Saints are very different from any usual idea of a Saint and a very different image of people from Indiana. I couldn’t help making a connection with Sukkot; it was like an altar in a Sukkah: a bringing together of a Jewish space with a Catholic type practice.” 

The references are intentional. Ventiko, the artist who organized Phos Hilaron for this Indianapolis iteration of the project, grew up Jewish in Indianapolis and first made a Sukkah out of corn stalks with her temple youth group when she was in high school. Returning to Indianapolis to expand upon Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints, this iteration focuses not just on the beauty of difference and individuality, but emphasizes homogeneity is not harmony: rather, that harmony is respect and inclusion of all. (The first iteration debuted at Chinatown Soup in Manhattan during the first 100 days of the Trump administration and featured a cross section of 100 urban creatives.) Over a four week period Ventiko photographed 59 ‘Saints’ from Indianapolis in intimately customized sets, helping them visualize their ‘Saint’ concept. The entire project was a collaboration between the artist and the Saint. The mythology of the Saint and the vision of the artist culminated in the installation, and also resulted a more intimate piece: a book. Organizing artist Ventiko reflects on her gratitude that so many creatives were excited to participate in this version of the project. “I am grateful to have been blessed by the beauty and power of so many wonderful Saints,” reflects the artist.

 

Artists who participated in the project have expressed the impact of their encounters with the artist as she was setting up the project. Santa Akilah, The Patron Saint of Patience, remarked, “When I first went to the photo shoot I didn’t know what to expect. As soon she started taking pictures I felt so comfortable and safe. She was able to capture my inner goddess in the picture.” Ventiko herself comments on this process of photographing her “Patron Saints”: “I see myself as a catalyst for the exaltation of the beauty of difference and elevation of the preciousness of individuality rather than one constructing or constricting the identity of any ‘Saint’ or person. It is a respect for difference, including freedom of thought, as well as idiosyncrasies that will ultimately lead to the unification of the human race and foster in a time when we all can work towards solving our global crises rather than consistently focusing on pettiness and being manipulated by propaganda.”

The project is successful on many levels, as reflected in these personal and meaningful reflections from participants. By opening up new avenues of communications for creatives in the Heartland, Phos Hilaron functions as a grassroots confirmation of the talent present in the vibrant city of Indianapolis. Bringing community together and thwarting expectations that outsiders may have of the area captures the double success of both re-affirming and introducing local talent to each other and to a wider audience.  “From day one, I knew this cutting edge, contemporary photography installation would take Indianapolis by storm. After hearing the various layers Phos Hilaron presented in NY and adding special dimensions for the Indianapolis chapter, I envisioned a communal based project that would uplift an entire state,” remarks Tony Quintana, The Patron Saint of Growth. Others including curator Maria Behringer have commented on the measure of warmth and acceptance this project has brought into their life. “Ventiko’s concept of community and inclusivity surrounding her Phos Hilaron project is exactly why we wanted to collaborate and bring her exhibition to Indianapolis. Her strong work ethic and creative process can easily be seen through her photography and the final Altar itself. We completely trusted her vision through the entire process. We are extremely grateful to have collaborated with her.”

Patron Saint of Inquiring Minds, Santa Geri Beri, part of Phos Hilaron on view in Indianapolis, IN

To make this project a reality Ventiko collaborated with the Indianapolis-based curators Quintana-Behringer. Ventiko’s studio was in the CCIC building (https://circlecityind.com/), a creative hub in downtown Indianapolis where Quintana-Behringer are located. Santo Aaron, The Patron Saint of Technodeath describes working with Ventiko: “It was serendipity how we met. The chance encounter of coming into a space and meeting another creative that was on the hustle and making something huge and fantastic honestly inspired us at Soundspace to do better. Instead of this being an empty office having Ventiko here made it feel more like a home.” Two weeks into the project Soundspace (https://sndspc.com/) moved in to share the space which is Soundspace Beta and soul connections flourished. Ventiko looks forward to expanding the exhibition to London in 2020 as there are many more Saints to canonize their, bringing the project to a new community ready to embrace their inner Sainthood. 

 

 

 

Word Up! A Standout Moment for Text-Based Art at C24 Gallery


In an era rampant with political protest and 
the multitudinous voices of social media, Word Up!- co-curated by Sharon Louden at C24 Gallery, knows what’s up.

Installation view featuring installation “Moral History” by Karen Finley for C24’s Word Up!

Word Up! marks an exhibition that takes risks and is rewarded with a keen grasp of contemporary self-expression. Considering a contemporary art scene saturated more than ever with sociopolitical viewpoints, the time is more than ripe for this exquisite-and timely-exhibition. Featuring works by Liana Finck, Deborah Kass, Karen Finley, Meg Hitchcock and many more, this exhibit marks fearless departure into the diverse ways in which words infiltrate and emerge in contemporary art.

Spanning interdisciplinary artistic practices, this contemporary survey show featured video, photography, installation, painting and mixed media. Karen Finley’s incisive, provocative and genuinely humorous installation, located on the exhibit’s lower level, provides a stunning focal point from which to consider the contemporary art lexicon engulfing the viewer in Word Up! Comprised of archival materials assembled as a centrepiece – a la Judy Chicago’s Dinner Table, if you will – Finley has annotated the materials she has presented to create a thought-provoking work centered around representation, identity and exclusion. Clever illustrations by renowned artist Liana Finck and the inundating, undulating works by Meg Hitchcock also prove to be standouts in this stunning exhibition. Presentation is key, and visitors are grabbed at the entrance by a video work by artist David Krippendorff, whose work also inhabits space on the lower level near Karen Finley’s installation. Hrag Vartanian  and Deborah Kass, art critic and artist and notable public artist respectively, also have work on view in this carefully curated presentation of works written expressly into the social consciousness that forms the fabric of contemporary text-based artistic practice.

“Persephone” Meg Hitchcock, installation view in “Word Up!”

Word Up! is on view at C24 gallery from 9/26-11/9/2019.

 

 

Illuminating the “Unseen”: Collar Works in Troy, NY Elevates Contemporary Artists

Artworks on view in the deceptively subtle exhibition “Unseen” bring that which is frequently overlooked directly into the public eye. In a world in which most of what directs our behavior goes unnoticed, “Unseen” marks the clever, perceptive type of exhibit that we crave to focus our attention on. Curated by the MFA Boston’s Akili Tommasino for Collar Works, artists on view include Carris Adams, Tania Alvarez, Aurora Andrews, Jose- Aurelio Baez, Raina Briggs, Ryan Chase Clow, Matt Crane, Richard Deon, Carla Dortic, Deborah Druick, Mark Eisendrath, Rebecca Flis, Gigi Gatewood, Chet Gold, Victoria van der Laan, Jesse Meredith, Sarah Pater, James Marshall Porter, Jr., Anne- Audrey Remarais, Eric Souther, Susanna Starr, Paula Stuttman, and Sarah Sweeney. Works by Mark Eisendrath and Susanna Starr  in particular sweep into focus, with a distinctive attention to line and form. Spanning sculpture and painting with a hint of lyric poetry, “Unseen” follows those elements that both direct and elude our line of sight. 

The unseen can be that which is literally unresolved: that which exists up to a point, then inhabits the realm of both the unseen and the unknown. Artist Mark Eisendrath notes of his work Mysterioso, on view in “Unseen,” “Mysterioso existed only as an idea- not seen or felt. It did not exist, neither did the process I used to make it. It was quite literally- a mystery. ” That which cannot be seen or felt can still hold a palpable presence in our lives. As the curator of “Unseen” notes in her exhibition text, “…the complex algorithms that reinforce our behavior remain hidden to us. Our fear of being unseen makes us susceptible to manipulation.” By making that which is foreign to us palpable, “Unseen” offers the viewer a clever, nuanced portrait of contemporary society.

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“Mysterioso” by artist Mark Eisendrath (acquired by a new collector) “Unseen” at Collarworks, Troy, NY

Susanna Starr and Mark Eisendrath share a penchant for uncovering the sought for-yet undiscovered- form. Curves and delineated lines trace the patterns of our subconscious seeking that which we do not yet know. A mysterious, yet visceral, presentation of new works by contemporary sculptors, painters and mixed-media artists, “Unseen” is a careful selection of artworks that transcend the ordinary in search of a greater meaning beyond the immediately visible.

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Installation view of “Unseen” feat. “Bring It” by Mark Eisendrath

“Unseen” is on view at Collar Works art space in Troy, NY, through Dec 14, 2019.

Avant-Kitchen: Art for a New Dinner Party in the Spaghetti-O Incident

Produced by The Hive, an interdisciplinary art community based in Brooklyn, NY, “The Spaghetti-O Incident” dissects cultural references from Guns n’Roses to Martha Rosler in an examination of gendered expectations and hetero-normativity. Curated by Yasmeen Abdallah, Kathie Halfin and Ameta Wegryzn, the exhibit – occurring at 1218 Prospect Ave in Oct 2019 – features a range of interdisciplinary artists including Julia Blume, Victoria Calabro, Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Vyczie Dorado, Ariel Kleinberg, Alison Owen, Muhajir Subuur Lesure, Jean Carla Rodea, Jordan Segal and Yasmeen Abdallah. Works on view range from performance to photography, installation to sculpture. Examining the expectations placed upon women – as artists, homemakers, cooks, and human beings – “The Spagetti-O Incident” doesn’t shy away from provocative and subversive works questioning and thwarting ideas of identity and performativity.

Sculpture by Jordan M Segal for “The Spaghetti-O Incident”

Gender is digested through performance that takes place in a residence: the living space provides a non-neutral scenario for the exhibit loaded with valuable context. The white cube is denied the privilege of sterilizing these powerful works on view by Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Yasmeen Abdallah, Jordan Segal & more. The weight of the body and gender in domestic spaces, such as the kitchen, is keenly felt in this artist-curated show. Many artists reflect on ideas of food, meals, and the domestic sphere, with dishware by Jordan Segal seemingly dissolving into itself, reminiscent of cake frosting or, more morbidly, melted skin. Kat Cope’s work similarly addresses the topic of skin: specifically, clothing as a type of armor that adheres to and protects the skin. Cope notes of her fiber-based installations that “like layers of skin, layers of fiber are resistant to tearing and puncture.” Blending together elements of fashion, protection, and performance, Kat Cope’s work lies at the boundary of  representation and installation.

Intrinsically linked with these ideas of gender and inequity are the experiences of the body as a home one inhabits. Performances by Vyczie Dorado, among others, display the full force of yearning and attachment that artists have to the corporeal. Connection, longing and expectation cradle the exhibition, with “The Spaghetti-O Incident” proving a necessary, essential exhibition for our contemporary moment. Intersectional feminism and bold experimentation combine to make this exhibit one formidable presentation in this Fall New York Art season.

Sculpture by Kat Cope left of performance by Vyczie Dorado for The Spaghetti-O Incident

 

“Noise” by Pei Ling Ho for The Spaghetti-O Incident

 

 

Skin Deep: The Exhilarating “Body Politic” On View at NYU’s Kimmel Windows

In the immaculate words of feminist and activist Gloria Steinem, “Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.” This admonishment pervades the transcendental exhibition currently on view through Nov 10 at NYU’s Kimmel Windows exhibit space, “Lilia Ziamou: body politic /bädē päl-tik/”. Featuring works by Lilia Ziamou and curated by Pamela Jean Tinnen, the presentation of this collection of works outwardly facing the various passersby on LaGuardia Place and W. 3rd mounts a powerful, visionary response to how we consider ourselves – and others. It can reflect the ways in which our self-perception can become distorted. Perhaps it ruminates on how society constantly projects women’s bodies as idealized forms in various ads throughout public spaces. The exhibition leaves room for speculation and space to absorb the images – true or distorted – which lie before us. Works from this series by Ziamou question how new technology mediates the way we see ourselves or how others anticipate and perceive our appearance. Perceptions of the body are stacked against the realities of the biological building blocks that determines who we are and how we appear. Ziamou bravely steps forward into an artistic inquiry of what makes us human, playing with preconceived ideas of how we establish our physical identities as a whole from the sum of our parts. “By reimagining and reconstructing body fragments, I am constantly exploring and intrigued by the ways we can challenge existing constraints of form, materials, and processes,” remarks Ziamou.

“1 am” (2018) artwork on view in body politic /bädē päl-tik/ at NYU Kimmel Windows

 

This exhibition at the Kimmel Windows is curated by NYU’s own Pamela Jean Tinnen. The curator notes that she was drawn initially to Ziamou’s examination and recreation of human bones, re-contextualizing them as artworks. In the art canon of portraiture, it can be argued that Ziamou’s hip-bone 3-D scan recreations are a continuation of a centuries-long tradition of figurative art. Tinnen also reflects on other areas where these works draw parallel lines to long-existing or contemporary traditions. “What’s very interesting about Lilia’s work is how it plays on the abject, but through her ability to refine the subject through various media-processes, she creates visual distance while maintaining conceptual resonance.” Tinnen continues, “I’ve always been intrigued by Julia Kristiva’s writings on Abjection which discusses human reactions to encountering, as a primary example, a corpse. These encounters elicit horror but also a certain fascination. A corpse, or in the case of Lilia’s work, the human bone, puts us in the presence of ‘signified death.’ Kristiva suggests our horror-reaction results from a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object, or between self and other.” This breakdown that occurs when the body perceives another body, yet recognizes this fragment of bone also depicts an invisible portion of one’s own self, causes a ripple of self-awareness. It can be argued that this exhibit also sparks empathy for others and an intimate acceptance of our own appearance – an appearance that can shift over time due to factors such as time and environment.

The environment of the exhibition itself, facing outward from the Kimmel Center, has shifted over time as the ground zero for artists in bohemian Greenwich Village in the mid-20th century to a haven for NYU students today. This public-facing exhibit – which some students can pass several times a day, along with other members of the community – offers a repeating opportunity for reflection and deeper engagement with how we can intrinsically seek deeper meaning in the very things we take for granted: the architecture of our physical selves and the urban planning and architecture defining our immediate presence in a larger cityscape. By keeping the vestibules in which Ziamou’s transcendental works are exhibited stark, almost clinical, those encountering the work can focus their attention on the prints and sculptures facing them from the Kimmel. “The exhibit’s design, simple and starkly white, contributes to a certain visual sterilization, which works well to present the artwork,” notes Tinnen. This simple structuring can be seen as a skeleton in itself: supporting works on view and allowing for immediate access of each fragment of the perpendicular exhibition along LaGuardia and Third.

“The Bone as Body” (2019) artwork on view in body politic /bädē päl-tik/ in NYU Kimmel Windows

Ziamou here has considered not only the internal structure of the body, but also how we decorate and define ourselves as members of a society. Her bone sculpture informs the installation referencing a garment she has presented in this same exhibit: an installation that servse as a recreation of our bodies as presented through our fashion choices. Her work speaks a subtle message about the inner psychology that determines our outward appearances: we can knowingly or unknowingly select garments that flatter and project aspects of our anatomy that we take pride in. The artist considers and puts forth artistic hypotheses about how various aspects of our countenance can be mistaken or recreated, creating subtle provocations for the audience. What effect do photo filters on apps have on our psychology? How can our appearances be manipulated for those who consume them? When is the last time we considered that the majority of who we are is not visible to the naked eye? Ziamou deftly plays with these questions, and more, in this impactful solo exhibition.

Detail shot, “1 am” – body politic /bädē päl-tik/ in NYU Kimmel Windows

 

Curated by Pamela Jean Tinnen, don’t miss “Lilia Ziamou: body politic /bädē päl-tik/” – on view through Nov 10 at NYU’s Kimmel Windows exhibit space on LaGuardia Place and West Third at New York University.