Artist Peter Gynd takes a subtle approach to the nuance of geography and communication.
Framing his explorations of identity through the lens of textile and pattern, Gynd’s paintings at Ground Floor Gallery, on view mid-May through June 3rd, offer the viewer a literally veiled approach to investigating meaning. Cloaked figures navigate nuanced blends of imagery, with minimal color but an intricately balanced sense of line. Figures in his paintings and photography are precariously balanced, hovering delicately between agency and ambivalence.
Taking cues world textiles and the ambiguity of identity, Gynd’s figures stand solitary yet defiant. Features hidden, their postures indicate hesitancy or a search for a deeper meaning. Figure and ground emerge as partners in a compositional dance: the form emerging from aspects of an uncertain environment, solid yet unclear. Landscape itself exists yet recedes, playing a role as ambiguous as the movements of the figure it foregrounds. Color and line often share a role across figure and landscape, intertwining the two in a holistic narrative.
Trained meticulously as an oil painter, a fifth generation artist in his family, Gynd holds a BFA in Glass from Alberta College of Art+Design and works as an artist and curator. He was selected as prestigious artist participant in Ground Floor Gallery’s 5th anniversary project “…in 5 Acts.” Gynd’s exhibit, “Blanketed: Textiles, Culture and the Landscape,” is on view through June 3rd at Ground Floor Gallery, 343 5th Street, Brooklyn. Gallery hours are 3-8 pm and the gallery will have a closing event on Sunday, June 3rd.
Forever Young: Selections from the Joe Baio Collection of Photography steals the show at the 2018 iteration of the AIPAD photography show, the renowned annual photography event in New York City housed at Pier 94 in Manhattan and on view April 5-8. Photographic objects from the collection are suspended, salon-style, with a specific view toward the poignant moments of adolescence and childhood memories.
Among these works, on view from the collection for the first time ever, an artwork by artist Arlene Rush emerges from the cusp of the center and left-facing walls, shimmering as visitors approach. This effect, caused by shattered tempered glass carefully arranged over the surface of the photograph, beckons guests closer to examine a seemingly straightforward portrait of two young women holding hands. These teenage girls, blond and smiling, seem charming yet unsettling… until the viewer realizes they are, in fact, identical twins. Rush was born as a twin to her brother, whose bar mitzvah photo this image was derived from. The two figures stand intrinsically linked in this work, Twins: Just a Memory: the scattered glass creating a mirage of imagined histories. This piece is the first from an identically titled series of work the artist produced reflecting on adolescence and sexual identity.
Rush’s Twins: Just a Memory series revisits childhood moments in which the artist mines her personal history and growth as a woman and artist to comment on gender roles and societal norms. The artist has taken the image of her and her brother at his bar mitzvah, re-imagining instead what it would be like for her to experience adulthood from the viewpoint of both male and female. She reflects on the use of the family portrait as entry point into this conceptual rigor. “Kitschy and poignant, [the work] speaks about gender equality and expectations [which] religions and society [place] on us growing up.” These expectations find space to dissolve in these atmospheric works, in which identity is present upon close encounter yet obscured from far away. Rush finds solace in examining the elements of surprise and nuance offered by the veil of shattered glass applied atop the portrait. The forms are identifiable, the dress code clear, yet the results manage to be both surprising and surreal.
Questioning the relevance of coded gender norms today versus the artist’s experience growing up in New York City, Rush has worked as a conceptual artist questioning identity in multiple disciplines. The artist has worked across photography, installation work and sculpture, including welding with steel – a discipline prominently anchored by male artists in the 1970s and 80s when the artist was beginning to work. Starting to blossom in her practice in an era not far removed from the echoes of the male artist-dominated Cedar Tavern, perhaps the artist’s poignant re-examinations of gender expectations – both in her own life and in society as a whole – stand as a testament to the hopes we hold for women to assume prominent positions both in the arts and in the brave new world ahead.
AIPAD is on view from April 5-8 in midtown west, Manhattan, at Pier 94. More information on admission can be found on the show’s website.
Internationally renowned musical artist Dorit Chrysler is no stranger to making a theremin sing. Theremins, the odd yet aptly tech-friendly device that can be manipulated by movements carefully choreographed around the device (see here a basic guide to handling the theremin), may have existed for ninety years already but that is relatively young in terms of the musical instrument invention timeline (for reference, both the guitar and piano had been in existence for hundreds years before the theremin was patented in 1928 by Leon Theremin.) This relative “youth” and the innovation which inspires players to interact with it allow ample breadth for consistently new discoveries. Austrian-born Chrysler is doing just that, pioneering contemporary theremin playing styles alongside a string of appearances with the likes of The Strokes, Dinosaur Jr., Blonde Redhead, and others. On Thursday, March 26th, Chrysler is staging a private performance alongside her newest international performing troupe: students at the Reece School.
Hosted at the educational facility’s Black Box theater, the invite-only event features a series of songs that the students have been trained to perform, along with Chrysler. Generous support by Moog music has allowed this performance, the first in a series of such performances, to take place at the school. The group is styled as Kid Cool Theremin School, and promises to shake things up through this guided, interactive music experience for the school’s students. Reece school’s students, who attend at no cost as the institution is a nonprofit special needs school, are thrilled to take part in the first US-based theremin school for kids. Led by Chrysler, and spearheaded by Reece School music director William Tucci, the Kid Cool Theremin School is only just getting started and will have a lot to offer thanks to its innovative vision and direction.
IT is rare indeed to chance upon that hybrid artist/activist/community organizer: that gem of a person who not only successfully runs their own practice, developing thgeir work as a formidable artist, but also finds time to initiate and organize community meetings and projects on the side, supporting scores of other creative types on the up-and-up in the process. Olivia Huffman is a gem: one of this singular breed of dexterous creative folk.
An artist working across mixed media, performance and new media, Huffman has spearheaded efforts to increase visibility and opportunities for marginalized artists. In this vein they have led the creation of artist community Art Folx Nation, an intersectional feminist collective engaging with non-binary / women-identifying artists. In addition, they are a co-founder of Susie Mag, presenting cutting-edge interdisciplinary artworks with an eye toward gender equality in the arts.
Susie Mag has partnered with HERE, an arts center in Lower Manhattan, for the exhibition Susie IRL featuring mixed media works created by participating artists from the Susie Mag family. The exhibition, which is free to the public, is on view Jan 25 – Mar 28 with a public opening/artist’s reception on Thursday, February 22nd from 5-7 pm.
We sat down with Huffman to discuss their process as an artist in-depth and to hear more about how their works come to fruition.
AM. Thanks for speaking with us today, Olivia. I’d like to start with themes latent throughout your practice. Your work often incorporates references to the body, though most of your practice isn’t figurative per se. Can you explain why your work incorporates what you refer to as “remains” of the body and mind vis-a-vis “found material” and how this feature is crucial to your practice as a whole?
OH. I collect debris from everyday life. These items share a story about daily rituals, preferences, and aesthetics. To me, referencing the body without figurative elements enables the viewer’s imagination, linking their memories with mine. I use found materials because everyone has a memory tied to a color, texture, or scent. These slight signals trigger subconscious imagery that can connect the viewer to my work on a more personal level. My work focuses on the mystery and varying paths of personal development and growth, not the outward appearance of a person. I have used the figure in the past, but it was always very minimal and abstract.
AM.The artwork you create has a potent sense of materiality tied specifically the lived history embedded within that material. Can you talk about how the lived histories of material are important within the context of individual artworks you create?
OH. In my current series, Domesticity, each piece represents a different facet of household duties.
“Mystic” references gardening and interior decorating. The materials used are embossed wallpaper, a plastic bag handle, and sliced bark adhered to drywall. I collected the wallpaper from my first roommate in New York and I found the bark with one of my dear friends when we went on a road trip to Mystic, Connecticut.
“Consent” references sexual duties of the household. There comes in an entitlement over a woman’s body once they are wed, it wasn’t that long ago that raping your wife was legal. The piece consists of fishnet stockings, silver tacks, and clear buttons on drywall. The buttons fill up the fishnet stockings creating sags and lumps to mimic flesh.
“Dedication” references office work and the surmounting to-do tasks in home/work life. Each post-it note consists of tasks that are coded with shorthand text that without context are nonsensical. This work includes a gratuitous amount of notes, a lock of hair, and faux wood contact paper on drywall.
AM.In this series [Domesticity], industrial objects and materials are used to create relatively small works. Can you talk about scale and size in relation to this series, and about how you approach a sense of balance when incorporating disparate elements (tree bark,fabric, fishnets, etc) juxtaposed within these works?
OH. I draw a lot from the minimal abstract movement is the 60’s— inspired greatly by Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse, and Agnes Martin. All of these creatives had specific guidelines pertaining to their material uses and size. Agnes Martin worked in multiples of threes, as do I. In Domesticity I decided to work in small formats, on drywall, and only use three materials (outside of adhesive).
AM. You’ve lived and worked in New York, NY and Las Vegas, NV, where you are from originally. How have these different locations impacted your work? Has your work evolved or new concepts been introduced in your migration east?
OH. Las Vegas is one hell of a city. There is so much going on but you can easily slip into your own bubble (similar to NYC). There are so many great and valuable artists in my hometown who inspire me daily while out here in New York. I think when I lived in Las Vegas I was driven more by my emotions, the industry when I was out there was motivated purely by sexualizing women. Many of my jobs treated me very differently than cis men (wear skirts, make-up, act bubbly). In New York people are more raw: we all know what a pain in the ass it is to get from one place to another, do grocery shopping, or wash your clothes.
I think when I moved here I started working in a way that was more coded — smarter, if you will. My commute to work was roughly an hour each way for three years of my life, which is a lot of time. I used this to analyze my materials, my thoughts about constructing a piece, and deciphered ways to communicate angst, love, or habits in a non-literal form.
I still talk about gender constructs, but I’m less angry and transparent. My connection to feminism has evolved, I came out as Non-Binary while making this series which revealed Domesticity is about deconstructing the confinement of womanhood. I use materials from the home, sometimes my cat even helps me shred fabrics. Although the topics of each piece may not be peaceful, while I am making work it’s about building stability, safety, and love within myself. In Las Vegas, my work more stemmed from anger, resentment, and confusion. There was some love, but I was a very self-destructive being in my late teens and early twenties.
AM.In addition to your 2- and 3-D works you’ve also created performance works, such as Subconscious: The Weapon of Choice. In what ways do you approach performance and sound works the same as your physical artworks and what conceptual overlap do you find between these practices?
OH. Being diagnosed bipolar at 13, I have always worked with psychological elements. There are so many ideas, motives, or actions that happen within ourselves that we aren’t readily privy too. “Subconscious: The Weapon of Choice” explored the three levels of the human psyche; The Physical Self (audience/voyeurs), The Subconscious (attendees who join the performance), and The Imagined Self (performed by me). The performance ended up being a banishment of the ill will that I held against myself and others. I worked in near silence, with little movement, as a helpless confused person that was led into the light of self-acceptance. Towards the end of the performance, a participant cleaned off my nude body and held me in their arms like a newborn. There were participants that whispered encouraging sentiments and really proved to me that I am worth love in a moment in time that I had felt the most unloved in my entire life. But until that performance and those moments, I had no idea that these things were happening inside of me.
In the sound piece, Bedwomb, that I constructed with my partner’s music project, warmcanopy, we wanted to highlight the ignored sounds of the bedroom. In it you’ll hear a cat purring, change being dropped in a piggy bank, coughing, the sound of putting things away. We set aside a time to record ourselves cleaning our room, another domestic task, and submitted it to Yasmina Chavez‘s project, The Helen Keller Experience.
All of my work is cathartic and relates to personal growth and experiences.
AM.As Founder of Susie Magazine you’ve put an emphasis on creating a platform for cis women, trans, and non-binary voices. What aspects of Susie do you find particularly exciting, and what does the zine have to share with the world that other mags or outlets just aren’t providing?
OH. Our zine formed in a secret Facebook group. We wanted to curate a platform to highlight and empower voices that aren’t regularly featured in mainstream outlets and turn the focus to the everyday person. Susie strives to be inclusive in print and at events. We are very conscious of curating with a balance of people from many different socio-economic backgrounds and creeds. Our first Issue themed P O W E R, was when Hillary Clinton was running and we were high off of having a non-cis man as a presidential candidate. There is a piece by Tanika Goudeau Hochhauser titled “Today I Vote”, that we placed as the first editorial piece because it pointedly and poetically outlines our country’s history of systemic oppression. It was interesting to see how the context of the piece changed, as we finished the layout of before the election was finalized.
Our most recent issue, B U I L D, had a very different vibe. It was post-presidential election. It’s after many of us in marginalized communities cried out, some in disbelief and some affirmed of how racist and misogynistic our country still is. This issue is all about building yourself back up. There are stories of heartache, suicide, loving your mother, learning to love yourself, loss of a grandfather, and silly moments of “What are hands for?”
I personally think it is invaluable to have all of these voices and artworks featured under one binding! You giggle, cry, and get a cute playlist to dance around in front of the mirror to. Visitors can check us out at our online shop and on our Instagram.
AM.You’re also a Founder of Art Folx Nation. Can you speak a bit about the aims of that collective as a whole and your progress so far?
OH. Art Folx Nation began in 2014 and was originally titled Lady Art NYC. The group’s focus is to bring together a bunch of non-cis men creatives in an online space so we could share events, ask art questions, and support each other. The group itself is only for cis women, trans, and non-binary people, but our events are gender-expansive. I wanted to cultivate a space free of objectification that thrived on being supportive and safe. When I moved to New York I went to a lot of events thinking I would meet like-minded people, but every time I went to these events people had a buddy or weren’t necessarily open to making a new friend. I was in the big secret feminist Facebook group and realized that we were getting to know details about each other and building really dependable long-term bonds online without having met IRL. I figured that would work just as well in an art-focused space, and it has!
In an era of rising nationalism and public displays of fascism in America, how can the arts unite as a cohesive front to defend its most vulnerable citizens? In a field known for its open approach to free speech topics, how can leaders in the visual arts – museum directors, curators, artists and others – face up to the mounting threats of ultraconservatism and “fake news” as they relate to everyday citizens? What about mounting threats to de-fund and otherwise censor the arts? The School of Visual Arts’ Master’s Program in Curatorial Practice has produced a full day of programming centered around how leaders in the visual arts are working to combat these forces threatening our freedoms. The day-long summit, Curatorial Activism and the Politics of Shock, will take place on Saturday, November 18 from 10 AM – 5 PM. It features a carefully curated cohort of formative curators and arts leaders who will engage in conversation and present topics related to the needs of art leaders to stand up for a free society.
Leaders engaged in the discussion include Tensta Konsthall Director Maria Lind, Kunsthalle Basel director Elena Filipovic, Director of La Panacée Nicolas Bourriaud, Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and many more. The event is formatted as a series of eight minute presentations by clusters of art world thought leaders interspersed with question and answer rounds occur in roughly 90 minute cycles.
The event is currently at capacity; however, the entire event will be livestreamed in its entirety on the MA Curatorial Practice YouTube channel. To learn more about how we can improve cultural initiatives to support a free society, tune in and join the conversation!
It’s undeniable: the world is a bit more magical with A Blade of Grass in it.
A Blade of Grass, with its focus on promoting social change through social engagement and dialogue in contemporary art, is one of a kind. It has continually pushed the envelope by empowering artists through fellowships and providing platforms for dialogue on improving social conditions and inclusivity.
Nowhere will this mission be better celebrated than in the organization’s annual benefit, Night of Alchemy, this November 7, 2017 from 6:30 – 9:30 pm at the Prince George. Honoring renowned artist Ross Bleckner, Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak and Laundromat Project founder Risë Wilson, MC Shaun Leonardo will lead festivities in a night of vibrant festivities. The evening will also include a performance by Dancing Earth’s Rulan Tangen.
Help support A Blade of Grass and their mission to produce demonstrable impact through contemporary art at A Blade of Grass, and learn more about the annual benefit here. See you there!
Ai Wei Wei and Nicholas Baume at Doris C Freedman Plaza for Good Fences Make Good Neighbors (press preview)
It was 9:07 AM, and the artist was discreetly standing to the right of his Gilded Cage sculpture in Doris C. Freedman plaza in Central Park. Ai Wei Wei, artist behind Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – an immersive public art experience around NYC’s Five Boros – was standing next to the Central Park behemoth which was realized with the support of the Public Art Fund. The Fund is currently celebrating 40 years, with Wei Wei’s project as their central focus celebrating this momentous milestone. Wei Wei was deep in conversation with a city official when the photographers swarmed him, creating a buzz of activity near a path of curious dog walkers and joggers.
Wei Wei can similarly expect that his art installations, situated throughout New York City Parks including Central Park, Washington Square Park, and the Unisphere at Corona, Queens, will be swarmed by visitors during its duration from October 12, 2017 through February 11, 2018. Each site-specific work responds to the surrounding architecture, echoing themes of immigration and inclusivity. Wei Wei has planned discreet references to the personal faces of immigration and global migration visible on lampposts throughout the City – including near the Gilded Cage work – featuring documentary portraiture from Wei Wei’s visits to over forty refugee camps in twenty-three countries. Additionally, graphics echoing themes related to the refugee crisis will be installed at bus stations and public sites throughout the City.
Wei Wei himself was kept under home arrest for years in his native China after a stint living as an artist for twelve years on New York City’s Lower East Side, and this return to NYC is a triumphal return for him as well as a personal tribute to the residents of the City. After recovering his passport in 2015, the artist relocated his studio to Berlin and resumed talks with Public Art Fund’s Nicholas Baume that began in 2011 on a large-scale public art project based in New York City. Baume notes that the various iterations of Ai Wei Wei’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors “form different articulations of fences as a motif resonating throughout the City.” By meditating on the different ways we can experience and exercise inclusion within our communities, Wei Wei breaks down perceptions concerning who belongs where, facilitating new environments where people can relate to one another on a personal level.
Ai Wei Wei’s “Arch” in Washington Square Park, New York City
Wei Wei himself noted of the project, “We are living in a divided time; I’ve learned so much from [my time in] this City: here, you never feel like you’re a foreigner.” He notes that this feeling of inclusion is crucial to New York City as a global beacon of hope for those who call this city home. By supporting our diverse ecosystem of international communities throughout the five boros, we can better reflect on how to be a good neighbor to those who call on us in a time of need and break apart the stereotypes that stand between us.