"The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within that prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness." Andre Malraux


14 January, 2012

Moving

Please go here from now on:
benconradart.tumblr.com

02 October, 2011

Ross Chisholm

A mostly dreary Saturday at the Chelsea galleries -- both on the ground & in the sky -- was temporarily brightened by the unique paintings of Ross Chisholm at Marc Jancou. His haunting images are like degraded old photos, or paintings that have been left in a corner of the attic for one too many generations, simultaneously providing a narrative & denying its satisfying conclusion. Somehow I wasn't at all surprised to learn he is English, though I'm hard pressed to describe why (maybe a bit of Bacon's influence on his style?).



Drastic Plan Plastic-Man



Seminal Lloyd (3)



Tonight Have Stopped



Untitled

04 September, 2011

Kate Schutt

I saw Kate Schutt at Joe's Pub before they closed for renovations, & it's been a summer love affair ever since.





And here's the very performance I saw (recorded very well by someone with a slightly closer seat):



BTW, if you're in the NYC area, she's going to be at Birch Coffee every Monday in September. I'll definitely be catching one of those performances....

14 May, 2011

Colette Calascione

What do you get when you cross a 16th century Florentine portraitist, an early 20th century carnie, & Remedios Varo? Colette Calascione, apparently. I was actually a little surprised to learn she is an American artist; there's a slight whiff of the foreign in her work, & I mean that in a good way. I'm a sucker for realism & symbolism (& have perhaps been focusing on them too much recently, but hey, it's my blog), but even taking that prejudice into account, she clearly knows her way around an oil palette. Here a few of my favorite pieces:


Lorelei (2001)


Dream of the Hungry Ghost (2003)


Denial (2005)


UPDATE: Just found a great youtube video of some more of Calascione's work. (Full disclosure: I can't take any credit for it, since I ran across it on el fantastico blog Tocay@s....)

24 April, 2011

Tom Chambers

I found Tom Chambers' page through the links on Jessica Joslin's site & couldn't stop looking at his lush photo collages. People will say it's just my bird fetish, but I love his seamless blending of stunning images & perhaps the Pennsylvania aesthetic (surely there is such a thing...& stop badmouthing my bird fetish).


Saccharine Perch


Winged Migration

22 April, 2011

Rumer

I've been listening to Rumer pretty constantly for the past month now. Probably should have blogged about her earlier, but hey, I'm lazy. She's got a lovely Dusty Springfield quality to her voice (or, as a friend put it, Dusty Springfield meets Karen Carpenter). She follows on the heels of this wonderful batch of English ladies now recording who sing as if the past few decades simply never happened (you know, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Adele). One thing I love about Rumer is how she's more than willing to invite us to consider her a creature from another era by covering such songs as Goodbye Girl, Come Saturday Morning, & this gem:



But of course most of her music is new songs. Her entire self-titled debut album is really strong across the board, but this one is my fave:



09 April, 2011

Hi-Fructose

My search for the "perfect" art magazine (no, I can't define it, but I'm sure I'll know it when/if I see it) continues, but I was happy to stumble across v. 18 of the left coast-centric Hi-Fructose recently. Its concentration seems to be "lowbrow" artists (anybody else find that moniker patronizing?), which is an aesthetic I find myself responding to more & more. The articles are occasionally too cheerleading for my taste, more like an In Style profile of Julia Roberts than a serious discussion of an artist, but that's a minor gripe.

Be sure to check out their blog, which I really shouldn't link to since it makes mine feel completely irrelevant, but there you go. Already I learned from it that Mark Ryden & Marion Peck are a married couple, which makes so much sense yet also blows my mind a little bit.

Favorite artist I was introduced to in this issue...

Tim Biskup, who blurs the lines between fine art, design & cartoons in an absolutely delicious way. I guess that's the whole idea of lowbrow. Not surprisingly, he started his a career as an animator. Check out some more of his stuff:





06 March, 2011

Non-Armory Day 3

My 3rd (& final) day of visiting the satellite art fairs brought me to both Pulse & Scope. I've been anticipating Pulse the most; it's traditionally my favorite, & happily, it didn't disappoint, but Scope is giving it a run for its money. I'd never been to that one before, & color me impressed. Great stuff at both, so let's get to it.

In refreshing contrast to days 1 & 2, I'm finding myself needing to edit out many of artists I made note of at Pulse & Scope. In the interest of not driving away my busy readers, I'm limiting this list to the top 3 at each fair....

PULSE

1) Megan Olson
I'm showing one of her drawings here, since that's what pulled me in, but click on her name to check out some of her paintings, too, which take this same idea to a much groovier level.



2) Gregory Euclide
His 3-D painting-to-sculpture pieces really jumped out at me, though I couldn't actually tell from them whether he knows how to paint. After checking out his website, though, color me satisfied. As usual with 3-D works, photos don't do them justice, but you get the idea.



3) Amy Casey
She has about a million of these, almost all on paper. J'adore.



SCOPE

1) Ziwon Wang
His hypnotic mechanical Buddhas could have kept me rooted in place the entire afternoon, if the overwhelming size of the fair hadn't kept me moving. Perhaps the most riveting stuff I saw anywhere this week (though I realize, as a Buddhist, my perspective is skewed). I was hoping to find an example of one of them in motion on youtube, but alas, just imagine almost every piece of this in constant, gentle motion, & you'll get the measure if it.



2) Hector de Gregorio
I wasn't able to find much about this artist online, which I find strangely admirable, but I really liked his portraits, some mix of photography & other printmaking techniques, with lush results.



3) Marion Peck
I thought her work looked familiar, not dissimilar from Mark Ryden, but when I investigated & realized she was a Seattle-based artist, I remembered having seen her work before. I enjoyed Sloan Fine Art's entire booth devoted to her.



There you have it, 5 art fairs in 3 days, & I'm able to fantasize that I've taken some measure of the international art world's temperature. Looking forward to doing it all again in 2012.

05 March, 2011

Non-Armory Day 2

Last night I hustled down to the Red Dot Art Fair & its companion, Korean Art Show, in Soho to take advantage of the free entry night (take a lesson, Armory). I'm happy to say they are both better shows than the Independent, my previous evening's destination, but also duller. I found myself having (not for the 1st time) an internal dialogue debating what's worse: actively bad art or competently dull art. Like a Zen riddle, I doubt I'll ever answer that one, but I'm absolutely certain I will be presented with myriad opportunities to consider it further.

These are the artists who stood out for me:

Tim Lovejoy
I loved his pastel drawings of Tibetan monks. I'm not sure if these were drawn from life or from photos, but his gestural work is amazing.



Tim Saternow (from George Billis Gallery)
Breathes new life into the gritty urban landscape painting, which ain't no easy feat. Part of his success, I think, lies in the use of watercolor, an unexpected & surprisingly effective medium.



Also worth checking out from this gallery: Stephen Magsig & Alex Roulette. Clearly, they specialize in realism.

Edward Walton Wilcox (from Lurie Gallery)
I'm not even sure how to categorize this guy, which I always like. Kind of pop, kind of goth, but not so easily dismissed as either. The 2 works on display were in bitumen, an almost unheard of medium. It's basically asphalt -- how this is used as paint, I couldn't begin to explain. Looking at his work at a book the gallery rep had on hand & now online, I'd say Wilcox was the strongest artist I saw yesterday.





Lastly, at the Korean Art Show to , I found myself completely charmed by the glass-&-moss sculptures of Jae Hi Ahn:



Next up, Pulse!

03 March, 2011

Non-Armory Day 1

One of my favorite New York weekends is here: The Armory Show. In keeping with tradition, I will not be visiting the actual event on the piers, but I do love checking out the more affordable satellite shows that pop up all over town at the same time. (By "affordable," btw, I'm referring not to the art, which is of course all unaffordable, but to the entrance fee: a hefty $30 for The Armory Show.)

Today, I went to the (free) Independent show in Chelsea. I suppose I could go on & on about the lowest-common-denominator aspect of art fairs & the way they cram unrelated pieces right on top of one another (I actually kind of like that latter part), but I'll settle for one word for this one: ugh. I optimistically pulled out my trusty pad right at the start to write down all the wonderful new artists I was about to be introduced to. With dozens of international vendors showing hundreds of artists, I felt compelled to write down exactly 2 names. The rest of it was like a visit to The New Museum: poorly conceived, lazily executed silliness. Not really worth the walk all the way out to West Side Highway.

Anyway, I try not to let this blog become about bad art (because there's sooo much of it), so on to the winners:

1) Ricci Albenda (from Andrew Kreps Gallery, just down the street):


Sculpture mounted seamlessly into the wall. More info about this piece here.

2) Alex Brown (also here):


"Hummingbird" 2010

Next I'll be visiting Red Dot. Wish me luck.

25 February, 2011

Under the Ivy

This was the "B" side of Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, one of my all-time favorite songs. Amazing to stumble across an unheard song after a quarter century of fan-dom....

01 February, 2011

The Art of the Steal

I rented this documentary, The Art of the Steal, last week, & I highly, highly recommend it. It's a passionate, deeply one-sided account (just look at that title) of the collection of the late Albert Barnes & the successful campaign by Philadelphia's government officials & monied interests to get their paws on it. I won't delve into the whole matter here -- it could take volumes -- but in a nutshell, Albert Barnes made it 100% crystal clear in his will that he wanted limited access to his collection, primarily by students at The Barnes Foundation's educational facilities in Lower Merion Township; however, his collection became worth too much money for his wishes to be honored. Yes, the argument can be made that he couldn't have foreseen how priceless his collection would eventually become & that he left its stewardship in too loosely organized a set of hands, but the argument cannot be made that he left his wishes unclear or that they haven't been expressly ignored. If the collection had been allowed to simply exist on its intended scale & for its intended purpose, its care could have been funded indefinitely. (And is it the worst thing in the world if the occasional old painting passes on because it exists in the real world? There's way too much emphasis on archiving in the current system, if you ask me, but that's a separate issue entirely.)

The story brings up so many deeply troubling issues from our avaricious age. Those who love art for art's sake vs. those who appreciate it as a commodity, the individual vs. the state, democracy vs. corporatocracy, local interests vs. globalization, craftsmanship vs. commercialization...there's even a healthy dose of commentary on race relations, due to the fact that Barnes left his foundation in the long-term care of Lincoln University, a small & traditionally African-American college. I've seen a lot of online commentary on this movie that has been amazingly defensive, even from people with clearly no stake in the issue. The points of view of people like Barnes, who cantankerously wanted nothing to do with "the establishment," are being silenced everywhere you look these days. I think the filmmakers, by giving him a voice at all, have stirred up a hornet's nest. God bless them.

You can watch this on instant view via Netflix, I'll note, but here's the trailer in the meantime....

09 January, 2011

Jesse McCloskey

We are now one whole week into the year, & it's possible I have already seen the best gallery show of 2011. Jesse McCloskey's solo show at Claire Oliver is, in a word, stellar. One of the best I've seen in any medium in quite a while. What his medium is, though, is up for debate. He creates drawings, then builds up layers of painted paper on top of those...a couple dozen layers, maybe more, sometimes solid colors cut into shapes, sometimes drawn/painted images. He's definitely creating a drawing/painting of a sort, though it's collaged, & it's applied so deeply that it's quasi-sculptural. The technique alone is enough to hold some interest, though I realize he's not alone in using it (personal favorite Mark Bradford also uses collage sculpturally & on canvas, though his results are more definitively abstract). Happily, McCloskey doesn't rely on some trickery of technique; the imagery he constructs out of this process is truly fantastic.

The show is appropriately titled New World Nightmares, & it's easy to imagine these images as literally taken from the nightmares of a Puritan pilgrim to the untamed American wilderness in the 17th century. He's concocted a world of cartoonish witches & devils interacting with naively sexualized pilgrims & violent natives, all stylized into pseudo-woodcut likenesses that tug at the edges of your consciousness like -- well, like half-remembered dreams, which would seem to be point. Fantastical creatures are summoned out of fire, naked women are pestered by demons, shadows loom threateningly in the background, & space flows seamlessly between interior & exterior, sometimes not quite forming into either.

I didn't spot a weak piece anywhere in the show, though sizes & subjects varied quite a bit. This was my first stop on Saturday's tour of Chelsea, & I was seriously spoiled for the rest of the day. I'll write a separate post about some other work I encountered, but this one deserves its own dedicated space here on my huge, international hit of a blog. Some work from the exhibit....

The Magic Horse:


Girl with a Devil:


The Ghost:


Birch Skirmish:

26 December, 2010

Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline

I have some resistance to posting artists whose work I've only encountered online, probably because the experience of seeing it in person is frequently so different. With the amount of time I spend trolling galleries & artists' sites online, though, I suppose I need to relax that approach. (Also being snowed in during the storm of the century right now has me thinking about how to do things remotely.)

To wit, I ran across Toronto-based [oops! Winnipeg -- see comments] artist Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline's work online recently, & was completely captivated. He's got a borderline surrealist bent, but I see more in common with Francis Bacon than anybody else (if comparisons must be made). He also straddles the line between representation & abstraction, which is an approach I generally respond to. Scroll down for a few random samples, but check out more of his paintings at the link above & also here. If I ever go to Toronto, provided either it or my own city ever thaws, hopefully I can see some of these pieces in person.

Also, if you're in the NYC area, run, don't walk, to the Park Avenue Armory to check out Peter Greenaway's installation Leonardo's Last Supper. It's difficult to describe, but he find a way to use multi-media & new technology to breathe (really) new life into Da Vinci's The Last Supper & Veronese's Wedding at Cana. I'm a big fan of Greenaway's films & don't imagine I would have found my way to this exhibit otherwise, but even if you've never heard of him, just trust me: GO! (But hurry, it closes Jan. 6th.)









11 December, 2010

Burlesque

What to say about Burlesque, the almost-musical starring Christina Aguilera & Cher's Immobile Face that hasn't already been covered in the past few weeks? I've heard it called campy, so-bad-it's-good, the new Showgirls, etc....but I've also heard that it's not that bad, it's entertaining, & "it's not great, it's not awful." Well last night I & a certain someone decided to go see for ourselves, & I'm glad we did. Somehow it manages to be both laughably awful & a pretty good flick at the same time.

For starters, the pace is brisk. (There are few things more maddening in a bad movie than a glacial pace to make you sit & contemplate exactly how tragic it is.) By the end of the opening credits, Christina has decided she's had enough of her well-lit bar/restaurant in "Iowa" (she mentions this later, but you have to take in on faith, since it looks a lot more like Texas or Oklahoma) & has arrived in L.A. by bus, presumably never speaking to the parrot at the window seat during her 2-day journey. Before you can say "Craigslist" she's exhausted all the singer/dancer auditions in her large-print newspaper's Classifieds section & finds herself entranced by a glowing neon word in the flattering dusk light, "BURLESQUE."

Yes, somehow this naive girl from the faraway land of I-oh-way has never heard of the lost-&-re-found art of burlesque, yet she is somehow street savvy enough to bully her way into employment under the neon sign in no time at all. She descends the stairs & finds herself no longer in the City of Angels but in a Berlin Cabaret by way of Chicago. If you miss the subtlety of the stylistic references to those shows/movies, well here's Alan Cumming at the box office to hammer it home. Christina pays her $20 admission just in time to catch Cher's Immobile Face onstage singing a catchy little ditty welcoming naive girls from the Heartland to their first visit to a burlesque theater. We also meet our leading man, Squinty O'Zellweger, & so begins one of the weirdest & longest flirtations in movie-dom. She asks him who she has flirt with to get a job there, & his heart is lost forever, & he becomes her life coach, boss, therapist, agent &, soon enough, landlord before she can do her first hair flip.

Cher's Immobile Face, alas, is less accommodating, but do I detect a hint of maternal instinct & self-identification behind that veneer? Maybe her brow moved just a little bit to suggest it, but I couldn't say for sure. Anyway, long story short, Christina of course ends up working as a bar wench because of the love spell she's woven over Squinty, & we're treated to a couple entertaining numbers onstage. About every 5 seconds, we also get a shot of Christina looking longingly up at the stage in the soft light of the bar. Does she want to be one of those girls onstage? If only we had some clue. She never looks particularly longingly toward Squinty O'Zellweger & his bulging biceps, so it's sort of unexpected when she shows up at his door when her fleabag motel room is burgled. Presumably they had a conversation at some point in which he gave her his address & said "stop by anytime," or maybe she just stuck a pin in the voodoo effigy she kept in her purse, but either way, it must have happened off camera.

No matter, this is The Movies, so of course he re-arranges his entire life to accommodate her, even after she admits she thought he was gay, & he reveals he has a fiance, you know, Somewhere Else. I mean, she's willing to stand in the rain, he's got 2% body fat & can walk AND talk at the same time, so it's clearly meant to be. She continues to weave her spell of seduction over the course of the movie by dating someone else, taking advantage of his financial situation to make him sleep on the couch while she takes the bed, & by generally showing no interest in him whatsoever (even when he's standing in front of her wearing nothing but a box of cookies). He's clearly smitten as a kitten.

Needless to say, Cher's Immobile Face is similarly won over, with a little help from Stanley "I'm incapable of giving a less than amazing performance" Tucci, & his Gay Old Queen wisdom from the sidelines, so Christina is onstage stealing the spotlight in no time at all. There's another dancer who is somehow immune to Christina's charms, & she expresses this by glaring at her from the soft, flattering backstage light. She hatches a plan to humiliate the new star, & -- wouldn't you know it -- ends up catapulting Christina to a whole new level of stardom. If only I had a dollar for every time I'd heard that old story.

There's also something about the club running out of money & a rich, handsome charmer evil developer chomping at the bit to buy it. Could it be for his own nefarious purposes, despite his assurances that he's on the up & up? Cher's Immobile Face vaguely registers concern -- perhaps -- so the situation must be dire. Could the crowds being drawn in by Christina's showstoppers raise enough to ward off this looming threat? Turns out...no. I won't ruin the actually quite clever denouement, but let's just say deux ex machina is alive & well in Berlin Chicago L.A.'s burlesque scene.

The list of Things That Don't Make Sense in Burlesque is a lengthy one that I won't delve into, but here's a representative tidbit: Tess, the character played by Cher's Immobile Face, is leaving the bar. It's late, she's tired (presumably), but wait! That guy who runs the lights is still at the club wondering about the rehearsal she'd requested. Tess shrugs & agrees to take a few minutes to rehearse. He asks if she wants a spotlight, & she says -- I'm certain of this -- "yes." So why is the only lighting as she belts out her song a soft blue light coming from behind? Careless editing, you would think dismissively, but then why cut back to him for reaction shots half a dozen times -- always standing there shining his non-existent spotlight? The longer it goes on, the more laughably ridiculous it becomes, until you're not even listening to the song, just watching the bizarre lighting mishap.

And yet...somehow, despite these guffaws & gaffes, I found myself genuinely enjoying the movie. It exists in its own little world with its own rules, but on the most basic level, it succeeds on its own terms; it entertains. I cared about what happened to the characters & enjoyed their antics. Don't hold your chapter's next Mensa meeting at a screening of this film, but have a couple drinks & go have fun. My dos centavos.

07 December, 2010

Yuken Teruya

I've run across Yuken Teruya's work in a couple of places, but the one that stands out is the Museum of Arts & Design (which I think I will personally keep referring to as the catchier American Craft Museum until I'm dead). He fashions intricate, stunning little worlds out of everyday objects like shopping bags & toilet paper rolls. As impressed as I am by the devotion to craft, I think he must also be half mad &, by now, half blind. Check out some of his mind-boggling work:







10 November, 2010

Tilda Swinton 'n' Ryan McGinley

Thanks to the Sweet Prince of Darkness for bringing this one to my attention. Tilda can do no wrong in my book, & Ryan McGinley's images are stunning:

07 November, 2010

Peter Campus & Ana Mendieta

My Saturday travels in Chelsea brought a couple video/performance artists to my attention. One has been working for decades, the other dead for a quarter of a century, but I was unfamiliar with both.

Peter Campus' exhibition of new work at Cristin Tierney (also here) held me rapt for quite a while. The gallery is full of large digital screens, each showing what are at first glance subtly impressionist landscapes. And so they are, but closer inspection reveals that they are moving. My first thought was, "This must be what Impressionism looks like at Hogwarts." Almost all are the sort of seascapes familiar to anyone who's visited Cape Cod, but with movement and sound, they are given new life. Not surprisingly, I can't find these images online, but here is some work by Campus in a very similar vein.

Also, here are 3 much earlier video performances of his that are pretty darned cool:



Ana Mendieta has a fascinating retrospective at Galerie Lelong. It's not easy to present the work of someone whose oeuvre contained so many live performances, but perhaps they took some cues from MoMA's recent Marina Abramovic exhibit, because this one works amazingly well. Her sudden and mysterious death 25 years ago at age 36 seems to have overshadowed her legacy, which is quite unfortunate; the work itself made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, which is a rare gift in art.

I couldn't tear myself away from one of her early projects: hidden camera footage of passersby in 1960s Iowa as they walked past a bloody mess on a public sidewalk. Reactions ranged from aghast to oblivious, with most barely glancing at it & maybe raising an eyebrow as they stepped out of the way. If you showed that footage of today's New Yorkers doing the same, they'd all be decried as soulless automatons, but human nature is human nature, even in The Heartland decades past.

I adore this quote, which expresses something I've been thinking a lot about lately: "The turning point in my art was in 1972 when I realized my paintings were not real enough for what I wanted the image to convey — and by real I mean I wanted my images to have power, to be magic. I decided that for the images to have magic qualities, I had to work directly with nature. I had to go to the source of life, to mother earth."

Here's some of her work, starting with the exquisitely named "Soul Silhouette on Fire (Alma Silueta en Fuego)":









27 October, 2010

Madge Gill

A planned tour of the Chelsea galleries on Sunday was waylaid by the annoying fact of their all being closed. Now that I think of it, I guess they're always closed on Sundays, but that fact refuses to stick in my mind -- maybe because it makes absolutely no sense. I only walked down one street & up another to confirm that, yes, they were all closed, & I must have passed 2 dozen people easily, also peeking in windows & looking about themselves in confusion. Why would businesses be closed on one of the 2 main days people are able to go visit them? Surely it must be for religious reasons.

Anyhoo, me & my friendly neighborhood librarian ended up taking a detour up to 53rd Street to check out the American Folk Art Museum. It's a destination I've been meaning to check out for years, so I couldn't stay too mad at the galleries for being closed (on a prime visiting day, it bears repeating) or myself for forgetting this idiotic factoid. Saw a lot of stuff worth checking out, but the one person who really piqued my interest was Madge Gill.

Gill (1882-1961), like many artists in the museum's collection, is an "outsider artist". In its modern usage, outsider art isn't my favorite schtick, but I think it's debatable whether Madge really qualified, being neither clinically insane nor completely outside the art establishment (she had gallery shows within her lifetime). She has a pretty sad biography, though, & basically all of her drawings were created within a trance-like state, with a degree of prolificacy that sounds downright disturbing, until she eventually drank herself to death.

But you can't argue with results, I always say. I find her work incredibly rich & compelling. Her focus is entirely in 2 dimensions -- sometimes solitary figures on a blank page, but more often the entire surface is filled with shapes and marks, creating an almost accidental dynamic composition. Check out some of her images while I go get "galleries closed Sundays" tattooed on my forearm.





06 October, 2010

Meow Meow

I've been called a party pooper & worse by pretty much everyone I know for my insistence on not going out during the week (honestly, who has the energy?), but this week I was compelled by a certain someone to go on a (sigh) Tuesday night to see a mystery person, place or thing called Meow Meow at Joe's Pub. I pictured some Japanese girl band, which would have been fine, I'm sure, but I was even more pleasantly surprised by what was actually on stage.

Meow Meow probably has to be seen to be fully understood, so hopefully the clips below will help. Part lounge chanteuse, part stand-up comic, part performance artist, definitely informed by burlesque, yet somehow none of the above...I can't remember the last time someone stood out so fully & exquisitely from what's come before. A quote from Time Out New York on her website says she "drags cabaret kicking and screaming into the 21st century." Yeah, pretty much. I laughed a lot at her big, bawdy broad schtick, but she also leaves plenty of room for delicate, even sad, moments of spine-tingling beauty.

New York Press actually has a (frustratingly brief) interview with her on today's blog, which is worth checking out. Now check her out in action:





And here's a short film she's in, if you have another minute: