Articles by

<Deirdre Hering>

03/16/11 4:00am

Dadarhea, a video collaboration by over 20 artists (with a less-than-savory title) now on view at Canada (through March 20), will confuse the hell out of any viewer—as its namesake mandates.

The video starts off with playing cards, postcards and scratch-off lottery games that kaleidoscope into a headache-inducing mess, but soon gives way to cartoons, vignettes and all sorts of imagery associated with the worst of all trips. The soundtrack ranges from sexy crooning to screeches and shouts, but somehow each artist’s contribution runs seamlessly into another, a testament to how similar their sensibilities are. There’s no real sense of whose work is whose, and whose work is this, anyway? Contributors include Francine Spiegel, Takeshi Murata, Allison Kuo and Joe Grillo, among many more.

The video is shot through with short, acted scenes, the most interesting being what resembles vintage game show footage. In one scene, a befuddled contestant named Ross struggles through a “Memory”-type matching game; fighting back the desire to shout out the correct and obvious answers is the most engaged this viewer felt throughout the entire video. The gallery itself is peppered with objects and artifacts that make appearances in the video but seem nonsensical, and quite frankly silly, until you see them projected on the wall. The objects include a video game called “Kerfuffle” synched to a pair of bright-blue loafers, flesh-colored alien-creatures, and some unlikely Nintendo Wii controllers.

Despite the absolute absurdity of the work, there is some common philosophical thread; ideas about exchange values and the marketplace come up often; you can watch two wooden tchotchkes bicker over frivolous purchases. Or a team of “Art Fixers” in white hazmat suits “improve” some psychedelic paintings by trimming them, adding highlights, and adjusting the saturation and hue with a clumsy, overlarge dial. And when a Jim Henson-esque creature gets caught shoplifting by a mustachioed store manager, he just picks him up too, shoving him down the front of his pants with the rest of his contraband. The video ends with a cheeky black and white silent film, showing three men standing around a neon-colored piece of meat. But once it’s carved into, it sprays all three with inky black paint. The lens tightens on the middle man’s face, and he glances nervously at the viewer before the screen goes black and the credits come up. Hell bent on not making much sense, Dadarhea delivers.

(images courtesy Canada, Dadarhea)

02/10/11 2:56pm

So maybe alt-country didn’t quite take off the way we all thought it would. That said, the Texan dudes behind Old 97’s pretty much defined the genre, and they’re on the road promoting their new album. As if that’s not enough, Brooklyn’s favorite lonely boy Kevin Devine is the opening act. We have a pair of free tickets for their April 9th show at Webster Hall and you know you want em.

All YOU have to do is follow our FREE STUFF twitter and tweet at us in your best southern drawl.

While you’re there, sign up for the L Mag FREE STUFF newsletter here and get the free stuff delivered straight to your inbox.

02/02/11 4:00am

At first glance, the sculptures on display at Asya Geisberg Gallery resemble little more than garage sale kitsch. After all, miniature porcelain ponies look more at home on a suburban coffee table than a gallery pedestal. But step closer and you’ll see that the raunchy works in Hearts of Oak, Annie Attridge‘s first solo show in the United States (through February 12), are a far cry from your grandmother’s collection of Hummels.

For one thing, Attridge’s subjects are usually headless. And more often than not, they’re a tangle of limbs, bare buttocks, or a crop of female breasts. Suffused with a rosy, post-coital blush, her miniatures twist and stretch, simultaneously melting into the tiny landscapes she’s built around them. Slick with potter’s glaze and splashed with sweet pastels, they almost seem made of sugar. But despite the saccharine color scheme, there’s nothing coy about Attridge’s work. While traditional, European porcelain miniatures (and contemporary knock-offs) are so obvious that they teeter on the edge of vulgarity, the subjects of Attridge’s skip any ironic pretense. They are positively libidinous, striking a curious and humorous balance between the trite and the titillating. “Love on the Rocks” (2010), a miniature hill of coral, is peppered with flowers and breasts. A small hollow in the front of the sculpture reveals a pair of 
lovers, and a view that can only be described as pornographic.

One of the most interesting pieces is “Termite Boobie” (2010), a bronze sculpture of four dignified breasts rising from a porous, amorphous base. While she’s isolated an eroticized element of the female form, the medium belies mere fetishization—bronze is used for statuary, to commemorate heroes. Yet the work’s title implies degradation, and the fragile-looking base reflects the same. What Attridge is saying about the historic rendering of the female form remains unclear, but appropriately complex.

The chilly shine of her sculptures’ glaze is tempered by Attridge’s charcoal drawings. Dark and warm, she focuses on universal themes like love and nature; hearts—both anatomical and stylized—are a recurring theme. In “There is Thunder in Our Hearts” (2008), the viewer spies a knot of limbs and vines in the darkness through a heart-shaped lens. The forms wrap and writhe among myriad natural elements—rain pours in the background, a tree bows their way, and a moonlit lake sits placidly to their right. A volcano, in the throes of a terrific eruption, stands tall in the background. True to Attridge’s explicit tastes, it acts as a climactic metaphor. Less than subtle, to say the least.

(images courtesy Annie Attridge, Asya Geisberg Gallery)

01/05/11 4:00am

Dennis McNett‘s art doesn’t usually stand still. Whether his prints are whizzing by on the deck of an Anti-Hero skateboard or his sculptures are rolling through city streets, McNett’s works are, more often than not, on the move. With this element of action and dynamism in his oeuvre, there’s definitely something lost when his creatures sit in a gallery, declawed and well-behaved.

But the works in Reaping Waves and Vital Vessels: The Passing of the Wolfbats weren’t born this way. In fact, McNett’s prints and sculptures roared into Joshua Liner Gallery on December 16, when he staged an opening procession through the streets of West Chelsea right up to the doors of the gallery. Now his woodcuts and sculptures hang silently on the gallery’s walls (through January 22), casting shadows upon one another, but not much more. A snarling wildcat is wrapped in its own tail, a serpent stretches its jaws, and a winged, skull-faced figure with dreadlocks grins like some sort of stoned, hippie-fied Nike of Samothrace. In a corner nook, viewers can find the waves and vessels of the show’s title. A giant paper swell sweeps up from the floor and curves toward the ceiling, dizzy with shapes and patterns. Viking ships sit atop artificial waves, their hulls emblazoned with skulls and runes and their flags branded with modern portraits of deceased friends. While the ships fall a little flat in the gallery setting—especially considering that they once rode the concrete waves of 28th Street—the intricacy of the patterns is still impressive and his subjects still playful.

While his prints and woodcuts are less conceptual than the art one is used to finding in Chelsea, the appeal of McNett’s work isn’t strictly formal. Aesthetically, his work references an “outsider art” tradition, influenced by punk rock and graphic design. But conceptually, his influences reach back much further; references to Norse mythology and mythical creatures abound. His animal subjects are primal and instinctual—not cerebral. But still, McNett’s work is less about conceptual innovation than it is about galvanizing communities through action and events, much like the procession he hosted at the opening; the objects only tell half of the story. So if McNett’s wolves seem toothless in the static environment of the gallery, close your eyes and imagine them out on the streets where they belong. Or better yet, join him the next time he invades New York City’s streets.

(Images courtesy Joshua Liner Gallery, the artist.)

12/21/10 9:55am

This past Friday afternoon, we shut things down in the office a bit early for The L Magazine’s annual Secret Santa gift exchange and office holiday party. According to The Ls official mathematician Sarah Shanfield, the ratio of booze to actual gifts was about 5 to 2 this year—great job guys! After a rousing rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas led by all of your favorite bloggers, the next logical step was to take it to the streets, ie. Home Sweet Home, Santa’s favorite watering hole on the LES. We drank, we danced, and we drank some more.

Now dont feel bad if you were on the naughty list and missed all the fun— photographer John Flowers was there to document it all! Click the slideshow below to see your friendly neighborhood L staffer getting down on the dance floor.

12/09/10 12:47pm

2010 Art Awards stage

Last night, the art world abdicated their penthouses uptown and descended onto the East Village for Rob Pruitt’s Art Awards at Webster Hall (yes, that Webster Hall). Now in its second year, the ceremony still seems to puzzle both participants and viewers as to what exactly it, well, is. A self-conscious critique of the celebrity culture that’s invaded the art world? The Guggenheim’s cure for the common gala? America’s answer to England’s Turner Prize? The people in panda suits soft-shoeing across the stage (an homage to Pruitt’s work) would be an argument against that last one.

Rob Pruitt at the 2010 Art Awards

Even Pruitt himself, no stranger to irreverent art world commentary (who remembers “Cocaine Buffet”?) seemed pleasantly unsure of where his award show stands in the grand scheme of things. He asked the inaugural Artist of the Year Mary Heilmann, in a Frank Gehry-designed tiara, how she felt about her win: did her award provide recognition and validation? Or did it stifle her creativity, breeding competition among artists and curators? But she assured him that her life has only improved since last year’s show: “Now I never have to worry about my ’67 Jaguar breaking down because I have my Range Rover as a back up,” she joked. Whatever its classification, there was plenty of glitter, lots of booze, and (gasp!) James Franco’s biceps made an appearance last night.

James Franco and Kalup Linzy perform at the Second Annual Art Awards

The ceremony was hosted by Glenn O’Brien (formerly of Interview Magazine fame) who shuffled on stage through a hilarious re-creation of Marina Abramovic’s “Imponderabilia.” Presenters included Matthew Higgs of White Columns, Art Forum’s Linda Yablonsky, Lizzzi Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance, and my personal pick for art’s most adorable couple of the year, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein. There were plenty of heavy-hitters in the audience—Jonas Mekas and Martha Rosler both received Lifetime Achievement Awards, and Marilyn Minter was in attendance to receive the Artist-Educator Award for her work at the School of Visual Arts.

Klaus Biesenbach and MArina Abramovic at the Second Annual Art Awards

  • Klaus Biesenbach and Marina Abramovic.

And while the presenters and nominees tucked into their dinners (provided by Roberta’s!) the press high up in the balcony struggled to see who on earth was sitting in between Klaus Biesenbach and Marina Abramovic, and thus preventing any sort of cozy dinner time conversation (it was Michael Stipe). And you’ll never notice the resemblance between Gavin Brown and Mark Ruffalo until you spend an evening trying to identify the vaguely cuddly, bearded man seated near the stage. Turns out that it was Gavin Brown, confirmed when we jockeyed for the same sink in Webster Hall’s awkwardly coed bathroom (I let him go first).

Jerry Saltz accepts the Art Award for Critic/Blogger of the Year.

  • Jerry Saltz accepts the Art Award for “Critic/Blogger of the Year.”

There were a few familiar faces from last year’s show—Jerry Saltz snapped up the prize for critic/blogger of the year for the second year in a row (we don’t care what they say—AFC’s Paddy Johnson will forever be our favorite blogger!). Lena Dunham, last year’s co-host, made a surprise appearance via live feed from Los Angeles to accept Rob Pruitt’s Achievement Award. But the most esteemed award of the night, Artist of the Year, went to Louise Bourgeois, and rightly so.

James Franco and Kalup Linzy perform at the Second Annual Art Awards

  • James Franco and Kalup Linzy perform at the Second Annual Art Awards

But of course, it wouldn’t be a real party without the art world’s favorite movie star, the aforementioned James Franco, who was impossible to miss in his sleeveless tuxedo. Franco performed three original songs (entitled “Asshole,” “Hot Mess,” and my personal favorite “Chewing Gum”) with his General Hospital co-collaborator Kalup Linzy. But don’t feel bad if you missed it; O’Brien warned the audience to look out for an album next year.

Jonas Mekas accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Second Annual Art Awards.

  • Jonas Mekas accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Second Annual Art Awards.

As for the rest of the night’s winners, you can check them (and many more photos) out below. And if you’re taking bets for next year’s awards, I would pay attention to Ben’s predictions, posted Monday; they were pretty spot-on.

Alternative Space of the Year: Artists Space
Curator of the Year: Chrissie Iles
Solo Show of the Year, Museum: Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Lifetime Achievement Award: Jonas Mekas
Alternative Project of the Year: INDEPENDENT
Group Show of the Year, Gallery: Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970, David Zwirner, New York
Exhibition Outside of the United States: John Baldessari: Pure Beauty, Tate Modern, London
Lifetime Achievement Award: Martha Rosler
Solo Show of the Year, Gallery: Trisha Donnelly, Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York
Blogger or Critic of the Year: Jerry Saltz
Group Show of the Year, Museum: In and Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960-1976, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Artist Educator Achievement Award: Marilyn Minter
New Artist of the Year: Tauba Auerbach
Rob Pruitt Achievement Award: Lena Dunham
Artist of the Year: Louise Bourgeois

Another view of the Abramovic performance onstage.

  • Another view of the Abramovic re-performance onstage.

More sleeveless James Franco, because we know you want it.

  • More sleeveless James Franco, because we know you want it.

Klaus Biesenbach and Marina Abramovic standing very close...

  • Klaus Biesenbach and Marina Abramovic standing very close…
12/08/10 4:00am

Sophie Crumb has had a busy fall season. Her solo debut show at DCKT Contemporary (through December 30) coincided with the release of her first book, Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist, a collection of drawings and sketches that stretch back to the 29-year-old artist’s childhood. Although she was born in Southern California, Crumb’s parents (infamous underground cartoonists R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb) moved the family to rural France to escape the factions of American culture they deemed less savory. But her drawings prove that Crumb didn’t escape the clutches of Hollywood (can anyone?). Instead, she uses celebrity culture to inform her work, inverting the Hollywood fishbowl.

While Crumb’s dark wit is clear in her multi-panel comics, the majority of the show deals with the female experience. The gallery’s south wall is lined with Crumb’s recreations of French tabloids, “candid” celebrity portraits punctuated with bright and punchy captions: Paris Hilton frolics on a beach, “Blindsay Blohan” emerges from a swimming pool. Crumb’s drawings of these women critique unhealthy beauty standards without even trying. While viewers may be desensitized to photographs of the ultra-thin female, this fetishized form looks painful, grotesque even, when rendered by Crumb’s hand; the joints where Hilton’s hands meet wrists are overlarge and bulky, and the angles of “Blohan’s” hip bones are revealed as far too sharp. Giant, artificial breasts on a model dancing at a club look overstuffed and painfully hard. And famous men aren’t exempt either. Chad Michael Murray and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame leer out at the viewer, looking just as flat and harmless as Crumb deems them useless.

Crumb’s paintings take on a more somber tone along the gallery’s north wall. The starlets have been replaced by anonymous women. Here, there is a palpable sense that something is at stake. A young girl points languidly over her head, trouble evident in her furrowed brow. In “Tit ‘N Gun” (2008), a mother stares stonily out from her frame, a child at her breast and a gun in her hand. “Milkshake” (2010), a hand-drawn copy of a photograph from Vice Magazine, shows a female gazing benignly outward, her breasts exposed, and a soft drink in her hand. Crumb hand copied the caption that appeared under the photo onto her drawing, which reads: “She was drinking a milkshake and I asked her to pull her shirt down.” Taking the image out of context, Crumb reveals the absurdity of this gratuitous show of flesh. Judging by her drawings alone, it may take more convincing to diagnose Crumb as crazy. Instead, it’s the rest of the world 
that looks insane.

(images courtesy the artist, DCKT Contemporary)

10/27/10 4:00am

Though the space is peppered with nearly a dozen metal sculptures, the first floor of Lehmann Maupin’s Lower East Side location feels nearly empty. The objects stand on rods so thin they hardly seem to take up any space at all, like a forest of leafless saplings. But these barely-there structures hold entire universes, miniature landscapes populated by humans made of light, plagued by existential crises.

Tony Oursler’s Peak (through December 5) continues the artist’s investigation of the ever-evolving relationship between humans and technology; in this iteration, he deals mainly with the internet. The rods split at face height into two prongs. One holds a diorama made of brightly colored clay and bits of man-made detritus —plastic jewels, dice, figurines. These landscapes are brought to life by the objects occupying the second prong —miniature projectors that shine like garish green suns. They illuminate the sculptures with human figures that interact with Oursler’s miniature worlds; they wriggle across sheets of glass, bounce from corner to corner, and crawl over the surfaces of crudely shaped clay, eery distortions moving across the uneven surface. Speakers embedded in the projectors give them voices. They speak in slow, even monotones, a cry of distress ringing out every now and then. “I feel guilty, really I do,” one assures the viewer.

Peak is the counterpoint to Valley, Oursler’s inaugural show at the Adobe Museum of Digital Media (which exists, appropriately, online and is on view now). The “valley” refers to “the uncanny valley,” a robotics theory coined in 1970, stating that robots resembling humans too closely will induce revulsion in the psyche. Oursler takes this theory one step closer to the viewer. He casts the dioramas as representations of the internet, an entity built up of raw informational material that is just as likely to end up intellectual flotsam as anything truly useful. And just as we cast reflections of ourselves on the web through blogging and social networking, Oursler projects human life, actual human figures, across his physical platform. The viewer watches herself live unnaturally on the internet, but today that’s come to feel normal; we’ve traversed the uncanny valley. But when Oursler physically represents our relationship to the internet, literally projecting a human head onto a lump of clay, the effect is terrifying, unsettling, and yes, uncanny.

In “Mirror Return” (2010), Oursler projects his own image onto a small sheet of metal. Shirtless and scared, his likeness speaks in non-sequiturs, growing more and more distressed until his words run together, unintelligible. He turns from the viewer, his true identity an enigma.

“That’s so strange. It’s just me,” he says. “It has to be, but it’s not me.”

(photos courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin)

09/07/10 9:00am

For artist and musician Cody Critcheloe, The Hole in Soho has been turned into a paint-splattered, bean bag-strewn version of your parents' basement, the perfect setting for his first film, BOY (2009). A super-stylized rock opera set in a cartoon landscape, BOY is the coming of age story of an aspiring rock star in a mid-Western town, and of course, mom just doesn't understand. It's a story that's been told before, but in Critcheloe's hands, it's a postmodern patchwork of music videos, interviews, and hilariously self-aware dialogue that results in a genuinely entertaining commentary on gender and sexuality. "I ain't a sissy, I'm just free," he growls after being chastised by his overbearing mother, played by a male actor in drag. He enacts his revenge on her later in the film, after becoming involved with the "Woman," a bespectacled and enigmatic character who proves to be his downfall.

Fast-paced and disjointed, but totally watchable, Critcheloe's film is purposefully built on a mish-mash of cultural signifiers from bygone eras, combining them in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way that positively reeks of all the clichés of teenage rebellion. But Critcheloe's persona is so oddly endearing, you'll laugh and relate before you roll your eyes. The music in the film was performed by his band SSION (pronounced "shun"), a group whose sound changes with each song. The result is a catalog that resembles the same sort of cultural mosaic that the film embodies. The songs that SSION performs range from disco-inspired dance tracks ("Street Jizz"), to aggressive punk anthems ("Day Job")—whatever the moment in the film calls for and ultimately, whatever Critcheloe feels like playing.

The show itself follows this "little bit of everything" approach too, representing Critcheloe's friends and colleagues Peggy Noland and Jamie Warren. Noland, a clothing designer, is represented with a rack of clothes hung with leggings and bright orange crop tops, crammed into an alcove and surrounded by bourgeois suburban detritus like boxes of organic frozen dinners, six packs of Stella Artois, and crumpled pages of Real Simple Magazine, etc. Warren, a photographer, has hundreds of her images along the showroom wall. Each image has the same sort of candid, voyeuristic feel of the "party photo," a genre that has become infamous and ubiquitous in the age of the internet. Her larger self-portraits are much more interesting as they play with ideas of identity and appearance; Warren photographs herself in bright and angry red face paint while she smiles sweetly, or surrounded by grotesque Halloween masks.

But the most jarring work in the room is a quiet sculpture in the corner—a house plant embedded with a mechanical hand. The hand clutches a spray paint can, and in its own jerky, mechanized way tags the gallery wall over and over again, eloquently echoing the commodified gestures of rebellion utilized by Critcheloe in the other room.

(photo credit: The Hole, Cody Critcheloe)

09/01/10 3:00am

It’s probably a strange and new feeling, at least for most of us, to walk through an art gallery with the knowledge that you could easily purchase any of the works on the wall. But at 99% Gallery in Williamsburg (99 North 10th St), a space “dedicated to underdogs,” virtually any visitor can bring home a piece for no more than the cost of a couple of beers.

Born Under A Bad Sign (through September 10) is a collection of black-and-white woodcut prints by Brooklyn-based artists Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston. Collectively known as Cannonball Press, the artists are offering their prints to gallery-goers for $20 each (“Five for $80!” say the hand-made stickers on the wall). At a time when “non-traditional” art forms like street art and graffiti are grabbing lots of art world attention, and even more cash, the artists stay true to the medium’s humble roots with their low-level pricing.

Their works feature a gruff cast of characters like plumbers and pirates, and plenty of gross-out humor. While most of the prints are collaborations with other artists and collectives, the bigger works on canvas are all the work of Mazorra and Houston. “Party No. 1” and “Party No. 2” depict bacchanalian party scenes: women puke side-by side, a man smokes from a monstrous-looking bong, and a figure in the corner ejaculates into a house plant. “2 Time Loser” is a printed list of suggestive non sequiturs (“You get treated like a cockroach around here. You’re showing more meat than a butcher’s window.”) flanked by garbage cans and spaceships. It’s unpretentious, un-self conscious, and all in all, pretty fun. Hold fast to the knowledge that there’s still some corner of the art world (and Williamsburg, too) that you haven’t been priced out of.