|So far 2012 has seen some major changes: abstraction has made a significant comeback and we gave double takes to Claes Oldenburg and Lucio Fontana. And after looking at some of the major museum exhibits in NYC; spectacle is still on the rise. Is the apocalypse coming?We’re not sure. But our Top Ten Show list is a nice recap for anyone interested in trying to wrap their head around 2012.||
Top Ten Shows of 2012
By Matthew Hassell
So far 2012 has seen some major changes: abstraction has made a significant comeback and we gave double takes to Claes Oldenburg and Lucio Fontana. And after looking at some of the major museum exhibits in NYC; spectacle is still on the rise. Is the apocalypse coming? We’re not sure. But, our Top Ten Show list is a nice recap for anyone interested in trying to wrap their head around 2012.
1. Ambienti Spaziali curated by Germano Celant at Gagosian Gallery
Famous for overlooking his paintbrush and reaching for his razorblade, Fontana always had a radical agenda when it came to his approach to art. This exhibition put together by Celant, one of the most well respected curators and art theorists of all time, paid due homage to the widely exhibited paintings, but more importantly highlighted the artist’s lesser shown all-encompassing spatial environments. Titled, Ambienti Spaziali, these experiences entice the viewer to abandon expectation and allow the constructed environment to envelop them entirely. Space is often confusing and disorienting in a way that suggests the infinite, or at least an opening up to a recognition of the infinite aesthetic space beyond the opaque skins which conceal it from view. This ability to supersede the thinking of the time in order to reach a new level of aesthetic understanding was something that Fontana worked hard for throughout his life. Drafting many ambitious manifestos outlining a need for a total art, this show aptly exposed the viewer to a collection of experiences from an innovative body of work – a body of work that successfully strove to meld the disparate worlds of architecture, sculpture, and painting.
2. Pier Paolo Calzolari, When the dreamer dies, what happens to the dream? at Marianne Boesky and Pace Gallery
Coaxing a main player of the Arte Povera movement out of his reclusive dwelling with the allure of a expansive gallery solo show in Chelsea must have been no small feat. Spearheaded by Marianne Boesky, Pier Paolo Calzolari’s return to showing work in the United States was nothing short of momentous. So momentous in fact, that Boesky’s gallery and Pace Gallery removed a wall between their two spaces in order to provide an adequate venue to display the work. A tall figure in the Arte Povera movement, Pier Paolo made his mark early, at a time when our art historical discourse was largely United States focused. Making work in a time overshadowed by the cold impersonality of the pop movement and the swagger of the mark wielding abstract expressionists, Calzolari and his peers strove to make approachable work out of the recognizable materials of everyday life. Valiantly carrying the torch to this day, Pier Paolo executes his will on larger than life sculptural and two-dimensional wall based works, enlivening recognizable materials such as burnt wood, salt, and metals with the energy provided by common technology. Utilizing the frost making capabilities of multiple refrigeration units, parts of his structures are intentionally enrobed in pristine white water crystals. The machines that provide this chill saturate his gallery environment with the reverberating hum of technology in constant production.
From left: Georgia Sandbag Costume – Enlarged Version, 1986; Dr. Cotello’s Baggage, from Il Corso del Coltello, 1985; European Postal Scale, Elevation, 1990 (above); Study for Collapsed European Postal Scale, 1990 (below)
Bottom: Claes Oldenburg / Coosje van Bruggen: Theater and Installation 1985-1990: Il Corso del Coltello and The European Desktop. Installed at The Pace Gallery, 545 West 22nd Street, NYC April 27 through June 23, 2012. Photo Credit: Kerry Ryan McFate. (c) Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, New York
Foreground: Georgia Sandbag Costume – Enlarged Version, 1986, From left: Dr. Coltello’s Baggage, from Il Corso del Coltello, 1985; Frankie P. Toronto Costume – Enlarged Version, 1986; Il Corso del Coltello, 2009 (on wall); Characters and Props from Il Corso del Coltello, Along the Canal di San Marco, Coltello Ship in Background – Version Three, 1986; Knife Ship 1:12, 2008; The European Desktop: Sculpture in the Form of a Collapsed European Postal Scale, 1990 (detail, main room); Knife Ship 1:12, 2008 (detail)
Sometimes a certain individual oozes with that scarcely definable ilk of originality that forces them stand out no matter when they arrived to make their mark on history. A pioneer in the creation of the multimedia film environment, Oskar Fischinger’s work with simultaneously occurring projections dates back to the early 1920’s. Seen here after a meticulous transformation from their original version in 35mm nitrate film and painstakingly transferred to high definition digital format, the work has been restored to its initial colorful glory. Utilizing overlay of such moving images as moiré patterns, swirling colored water in motion, and layers of geometric animation, Fischinger was able to create an immersive viewing environment decades before the time of psychadelic visualizations. Space Light Art, or Raumlichtkunst in Fischinger’s native language, is a truly moving example of aesthetic innovation. To borrow his words, it is “an intoxication by light from a thousand sources”.
6. Grid List: Curated by Patrick Morrissey and Mark Sengbusch at Allegra La Viola Gallery
As stated in the press release: “the right angle is alive and well today as it was at the earth’s formation.” The grid: a painting structure gleaned from the cartographic conceptualization of real life which has been a staple defining two and three-dimensional creation from the beginning of art as composition. Consistently imprinted into the viewer’s brain and either embraced or ignored by the artist, it is always there. Bringing together a collection of emerging to mid-career artists from all across the map, this show re-highlighted the importance and ever permeating presence of the grid in the work of artists who actively recognize or try hard to negate it’s visual structure. In an aesthetic climate where the idea of the grid has been effectively dried out by the heightened permeability provided by the computer, this show breathed new life into a visual structure that just won’t seem to go away.
Bottom: Francois Morellet, Répartation aléatoire de 20% de carrés superposés 9 fois, en pivotant au centre, 1969. Serigraphic ink on wood, 31 ½ x 31 ½ in. Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York
8. Gerhard von Graevenitz and Francois Morellet, Moving Spirits at Sperone Westwater
Installing kinetically active painting structures alongside static compositions that gain relevance from leeching off of the residual movement imprinted in one’s retinas when moving from work to work, this melding of two artist’s oeuvres seems meant to be from the beginning. Perhaps an example of curatorial genius, even having prior knowledge of the two artists represented, one found themselves going back to look at the image list for confirmation of creative ownership. Pairing the alternately vertical or horizontal flashing of neon filaments with abstract images of linearly, colluded structure or hanging constantly turning black line on canvas next to painting experiments of similarly motional, expressive yet static works, the exhibition keeps the viewer guessing – which one is in motion? In forcing the viewer to question the movement of static versus dynamic forms, the work calls into attention the viewer’s perception of the “real” versus the “imagined” and any iteration between or therein.
Carsten Höller, Giant Triple Mushrooms, 2009. Polyester mushroom replicas in various sizes, polyester paint, synthetic resin, acrylic paint, wire, putty, polyurethane, rigid foam, stainless steel, Dimensions variable. 5 Giant Triple Mushrooms: styrofoam, polyester paint, polyester resin, acrylic paint, core wire, surfacer, polyurethane foam, hard foam construction panels, steel. Variable. Installation view of Divided Divided. Photo Credit: Attilio Maranzano. Courtesy of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
9. Carsten Holler, Experience at the New Museum
As a former student of innovative architecture, Carsten Holler must have thought often about how a physical environment affects the people moving about within it. Maybe this is why he decided to create the idea of an apartment complex connected throughout by slides. It could follow that this is why he cut holes in the floor of the New Museum in order to install a slide from floor four down to floor two – one which expelled the participant into an ever intermittently flashing LED environment adorned with a collection of surprisingly lifelike neon sculptures of wild animals. Regardless of the impetus for the show, maybe as a viewer you wanted to spend your afternoon suspended in the liquid of a sensory deprivation chamber or wearing goggles that make the ceiling look like the floor. Whatever the escapist delight, Experience by Holler seemed to have it covered. Turning the museum into a veritable candy shop of an aesthetic playscape, regardless of your opinion of its conceptual weight, you missed out if you didn’t go see it.
Top: Ron Gorchov, THERSITES (CHASTENED), 2012. Oil on linen, 34 3/4 X 42 1/4 X 8 3/4 in. Courtesy of Chiem & Read.
Bottom: Ron Gorchov, TAU SETI 2012. Oil on linen, 77 1/2 X 35 1/2 X 8 in. Courtesy of Cheim & Read.
10. Ron Gorchov at Cheim and Read
An ever-present abstract painting titan at this point, it’s no small feat that Gorchov’s materially fixed work pops up from time to time, easily spanning decades of artistic relevance. Not to say that his importance is effortless, but as an artist, one can only dream of hitting on an aesthetic pursuit that will sustain one’s work for the rest of their imaginable life. It’s a wonderful thing to see from all perspectives really, which can also be said about standing before his paintings. Executed on a now signature saddle-like construction that dates back decades, his works typically involve spacey abstract meetings of two conversational forms painted on a dynamically transitional surface. The mark-making venue resulting from stretching canvas over his saddle shaped concave/convex support becomes lovely to encounter in the real. Inhabiting a hardly definable multi-transitional space, the forms seem to float independent of their mere materials as one walks to and fro before them. Just scratching the surface of their definition, it’s an enlightened attempt at an escape from painting in two dimensions.
The Top Ten Shows of 2012 appears in NY Arts Magazine Fall Issue 2012. This issue is currently on bookstands.