Friday, May 8, 2009

Performances, screenings, & closing receptions this Saturday!


FUN FLU : Performance Art class event

10am – 10pm: 
Abigail Nedelka, 7th floor lobby
Cassandra Xin Guan, 2nd floor hallway
Dmitri Hertz, 8th floor Peter Cooper Suite

1pm – 10pm:
Laura Miller, 8th floor Peter Cooper Suite

2pm – 2:10pm:
Devin Kenny, room 715

4pm – 4:30pm:
Christhian Diaz, 1st floor lobby

7pm – 10pm:
RECEPTION in Peter Cooper Suite with performances by Christhian Diaz, Amy Reid, Eliza Winston, Feliz Solomon, Katya Tepper, Alex DeCarli, Kelly Zutrau, and Sam Ashford.

(times are approximate.)

Great Hall Gallery

Emani Heers & Sam Vernon : How Ghosts Sleep - CLOSING RECEPTION
6th Floor Lobby

Cooper Union Foundation Building
7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sonia Finley, “No Place, Here” 2nd Floor Lobby


The audience in Sonia’s video projection, “Room 715F,” can enter and leave as they want. This is the open invitation of this exhibition, too, as Sonia says in her wall text, “stay for a long time or a short time, or leave and then return later.”

In her video, Sonia and Christian interact in a room with or without an audience. It looks as though they are seeking an entrance into one another. The quality of the video obscures specifics so that at times the two bodies make a single form. But the impossibility of what they are trying to do asserts itself, and they have to separate.

We are invited to sit and read her book “No Place, Here,” which includes photographs and text. The large spandex lumps that we’re encouraged to sit on are made from the same materials and correspond to the forms recorded in her photographs. These forms are bodily and speak to skin, folds, torsos, and backbones. Although made of cheap, flashy material, the forms are transformed by the seductive quality of the photographs.

The show discusses “here,” the experience of being in this place (the gallery) at this moment. The photographs demonstrate bodily forms occupying space, and her book addresses this question directly, asking a viewer (of something) “What was it like to enter this space?”

A miniature silicone version of the lump form rests on the arm of a small white topless box that is installed on the wall of the lobby. How does it interact with its space? Why does it stay outside of it? The tone of this piece feels slightly different, but related.

Three of Sonia’s photographs are placed on the main gallery wall, but pushed to the far left side. The show is careful to leave enough space for the viewer and this wall, usually the main gallery space for artists using the 2nd floor lobby, is left open.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Postcards 5-5

Sonia Finley : No Place, Here
2nd Floor Lobby

Noelle Raffaele : ANIMARE
Great Hall Gallery

Emani Heers & Sam Vernon : How Ghosts Sleep
6th Floor Lobby

Abigail Nedelka : Extrospection
7th Floor Lobby

Thursday, April 30, 2009

GO DEEP closing screening

Just letting everybody know that we are having a closing screening on Friday at 7, after which we can all watch a feature film together. I think the second floor is having a closing reception, as well.
Keep deep,

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

“Each Other,” Andrew Francis and Rina Goldfield on the 7th Floor


1. This show suggests rupture with punctures, cracks, volcanic eruptions, and the dislocation of body parts. But because the pieces are built around rupture, or because rupture is incorporated into a piece from the beginning, it is used as a strategy of construction.

2. Rina uses staples, thread, or in the case of the volcano paintings, beautiful varnish to “repair” rupture. These decisions, except for the varnish, allow or force the images to be objects. These function as solutions to a problem posed in paint.

3. Andrew’s bather sets up a moment of realization when the viewer first sees that the body parts don’t, in a sense, belong to one another. Each body chunk—two hands, two knees, and a head/torso piece—float separately in the confined space of the tub.

4. The bather piece is made up of poetic moments, some planned and others unplanned by design. The slight shifting in water of the body parts-as-islands. The porcelain tub. The chin touching the chest.

5. The texture of the paper becomes incredibly important in Rina’s crumpled drawings. Could the drawings have worked with less other information? And I also wonder that about the piece made by two identically sized panels separated slightly. The folds embedded in the lightly treated canvas have much to say. Did the piece need more information?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Postcards 4-28

6th Floor Lobby

7th Floor Lobby

Houghton Gallery

2nd Floor Lobby

Exhibitions in the School of Art, April 28 - May 2, 2009

Opening Tuesday, April 28,  6 - 8pm:
On view April 28 - May 2, 2009


Dan Catucci, Ryan Andrews & Kalen Mendenhall : Uranus
Houghton Gallery

Dana Miller : And Everything In-Between
2nd Floor Lobby

Michael Bostock & Feliz Solomon : Go Deep
6th Floor Lobby

Andrew Francis & Rina Goldfield : Each Other
7th Floor Lobby


Exhibition hours:
Tuesday through Saturday, 11am - 6pm.

Cooper Union Foundation Building
7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Re: “Bodies and Pleasures,” Lucy Kirkman on the 7th Floo r Lobby

Lucy Kirkman's small paintings of nudes—warm, delicate, and sensual—
capture a sense of simple comfort. Henry finds this simplicity lacking,
and looks for the pain that inevitably attends pleasure. I think,
however, this simplicity represents an act of bravery. These pieces
epitomize a lot that is uncool at art school: they are figurative
paintings; they are small, precious objects; they celebrate comfort over
criticality. Given their context, these paintings become fierce, speaking
up for joy and loveliness in a place where few others will.

Rather than directly critique our misogynist culture, Lucy offers an
alternative. She rejects the self-laceration so common in "feminist"
self-portraiture. She instead revels in the beauty of the female body and
reveals her own self-confidence. This confidence is rare among women. The
fact that Lucy's paintings lack the pain we associate with self-image thus
becomes the source of their poignancy. An image woman at peace with her
own body is a rare gem, worthy as a message of hope.


“Bodies and Pleasures,” Lucy Kirkman on the 7th Floor Lobby

The 7th floor exhibition, consisting mostly of paintings, but also housing several small sculptures and a painting/projection, is in praise of, or in pursuit of, pleasure. The title says this plainly, but without it the work would still hover around an interest in the delightful. I’m wondering what kind of pleasure this is. Lucy’s dozen golden eggs sculpture gives the hint that this is a pleasure in the everyday. And for me, the most effective pieces in the show—five small paintings showing the artist’s nude or mostly nude body from the perspective of the artist either in the bathtub or in bed, with housecat or not—dwell in this space of commonplace luxury.

These small paintings are worth taking a look at: Lucy has composed images where the viewer’s perspective is that of the artist’s, seeing her own body lying down. This is an effective strategy, if not an overt connection to a tradition of comments on viewing the female nude. If Manet's Olympia acknowledges your gaze, and returns it, in these paintings we are asked to hold the same gaze—in effect, to empathize with it. This is a subtle but powerful move.

In Lucy’s painting/projection, a painted imitation of the figure from the Andrew Wyeth painting, “Christina’s World”, is overlaid by a projection of slides showing different works from art history. So, Christina’s worlds change. This is perhaps a related gesture as the paintings, but more overt at the expense of something (the empathy?) that makes the paintings intriguing. Christina flies through a world of different paintings, but this is a trip I didn’t want to take with her.

I am not so sure if the work depends entirely on a revised feminist agenda. Probably it doesn’t, although it’s certainly there. The major problem for me is not in the strategy, or how effective it is or isn’t, but in Lucy’s take on pleasure. Except for the painting/projection, which may speak to this, the work seems to consciously leave out the provocations of pain and longing, instead portraying pleasure as something still and unchallenged. In reality, pleasure is alive, moved and affected by loss. The exclusion of that loss does a disservice to an understanding of pleasure, and to the work.


Urgent Meeting in the Great Hall Tonight 10 PM

Public Service Announcement:

Student Council is hosting a meeting tonight at 10 PM in the Great
Hall on STUDIOS and other important issues.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Postcards 4-21

Houghton Gallery and 2nd Floor Lobby

7th Floor Lobby

6th Floor Lobby

Monday, April 20, 2009

Exhibitions in the School of Art, April 21 - 25, 2009

Opening Tuesday, April 21, from 6 - 8pm:
On view April 21 - 25, 2009


Tommy Coleman, Alana Fitzgerald, Devin Kenny, Eric Mack & Edmundo Majchrzyk : THE ANTEPENULTIMATE JUBILEE: a survey of ancient futures
Houghton Gallery + 2nd Floor Lobby

Rushern Baker : Armchair Revolutionary
6th Floor Lobby

Lucy Kirkman : Bodies and Pleasures
7th Floor Lobby

Exhibition hours:
Tuesday through Saturday, 11am - 6pm.

Cooper Union Foundation Building
7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003


David William
Coordinator of Exhibitions + Special Projects
School of Art

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

“/Līt/”, Julie Kim and Laura Lee-Georgescu on the 6th Floor Lobby

The 6th Floor exhibition this week starts with “light”, the observation or implication of light, but puts its emphasis elsewhere. Julie Kim’s photographs, drawings and installation feel much more preoccupied with architectural space, not only interacting with John Hejduk’s columns, but also adopting them as the subject of her work. Each of her seven photographs is named after the space shown in the picture, and each shows a strong light source on the building’s staircases, lobbies, and elevators. There is something impressive particularly with her large-scale drawings, and appropriate, as she pushes her drawing into the scale of the room’s architecture. This works well, but the drawings themselves don’t fit quite right. My first impression was that the manner of lighting felt very familiar, pulling these away from specificity and into what feels like more generic scenes. This may not be undesirable, but doesn’t make as much sense paired with Julie’s sensitivity of touch and the commitment to observation that these drawings imply.

Julie’s drawings also speak, in some instances, in oddly graphic or architectural terms, forcing planes and hard edges that complicate the organic nature of light and shadows. This occurs in Laura’s work as well, where hard forms hesitantly structure the organic forms of her paintings. A dark, graphic corner obstructs “Aqua” and a similar strategy is used in the corners of “High Altitude.”

But this issue in Laura’s work, the hard edge imposed over the organic, has more to do with the problem of resolving an image than about a graphic or architectural concern. Laura’s paintings seem driven by a process of staining that is both incredibly spontaneous and also strangely confining. How to work over the delicate and graceful spill? These paintings, which have powerful moments, feel at pains not to disrupt those moments at the expense of the whole work. Her painting, “ Yellow Room” escapes this problem in a way that is not entirely easy to pinpoint why. Perhaps at its somewhat smaller scale, the amount of paint, and the scale of the forms, feel more complete. It also has a strong structure, bisected horizontally by a line underneath the cotton.

Some of the more successful moments come when the paintings reference something naturalistic, sky or clouds. Laura may have had this in mind with her title, “High Altitude.” The work also has an occasional reference to photography which feels intentional. These paintings feel like they are moving in a direction and are at an interesting but incomplete stage.


Great Evenings in The Great Hall

Great Evenings in the Great Hall

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art Celebrates its
150th Anniversary

Abolition & Civil Rights: An evening commemorating the role of Cooper
Union's Great Hall in Advancing Social Justice in America.

Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and
President of SUNY College at Old Westbury
Thulani Davis, Author and interdisciplinary artist
Prof. Eric Foner, Columbia University
Barbara Feldon, Actor
Prof. Manning Marable, Columbia University
Marina Squerciati, Actor
David Strathairn, Actor
Music by the New York City Labor Chorus

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 6:30 pm Free and open to all
The Great Hall, Seventh Street at Third Avenue
(#6 train to Astor Place, R&W Trains to 8th Street)

David Greenstein
Director of Continuing Education and Public Programs
The Cooper Union
30 Cooper Square
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212-353-4198 Fax: 212-353-4183

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Postcards 4-14

"Contenpt," Houghton Gallery and 2nd Floor Lobby

"Endpapers," 7th Floor Lobby

Exhibitions in the School of Art, April 14 - 18, 2009

Opening Tuesday, April 14, from 6 - 8pm:
On view April 14 - 18, 2009


Stephen Madden, Piotr Shtyk & Ye Qin Zhu : Contenpt
Houghton Gallery + 2nd Floor Lobby

Julie Kim & Laura Lee-Georgescu : /Līt/
6th Floor Lobby

Florian Brozek : Endpapers
7th Floor Lobby

Exhibition hours:
Tuesday through Saturday, 11am - 6pm.

Cooper Union Foundation Building
7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003


Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Rich Mixtures of Similarity"

Battered pieces of drywall, frosted glass, metal and wood fill the space of Laura Miller's show. Heaps of materials seem to belong to an unfinished building project: nails and wood scraps still scatter the floor, and c-clamps hold makeshift walls together.

This seeming unfinished mess offers a thoughtful rumination on the process of generation. Laura's appropriation of discarded construction materials for art offers an unexpectedly hopeful message of growth. She builds new edifices out of the remnants of broken buildings, but not literal ones. Laura's constructions seem like houses of possibility: the funny, lovely moments that emerge from her rubble (light reflecting off of copper, a piece of peeling blue tape) speak to what could emerge. Laura reminds us of the beauty that grows out of common detritus. Decay invariably leads to growth, but humans can guide this process.

This hope for regeneration culminates in a semi-complete tower hiding behind the curved corner of the gallery. The tower, constructed of white wood fragments, teeters from floor to ceiling. It immediately reminded me of Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International. Tatlin intended his tower of industrial materials to be the centerpiece of Communist Russia. He sacrificed building practicality to his perfect vision, however; his tower, like the Communist Utopia, could never be realized.

Laura's makeshift version offers an alternative to Tatlin's utopian perfectionism. A white tower must symbolize a beacon of hope, yet Laura's is fragmented and unstable. Laura refreshes Constructivism by fracturing it, suggesting that new spaces are fragile restructurings of old ones. I ran into Laura after seeing her show. She told me that she planned to continue playing with the materials over the course of the week that her show would be up. This seemed fitting: for Laura, creation is an incomplete process of change. The final dismantling of Laura's show will not be its end, just another step in her constructive process.


*Edited on 4-10 at author's request

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yo Te Negaré Ante Mi Padre y Mi Escuela

Just when you though that no one would be offended by art, the Baeza show happened. Whatever the rumors, criticisms, or disapprovals that went on, one thing was left clear. And that was the strong commitment, not only from students but also from faculty, that work should be respected and cared for when its liberties are at risk. Someone did point out that at the beginning of Cooper guards stood strong as they let women come into the school to draw from naked plasters cast. It is within the nature of the school to care for its student's ambitions.

Interestingly enough the reaction of some people to the show brought up the same questions that the work tried to criticize. It is not the first time that popular religious imagery is used as a base for a different composition. But is this imagery juxtaposed with a whole different agenda that offended some people. The strict catholic dogmas the show was trying to portray as unrealistic and at times unfair, were the same dogmas that prevented some from looking at the show. Although subtlety was not part of Baeza's vocabulary the small hints of humor and cultural reference reminds you of a contemporary issue that surprisingly, as we saw before the show, still exists.

But prints will be prints. And after all, they showed again their power to stir things up. The show had a very ambitious collection of techniques, varying from woodcuts, silkscreen to the painful photogravure- all executed with a great sense of confidence. I was happy to see the installation next to the elevator doors because it brought the printed matter out of its nicely crafted frame and used its reproductive qualities for a different purpose. It was refreshing after all to see a senior show with such a dedication to the print.

"Inner Yonder," Amelia Hall on the 7th Floor Lobby

One recurring question for me during this week’s 7th Floor show was, is being childlike the same as being naïve, and what can work that is deliberately naïve have to say today? I don’t mean this as a roundabout attack. The work seemed to be about imagination, and the mark making, the color choices, and the subject matter speak to a child-like imagination. Maybe whether that becomes naïve, or is intentionally naïve, is a difficult question to answer. Being “naïve,” the dictionary tells me, is “having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature” and “unsophisticated.” It also means having an “unaffectedly direct style reflecting little or no formal training or technique.” Perhaps the work seeks this out earnestly, or uses it as a strategy to say something, and in either case it’s a choice. Does this choice assert a particular kind of temperament or sense of humor?

In her drawing under the two 7th floor windows, Amelia has synthesized the object quality of some of her prints with the environments she creates in her drawings, so that the drawing, in a variety of textures, makes this invented environment an object itself suspended in the space of the page. Only a very small rabbit on the left hand side seems to imply that there is a ground outside of the sidewalk in front of the building. For me, this is emblematic of the sense of humor in the work. The rabbit—insignificant, cute—grounds the work.

In the framed drawing of a Victorian-type house, Amelia has made a picture of a fairly familiar kind of house in a very direct way, seemingly from imagination. This is the first piece that convinced me of the pursuit of a child-like imagination (the title, “Inner Yonder,” itself a kind of quirky title, speaks to the fantasy lands of the mind). The immediacy, sloppiness, quality of mark making also bring me into that space. In the drawing under the window, the play of competing textures and shapes makes the piece more compelling, and this drawing could use more of an exploration of that imagined space, if at the expense of immediacy.

Environments are interspersed with images of equally fantastical (but still attached to a kind of Victorian aesthetic) objects. These objects are luxury items, invented jewelry as in the case of the five small watercolors with collaged magazine cutouts and drawing. They operate, like everything here, on a very particular internal logic. The two black and white etched gems are the only pieces in the show that don’t seem made from an internal place, but are physical and weighted.

Some of the work might benefit from more physical presence. The playfulness might feel fuller in more concrete form. Some of the work is so faint that one can barely see it, like the green colored-pencil drawing of gems, which almost disappear into the paper. What could be a sort of gentle, prodding humor runs the risk of coming across as non-committal or too nonconfrontational. Perhaps it’s difficult for me to decipher what this kind of imagination, deliberately naïve or naïve at all, says, and maybe that comes down to the question of aggressiveness or lack of aggressiveness in form. If the work wants to baroque, maybe it needs to be more baroque?

Still, the gold painted window felt like a nice demonstration of the thinking happening in this show. The luxury of a gold, ornamental frame around the window contrasted with how it’s painted, I think in gold paint (opposed to gold leaf) and painted with immediacy.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Plywood Extravaganzas: A Rant

So far this semester I have been disheartened by the shows of graduating students with whom I entered Cooper Union; I took time off last semester and, for the most part, I will not be graduating with the students in my freshman year foundation classes.

I may be exaggerating the effect of on-going construction work by Sciame on this graduating class because I was a part of that class, but I feel strongly that my year bore the brunt of Cooper Union's New Academic Building growing pains: we remember the Hewitt Building and will leave this institution both without knowing any of the New Academic Building's amenities and with the pressure to produce work in severely condensed senior show/studio space as a result of the Hewitt building's demolition. By these environmental factors I believe that the class of 2009 have been strongly encouraged to make increasingly unambitious work.

I see this in the timid, manageable nature of most shows so far this semester; while I do not want to suggest that bigger work is necessarily better, I have seen very little work in the semester that dynamically engages with the space it is shown in. Like it or not, size is certainly a factor in that concern and this is where my review begins in pleasant surprise:

With their expansive installation strategies, Rich Mixtures of Similarity in the 2nd Floor Lobby and Hyacinth Room in the 6th Floor Lobby give lie to my critique of the way our institution has handled the New Academic Building's construction. Ambitious displays in my year, it turns out, were not killed (even if they were submerged in great adversity).

Laura Miller's work on the second floor coats the floor's architecture: it is impossible to casually walk through the space without walking through or noticing at least one interesting architectural intervention. The work on view is immersive and imposing in all the ways work installed in the same space has been subtle and restrained during the last few months. It's a great show that I know I will think more about the particulars of during the week. The sunlight streaming through tarpaulin Laura hung from windows was remarkable this morning and I recommend setting aside some time before class to see it this week if you can.

That said, the work is problematic as far as style is concerned: I read the show (its materials and their freely organized displacement throughout the space) in part as a sort of de-politicized love letter to Arte Povera. That this should bother me more than it does doesn't stop it from being an important détournement to consider: aestheticization of the past is dangerous ground (though occasionally fertile as this show demonstrates).

Taylor Shields and Justin Smith take a more democratic approach to filling space with Hyacinth Room. By curating friends' work into their senior show, the two have strengthened their presentation without having to fall back on the scale of already impressive large sculptures that each have contributed to the show. It makes for a rich and full environment even if individual works are sometimes unsatisfying by themselves: if you don't like what you see, I suspect that you will when you turn around... and if you feel like remaining stationary as you consider the work in this show, Justin and Taylor's Media Center lets you do just that.

As a final word of critique, I return to style and materials: Cooper Union's storied "house style" is something to be wary of. The way each of these shows (like many in this building that I can remember) employ vast arrays of un-painted plywood is something to be conscious of, though it is the second instance in this review of an objection that doesn't dim the enjoyment of my viewing. There was much good to see this week andfor the first time in a whilethere was nothing in the way of my appreciating it.


this was our show card

Postcards 4-7-09

Felipe Baeza (Great Hall Gallery)

Eliza Winston and Valerie Skakun (Houghton Gallery)

Amelia Hall (7th floor lobby)

Other shows tonight:

Taylor Shields and Justin Smith (6th floor lobby)

and Laura Miller (2nd floor lobby)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

“Communications Programming,” Alex DeCarli and Dmitri Hertz on the 6th Floor

In one corner of the sixth floor lobby a very tall, spindly broom, which brought to mind Martin Puryear’s “Ladder for Booker T Washington,” and Dr. Seuss, extends from the ceiling to the floor as though it might clean up the mess at the other end of the lobby. That mess is, we know of course, art. And if art doesn’t get swept up, it does get stored, contained, packed. This highly allegorical exhibition (maybe allegory is my own entry to the work, and imposed) kept bringing me back to the idea of packing, and by extension traveling. In two instances, or three possibly, packing material provides a kind of base or pedestal for the “piece”—packing boxes with the warning, “very fragile” in one instance, a sealed container of packing peanuts in another. One piece is already loaded up onto a dolly cart, or never unloaded.

Following this train of thought, the work seemed to be involved with the problem of its own display, a problem that sculpture more than any other medium seems to take most seriously. And, I guess, it’s a serious problem when you exist in the messy world of three dimensions. The attention to how something is contained allows for some of the nicer parts of the show, like the painted table holding a small video or video game screen, or the container that props up the TV on which a video of a man trying, and failing, to stab himself plays. This container changes the potential moment of viewing radically, so that we are forced to completely “look down” on the video.

This video also captures a recurring tone to the other work in the show and its display. Ironic angst, if that’s the right way to phrase it, present in this piece also plays into the brick (or what I thought might have meant to be a sculpture of a video game representation of brick) that is crushing the middle of a phallus. I honestly don’t know why sculpture shows insist on repeating phalluses. But it’s also possible, in the spirit of irony and fake angst, that this attempts to be a post-phallus phallus piece. Or does every phallus sculpture intend to be that? Certainly that is an easy metaphor to take from it, though I’m not sure how much I can believe that reading.

I failed to watch the performance at 7 and so someone else's reflections on that would be useful here.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Postcards 3-31-09

Awol Erizku, "Famous Faces / Diff'rent Places" in the Great Hall Gallery

Constance Armellino and Anna Hutchings in the Houghton Gallery

Alyssa Kosmer, "Schadenfreude" on the 2nd Floor Lobby

Alex DeCarli & Dmitri Hertz, "Communications Programming" on the 6th Floor Lobby

Caitlin Norgard, "Nerken" on the 7th Floor Lobby

Edited. Thanks to D William for the remaining postcard images!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

“Whatsoever Things are True,” Houghton Gallery and 2nd Floor Lobby

Reed Burgoyne, David Maron, Rachel Matts and Erik Winkowski offer a massive, four years of work-filled collaboration this week. The collaboration, they write at the opening of the show, started with the reinterpretation of the words, “Whatsoever Things are True,” the Cooper Union motto of 1859. It’s not clear how much this group effort is a reflection on truth, or on the institution it’s housed in, though that may be possible. Spending some time with the exhibition, I kept feeling like the message was elsewhere. It’s not about truth, but the packaging. Thoughts need form to exist in the world, and the show affirms, to be communicable, so do products, signs, and information of all kinds. How that information is handled, edited and manipulated is incredibly important and can be incredibly powerful.

David Maron’s twelve small silkscreens and one larger print in the left corner give a good example of the show at its best. These prints offer more subtle information than many of the text-based pieces in the show, and manage also to be more compelling. The forms in these prints are being conjoined, spliced and bisected. They hold you and, in rich, colorful gradients, seem to move in front of you. The “23 Dead” poster, which feels so final and frightening, doesn’t let you pass it easily. Sometimes the work, or more accurately the push for cleverness in the work, becomes cheap. The posters made in famous modern art-historical styles feels tired, and the attitude in the “shut the fuck up” cake isn’t convincing.

But there are many virtues to the show, and too many to recount all of them. Part of the appeal of the show is just how much hard work there is in it, and the work is so much and so varied that it spills out into the second floor lobby with some of the more beautiful pieces in the show. One of the best highlights of the show may be its careful and committed design, down to the way in which the artist information is conveyed. Each artist has a symbol so that even when the different artist’s work is put together, little symbols indicate the individual maker. Everything has information and all of that information here gets a package.


"Brand New Geography for Old-Timers"

Susan Little's sculpture in the Great Hall Gallery, under the hole in
the ceiling, compellingly allies with the title of the exhibition,
"Historical Geology for Beginners." This interesting turn of phrase
offers an opportunity for lots of play, and lightly touches hard
questions; for example, there is a pun between the words "geology" and
"geography." It is an understatement to say that geological time
exceeds historical time. To think in geological time is to recognize
the incredible brevity of the human span, a thought that renders
"geography" and its political maps ironic, if not silly (while, at the
same time, we have lately noticed that we are not as harmless as
flies). The word "beginners" is also absurd. It seems like a great
deal to teach a beginner the history of Earth. An understatement
again. It's impossible. Earth can't write, yet this title and this
work lend it a memory of a record and a history.

The piece is notoriously missing parts, which renders it still more
site-specific: the below-ground exhibition space, currently territory
of the Sciame company not the Cooper Union, infamously clashes with
the work of students to whom the space is promised, with about the
carefulness of icebergs. There are intended to be 50 ceramic
plate-sized pieces, in the shapes of all of the United States.
Leaning on handmade steel display stands, like new books, they all
face front. They are distributed on a large, about 8-inch high and
solid square base, which is unpainted and looks like the splintery
scrap wood used in construction work. It is utilitarian and doesn't
elevate the work like a pedestal. I am not sure what it means for the
piece to be so close to the floor rather than at eye level, where the
viewer could take in the subtle variations of the clay. There is,
though, a certain sense of grounded-ness when confronted with an
object that sits by your feet on the same horizontal plane.

The ceramic states are all glazed imperfectly, the same white. I
interpret this choice in part as an elimination of the color
differences between states, while still referencing the way a map
usually differentiates them. The edges, the state lines drawn by
rivers and human minds, are articulated in detail. But edge is no
longer a line; it's a thickness of clay, making the transition through
objecthood from "geography" to geology. Walking behind them, which
Susan has allowed room to do, their naked red backs are exposed, which
are grooved as a part of the process of making them. We can look from
below the surface (the back), and see the map backwards, which is a
bit like seeing a flag upside down. Since only one side is glazed,
they are more tiles than plates. The clay can remind you of the dirt
below the surface of everything. This is further emphasized where
gashes like wounds interrupt the glazed surfaces. Here again, it is
impossible to name these states without also thinking of their history
of breaking and floating apart, all made of the same matter and now
outlined and alone. They become icebergs or tectonic plates, so the
space between them would be the ocean, but they remain upright on
display and dispersed not only on a sphere but both in the foreground
and the background. Again working against the conventions of maps,
they are not flat. Not only is the earth not flat, the country is not
flat. They warp convex and concave, a reminder of their softness and
the baking process.

So, it is like the earth, like a kitchen or a bathroom, was tiled, and
surface layer has been lifted off. The unanswered question of where
the earth is now fills the space around the sculpture. It is gone, in
a way, it is absent, while the sense of the human hand and the
earth-likeness of the clay doesn't leave you alone. It is good as a
viewer, not to see colors, lines, or flatness, and see so much
instead, to be a beginner and look.

The 7th floor Lithographs

The biography of the artist has always been associated with a history- the history of art. Contemporary thoughts on the importance of the author and its personal history have been challenged and at times considered irrelevant or antiquated. How much can an artist introduce his or her own history to the viewer without clichés or failure?
Fortunately Mark's show on the seventh floor has brought the idea of the biography into a series of lithographs that not only narrate his "story", but with a visual language, helps us remember (or introduce us) to a conflict larger than the "self".
I believe the prints told a story more complex than the mere retailing of a Dominican conflict, the "poster" language used served adequately, it did not overly sentimentalize the story nor did it over simplify it.
Political imagery, specially associated with Latin American politics can often result in the same simplified posters alluding to socialist aesthetics or indigenous imagery just to make a point. But Mark's way appears more sophisticated than the usual portrayal of, not only a country, but also a continent's struggle for democracy. I believe he achieved success by not forgetting the importance of artistic individuality rather than using motifs or clichés.
Lastly I would like to mention, for those who though silkscreen would be a more appropriate medium for the prints, that the usage of lithography was important for the style and execution of the image specially considering the level of successes achieved.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“New Work” by Maren Mill, Saki Sato, and Avery Singer on the 7th Floor Lobby

The 7th Floor show, "New Work" by Maren Miller, Saki Sato, and Avery
Singer, does not, as the title suggests, have a theme, so much as the
work visually and conceptually speaks to one another. Roughly ten
pieces are on display in this group show, with sculpture, collage,
photograph-posters (plotter-print vogue never dies here) one painting
and one wall drawing as well as a video. The connection between the
work is in some cases explicit, for instance the painting of a
throne-like chair (with a clashing, graphic red and blue background)
and the actual, physical throne set on a base. In other cases the
connection is made very simply and visually, like the radar-like
sculpture which faces the photo of a globular fish-eyed window. This
poster of the window hangs above the video of a chair in an empty room
facing a window which displays a distant seascape, making a subtle and
comical link. In one, the empty living room lets out into another
space, and in the photograph, the fish-eyed window reflects back onto
a scene of an elaborately decorated living. This video of a chair
facing the window is, ironically, the most quiet and most
still-seeming piece in the show.

If "New Work" isn't exactly themed, themes abound: windows, mirrors,
shadows, chairs seem, the more I think about it, to be everywhere in
the exhibition. What makes the video of the chair facing a window
subtle and appealing is lacking in the other work, which is often
crudely made to no apparent end.


Edit: as commenter points out, "Welcome" is the title of the show, which makes my suggestion that there isn't a specific theme slightly more questionable. But I think the general thought remains, that while there are definitely themes to the show it doesn't have one specific theme.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A note on Abigail Collins' video in "In Response to Choking." In the Houghton Gallery with Kirby Mages

An azimuth check, Abigail Collins tells us, is like living well- it's
better to do before you have to. In her understated video in the
Gallery, in a show that she shares with Kirby Mages, Abigail considers
direction-- the english translation for azimuth-- and what having an
"objective" might mean. The camera moves clockwise for 360-degrees
before switching locations (a theater, a snowy field, a church) as
Abigail narrates what sounds like an army-manual on the importance of
taking azimuth checks.

This relatively short video has a lot to say, I think, and deserves
the time it would take to really listen to what Abigail is saying. I
can't say that I fully grasp what I think Abigail is doing here, but
several themes seem relevant. There seems to be something at stake,
though, and maybe that's a defense for a certain way of living, or of
a certain way of seeing living. Perhaps it is a very basic thought,
like, despite the pressure to be single-focused and goal-driven, it's
important to give the time and patience to consider where you are--
not always where you're going.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Josephine Heilpern, “We missed the whole thing.” in the Great Hall Gallery

“Space” and primarily “outer space” occupies almost every print, drawing and object in Josephine Heilpern’s show in the Great Hall Gallery. For the most part, though, Josephine’s glance is not upward or outward, but backward, back toward Earth with the aesthetic distance of 200,000 miles. This is most explicit in the triptych depicting a beautiful, shiny earth from different outer-space vantage points, but present in much of the work. In two drawings placed together, tourists reach out for a very distant and small—and as with everything in the show, gorgeous—earth.

It seems like Josephine is trying to say something about tourism, and a particularly American brand of tourism, as popular images of the moon landing, takes offs and landings, and earth from outer space are all crucial to modern American self-mythology. What have we missed? The trip to the moon? The trips that made the vantage points to see earth in this way possible?

“Space” in a more general sense gets a brief mention, in a small, seemingly out of place drawing of a staircase that pushes into the space of the picture. This was a good joke, I thought. And it was nice also to see a crack in the otherwise over-devotion to theme. Would it be okay to show something not at all related to space launches or to NASA memorabilia? It would have been nice, I think, to see more of these cracks, even if it compromised a scrupulousness to message.


Postcards 3-3-09

A few of the shows tonight:

Josephine Heilpern, "We Missed the Whole Thing" in the Great Hall Gallery

Chloe Jensen, "Prospects" on the 2nd Floor Lobby

Haeahn Kwon, "Drawings: Put Your Foot Down and Take Your Shoes Off" on the 6th Floor

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brief Thoughts on "Trichinae, Trachiniae," Caitlin Everett, 2nd fl. lobby

It has been a long time since I last wrote anything meaningful about art so I want to keep this short. 

(...I did write lots of meaningless stuff in the interim though) 

I took a great amount of interest in the food at Caitlin's show and I don't mean that as a back-handed insult. I don't even mean the food itself (though her cookies were remarkable!): the work she has on display this week hangs parallel to bowls hand-made to hold her opening night refreshments and it seems a very conscious decision on her part to leave these dishes in place long after the food in them has been eaten. Both the bowls and the objects (tablets hung from or leaning against the opposite wall) are made entirely from newspaper.

I could imagine thinking about what a newspaper is in these recent days when circulation cannot always sustain one while an economic downturn looms large. That isn't, however, what caught my interest (true, though, that reading into the materials would probably enhance the aspect that interests me in the show—pun intended).

Because these two things are linked by their materials, I assume that their meaning is similarly linked. For this reason I think of Caitlin's bowls and art (proper) as homey supports for an art opening: she gave us something to eat from, something to eat (we ate it), something to stand in front of and (one would hope) something to think about. We were given all an opening needs and the show remains as a reminder.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Note on "Quality Service," Staff Show on the 6th and 7th Floors

What struck me about "Quality Service," tonight on the sixth and seventh floors—a show that someone told me felt like it was staging a place for a "sense of community"—was how necessary the institutional problems at Cooper have been to any sense of community. That is, the last few years have been strange for Cooper, and maybe strangest for the art school, which felt the impact of the decision to demolish Hewitt tangibly and reacted with the most anger. Several staff members chose not to be part of this show because, I think, that the tight Spring exhibition schedule has made it hard for some seniors (and non-seniors) to schedule shows, and that the staff show makes it tighter. And shows organized by the administration, really anything done by the administration, seem always to bring on (an unfortunately quiet) resigned protest.

Considering the crunch on exhibition space, a sprawling two-floor staff show may strike some as ostentatious. It may be ostentatious. And shows with the face of the administration behind it (with, like, a title and subtitle) and here I'm thinking of the Middle States show last Spring, tend to feel clumsy and pretentious, especially at a time when the administration and the art-student body have such a tepid relationship.

Still, it was hard not to feel some sense of community—a strange one, fractured by the studios in LIC, and in apprehension of this big, new endeavor where Hewitt used to be—but  a community.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Couple of Quick Thoughts on Oliver Loaiza's 7th-Floor Show

Oliver Loaiza's show on the 7th floor felt like a beautiful counterpart to "One Liners by Two People" and it wasn't until later that I could see that the way in which the show deals with comedy is in such a different, but in some ways more effective, tone. By necessity (of the material, and of seeming persona of the artists) "One Liners" was large and noisy and crowded and a certain kind of elaborate showmanship fit with the structure of the show. Oliver, who I only saw at another show opening, was, like his show and like the work, quieter and less ostentatious.

Not that the show or the work doesn't stand on its own, and not that it has to be seen in terms of the sixth-floor show. The work in the show was in some ways correlated, but it didn't strive to stick to a theme, or to exist solely within the universe of the show. The golf club-pipes, the (cow?) tongue, the fittingly hard-to-hear drone of a woman speaking on tape—these pieces operated more quietly than the work on the sixth floor or the show and performance on the second floor (which also deserves time and thought) but thinking about them the next day, they seem harder to shake.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lisa Larson-Walker and Harold Batista on the 6th Floor, “One Liners by Two People”

This question came up for me tonight at Lisa Larson-Walker and Harold Batista's well-made and carefully staged sixth-floor show: can irony still be a means to have something to say? "Irony" in art today, or what passes as irony—I'm thinking about Carroll Dunham's cartoon "Dickhead" paintings, Richard Prince's "Spiritual America" show at the Guggenheim, or very differently, Damien Hirst, whose persona-as-production empire might be called ironic in only the most cynical terms—seems to me to be about dressing up or giving attitude to, and so in a sense legitimizing, otherwise shallow and easy work. Irony now (or rather, it's been this way) doesn't function critically so much as it preemptively scolds the viewer for taking the work seriously—who always risks taking it "too seriously"—and it looks smart by keeping the viewer from any meaning, because after all, there is no meaning anyway.

This question of irony animates the show, and in some senses, the show reanimates for me a strategy of irony. "One Liners by Two People" keeps painstakingly true to its title. The work, including but not limited to a slinky on an escalator (that needs a little nudge), a live drummer who beats out the famous one-liner anthem ("buh-dum-cha") every time you look at a poster that reads "that's what she said," a "face painting" where you can pose to have your picture taken, a Hirst-shark-in-a-tank-piñata, is in each instance a one-liner but one-liners that work—I'm entertaining the idea at least, and if we're allowed to call it work and to take it seriously—critically, and with good humor.

My first smile came peering into a pedestal that had the scrolling text, "I can't," over and over again, which stood in front of the video of the falling slinky. I think what I'm trying to say here is that on one level the show makes a light-hearted joke of "ironic" work that both wants to be taken seriously but not to be seriously considered, while at the same time manages to present an alternative, and more productive, mode of irony. At least, that's what I'm entertaining.

Another joke—Lisa Larson-Walker, who I only met briefly at the show, told me that if I had any questions that she would be here all week. I laughed and she caught the joke in what she had said before being pulled away by Harold, who she was handcuffed to.


*edit: The scrolling text in the show, which I originally misquoted as "I can't" is supposed to be "I can't."Fixed!