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-piƱata, 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!