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.