Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NYC Research

I can't believe how long its been since I've posted. In the last two months I have gone from so busy that I am not sleeping or eating properly to having little to do but see art, eat and sleep. The spring '10 semester, being the end of my second year of graduate school, was incredibly intense, probably the most intense semester yet. However, I believe it was most productive and rewarding so far, I finally feel like I really understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, and what I need to do going forward. I applied for, exhibited, presented, defended and received my MA degree and have qualified for MFA candidacy, which will begin in the fall.

My homework for the summer is to do research, i.e. go see ART!! and I have been hot on the museum circuit since school ended 4 weeks ago. I took a much needed trip to the east coast to visit the family and have been able to reach some excellent exhibitions along the way. Since they are queuing up, and I don't want to forget how amazing they all have been, its time to address them city by city.

Having friends living in big cities is AWESOME! Thank you so much to James for letting me come and crash at his place during a busy work week. New York Museums truly are the best, and I was able to see at least 6 different museums during my visit, these are some of my favorites.

New Museum
SKIN FRUIT - Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection/Curated by Jeff Koons

Of all the exhibitions I saw in New York, this was by far my favorite. I was eager to see the show because of the range of selected artists included in the exhibition. Several of the artists including Robert Gober, Jenny Holzer, Kiki Smith, Cindy Sherman as well as Tim Noble and Sue Webster's shadow pieces, which I get very little opportunities to see up close and personal led me to this show, and this was a rare opportunity to see them all in once location. I was equally digusted and curious at the choice of Jeff Koons for curation, however since I've heard that there will be a Jeff Koons piece included in the upcoming SNAG Exhibition in Print issue, due to come out this August (that's right, superstar Jeff Koons in a metalsmithing magazine...for some reason) I decided I should check it out..and I was really glad I did.

The goals of the show with a title like Skin Fruit, were to address both interior and exterior qualities, as well as implications of the body. Also considering the work included in the show was selected from the Greek Dakis Joannou Collection, and as I have most recently discovered in my studies of Greek history, the links between Greek anatomical representation and modern Western culture are incredibly similar. The work included in the show addressed a wide range of issues relating to the body.

Some of my personal favorites were the large scale gouache on paper paintings of Kara Walker, the shadow pieces by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, the beautifully bulbous female form by Ashley Bickerton, and the performance piece by Pawel Althamer. There is SO much performance art going on these days! That is just a side note, but aside from this show I saw at least 3 other performance art pieces making their way into large New York Museums...that makes me happy!!

Kara Walker, Philidelphia, 1996

I was so happy to see these large paintings by Kara Walker. Of her work, I have mostly seen her black paper silhouette cut-outs on the wall. This is the first time I have seen something different, which is actually older than newer. My favorite one was definitely Pegged, because there is so much attention to getting the time period and identity of the subjects correct, yet it is so incredibly graphic. I love how her women are graphic but powerful.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Black Narcissus, 2006

I've been following this duo for while now, being very interested in shadow play and all, I had not seen this piece yet. I love that it is all composed of penises, however there are some fingers and thumbs in there too, and I'm not sure why. I figure that is a huge part of the male identity, the penis, (those shadows look male to me), so the penis makes a lot of sense, but not those fingers, how does the finger fit in? I also have to note the very sweet security guard who made sure to point out the everyone who walked by that the penises made the shadow, thanks buddy!

Pawel Althamer, Schedule of the Crucifix, 2005

I have been mentioning this piece quite a bit since I saw the show a few weeks ago, not so much because the piece is incredibly complex, but that it is an active performance piece and I am so happy to see performances happening again! When I came upon this piece, I saw the crucifix on the wall, complete with bicycle seat, a ladder as positioned in the photograph as well as a dressing screen to the side with the towel loin-cloth and crown of thorns hanging from the screen. I could tell right away this was a performance space, but in case you didn't get it right away, the label card notes that every day at 3:00 the sitter will come into the gallery and be crucified.

The show is accompanied by a beautiful catalog for $45 bucks and for me it was well worth it. There are also a nice set of essays that I hope to read tomorrow now that I have refreshed my memory about the show. The show is traveling and although it is no longer in New York, it is well worth the $10 to get in and be wowed for a couple of hours.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity - On exhibit until August 15, 2010

This show just about took my breath away. I know, I know, its only clothing, however the way it was presented by the Met really constructed the historical accomplishments of women through changing fashion. By making garments more comfortable (i.e. women could actually move for themselves!) for sports or dance to losing the corset in the days of the flapper to specific fabrics that mimic military uniforms but were proudly worn by sufferagists, this show (of only garments!) was extremely powerful. I literally started tearing up seeing the projections of the sufferage films paired with the historic garments worn during those fights. It is amazing to me how much of a person's identity can be communicated through dress. I guess that is why I am so fascinated with objects, garments and all things that exist on the body, because of the stories they tell. Here are some favorites from the show:

French Sports Sweater, 1895

Jean Phillip-Worth, House of Worth, 1907-1910

Also playing an important role in the history of women's garmetry were the long flowing gowns of Hollywood gals of the 1930s and 1940s. The gallery again staged the garments in front of projections of the films they were worn in from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. I loved watching this group of older women in front of me as they reminisced about what they were doing when they first saw the films.

"La Sirene," Charles James, 1941

Charles James, 1936

Thankfully this elegant show is accompanied by a catalog, that showcases the garments of both the Metropolitan and the Brooklyn Museum, which both hold the costumes included within the catalog. I wasn't able to make it to the Brooklyn Museum, you can never make it to all of them, but if you have to choose, the Brooklyn Museum seemed to house most of the older works, while the Metropolitan housed more of the contemporary works. Since I've been traveling around, I've already read through my catalog and I was happy to learn of Charles James. James is a relatively unknown American fashion designer who is attributed for some of the most striking pieces in all of fashion's history. He produced works between the 1930s to the mid 1950s and even today these pieces seem incredibly contemporary. He pushed the complexity of his designs as an artist and sculptor rather than a fashion designer. Although never professionally trained, he meticulously refined his skills until they were perfect. Included in the catalog are also stories of each of the garments as well as some of the women who hoarded their garments and carefully maintained their treasures so they would be willed to the museum upon their deaths. What a change from then to how we now think of clothing. I guess movie stars are the new aristocracy of today. I wonder, will the J Lo Versace dress be part of the American Identity show of 2050?

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