Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Upcoming Events

Nilay Lawson: "If You Didn't Know What This Was, Would You Know What This Is?"
at Tranformer Gallery
Opening Reception Saturday, Nov. 1, 7-9pm

Vanitas: Nichols and Shela Pye
at Curators Office
Opening Reception Saturday, Nov. 8, 6-8pm

Thomas Meuller
at project4
Opening Reception Saturday, Nov. 8, 6-8:30pm

Asterism a group show
at gallery four(in Baltimore)
Opening Reception Saturday, Nov. 8, 5-10pm

Agend: Queering Popular Media
at Current Gallery(in Baltimore)
Opening Reception Friday, Nov. 14, 7pm

Shepard Fairey at Irvine Contemporary

by Peter Slacks

In his signature Totalitarian style, Shepard Fairey, the longtime darling of design school frosh, compiles potent imagery of child soldiers necklaced in bulleted bandeliers, flaming oil derricks and dustbowl windmills, and of course the headshot of Barack Obama which was highly distributed in bumper sticker form.

At first glance, these pieces, as in most of Fairey’s work, function differently than most propagandistic art. The blood red forms, quilt-like patterns, symbols, and logos question the viewer directly. Or should I say interrogate? They force the viewer in the most brutal fashion to question oneself. Traditionally, this media is used to impose the iron truth or depict the absolute one. The viewer, unaccustomed to the straight-forwardness of the red and black and unaware of the intricacies of process gets Fairey’s “Straight-Talk.” This is where Fairey is strongest, as subvert.
However, this does not last long. The piece of the show at Irvine Contemporary is the Obama/Hope piece. Even though, it has grown iconic with the man, and could potentially be dubbed a masterpiece of the moment, hopefully an eight year moment, this piece alone weakens the other work in “Regime Change” by being the visual currency of a giant(albeit a benevolent one, a BFG). There is no problem with an artist/designer trying to make a buck, but Fairey’s good work has become undercut by merchandizing and chosing sides in a fight that historically benefits the most power hungry.
With Fairey’s appropriation of style and the balancing act that all political artists must perform one has to wonder at this point what Fairey’s intent might be. Could it be to create mixed signals ironically within the mostly black and white of forms? Or could this just be Fairey choosing to take on the softball lobs of moral predicaments simply to save face in order to remain true to his company’s image and ever present logo. I do not know.
Fairey’s work does have genuine impact but standing as we do now in the shadows of an abusive Washington administration, one has to be frustrated that these pseudo propagandistic posters do not have a more consistent bite. In addition, one absolutely cannot ignore the painful irony that exists in the appropriation of the communicative styles of designers like Gustave Klutsis, a victim of government-ordered murder, for the political campaign.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SALVAGE hair drawings by Youngmi Song & mixed media assemblage by M. Jordan Tierney

The creative minds of Youngmi Song and M. Jordan Tierney are currently showing at Gallery Imperato in Baltimore, MD with large displays of hair drawings and mixed media sculptures that focus on dwindling rural societies- hence the title- SALVAGE.

The show, which opened Friday October 24, 2008- features 3 open space rooms, with both artists intermixed throughout. Not overcrowded by work, the brick walls and sculpture bases are spread out to allow for conversational areas. The mood is much more ‘café’ than gallery- a definite welcoming feel.

A close friend of mine, Youngmi, has experimented with her hair drawings for the past five years as she “tries to make a connection between (her) past, present, and future.” She found that her own hair represented that perfect circle, or ring of life, that included the past growth and the present roots.


Identified by Youngmi as her most significant piece is Trinity- hair affixed on thick rice paper- 30” x 86”. This tightly arranged geometric composition is a “symbolic idea that depicts a sense of relationship” – The identity of the relationship is neither defined nor determined. It is the personal relationship that one may have with a mate, or with himself and nature, or even with himself and the whole world.

Later works include the Barn (13” x 19”) and Tree (13” x 19”) series, which are reflections of daily life in the past as a remembrance to the possible destructions in the future.

For those able to attend, the show is one of unique quality- a definite if you are in the Baltimore area in the next month…
From Left: Cara Ober, Yumi Hogan, Youngmi Song, Rachel Sitkin

On view at Gallery Imperato in Baltimore through Dec. 6, 2008

Regime Change Starts at Home

By Carlie Leagjeld

When I entered Irvine Contemporary for the opening of the show entitled "Regime Change Starts at Home" I first noticed the sculptures by Al Farrow. Shepard Fairey had several works on paper and canvas, one of which being a huge hand-stenciled and collaged portrait of Barack Obama. The other artist on view was Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky) who was showing a multimedia project called "Manifesto for the People's Republic of Antarctica." This project had a short film with sound and several posters.
I found Al Farrow's work to be the most intriguing, though. At first glance I didn't notice that the Jewish synagogue and the Muslim mosque were made out of guns, bullets, and artillery shells. They were very detailed and beautifully made. There were three other sculptures that were also made out of guns, bullets, and shells but these also had human finger bones in the center of the pieces in glass containers. These pieces had crosses and crucifixes on them. The sculptures referenced Christian, Islamic, and Jewish religions.

The guns in the smaller pieces titled "The Trigger Finger of Santa Guerra" hold the structure with the bullets and shells filling in the the base and the roofs of the structures. The finger bones were encased in round glass domes. The Mosque titled "Mausoleum/ Mosque 2" was the only one without any whole guns in the piece. It was made out of gun parts, artillery shells, and steel. The synagogue, titled "Synagogue 2" was the largest piece with two large guns at the entrance of the synagogue and windows with glass to see into the inside. The inside had some sort of rug in it, although I could not see exactly because the windows were very small. It was a nice surprise for there to be an inside. All the pieces had an inside and an out outside, excluding the mosque. The finger bones made up the inside of the smaller pieces and then the rug made up the inside of the synagogue. The outside of the synagogue was intricately made out of small round bullets and larger shells around the outside. The round dome roofs were a beautiful antiqued green and the rest was steal and bronze in color. The base of the synagogue was also made out of the tops of the shells. As people walked by they rubbed their figures over the shells because the artist wanted the pieces to be touched. Overall I feel like I was mostly impressed by the craftsmanship of these highly violent objects made into beautiful religious structures. They talk about the militarism that is embedded in the histories of these religions. I found them to be very powerful.

Regime Change Starts at Home is on view at Irvine Contemporary through Dec. 6, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Franz West at The BMA

by Rachel Sitkin

The Franz West (pr. Vest) retrospective at The BMA is one of the most vibrant, fun museum exhibitions I've seen in a long time, aptly titled "To Build a House You Start With The Roof". The exhibition includes large-scale sculptures, collage, paintings, drawings and photographs from the 1970’s through today. Though West’s work spans a variety of media and form, most of the pieces in this exhibition demonstrate fully his irreverent humor and free, inquisitive spirit.
The Ego and The Id

The first room in the show has two 25-foot-tall aluminum sculpture chairs made especially for the exhibition. Each is a loop-de-loop of color ending in a flat stool, child’s height and size. And you can actually sit on them, as several kids were when I walked in. The subsequent galleries feature a mix of work made through out West’s career, much of which was interactive.

My favorite pieces were a wall of collages featuring cut-out figures from commercial ads paired with an assortment of meat products, and the papier-mâché meteorites made of newspaper, then slathered with paint in bubble gum pink, robin’s egg blue, neon yellow and the like. I also especially liked two of the sculpture lamps that hung form the ceiling, one resemblied a spaceship and another a water-balloon being struck by a light saber.

The overall informality of West’s work and the way Curator Darsie Alexander has designed the show made for an approachable exhibition that could remind trained artists and amateurs alike of the joys of just making. Sometimes it's nice to remember that art need not be perfect, it can be lumpy and silly, or rough and sloppy…like life. The hour plus jaunt to Baltimore is well worth it.
Dorit (on the front lawn of the museum)

On view at The BMA through January 24, 2009

Friday, October 24, 2008


by Jerri Castillo

ID-entity was a two-site show exhibited in partnership between Transformer project space and the Mexican Cultural Institute. I visited Transformer, which featured the works of Saul Gomez, an artist based in Mexico City.
While there I was drawn to his wall installation Untitled, 2008, a symmetrical piece made with mixed media. He composed another world where cars were made out of bread and stars or suns have bottle cap centers. Images of parts of a machine run down the center as if fueling this odd world into existence. What I found most interesting about this piece where the three-dimensional planes that explode into the wall creating a two dimensional graphic blast.
In contrast to the white background for his installation was the black background for his series of smaller works on paper. They reminded me of a strange outer space with both stickers and hand drawn stars that circled around a pencil drawing.
Another installation piece, also Untitled, appeared to be a landscape hill of bottles and a picture of a tree was attached to the wall but also seemed to be sitting on two of the bottles.

His use of everyday materials definitely called attention to the relationship between consumption and identity. For me, his works on paper stay as images of a space that remain as fictions. On the other hand, his installation pieces contain three-dimensional elements that allow the viewer to enter into the two dimensional fantastical landscape.

Friday Night Gun Fight

by Annette Isham

Friday Night Gun Fight, a Michael Scoggins solo exhibition at Project 4, is simultaneously playful and extremely serious. The works, done on large-scale paper, shaped and colored to look as if they were torn out of a spiral notebook, are almost sculptural. They are slightly crinkled and appear to have a rough torn-out left edge. Made in a naïve style, each piece has "Michael S" written on it, as if following a grade school teacher's constant reminder to put your name on your work. The craftsmanship and context of his works parallel that of a young student, through the use of undeveloped penmanship and characters as well as the recognizable staples of childhood entertainment. What makes these works so interesting are the very complex political and social issues Scoggins addresses using the simplistic expressions of a child. Scoggins confronts ideas about American politics, policies, and patriotism.

"heller, june 26, 2008" marker, prismacolor on paper 67” X 51” 2008

The tension created by the pairing of serious topics with the playful manner in which he approaches them allows for a provocative dialogue. The seeming simplicity of his works is in fact responsible for their undeniable boldness, as it provides the irony we need to question our views. Is he mocking the severe manner in which we approach and complicate otherwise resolvable issues? Could our social obscurities be eliminated by instead utilizing even our most elementary means of communication?

On view through Friday October, 25, 2008

Kehinde Wiley at The National Portrait Gallery

by Claire Feng
Ice T, 8' x 6', 2005

When I began to paint several years ago, one of my professors said to me that a painter should never paint a person like a car body (meaning “no shining please!”). Well, there are a lot of shiny things in Kehinde Wiley’s portrait paintings: patterns, skin, accessories, frame… and he is being exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery!
(Here is more proof that one should always be wary of a professor’s doctrine.)

All these paintings are large-scale portraits of life-size or larger than life black men,, copying postures from old masters’ portrait paintings of 17th and 18th
centuries. Inside the gold frames, these figures are surrounded by decorative patterns (which sometimes run in front of the figure’s body). The colors are bright; the painting technique is smooth and glossy. All these paintings radiate splendor (what a triumph of the painting!).

My triumphal feeling is accompanied by a kind of frustration. These works are done in such a smooth and celebrating way (which reminds me the portraits of our great leaders in China, one of them is always hung at the gate of the Tian An Men Square) that they are far from the old masters’ way of painting. I just didn’t get the joy of looking at a Van Dyck or a Frans Hals, even though the figure is exactly taking the same posture. Ok, that’s too personal. Am I forgetting that we are in the 21th century? And it’s a social work reflecting hip-hop culture? And it’s about appropriating the traditional portrait language and about criticizing it? Higher level of reading please!

After all, they are well done paintings, and more, done from digital photographs after manipulations in Photoshop (I know it from a Kehinde Wiley’s interview). I don’t know why but that comforts me… But wait, he has found the right subject(s): black American identity, the social function of art, the criticizing of something, and even the theme of Masculinity if we search a little bit more! My comfort was short.

Big Daddy Kane, 6' x 8', 2005

I think the most interesting part of his work is that all these subjects are explored (or more precisely, read by the viewer) in an uncommon way. He makes the traditional portraiture language, which was a privilege limited to wealthy men, a democratic right shared by urban black men. (I guess this democracy remains symbolic as still only wealthy people can afford his paintings.) My last reflection is, “should a portrait painting always fulfill a social function?” Kehinde Wiley obviously answers the question, but in front of his paintings I am in front of a symbol, an archetype, not a human being as an individual. They are figures, not people.

Paintings of Kehinde Wiley from the exhibition of “Recognize!” Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture in the National Portrait Gallery (Feb. 8 – Oct. 26, 2008)(Kehinde Wiley's website)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Particularities of Christine Gray

by Mindy Hirt
While visiting a friend at Towson University, I stumbled upon something unexpected. Typically when on other university campuses I make my way to their art galleries, just to see what is happening. When I entered their brand new Center of the Art building, I was graced with three different galleries to look at. It was the last one I entered however, that I found an artist that really caught my attention and interest.

gallery view

Particularities and Abstraction: Paintings by Christine Gray, W.C. Richardson, Fiona Ross, and Erling Sjovold was the exhibition on the third floor of the art center. I must say, the show was well worth the hike up the stairs. The collection was made up by an interesting group of artist, each used organic and geometric patterning along with abstraction in a unique way of their own. Taken from the Center of the Arts Gallery website in reference to the artist and their works in the show: "Painting from elaborate models, Christine Gray orchestrates fantastic landscapes, which present the tensions between the real and the synthetic, the pathetic and the magical, and the anxieties of prolonged revelry. W.C. Richardson's paintings are geometric structures that interact with freely drawn contradictory and shifting spatial cures and explore the tipping point between order and chaos. Fiona Ross's paintings on paper explore the order of crystal formation, bubble rafts, fractals and labyrinths as she observes them in the dehydration and evaporation of fluids and solids in her studio. Erling Sjovold's landscapes are on the edge between reality and invention."

Christine Gray's painting, Oracle Four, quickly caught my eye among the side of the gallery that was mainly filled with abstract geometric shapes. At first, I saw a beaver sitting outside of his den, taking in a winter seen melting way to the spring flowers. However, the longer I stared at the painting the more it began to transform before my eyes. The Beaver turned into a mass of cardboard scraps, the flowers turned into a decorative wallpaper, trees turned into toothpicks with construction paper cutouts, and a large log turned into a single brush stroke. This element of surprise was refreshing after searching the previous artist patterning and abstractions for more than just their material qualities of ink on paper and oil on canvas. I was eager to move to the next of Gray's paintings.

Oracle Four by Christine Gray

The wall that was filled with surprising landscape triggered my thought processes. Each and every one of her paintings caught my attention and rilled me in to look closer. I wanted to figure out what was hidden in each one. After I found everything that I thought there was to find, I tried to piece together the information the artist had given me. It was like playing detective on an episode of CSI. The original suspects in the paintings evolved and shifted. The clues then slowly were pieced together to come up with ideas of nature and how it was made to create these cardboard structures that Gray painted. "The tooth picks may have once been great trees," remarked an on looker and I agreed with him. Her paintings were fun to explore and ponder. I would highly recommend climbing to the third floor of Towson's Art Center to adventure through them yourself.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

ARTifice and friends at "Stories From the Woods"

Work by Christine Buckton Tillman (top right)

Current Gallery in Baltimore, MD, saw an excellent turn out Friday night for the opening of "Stories From the Woods," which featured work by 2nd year AU MFA'er Bonner Sale. The show was curated by Alex Ebstein, of There Were Ten Tigers fame.

Other artists in the show included: Christine Buckton Tillman, Emily Nachison, Emily Slaughter, John Bohl, Annie Gray Robrecht.

Work by Bonner Sale:

Bonner Sale and fans

Work by Emily Nachison on the wall, Christine Buckton Tillman in the foreground:

Installation view

Annie Gray Robrecht:

Christine Buckton Tillman:

Alex Ebstein enjoys the fruits of her labors

John Bohl:

Emily Slaughter (really awesome installation + video!!!)

Some of the AU crew in attendance:

"Stories From the Woods" will be on view at Current until October 31st. It is definitely worth the trip to Baltimore!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stories From the Woods at Current Gallery

AU artist Bonner Sale has work in this show, opening Friday!!

Stories From The Woods investigates a fascination with the natural world. The showcased artists explore a contemporary reinterpretation of nature, while simultaneously drawing from past folklore and classic painting. Through stylized, representational, sculpture, narrative paintings, and whimsical installation pieces by a group of invited, regional artists, Stories from the Woods seeks to transform the space into a platform for these fantastical narratives.

October 3 - 31
With a Reception on Oct 3 from 7 - 10 PM
Artists: Bonner Sale, Christine Buckton Tillman, Emily Nachison, Emily Slaughter, John Bohl and Annie Gray Robrecht
Curated by Alex Ebstein (There Were Ten Tigers blog buddy)