Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Latest Obsession

by Cory Oberndorfer

For those who have not stopped by Irvine Contemporary recently, you are missing out! Montreal-based Heidi Taillefer is currently exhibiting Muses and Heroes until May 10. With her first US solo exhibition, Taillefer reminds us that skilled painters can still exist and show in a contemporary gallery. It wasn't until my second visit to see the show that I began notices such fine details as a perfectly drawn spring that helps construct a cyborg horse in Horse with Bird, and the spring is only about a sixteenth of an inch wide. You've never seen mythology illustrated quite like this. I've included a short description from the Irvine press release below, but it only hints at what these works contain.

Taillefer's oil paintings on canvas and panel are an original creative fusion of contemporary realism and mythology combined with popular traditions ranging from Victorian romanticism and fantasy illustration to science fiction. She has developed a compelling new approach to contemporary questions in painting surrounding realism, surrealism, myth, and the human body in the machine and cyborg age. Her striking imagery combines painterly surrealism and hyper-realism with current cyborg fantasies--Max Ernst meets The Matrix. Heidi Taillefer's Muses and Heroes runs from April 5 to May 10 with an opening reception with the artist on Saturday, April 5, 6-8PM.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Images from Proximity: MFA Thesis Show

These are a few selections of work by AU's graduating MFA class. "Proximity" will be on display at the Katzen until May 18th.

Geoffrey Aldridge


(detail from drawing)

Brian Barr

Andrew S. Blair

Tim Campbell

Bradley Chriss

Lily Desaussure


Katherine Knight

Amy Misurelli Sorensen

Max Perry


Cory Oberndorfer

(photos by Alex Ebstein)

Lauren Rice

Sharon Servilio

(image from art book)

Come check it out!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Proximity: MFA Thesis Opening, this Friday!!!


An exhibition of this year's graduating MFA candidates

Opening Reception Friday, April 18th, 6-9 pm

Featuring the work of:

Geoffrey Aldridge
Brian Barr
Andrew S. Blair
Tim Campbell
Bradley Chriss
Lily Desaussure
Katherine Knight
Amy Misurelli Sorensen
Max Perry
Cory Oberndorfer
Lauren Rice
Sharon Servilio

Work will be exhibited from April 19- May 18 at the Katzen.
Click here for museum information.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What the Hex?

Erin Womack’s Enchanted Forest at the Transmodern festival.

Photo by Alex Ebstein

By Kitten Sale

"What the Hex," indeed. Erin Womack is obviously working alchemy on top of the art game. While entering the installation "Enchanted Forest," you are automatically transported into a distant land that lies somewhere between Sleeps Dopesmoker and Dagobah, the planet system where Yoda claimed residency. Starting with the senses, a heavy cloud of party fog fills your nose as you succumb to the sound of a drone noise looped over and over creating a seance-like atmosphere. With the lights turned down it's hard to understand as the viewer what you are walking into at first, but then your eyes adjust and it's clearly an Enchanted Forest with silver painted birch tree limbs climbing the patterned silver walls and a large video projection of more trees, and most importantly a godlike tree creature lurking from side to side. If this wasn’t enough of a transformation of space, 3 to 4 performers greet you with baskets of dried bean shells and silver rings. It's confusing on how to confront or not confront the performers due to long robed costumes and tree or patterned masks.

On a dry level, the entire installation works a pattern of recognition in which it is an iridescent living forest complete with fog and sound to convey the viewer into another world, as opposed to just looking into one. This entire world-building idea in art is so popular, but I never before felt transformed by a surrounding or felt that my identity as a viewer had been diminished for this greater cause of the installation, which is exactly what I want to feel as a viewer with this type of work.

The only seen problem was the second time I visited, the focus of the performers had died down, but Transmodern Festival lasts for roughly four hours.
The entire installation was a "gift" more than a piece of art that one is supposed to understand on a critical level. "Enchanted Forest" had a theatrical quality to it, making a viewer want to sit and watch as these "tree god" performers lurked good charms to new viewers to the room. When a "tree god" approached me, I took a silver ring.

Basically it boils down to the fact that "Enchanted Forest" is probably the best piece of art I have seen in the past year, hands down. Which brings me to the question: why should the current push of art be for some who would have to have an educated background of study? When a piece works on an entire ethereal backing instead, and relies on wisdom instead of knowledge which one could break down such a piece with knowledge, but this would completely destroy the identity of magic in a work like "Enchanted Forrest."

I recall trying to tell friends about it the next day and my words came out sounding like lies because it's such a strange identity to break down without wanting to tell people "You just should have been there".

For more images from the Transmodern Festival, check out There Were Ten Tigers!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

NINE opening

(photo by Alex Ebstein)

Last night's opening of "NINE," showcasing work by AU's first year MFA students was well-attended.

If you missed it, you missed out on some awesome krab dip, sweet ASICS, and of course, ART JUMPING!!!!

(photo by Alex Ebstein)

(photo by Alex Ebstein)

Luckily, you can still see the terrific art. "NINE" will be up until Tuesday, so be sure to check it out.

"Proximity," our MFA Thesis Exhibition will open Friday, April 18th, from 6-9 pm. Mark your calendars!

To read more about "NINE" and for more awesome images of the opening, check out ArtCade Forum and There Were Ten Tigers.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Friday Night!!!

First year MFA candidates present new work.

Opening reception Friday, April 11th, 7-9 pm

Josh Baptista
Kate Gartrell
Nikki Painter
Igor Pasternak
Allison Reimus
Katherine Sable
Bonner Sale
Lana Stephens
Zac Willis

Work will be exhibited April 10th- 16th in the Katzen Arts Center.

For museum hours and information, please click here.

We hope to see you there!

James Sham Visits AU: Vive le Canada

By Kate Gartrell

James Sham’s visit with grad students last Thursday was everything an artist’s visit should be: engaging, generous, and thought provoking. A second year MFA student at VCU working in video, Sham‘s work raises questions that ultimately challenge the foundations of our Western world view and epistemology. As a dual citizen of Hong Kong and Canada, Sham described how shocked he was as a student in the US by cultures of racism that seemed to stem from an entrenchment in binary ways of thinking: us/them, black/white, Democrat/Republican.

As a dual US/Canadian citizen, I was curious what he would say about US-Canada differences – a favorite pet topic over the years that I have only fairly cursory ideas about. Sham’s answer fascinated me. He said that the US seems more heavily weighed down by the Cartesian legacy of dualistic thinking and binaries that have been the basis of the Western world view for centuries. In my thinking about the two countries, I have always come back to the different ways they gained their independence from Britain: the US in a bloody revolution, Canada peacefully and gradually in increments, and not completely until the 1860’s. A bloody war can only happen out of a dualistic idea of “us” versus “them.” The philosophical underpinnings of these different histories had never occurred to me in such clear terms. Thank you, James Sham!

The range of Canadian political parties exemplifies a non-binary multiplicity, ranging from the mainstream Liberal and New Democrat parties to the fringe Marijuana party. In a parliamentary system, even the “losers” in an election get seats in Parliament. This isn’t to say that the majority of debate does not still occur between two or three main players: it does. But the presence of third parties and rogue elements in a parliamentary system is very different than in US politics. Had the 2000 Nader-Gore-Bush contest taken place in Canada, liberal vote splitting would still have been an issue, but with the assurance that the loser would still have a significant voice in Parliament even if he did not become Prime Minister.

In his work, Sham positions himself as a third, or “rogue” element with the potential to disrupt dominant binary-based systems of thought and discourse. I can’t say how firmly I believe that this vein of questioning is critical for artists to pursue today. I would go as far as to say that the legacy of dualism is THE problem we face today as citizens of the west, socially, politically, artistically, in all realms. It is a history of both explicit and implicit violence, it is encoded in our language, and it must be confronted.

I don’t know HOW this can happen, but Sham’s adding third and rogue elements seems like a good starting place. I wonder if “tertiary” relations could not, though, become a permutation of dualism – where the terms of the debate are preconceived and predictable.

Where do we go from here?

*Note from Artifice: Check out James's work at

Sunday, April 6, 2008

“Everything’s Coming Up Roses!"

By Katherine Sable

For those who aren’t engrossed in the now dominating teenybopper shows in the lights of Broadway, rest assured that the latest Gypsy revival will not fall short. A canon of American Theater and on its fourth revival- this time, folks, I confidently declare that it’s worth every minute.

Last summer I was fortunate enough to attend the closing night performance of Gypsy presented off-Broadway in the City Center Encores! Summer Stars production. It was a big night for Gypsy and Patti LuPone, Broadway bigwig and lead role in this show, exclaimed that no one would “close the curtain on Gypsy.” A big statement, as talk had been going around that the summer’s highly applauded production could head straight to Broadway. Well, the St. James Theater opened its doors to Gypsy fans abound this past Wednesday night, March 26th and you simply cannot miss this one.

The key to the success of this latest revival is not only in the direction of Tony award winner and writer of the original book, Arthur Laurents, but more in the casting of Patti LuPone as Mama Rose, a character often believed to be the most difficult and complicated of the Broadway canon. Funny thing is, Ms. LuPone dreamed of playing Rose and had been told years ago by Laurents that it would never happen (due to a decade-long contract argument between the fellow theater big names). Needless to say, and why I write now, LuPone and Laurents eventually made up (Laurents’ partner of 52 years said on his dying bed that Patti should play Momma Rose), and lucky for us, this is how a Rose worth remembering is born.

Ethel Merman first veiled the character Mama Rose on stage in 1959. She showcased a Rose with powerful vocals and bam theatrics within the musicality, but she simply couldn’t act! During a time when the lights of Broadway were at their biggest, flashy, loud, show-stopping performances were all that seemed to matter. The complicated characteristics were completely denied and hidden by mere theatrics. Rose was only understood as an evil stage mother, with not a redeeming characteristic in sight. Angela Lansbury and Tyne Daly also took on the role during the first two revivals. Both characters display certain specific singular qualities, as Lansbury’s take shows some of the softer qualities, and more subtle realness- but the dark depths, the scary Rose, isn’t to be found; there aren’t enough psychological contradictions. Tyne Daly’s Rose portrays a pretty charming and dark lead woman role, but her vocals didn’t showcase enough of the drama within the amazing Sondheim lyrics. Mama Rose has a musical breakdown at the closing number, and “pretty charming and dark” simply do not add up to psychological, mental breakdown.

Clearly, any number of stage actresses could take on one or two of the many characteristics of the difficult Mama Rose, but no one could actually embody all of the so-called contradictions of this female Broadway character. It was less than five years ago that a Gypsy revival surfaced, starring Bernadette Peters, and I would agree with many that they simply missed the boat that go around. In 2003, Peters fleshed out a Mama Rose in the often-claimed worst rendition of Gypsy. Possibly an attempt to liven up old-school Broadway and situate it more in the realm of the ticket selling teenybopper productions (popularity contest?), the casting directors may have tried to play the sex card to sell- and a contemporary Rose, a sexy, or dare I say “feminine” version of Rose was constructed. Boy, that’s laughable, too. Not only did the casting director not set out to find the real Rose, rather they set aside any desire to portray a woman who in all respects can be equally dark, forceful, vulnerable, sexy, and feminine.

Patti LuPone creates a human Rose, a mother and a lover, pushy but still very likeable. LuPone’s Rose is not dominated by her unfathomable intensity, or her driven force, but she creates a character that is situated in a more inclusive in-between type of woman. It was as if it, until now, was unbelievable to have a woman who could be vulnerable, be surprisingly seductive, and at the same time be brash and loud. Merman simply embodied the obvious, safe characteristics of the stage mom. Rose is nurturing and selfish, intense and intimate, irresistible and hard-edged, throwing the kink in by being all of that and sexual- redefining the feminine character. It is her hunger to fill her own voids by forcing her children into the lights of vaudeville that becomes more than just a typically sad quintessential stage mom.

Patti LuPone was born for this role, she is not only a powerhouse Broadway star, an icon, but she alone has revealed the depth of Mama Rose for the first time since Laurents sketched out the devious character. And it’s a damn shame it took almost 5 decades for it to finally flesh out! You simply must see Gypsy at the St. James Theater. This is one not to be missed, even if you aren’t a Broadway fan.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Personal Landscapes: A Talk Featuring Talia Keinan

By Lana Stephens

On Friday, March 28, I attended an artist talk featuring Israeli artist, Talia Keinan. The artist presentation and brief lecture poignantly elucidated the goals and directives of the upcoming exhibition, “Personal Landscapes,” at the Katzen Art Center. “Personal Landscapes” (April 1 – May 18) will feature the work of fifteen emerging Israeli artists that through their work represent the present physical, emotional, and intellectual conditions of modern day Israel. During the talk, audience members were informed that the exhibition coincides with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Exhibition collaborators include the Center for Israel Studies, the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, and the American University Museum. American University Museum curator, Jack Rasmussen, in conjunction with Dalia Levin and Russell Stone, traveled to Israel to become more familiar with the burgeoning art scene and in the process brought back with them extraordinary young talent.

Israeli born artist Talia Keinan lives and works in the bustling city of Tel Aviv. Keinan received her M.F.A. in 2005 from Bezalel Academy for Art and Design, located in her home town. She has a long and hearty list of solo and group exhibitions, not to mention quite a few substantial awards under her belt. Keinan has the kind of resume that makes you guess she’s much older and wiser than her thirty years of age. All credentials aside, Keinan’s work and presentation was incredibly engaging, and I felt privileged to hear what this artist, who lives and works across the globe, had to say about art.

Talia presented what can only be described as an organic body of work. She combines drawing, sound, projected video, and light to form a sort of tapestry. Her installations envelop the gallery space and even transcend the borders of dry wall to incorporate the temporal passing of day via sunlight. An example of the artist’s weaving of personal and imagined events is her installation titled “Walking Distance,” exhibited at Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. A drawing of a landscape done in pencil on black gouache hangs on the back wall of the gallery space. The sound of a car’s engine escalates as the headlights illuminate the monochromatic drawing. The light and sound of the vehicle are synchronized so that they escalate simultaneously. The drawing, once seemingly passive, becomes active in that it serves as a definitive place for the imaginary car that is passing by. Nearby in the same space, a pool of light is projected onto the side of a wall. The “pool” forms a projected hole in the dark room of the gallery space, letting the light from the “outside” seep in. The projection is actually a recording of a public garden in Tel Aviv. Nearby still, fallen cups and saucers form a fountain that continuously flows despite their being left unattended. The fragmented elements come together to form a series of events that take place within “walking distance” of each other.

Talia Keinan, whose work I found fascinating on several different levels, experienced some mild difficulties in discussing her work on Friday. I feel communication was primarily hindered by language barriers. Though the artist was often able to articulate herself, she required the use of a translator throughout her talk (which of course is fine). I felt as though some of what the artist was trying to say was lost in translation, either by the translator or by audience members attempting to “fill in the blank” with their own assumptions about her work. I would have liked to hear more about content and historical influences as the presentation was primarily process and/or materials driven. Part of me wonders how much culture has to do with how one discusses or values art. I began to evaluate and re-evaluate how and why I discuss my work within the parameters that I, the institution, and Western culture have set. I encourage readers to attend this exhibition which I feel will ultimately broaden one’s personal and artistic horizons. I find myself increasingly challenging the doctrine under which my work is made and find that exposure to artists working within different cultural contexts can serve as a catalyst in that process.