Mauritian Sunset (2006) - Sandy Smith

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Decoy Strategies

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"Decoy Nest," Australian artist Sally Smart's second solo exhibition at New York's Postmasters, takes its title and conceptual angle from a strategy, employed by birds, to divert attention from their primary nests. As the artist writes in the show's press release, the "masking, camouflage and metamorphosis" implied by this strategy became starting-points for her own creative practice. Smart fills the gallery with wall installations of trees and human figures, collaged from bits of fabric prints, painted canvas and photographs. An anthropomorphically scaled work, appropriately titled Stick Figure (old one) (2008), borrows an arm, boot and head of hair from a photograph of a man; substitutes various representations of branches for legs, waist and torso; and positions three painted, canvas circles as shoulders and head. Phantom (limb) Tree (2008) further pushes Smart's concatenations of bodily and natural elements, as an assembled, vertical tree trunk sprouts both branches and human limbs. Evidently, the tree here and elsewhere serves not only as a strong visual foundation for Smart's collages, but also as a locus for the artist's broader concerns, including "the tree house, family tree, tree of life and the tree of knowledge" and the tree "as a symbolic stand-in for nature." These obvious symbols could easily derail many an artistic practice, but Smart's confident and inventive handling of materials and imagery makes them feel fresh. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Sally Smart, Phantom (limb) Tree, 2008

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Cardboard Breath Guitar by Revel Woodard (2006)

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fuego 2 by Eugenio Ampudia (2003)

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An Object at Rest, Must Stay At Rest by Michael Guidetti (2007)

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Video Projection & ink on paper

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Walk This Way

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Collaborators Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller make work that combines cinema, sound, pop culture, and the suspension of disbelief. Their sound and video walks and installations of multiple media have gained widespread international attention, in part for their ability to very closely engage individual viewers on a psychological level, and largely thanks to their command of genre conventions designed to illicit an emotional response. On view through September 28th at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery, in conjunction with the Edinburgh Art Festival, is a major survey of their work, including five pieces made since 1995 and a new project. Each of these works revolve around a viewer being more than a viewer. That is, they entice visitors to the gallery to enter a space, engaging not only with objects and sights (in a highly choreographed manner), but also with sounds and other conditions that create a unique, if sometimes tense, relationship between reality and the sensorium of the participant. While these works often involve heavy equipment (in the case of one installation, even robotics) and people taking technology into their own hands, Miller has said that the experientially-activated pieces are only as interactive as a painting or film. Instead, the duo emphasize the scripted nature of the interactions on which their pieces turn, likening them to physical cinema. If you're in the region, passing through the layers of meaning and perception created by Cardiff and Miller is highly recommended. - Marisa Olson


Image credit: The Killing Machine (2007), Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Materials: Mixed media, sound, pneumatics, robotics


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Rock Me Amadeus

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Australian artist Lynette Wallworth is bringing a high tech touch to this year's Mostly Mozart festival at New York's venerable Lincoln Center. At first glance, the pairing of a new media installation artist with a celebration of an old dead white guy's music may seem formulaically nouveau, but Wallworth's interactive works bring a nice visual meditation on this year's festival theme: mortality and transcendence. If anyone could speak from the grave about this topic, it's Mozart, the legend of whose death surrounds the mythologizing of his oeuvre and who has been the subject of remixes (or variations, as the ancients call them) by a number of significant classical composers. Wallworth's video installations Hold Vessel 1 and 2 and Invisible by Night create a truly immersive space, one which relies on the viewer to proactively enter and activate these areas. In Hold Vessel 1 and 2, viewers carry a bowl-shaped screen into the room, to capture "projected images of microscopic marine life and telescopic astronomical imagery." The physical analogy here seems equal parts panning for gold and holding the whole world in your hands, with the artist's expressed intention being that of revealing "the hidden intricacies of human immersion in the wide, complex world." Invisible by Night uniquely engages the context of the Lincoln Center complex, which is not only a family of concert halls but also a shopping center, luxury apartment building, and corporate headquarters. Wallworth encourages visitors to slow down, ponder the emotional history of the site, and practice empathy in engaging with video footage of a grieving woman whose gestures will mirror those of viewers who elect to touch the projection surface. The piece is meant to speak to "the transient nature of compassion," and the interactive installation format's ...

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In the Mix

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Tonight at Exit Art in New York comes a bevy of performances as part of the space's current potpourri-style exhibit Summer Mixtape Volume 1: the Get Smart edition. Critic and artist Nick Stillman will present a slide lecture on "the best art today," accompanied by sounds from noisemakers Knyfe Hyts and artist Corey D'Augustine. But afterwards some mysterious darkly-glowing strangeness will emerge with "A Network of Love," an event by Donna Huanca (aka RUA MINX), the duo of Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas, better known as AIDS-3D, and dancer Helga Wretman. Hard details are slim, but according to the trio's own statement, expect a futuristic post-apocalyptic scenario in which "the last children of Eve struggle to maintain their digital lifestyles" after "the old systems of power have collapsed." An earlier blurb from Huanca stated that the show may include such items as drum machines, videos, sewing machines, and animals. Exit Art curators promise us there will be lasers involved; we strongly suspect there may also be black lights and phosphorescent paint. What we do know for sure is that Rhizome's own Ceci Moss will be participating in the sonic aspects of the happening, nicely rounding out the inclusion of Rhizome team members Marisa Olson and Tyler Coburn in the exhibit itself. - Ed Halter


Image: AIDS-3D, Untitled, 2008

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Drawn Out Processes

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The convention of the summer show, in New York, has historically been a mixed bag. At times it's an excuse for a gallery to do something fun, restrict work hours, and chill out a bit. It also tends to be the busy season for both emerging artists and curators, with group shows dominating the docket and variably playful, political, or conceptual themes running the show. Chelsea gallery Josée Bienvenu's summer show, "microwave, six," includes seventeen emerging and mid-career artists in their annual effort to (unlike the cooking apparatus that shares its name) slow down and pay attention to artists "who commit to the obscene activity of paying attention." It's hard to say what's obscene about this act, except that it's so rarely done as to potentially render it indulgent in some people's eyes. Each of the selected artists create rather slow-cooked drawings that "document the relentless propagation of delicacy as a subversive attitude." In other words, forget the short attention spans painted by the information economy, these pieces actually manage to transmit a high level of information, even as they eschew the ephemeral forms of files and bits to take up the hard-knocked life of a work on paper. Ernesto Caivano continues his epic series of drawings about an otherworldly landscape in which a man and woman simultaneously evolve into a spaceship and a lowly earth creature. Phoebe Washburn gives us highly-systematized, if cryptic analysis of devices and histories like Gatorade Storage Tank Study. Both Alexandra Grant and Casey Jex Smith offer readings and translations of the visual qualities of language, while Jacob Dyrenforth's newspaper-style pixilated (or is it pointilated?) drawings of concert crowds speak to the age-old effort of visualists to convey the maximum amount of information in the least ...

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Auditory Autobiographies

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"When the power of love, overcomes the love of power, the world will know the peace." This prophecy by rock legend Jimi Hendrix could be the foreword to a manifesto on the use of music in the propagation of nationalism, but instead it's a point of inspiration for "The Sonic Self," an exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum. Open through August 30, the show brings together a range of "participating artists from around the world with the main goal that their collaborative projects will bridge disparate audio-visual practices and expose their shared languages." In keeping with recent curatorial trends, "The Sonic Self" is part-exhibition and part-workshop, aiming to explore the relationship between sound and identity through installations, audio/visual performances, and participatory events in which collaborators work to innovate new devices for the creation of auditory autobiographies. While the relationship at stake seems most universally to be about "being heard," the selected artists are working with material ranging from live performances to field recordings to computer-generated sound to DJ samples. In the spirit of tracing "similarities and differences in the growing confluence of audio and visual experiences in contemporary complex and diverse global culture," the project will travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Chennai, India, following its New York debut. - Marisa Olson


Video: Philip Dadson and Don McGlashan in From Scratch's performance of "Drum/Sing."

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