Culture Fix: Lower East Side Galleries

In need of your NYC culture fix this week? Check out this cluster of great galleries located on Broome Street between Chrystie and Bowery. Here’s a preview of three shows to see now:

1._P!: OST UND oder WEST: Klaus Wittkugel and Anton Stankowski 

Catch the current show at P! curated by Prem Krishnamurthy and Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, on view through February 21st, 2016. This show explores the forms and ideologies of Modernist graphic design as it presents the work of Klaus Wittkugel (East Germany) and Anton Stankowski (West Germany), contrasting the production of image and meaning within competing social and economic systems.

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2.   CANADA: Katherine Bradford: Fear of Waves

Don’t miss this magical series of acrylic paintings by Katherine Bradford at the acclaimed CANADA gallery. Fear of Waves features dreamlike imagery of water and swimmers, created with painting techniques whose results take the artist months and sometimes years to achieve. Bradford’s work has been featured at P.S.1 and The Brooklyn Museum among other institutions and in 2011 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work is in the collections of the MET, The Brooklyn Museum and the Portland Museum of Art. See this show through February 14th, 2016.

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3.   Nicelle Beauchene Gallery: Jonathan Baldock: The Skin I Live In

The Skin I Live In is London-based artist Jonathan Baldock’s first New York solo show. For this series of unique sculptures and wall pieces, Baldock employs an unusual mix of media to explore and engage with the physical and conceptual conditions of the human body. The work is on view until February 7th, 2016.

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Interview with Theresa Byrnes, Painter and Performance Artist

Australian-born and New York-based Painter and Performance Artist Theresa Byrnes talks with Artifactoid about inspiration, a return to her roots as a painter, and her most recent performance, “Mudbird,” created in collaboration with her 20-month-old son. 

Artifactoid: How did you get started as an artist?

TB: At age 16 in 1985, my studio was the family lounge and dining area. I would start to paint every night after dinner while everyone watched TV.  By the time everyone went off to bed one by one, I would get more and more on a roll. I would paint through the night. Soon I outgrew the family room, no longer able to pack all my canvases neatly every night without disrupting my process or running the risk of wet work being trodden on when the the family awoke. I scoured the classifieds to find a studio. I found part of a warehouse to rent cheaply, so I did. 29 years ago, at age 17 in 1986, I began to paint full-time in my very own studio!

I had already been included in minor group shows from 14 years of age and on. While in high school I did life drawing classes at night, and some of my drawings were selected for a group show. I went out on a limb and contacted a curator who included my work in a rotating VIP lounge, and my work began to sell. My first solo exhibition was at 17, but I consider being an artist about making art more than about exhibiting or selling it.

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Mistakes in painting are like an angel pushed your hand, changing your direction to somewhere you never would have gone

Artifactoid: Who are your biggest influences in performance art and why? Who inspires you?

TB: I did my first performance when I was 19 in 1989 in Sydney Australia’s Chinatown. The piece, titled “China Crisis,” was my response to the Tiananmen Square Massacre. My entrance into doing performance art was not inspired by an artist, but by heroic dissent. The cry out for freedom and justice inspires me. In “China Crisis,” I laid in front of a large red painting. For me, performance is a natural spill-over from painting: paint is my language, I just commit my body to performance. “TRACE” (2007) was inspired by a dying bird in an oil spill. In “DUST TO DUST” (2011), dirt was my inspiration – the transformative power of mulch.

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In 2002, I met Carolee Schneemann; we read each other’s books (mine The Divine Mistake, her’s More Than Meat Joy). I learned a lot about her work, and felt connected to her even more once I learned that she is also a painter whose performance flows from that.

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Artifactoid: What are some of your biggest day-to-day influences as an artist?

TB: Stains on the sidewalks, streaks with random marks on windows – I made a short  film about sidewalk markings titled, CARELESS in 2000. Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) helped me shoot and edit it (he is now my son’s godfather). It was screened at MONA (Detroit) in 2001.

Old, decaying wood also inspires me, I have done several painting series on aged wood 2001 and 2010. When I paint on aging wood, I feel like I am collaborating with nature, not trying to capture it.

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Artifactoid: How has your perspective as an artist changed over time?

TB: That nothing is permanent. Earlier in my career, well, pre-September 11th, I cared greatly about paintings lasting forever. Now I feel “archival” materials are pitched to artists who believe this civilization will survive another 500-1000 years. I am into showing who we are now, because now is real: all we have, vulnerable, avoided, denied, unnoticed. Art materials are everywhere; they’re not limited to an art store. I love to work with mud and hair and other ingredients as well as ink and oil paint.

Artifactoid: What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned through your art?

TB: That nothing is a mistake. Mistakes in painting are like an angel pushed your hand, changing your direction to somewhere you never would have gone. In my entire 30-year career, painting still genuinely astounds me – the unguessable moment it resolves.

Artifactoid: What is the best advice you’ve ever received in your career?

TB: Be humble.

Artifactoid: In what direction would you like to take your art moving forward?

TB: I am at a turning point. I am returning to my roots as a painter, where I first discovered my talent and lost my identity/sense of separation from art in the process: painting portraits. For the next two years, I will only paint portraits. Abstraction and performance art lent to my feeling immortal, but now, I am a mother and I feel human, more grounded and more vulnerable than ever. I am pulled to dive in in this direction.

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Artifactoid: What advice would you give to other artists?

TB: Know when to stop. As long as you are making art, “you’ve made it.”

Artifactoid: Please describe your inspiration behind “Mudbird,” and some of the most important things about the piece (to you).

TB: “Mudbird” is the second performance I have done with my son, Sparrow, (now 20 months old). In “Mudbird” I play with my baby in the mud thinking of the cycle of all beings – to live and die. We come from the earth and end up in it. Mud; earth, is a uniting and dividing force between mother and child. I gave my life for his to begin. Okay, I am not dead yet, but a part of me has died – my life as a single artist.

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At the time of performance, I felt a sense of my immanent death. I have Friedrich’s Ataxia (FA). It is a chronic and fatal genetic disorder of the nervous system. I have been wheelchair-mobile for 20 years. My voice slurring, mundane things slowly getting harder, and recently I tore my right rotator cuff. I have never felt disabled, as I have always fulfilled my aims and called the shots, but post-birth and with injury, I felt unusualły hopeless. Sure I cannot walk, but now I can’t fly; wings clipped. Much of the “Mudbird” series is about my burial and Sparrow’s flight. It has been a burial of several parts of myself. And now I again recreate myself, or return to who I am.

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Theresa Byrnes has had over 25 solo shows at spaces including Saatchi & Saatchi in New York and Sydney, and the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C. In 1996, she was awarded Young Australian of the Year. To keep up with Theresa and her latest works, visit her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter and FacebookStop by her gallery space, TBG (616 East 9th street between Avenues B&C), for her next opening on December 9th, 2015 . 

Santiago Villanueva, Y Gallery

I first met Artist Santiago Villanueva in 2010 in Buenos Aires. We were inside of the University of Buenos Aires social sciences campus, called “Marcelo T. de Alvear,” spending the day hijacking social and political student protest posters that would later be utilized in another artist’s exhibition in Scotland. That university campus is known as the most activist campus in the city.

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At that time I was very wide-eyed and excited, witnessing first-hand this incredibly palpable activist energy in Buenos Aires. I was noticing the strong sociopolitical commentary both in the city’s daily life, as well as in art and expression in Argentina in general. It was coming from students and citizens of all walks of life, as well as from the top contemporary artists in the country.

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I’m thrilled to share that Villanueva, one of the influential contemporary artists I had the privilege of spending time with there, is currently exhibiting at NYC’s Y Gallery on the lower east side with a show titled “First Impressions.” The exhibition comprises a series of recent works that reflect his continuing revision of Argentinian history and art history.

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“First Impressions” combines a mid-19th century Argentinian visual tradition called the “disorderly table,” or, “mesa revuelta” (imagine it as a messy still life), with the results of Villanueva’s past two years of research about Argentinian art history. For the project, Villanueva worked with a variety of media including papers, threads, letters, documents and images selected from both the mass media and the works of specific artists. The result is a personal map or atlas of Argentinian art history that both changes the usual visual expectations of a still life, and provides a unique, non-linear methodology for the understanding of art history that breaks from traditional pedagogic approaches.

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This exhibition marks another success in Villanueva’s exciting career. In recent years he has received a consistent stream of honors from prestigious organizations, including scholarships at the Center for Artistic Research (Centro de Investigaciones Artísticas – CIA) and the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (Fundación Cisneros Fontanals – CIFO), as well as appearances in museums and institutions including the General Argentine Consulate in New York, the Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires (MAMBA), and the Museum of Latin American Contemporary Art (MACLA).

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Stop by Y Gallery (319 Grand St.) to see “First Impressions,” open through November 15th, 2015.

 

Jack Pierson, Cheim & Read

Cheim & Read’s installation of Jack Pierson’s “onthisisland,” a collection of 150 small watercolor and graphite works on paper, was curated excellently.

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I stepped into the gallery and wanted to stay there longer just because of how well the presentation and the work amplified each other in such a satisfying way. In the front room of the exhibition, the paintings and drawings were so clean, simple, elegant and fresh, that they required a display that echoed those elements throughout the room.

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Mounted on “boxes” stretched tightly with natural-tone linen, the paintings and sketches were given the opportunity to invite viewers to contemplate their simplicity, and possibly even turn it on its head.

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This sensation continued into the back room of the installation, where Pierson’s larger graphite drawings were on display.

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These dark, striking, doodle-like drawings with seemingly surrealist and op-art influences commanded me to recognize their complexity. The below piece is one I’d like to spotlight in this post:

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I’m a fan of this piece in particular because it brought a flood of questions to my head that I am grateful to have circulating in there, including:

  • Why do I look at something like this and think that there is more depth to it than a child’s doodle? Or is there not?
  • Or, does a child’s doodle have the potential to be deep, so there isn’t even a conflict with that comparison?
  • Also, am I thinking there’s something to this only because it’s galleried artwork? How much is the gallery’s affirmation of the art affecting my overall perception of it?
  • Was the placement, shape and size of the forms in the piece spontaneous or premeditated?
  • Does each have a meaning, meant to be decoded? Or do they each mean nothing?
  • It looks like the artist has disregarded many conventional rules of composition and drawing technique. To what extent is that true, and what does that mean?
  • Is this piece irreverent, or is it genius? Or both? Or neither?

I think that in conversations about art, works like this are generally controversial, because people really do wonder, why is this in a gallery or museum? Why or how does this piece display talent or have value? So, since I am fascinated and looking for more understanding, I’m looking forward to hopefully receiving some comments about this piece and this concept as a whole.

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Albert Oehlen, The New Museum

I was inspired to think about technology and art at the New Museum’s current exhibition, “Albert Oehlen: Home and Garden.”

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Albert Oehlen’s black and white computer paintings captured my attention once I noticed they were created in 1992. I think it’s interesting to see artwork with computer-generated imagery from nearly two and a half decades ago. While galleries and art fairs today are saturated with computer-generated imagery in various forms, Oehlen’s work inspires me to think about who preceded him in mixing digital art with “analog” art, who were some of his contemporaries in creating computer-generated art in the ‘90s, and which artists working with computer-generated art today consider Oehlen to be one of their important influences.

Here is an interesting New Yorker article, stating that this series that “deploys hectic designs created with primitive drawing software on a Texas Instruments computer made [Oehlen] the first significant artist to exploit, and incidentally to burlesque, the emergent lingua franca of computer graphics.”