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.
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.
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.
“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.
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).
Stop by Y Gallery (319 Grand St.) to see “First Impressions,” open through November 15th, 2015.
Cheim & Read’s installation of Jack Pierson’s “onthisisland,” a collection of 150 small watercolor and graphite works on paper, was curated excellently.
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.
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.
This sensation continued into the back room of the installation, where Pierson’s larger graphite drawings were on display.
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:
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.
I was inspired to think about technology and art at the New Museum’s current exhibition, “Albert Oehlen: Home and Garden.”
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.”