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    Damiani at Palazzo Pitti, Florence

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    Dealer’s Notebook: Daniel Templon

    NAME: Daniel Templon

    AGE: 69


    HAILS FROM: Bois-Colombes, Paris

    PRESIDES OVER: Galerie Daniel Templon, 30 Rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris, and Rue Veydt 13A, 1060 Brussels

    GALLERY’S SPECIALTY: Contemporary art

    ARTISTS SHOWN: Anthony Caro, Jim Dine, Atul Dodiya, Jan Fabre, Gérard Garouste, David LaChapelle, Jonathan Meese, Ivan Navarro, Pierre et Gilles, Joel Shapiro, Chiharu Shiota, Tunga, Kehinde Wiley, Yue Minjun, and others

    FIRST GALLERY SHOW:“Spring
in Paris,” a 1966 group show featuring seven young artists living in Paris

    Tell us about your background and the first work of art
that captured your attention.

    I am completely self-taught. The first time I entered a museum, I was 20. I remember the shock and awe I felt when I saw, above the main staircase at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, a painting by Georges Mathieu.

    What drew you into the business and to the artists you show?

    When I started out, I was led by a taste for adventure and the desire to discover young artists. I was nobody at the time, inexperienced, and penniless. A friend introduced me to an antiques dealer on Rue Bonap who offered me the basement of his shop for free, to show art. Two years later I took over the main floor, too. As a gallerist, if you are honest with yourself, it is impossible to promote artists you don’t like. But my tastes are very eclectic. I started with Conceptual and Minimalist artists like Art & Language and Sol LeWitt. Today, if you ask me who the greatest artists are, I would answer, among others, Balthus, Lucian Freud, and Roy Lichtenstein.

    What sets your gallery apart?

    My gallery was one of the first in France to exhibit important American artists like Carl Andre, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Keith Haring, Donald Judd, and Richard Serra.

    How has the art landscape
changed since you began? Where do you see it going?

    The art market changed greatly after the 1990 crisis. First, it became global. Second, the business aspect took over the cultural aspect. Many galleries started exhibiting artists solely for financial profitability, not to promote real talent. I am afraid in the future it will get even worse. It’s a mad race for novelty, always more, always faster.

    What has been your most memorable experience in the art trade?

    My trip to the 1968 Documenta in Kassel, Germany. At that time in France, people were still convinced that Paris was the center of the art world. It was at Kassel that I realized this was wrong.

    Have there been any works that were painful to part with?

    I’ve sold so many works I regret; that is the fate of the art dealer. I still think about a 1966 Andy Warhol black-and-silver self-portrait that hung in my living room. I did not want to sell it, but in 1992, when the art market’s crisis was at its worst, I had to.

    What is the best advice you’ve been given about buying or selling art?

    I had a very close relationship with Leo Castelli from the moment we met, in 1971, until his death in 1999. His only recipe was to believe in your own taste, share it with others, and try to persuade them of it. He always recommended patience and had this great formula: “De fil en aiguille” [“One thing leads to another”].

    What has been your proudest moment as an art dealer?

    When I celebrated the 40th anniversary of the gallery in 2006, I published a 680-page catalogue with more than 400 exhibitions by 300 artists. While skimming through it, I realized that, in the end, I might have made fewer mistakes than the others.

    What was the last exhibition outside your own gallery that made you jealous?

    Two shows I saw at Gagosian: in 2013 a stunning Georg Baselitz
show with large-scale paintings at the Chelsea location, and in 2006-07 a John Currin show with his “erotic” series, on Madison Avenue.

    If you could own any artwork
in the world, with price being no object, what would it be?

    The Francis Bacon triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base
of a Crucifixion [circa 1944]. Now
it hangs at the Tate Britain in London. I consider Bacon the greatest artist of the second half of the 20th century. No one could capture the human condition in such a poignant and powerful manner.

    If you were not an art dealer, what would you be doing?

    In another life, I would have liked to be an architect. They leave the most significant and visible mark on civilization. Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Philip Johnson, and Frank Gehry, among many others, prove that. Architecture is where all art begins.

    A version of this article appears in the June 2014 issue of Art+Auction magazine. 

    Daniel Templon

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  • 06/09/14--03:41: Durham
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    SNEAK PEEK: Alexandre Reza Returns to Biennale des Antiquaires

    The 2014 Biennale des Antiquaires marks a long-awaited homecoming for the house of Alexandre Reza.

    The Place Vendome jeweler was last seen at the Paris show in 2000, a few years before its founder, after whom it is named, retired and left the business is a somewhat fragile state.

    It’s taken Reza’s son, Olivier Reza, time to rebuild the business over the last several years, but he tells BLOUIN Lifestyle he is looking forward to his personal debut at the show at the Grand Palais.

    “It’s our first commercial show since we re-opened 18 months ago,” said the younger Reza. “I like the fact that it happens once every two years, so it gives jewelers time to create wonderful pieces that show off the best of the brand. It’s more special for us since we are a brand very rich in gems, and very unique in the sense that we only exhibit by appointment as we only have one location.”

    Reza has spent the last four years working on nearly 30 pieces for the Biennale. Although he hasn’t made a final decision on which ones he will showcase, he was eager to share some of his inspirations, saying: “I wanted the collection to be extremely comprehensive but compact. We basically created a collection that funnily enough had a common DNA, which is art, and it creates rhythm when you look at them one after another.”

    A pair of sapphire cabochon and diamond earrings, for example, was inspired by the distortion works of sculptor Robert Lazzarini. Said Reza: “I had this beautiful pair of sapphire cabochons but I didn’t want to overwhelm them. So I pulled the rectangle shape [to look like it’s] not just melting, but also adapting the volume of the frame to best suit a woman’s profile. It gives the impression that the stone is really floating.”

    An Henri Matisse masterpiece served as inspiration for another pair of earrings, featuring emeralds and diamonds set on a metal mesh back, although the lightbulb moment was almost accidental. Reza explained: “We had this collection of Colombian emeralds that I didn’t want to break up. I was playing with various designs and combinations of stones when, at some point in the drawing phase, putting the four emeralds in a sequence reminded me of “The Dance”. An all-metal support would have been too heavy, so I got the idea to perforate it.”

    Then, when it came to a pair of pigeon blood ruby and diamond earrings, Reza explained he was inspired by how women sometimes wear flowers in their ear. “I wanted to create a branch shape that would support earrings en tremblant (a design specialty of the elder Reza’s) where each branch would have four flowers trembling off of it. The shape of that branch alone took me six months to design.”

    Reza, who left a banking career in New York in 2008 to take over the company after his father’s retirement the year before, is keen to re-establish the strength of the brand he is charged with after previously shrinking the businesses and closing five stores worldwide to revive it.

    Asked if he was feeling the pressure of being the doyenne appearing at a debutante ball, Reza said: “In today’s marketplace, the jewelers are big industrial groups, making it much more dynamic, but also creating more pressure, and feeling less artisanal. What I’m hoping to achieve is to have our work really recognized as true artistic craftsmanship that women desire to own and wear.”

    To view the pieces Reza has designed and shortlisted for the Biennale, click on the slideshow.

    Reza eerald and diamond earrings

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    Italy Aids Sarajevo Museum, Queens Art Spaces Face Eviction, and More

    — Sarajevo Struggles to Build Museum: A $1 million grant from the Italian government and a fundraising campaign from coffeemaker illycaffe are helping to raise money for a modern art museum in Sarajevo. Enver Hadziomerspahic, who was the director of the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, has gathered 150 works worth $27 million and Renzo Piano designs for a yet-to-be-built museum. He hopes the Italian campaign will attract more private partners for the project. “I am happy and sad at the same time, happy that we are moving forward but sad that Italy, and not our own politicians, should be behind the drive for promoting the project,” Hadziomerspahic said. [Reuters]

    — Ridgewood Artists Battle Landlord: Artists at 17-17 Troutman Street in Ridgewood, Queens, are embroiled in an eviction battle with the building’s landlord, David Steinberg. Just before May’s Bushwick Open Studios, the landlord threatened to cut off utilities for several artists who have studio space in the building. Other recent disputes with the landlord have led a number of the building’s gallery spaces to seek shelter elsewhere, including Regina Rex, which moved in May. Ortega y Gasset ProjectsUnderdonk, and Harbor all plan to leave at the end of June. [NYT]

    — Norton Simon Fights for Nazi-Looted Triptych: The Norton Simon Museum still struggles to keep an Adam and Eve triptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder that seems to have been Nazi-looted. A federal appeals court in California has reversed a previous decision and allowed a lawsuit to reclaim the artwork to proceed. In a statement, the museum said it “remains confident that it holds complete and proper title” to the paintings and that it would “continue to pursue, consistent with its fiduciary duties, all appropriate legal options.” [NYT]

    — Michigan Governor to Speak at DIA: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is set to make a major announcement today regarding Detroit’s “grand bargain” plan at the Detroit Institute of Arts. [Mining Journal]

    — Istanbul to Get 40 Artist Residencies: London’s Moving Museum is spearheading a three-month artist residency project in Istanbul and will commission 40 international artists to complete “a local project aimed at making a lasting impact on the city,” with a final exhibition to be held in October. [TAN]

    — Tiananmen Artist to be Deported: Australian-born artist Guo Jian, who was detained last week for his Tiananmen Square-related artwork, will be deported from China. [NYT]

    — Banksy’s former agent has curated a selling show of the street artist’s work at Sotheby’s London. [The Guardian]

    — The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts has named Jamie Stevens as curator and head of programs. [Artforum]

    — Christina Yu Yu will be the new director of the USC Pacific Asia Museum. [LAT]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    In Venice, A Glimpse of North Korea’s Architecture

    26 Questions for Guatemalan Performance Artist Regina José Galindo

    Dealer’s Notebook: Daniel Templon

    Review: “The Shaped Canvas, Revisited” at Luxembourg and Dayan

    VIDEO: Katrín Sigurdardóttir Lays Her “Foundation” at SculptureCenter

    VIDEO: Hugo McCloud Takes His Place in the Art World

    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Enver Hadziomerspahic

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  • 06/09/14--08:43: Is Opera Dying?
  • Is Opera Dying?

    If opera is dying a slow, painful death, as many seem to think it is, recent events aren’t helping the matter. In a piece for the New Yorker, music critic Alex Ross details the “ugly controversy” provoked by the British press involving Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught. Performing the role of Octavian in a Glyndebourne Opera production of “Der Rosenkavalier,” Erraught was singled out in reviews, according to Ross, as being “stocky,” “dumpy of stature,” and, most ridiculously, a “chubby bundle of puppy-fat.”

    If you’re trying to halt irrelevancy, a fat-shaming campaign is not how you go about it. Ross, while mapping out the complex roles women have played in the classical world since the mid-17th century, also fairly notes that sexism is prevalent in all strains of popular culture, and to place an inordinate amount of emphasis on opera, when gender inequality in that discipline is not much different from that of Hollywood, is to miss the point.

    He’s correct, of course, but what he fails to admit is that the classical world is already extremely fragile, lacking the firm institutional support of the pop music and film industries. In October 2013, the New York City Opera closed its doors after 70 years of operation, and just this past weekend, according to a report from the BBC, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, Peter Gelb, is quoted as proposing pay cuts to amend funding issues, an idea that is at odds with the players’ union. If the company doesn’t cut costs, according to Gelb, it will “face a bankruptcy situation in two or three years.”

    Peter Gelb, pictured here, overseeing production at the MET Opera / Courtesy of Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

    Losing the Metropolitan Opera would be a major blow to the classical world, as large and obvious a signal of the end as there could be. But based on Gelb’s quotes, the management is going about it the wrong way. Cutting labor costs (Gelb proposed changing work rules for the orchestra and chorus) will alienate the core of the company — without the people on stage and in the pit, there will be no Met. This strategy is especially irksome when, in the same breath, Gelb defends spending $169,000 on an elaborate poppy-field set for the recent production of “Prince Igor.” Fighting the union over worker costs while amping up production budgets for shows that are not making money is a simplistic and ultimately fatal way to solve the problems of the Metropolitan Opera.

    And what are those problems, exactly? Well, for one, the audience for opera is literally dying and a new audience is not replacing them. While the Met is making a few smart moves toward attracting a younger crowd — such as the production of Nico Muhly’s “Two Boys” last year — those in charge fundamentally lack the understanding of what a young audience wants. If people want spectacle they will go to the movies; they don’t need to see it on the stage. The Met needs to offer something to people that they can’t get anywhere else. And then, they need to let young people know what they’re offering and that Lincoln Center isn’t a giant mausoleum.

    “Children are brought up to be tech wizards and to have the attention spans of mice,” Gelb told the BBC. “How do you educate new audiences to like opera, which takes three or four hours and is in foreign languages?” Let me offer a suggestion Mr. Gelb. The first step in educating a new audience is to not insult them.  

    MET Opera predicted forclosure

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    VENICE — Hans Ulrich Obrist is a very busy man. And at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the curator of the 2014 Swiss Pavilion has ample opportunity to show off his multitasking skills. When ARTINFO arrived to speak with the prolific art-world impresario at the top of the morning, he was already in the midst of one conversation with a journalist, and preparing for a filmed interview with another. Sometime between finishing both interviews and hopping on a water taxi to sail off toward his charge inside the Giardini, Obrist took the time to explain his work on the Swiss pavilion.

    This year’s Swiss exhibition, “A Stroll Through a Fun Palace,” features the drawings of Swiss sociologist and urbanist Lucius Burckhardt, who developed the theory of strollogy — the “science of strolling.” Likewise, the drawings of English architect Cedric Price, best known for his model of a Fun Palace, a “laboratory of fun,” are also displayed in the pavilion, along with a model of the Palace. The pavilion’s exhibition enacts the performative impulse encoded in the project’s name: visitors are invited to stroll through the space, following the trajectory of trolleys piled with drawings that are pushed by architecture students throughout the gallery. Obrist has also commissioned several time-based pieces from artists and architects, including Atelier Bow-Wow and Dominique Gonzalez Foerster, that function as homages to Price and Burckhardt.

    Here, Obrist explains how the idea for the pavilion came from his reaction to Biennale director Rem Koolhaas’s request that national pavilion curators consider the influence of modernization on the past century of architecture; how his background in the art world influences his curatorial work in architecture; and why he hopes that Lucius Burckhardt will become a household name the world over.

    How did you develop the Swiss pavilion project? Why show the drawings of Swiss sociologist Lucius Burckhardt and English architect Cedric Price together?

    The point of departure of Rem Koolhaas is looking at the fundamental elements of architecture. One of these aspects he encouraged the pavilions somehow to look at these 20th-century figures and what is relevant for right now. It’s interesting to think about what is urgent — I always think in an exhibition about what is urgent. And I felt that, growing up in Switzerland, I met Herzog & de Meuron when I was a teenager, they were the first architects I met. They told me to study Lucius Burckhardt and I read all his books about landscape and design being invisible, and I went on his inspiring walks. And I was always thinking about how strange it is that nobody — none of my friends outside Switzerland — really knows who Lucius Burckhardt was. We need to change that because I just think he’s such an inspiration.

    And back in the ’90s I did a show with Lucius and his artist friend Paul-Armand Gette, and I did a show with Cedric Price. And at that time, I had this wonderful experience where I looked at thousands of their drawings, in their studios and home, and looking at all their drawings and selecting them for the museum exhibition, I realized more and more parallels: the sense of humor, they both have the daily practice of drawing, the amazing ideas. They both were not interested in building, it’s about other means. Very few people changed architecture with less means — as Rem Koolhaas said about Cedric — which is also true about Lucius.

    And it felt more interesting in the context of the Venice Architecture Biennale to show with Burckhardt something else. Because his archive is only partially digitized, so we felt it’s interesting that it’s a process.

    Then, our scientific director, Lorenza Baroncelli, and I went to visit Herzog & de Meuron; we discussed the archive, and they agreed to co-curate the Burckhardt part and to do the display. And we met Mirko Zardini in Canada, and the CCA agreed to lend us the Cedric part. And then we had this base for the exhibition, and I all of a sudden realized that the most essential thing is that we make it a living archive. It’s our task to create an extraordinary experience for the viewer, and I don’t think it’s an extraordinary experience if you just have some archive documents in an exhibition that you’d rather study in a library or on your computer.

    So how could we make this experience? We had numerous think-tank meetings with Herzog & de Meuron in Basel, where I gathered Philippe Parreno, Tino Sehgal, Liam Gillick, and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. They have obviously experimented for decades with the choreography and idea of the exhibition — Tino comes from the work of choreography and has developed these amazing time-based exhibitions where the choreography unfolds for the entire opening hours of the museum. It’s not a performance, it’s a situation. And in a similar way, yet very differently, Philippe and Dominique have also developed their own incredible pioneering choreographies of time-based exhibitions.

    Obviously every exhibition needs a display feature and Herzog & de Meuron had this brilliant idea of the trolleys. We were looking at Lucius Burckhardt documents and all of a sudden they wheeled these trolleys in and Jacques [Herzog] just said “Wow! That’s it!” When you arrive in the morning, the space is completely empty; then all of a sudden a trolley shoots out and another trolley and more and more trolleys. There are also the panels that are kind of like an atlas of all the different projects. And these documents are brought out on the trolleys.

    Tino, together with Asad Raza, developed the choreography of all these students who bring the trolleys out and start conversations with the viewer. They cast these students from the ETH Zurich, and from other architecture schools. And this was all done with Lorenza Baroncelli and Stefano Boeri, the school’s president. There are more than 60 students here, and every day, at least 10 line the space, they move the trolleys, they tell stories to visitors. They also listen to the visitors — they prompt the visitors into conversation. As Tino would say, this is an exchange. And that’s more or less the overall scheme.

    How did your background as an art curator inform your work on the architecture biennale?

    It’s interesting because I started in the ’90s to bring architecture into the art world, when Hou Hanru and I invited architects to design “Cities on the Move,” Rem Koolhhas for the London version, Yung Ho Chang for Vienna, then Shigeru Ban for the Helsinki version. So we got all these architects to design to do the exhibition design, which I think is the first connection to architecture that you have as a curator. So that’s the first contact zone, though my early teenage acquaintance with Herzog & de Meuron always was with me.

    I always wanted to bring architects into the exhibitions. Then I curated the Villa Medici in Rome for three years, we had architects also do installations. That was the idea of starting to do things with architects, beyond only the exhibition design. I started to become invited more into the architecture world, to curate. So we did “Mutations” in 2000, which was my first big architecture show with Rem Koolhaas and Stefano Boeri. Because I’m not from the architecture world, when I go into the architecture field I learn a lot. And I want to learn everyday — that’s why I do these things. Then there’s also this idea of actually building. I think the most direct way to engage with architecture is to be a client, to actually build something. And that only started in 2006 when I joined the Serpentine Gallery, where our Director Julia Peyton-Jones came up with this idea in 2000 to have the institution commission a pavilion every year.

    What is the most fun part of the Fun Palace, and the most fun part of strolling through the Fun Palace?

    I hope that it’s an exhibition where you can have very diverse experiences. Visitors can go on the roof, where [Tokyo-based architects] Atelier Bow-Wow did this homage to the aviary. It’s a rare experience because one cannot usually go to the roof of the Swiss pavilion and suddenly see the Giardini from above. You’re in this open aviary — Cedric always had this idea that the [Snowdon] Aviary, at the London Zoo, that the birds could fly out of the zoo. The amazing thing is that when you stand on the roof, there are birds all over. In some kind of way, that is I think a very fun experience — the idea of climbing and then going into this aviary.

    And also, when this trolley shoots towards you and something is unfolding — that’s a very fun moment, with discovery and surprise. Also, hopefully it’s fun for the viewer that all these artworks continually pop up: a moving tree of Carsten Höller, a singing tree of Koo Jeong A, a homage to Cedric and Lucius by Olafur Eliasson. Also, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster created a neon for Lucius and Cedric, Liam Gillick created a new sign for the Swiss pavilion, “Palazzo F.,” Philippe Parreno created 27 blinds which make the space oscillate from darkness to light, and et cetera. In some kind of way, the pavilion is also a sketch. Cedric wanted 10,000 people to make an extraordinary experience in his Fun Palace every day, and we’re not saying that the pavilion is a Fun Palace.

    And what illuminations emerge when you put these two thinkers into conversation with each other?

    Hopefully, 1 + 1 is 11, in the sense that they have a lot of common points and there are also a lot of differences. They both thought about networks early on. Price was interested in feedback loops and thought about cybernetics. They both did not stop inventing, and that’s all in the drawings. Because there are so many hundreds of drawings, they never repeat when you’re in the pavilion. What we can get out of it is endless inspirations, endless surprise.

    Hans Ulrich Obrist On the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale
    Hans-Ulrich Obrist,  "Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price"

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    Automakers Promise $26M to DIA, Frick Plans Major Expansion, and More

    — Automakers Give $26M to DIA: Detroit automakers FordGM, and Chrysler have pledged $26 million to save the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection and pensions as part of the “Grand Bargain” plan. “The D.I.A. and the city of Detroit need our help,” Joseph R. Hinrichs, executive vice president of Ford, said at a news conference at the museum. “And we are here, as we’ve always been, to do our part.” [NYT]

    — Frick Plans Six-Story Expansion: The Frick Collection has announced plans for a new six-story wing to increase its exhibition space, which will have private upstairs rooms and a roof garden. Best-known for its jewel-box galleries, the museum’s expansion of its historic Thomas Hastings-designed mansion has not been presented to its neighbors yet, but officials say it is much needed to accommodate the growing crowds at exhibitions like last year’s showing of Vermeer’s “Girl With Pearl Earring.” The new addition would also connect the museum to its library, which has, up until now, remained separate. [NYT]

    — Google Unveils Street Art Database: Today, Google unveiled Street Art Project, a new online gallery and database featuring images of 4,000 works of street art culled from cultural organizations around the world and created by the Paris-based Google Cultural Institute. The database includes pieces like JR’s favela photographs in Rio de Janeiro and even the murals of Long Island City’s 5 Pointz, which was painted over last year. The project comes with strict restrictions, only using images provided by organizations that own the rights to them, and not photos taken through Street View. [NYT]

    — Artlantic Curator Heads to DC: Lance Fung, who curated a series of public art projects in Atlantic City (that were at times ill-received by the community), is heading to DC for a new project called Nonuments.  [Philly]

    — Delaware Calder May Go to Auction: There is speculation that Alexander Calder’s “Black Crescent” mobile could be the third artwork sold by the Delaware Art Museum. [Delaware]

    — Meet the New Academy Museum Head: Kerry Brougher, who is slated to start as director of LA’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum on July 1, has been profiled in the LA Times and the New York Times. [LATNYT]

    — Art specialists in Britain have confirmed the authenticity of a suspected Rembrandt self-portrait owned by the National Trust. [NYT]

    — Four members of the Broad Art Museum’s administrative and curatorial staff, including Alison Gass and Aimee Shapiro, will depart this month. [Lansing State Journal]

    — The British Council has named Emma Dexter its new director of visual arts. [Press Release]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    Hans Ulrich Obrist On the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale

    Sotheby’s to Auction a Major Peter Doig

    YBCA Announces Artists Participating in “Bay Area Now 7” Triennial

    “There is No Civil Society in Russia”: König Admits Problems With Manifesta

    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Frick Collection expansion via Neoscape

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    Painting on the LES, Brian Novatny and Kent Monk

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    Highlights from PhotoEspaña 2014

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    This year’s edition of PhotoEspaña, a festival in Madrid that began in 1998, turns the entire city into a spotlight on the photographic medium. This time around the stated emphasis is on Spanish photography (to be followed, in subsequent years, by Latin American and then European practitioners), and the event runs the gamut from bleeding-edge digital experimentation to elegant images made at the very beginning of the 20th century. The program of exhibitions makes clear how we’ve moved from an initial fascination with photography’s potential — what it can do — and toward a more restless eagerness to find out what can be done to it. Here are a few of the many highlights, on view through July 27.

    “Photography 2.0” at Circulo de Bellas Artes

    Curated by Joan Fontcuberta, this group show of 20 artists aims to draw a rough map of some of the major territories that photography has explored in recent years. As one might expect, found imagery, digital manipulation, and chance-based operations are paramount. Laia Abril’s disturbingly effective installation, “Thinspiration,” is composed of self-portraits posted on pro-anorexic websites. Across from it hangs Daniel Mayrit’s 100-piece grid of media images depicting the 100 top British powerbrokers, as determined by Square Mile magazine. (He was unable to locate any images of Jonathan Sorrell, of the Man hedge fund group, and so one frame in the grid is left blank.) Another discovery: hometown talent Miguel Ángel Tornero, who presented a series of photographs taken in Berlin, Rome, and Madrid. Disparate images are joined together using a digital camera’s “panorama” function, resulting in bizarre, yet oddly plausible, urban landscapes. “I like their relationship to the subconscious life,” Tornero said, noting that as a photographer he prefers to approach his surroundings “as a newborn, as if it’s the first time I’m seeing things.”

    P2P: Contemporary Practice in Spanish Photography,” at Fernan Gomez Centro Cultural de la Villa

    Curated by Charlotte Cotton and Luis Diaz, this group show is a sympathetic companion piece of sorts to “Photography 2.0.” Some of the artists featured in the latter show make an appearance here, including Tornero (whose installation is more sculptural than photographic) and Mayrit (whose inclusion is a conceptual piece that visually expresses the most popular words used in King Juan Carlos’s annual Christmas speeches).Tanit Plana’s eye-popping trio of images from “Don Dinero” focuses on “a lexicon of fears, doubts, and taboos around money,” resulting in a sort of cash-fetish pornography. Olmo González arrays personal, enigmatic photographs — of dental procedures, asses being grabbed, apples, moles, egg yolk — creating a photo-mural that acts as a diffuse portrait of a lover. And Alejandro Marote experiments with purely abstract, color-centric photography that owes a debt to David Benjamin Sherry, illustrating his concept with a poem that pits “Red against blue / Until they touch and friction occurs / Until the skeleton black / Until the symbol.” A bit heavy-handed, perhaps, but it works.

    Josep Renau, at Circulo de Bellas Artes

    The focus here is a series of photomontages made by this Spanish artist between the early ’50s and mid ’60s. Titled (with a wink and sneer) “The American Way of Life,” they form a counter-narrative of the United States: a cesspool of racism, sexual excess, and emaciated children. The series’s barbed critique looks as fresh as ever, from the piece depicting a bare-chested woman walking down the aisle with a machine-headed groom to a collage equating the choice between Democrats and Republicans as akin to the one between Coke and Pepsi. Renau pushes the most buttons when he tackles race, as in “Happy End” (a couple kisses in the foreground while a lynched man hangs from a tree overheard) and “Racial Orgasm” (a skull exploding with images of beaten bodies and KKK members tending to a burning cross).

    Mapping the Blind Spot” at Fundacion Lazaro Galdiano

    A Polish photo collective (Sputnik) meets a Spanish photo collective (NOPHOTO); the two collaborate, intermingle, confuse, cross-pollinate, and produce a beautiful (free) publication. The Xeroxed map provided at the entrance seems to give up when it comes to properly identifying which photos came from which of the two groups, and partly, that’s the point: a Frankenstein aesthetic, collage by way of juxtaposition, layering, and inventive hanging.

    Xavier Mulet at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales

    While it seems like a schtick — the photographer assuming the identity of a mid 19th-century explorer named M. Ardan and creating faux-vintage “documentary” photos using archaic development processes — Mulet’s project wins points for being sited in the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, without any clear wall labels identifying it as a fiction. Part of the fun is watching other museumgoers examining these romantic ambrotypes, cyanotypes, and collodian prints as if they were authentic historical documents. The final picture in the series is a tip-off to the underlying artifice: We see M. Ardan posed with his beloved horse, Shams.

    Photobooks. Spain 1905-1977” at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

    This exhaustively researched exhibition (whose catalog is worth splurging on in the gift shop) tracks the development of photographs published in book form. The range of material — political, personal, didactic, experimental — is impressive, as the exhibition climbs from early 20th-century books capturing iconic “types” of people in rural Spain to Jordi Vargas’s 1977 book of photos snapped in the British punk scene (oddly similar bookends, in a way, as curator Horacio Fernandez pointed out).   

    Best Photobooks of the Year” at Biblioteca Nacional de Espana

    Unlike at the aforementioned Reina Sofía, which is very much framed-and-behind-glass, the tomes here are free to have their pages flipped. Give yourself ample time to linger over the roughly one hundred nominees for this year’s prize, whose highlights include “The Waiting Game” by Txema Salvans, “Holy Bible” by Broomberg & Chanarin, and Christopher Anderson's “Stump” — extreme close-ups of vitriolic Republican politicians on the campaign trail.   

    Cristina de Middel at La New Gallery, through July 20

    While this show is not part of the official PhotoEspaña itinerary, de Middel also has work in “P2P,” and the inventively-designed, book-length version of this series is on view in the prize exhibition above. The artist combines photographs taken in China with altered pages of Mao’s so-called Little Red Book. “Censored” excerpts from the text result in very different meanings (as in the exhibition’s title, “If there is to be a revolution... there must be a party”). The gold-framed diptychs waver between the poetic and the perverse: An image of a leaf balanced on its edge with the text “under no circumstances must we relax”; a man singing karaoke in an Abraham Lincoln T-shirt, next to the phrase “a sound system” (truncated from the original “from now on, a sound system of Party committee meetings...”). De Middel’s work is refreshing and often hilarious; she manages to drop into a country and a history not her own, creating an idiosyncratic alternate reality ruled by absurdist politics.

    See Highlights From Madrid's PhotoEspaña
    Josep Renau's "Just Married" 1957, "Happy End" 1965, and "Oh, this wonderful war

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    Behind the Camera: A Portrait of Nan Goldin

    Nan Goldin: I Remember Your Face,” a brisk and illuminating documentary directed by Sabine Lidl, is less a portrait of the artist than a portrait of her friends. For Goldin, of course, the two are intertwined. Diaristic in nature, her photographic work — including the still earth-shattering “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” first published in 1986 — trades in the traditional perspective of objective distance for a view from within. Her subjects are the people she spends her time with, an endless parade of friends and lovers — the two often representing the same thing — that she captures with a startling amount of intimacy.

    Because of her focus on decadent lives, Goldin has been criticized as less a photographer than a documentarian who happens to be in the right place at the right time. Place anybody with a camera in a room with interesting people, the thinking goes, and a few great shots will emerge. This line of thinking has led in many ways to an appropriation of her work by the current snapshot-obsessed generation. What is Instagram really if not a bunch of people who believe that the above is true? Maybe we can call it the ballad of social-media dependency.

    But Goldin is more than just a snapshot artist. She’s what the writer Luc Sante described as a “portraitist of souls,” and her work is visually and narratively invested in the lives of her subjects. The film, through a series of vignettes that follow Goldin as she hangs out with different old friends who have been the subjects of her work, understands this perfectly. One friend, a man Goldin was in love with — in truth, she seems to be in love with all her friends — is photographed delicately, even innocently. Another friend, a curator, is photographed heroically. The relationships and the formal properties of the images are one in the same.

    Goldin, for most of the film, seems reluctant to talk openly about her life. The work says it all, certainly. But by capturing these interactions we begin to get a rough autobiographical sketch of an artist who felt alienated from her family since a very early age and has forever been seeking a replacement in the lives of others. We get brief glimpses of her biological family, just to remind us that one exists, but the importance is placed on the surrogate family, the one that exists in the world of the photographs.

    The film is just over 60 minutes. Such a brief portrait would not normally do justice to an artist of such importance, but there’s not much to untangle in Goldin’s life. The public and private realms clash into each other and are on full display in her work, which tells us everything.

    “Nan Goldin: I Remember Your Face” is making its New York premiere with a weeklong theatrical run as part of the KINO! Festival of German Films, June 13-19. 

    "Nan Goldin: I Remember Your Face"

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    Highlights from the 2014 Venice Architecture Bienn

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    The contemporary art world isn’t lacking for painters these days, from the success of market darlings like Oscar Murillo and Lucien Smith to the steady popularity of Eddie Martinez. But laid back, conceptual abstractionism is all the rage, and artists working figuratively — and doing it well — who grapple with the more traditional styles of painting, are few and far between. However, two beacons of hope can be found on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the exhibitions of Brian Novatny and Kent Monkman, who are proving that old traditions die hard, and skilled painting is not dead.

    Monkman, a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry, delivers a provocative series at Sargent’s Daughters titled “The Urban Res.” The work is jam packed with social and political commentary, exploring the displacement and disenfranchisement of indigenous populations, the damage that modernity has done to regional and traditional cultures, and sexual identity politics (the latter involves an installation starring Monkman’s alter ego, “Miss Chief Testickle”).

    His acrylic paintings are impressively detailed for their grand scale, with an Edward Hopper-esque quality of light and illustrative, bright crumbling scenery that evokes the Main Streets of Norman Rockwell, though sparsely populated and now inhabited by the angels and ghosts of art history. Earlier series by Monkman painstakingly borrowed landscapes from 19th-century German-American painter Albert Bierstadt, but in “The Urban Res,” Monkman’s paintings take a step closer to modernism’s rebellious legacy, subverting the very tradition it seeks to uphold by playing with contemporary scenes and historic figures.

    Monkman has a studied command over the relatively new medium, but the effectiveness of the works conceptual elements overshadow its technical achievements — the numerous nods to art history draw attention away from his own masterful realism. Reproductions of Bacon’s grotesque figures stand in a doorway in “The Deposition” and Picasso’s flattened, and geometric bulls run alongside massive bison in “The Chase.” But while each element is certainly recognizable, the details of the miniature homages are not as refined the larger, architectural elements of the background. I would rather have seen a more academic approach to the style of each master to match. The paintings depict modernity’s destructive effect over art’s masters, yet that effect is also subtly revealed in the artist’s own handiwork, the perspective ever so off and scale askew.

    Brian Novatny, however, turns any standard for technique on its head. The Yale educated, Brooklyn-based artist was praised by the New York Times’s Roberta Smith for the technical prowess he showed in his 2011 drawing exhibition, “Picture FIshing.” His understanding of oil is radical — the paintings don’t even look like oils. He pushes paint around the canvas, bleeding, scraping, and feathering it to create an effect more akin to watercolor or a monoprint. “Sailor’s Diary” at Mulherin+Pollard is a haunted, dreamy exhibition that depicts silhouetted ghost ships tossed by stormy waves and obscured portraits of fictional officers — the works possess the hazy quality of early 19th-century photographs.

    In “Gideon” and “Sebastian,” the figures’ faces are treated with a refined, soft, blended hand, and then mutilated to obscure what could have been photorealistic perfection. Novatny uses paint to create the illusion of a photograph marred by time or disaster. Meanwhile, “Going Under” and “Capsizing” capture violent, spontaneous energy that is to be applauded for emerging from a medium that requires incredible patience and time.

    Brian Novatny and Kent Monkman Revive “Tradionalist” Painting on the LES
    An exhibition view of Kent Monkman at Sargent's Daughters, Brian Novatny's "The

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    Sleep in a Gormley Sculpture, Mattress Factory Cancels Show, and More

    — Sleep in Gormley’s New Sculpture: Antony Gormley’s new giant sculpture in London doubles as a room for a luxury hotel that allegedly goes for £2,500 per night. “I would say that luxury is a sense of total peace, silence and a place that is removed from the incessant demands of the world,” Gormley said. He wants guests to ask: “Who am I and what am I doing here?” [The Guardian]

    — Palestinian Boycott Closes Mattress Factory Show: Pittsburg’s Mattress Factory Museum canceled its “Sites of Passage: Walls, Borders & Citizenship” exhibition just days before it was set to open, following accusations on social media that three participating Palestinian artists had violated an international cultural boycott. The criticism stems from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, barring participation alongside Israelis in projects that don’t explicitly oppose the country’s treatment of Palestinians. [Pittsburgh City Paper]

    — RoseLee Goldberg Sees a Future for Performance Art: Katie Kitamura profiles Performa founder and performance art champion RoseLee Goldberg for T Magazine. Goldberg told Kitamura she has rid her vocabulary of words like “challenge” and “failure.” “In this multitasking, multimedia world, performance allows for a lot of layering of ideas,” she said. “That’s why I believe performance is going to be so huge in the coming decades.” [T Magazine]

    — Abramovic’s Serpentine Show Opens Today: “The idea is that the public are my material, and I am theirs. I will open the gallery myself in the morning and close it at 6 p.m. with my key.” — Marina Abramovic explains her new Serpentine Gallery show. [NYT]

    — National Gallery Trims Displays: The National Gallery in London may have a reputation for putting its entire collection on display, but the museum has recently pared down its galleries. [TAN]

    — Nuclear Isotopes Weed Out Fakes: The presence of two isotopes produced from nuclear bomb blasts can be used to determine if an artwork was made after 1945 — a method employed to spot fakes. [Gizmodo]

    — Over 550 photographs by American photographer Harry Callahan have been donated to the Vancouver Art Gallery. [Speakeasy]

    — The Getty Museum has acquired its first sculpture by Auguste Rodin, titled “Christ and Mary Magdalene.” [LAT]

    — Robert Raphael’s public artwork “Untitled Folly” at Randall’s Island park was destroyed by vandals. [Hyperallergic]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    See Highlights From Madrid’s PhotoEspaña

    Behind the Camera: A Portrait of Nan Goldin

    Brian Novatny and Kent Monkman Revive “Tradionalist” Painting on the LES

    Rediscovered Artemisia Gentileschi Painting to go on the Block at Sotheby’s Paris

    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Anthony Gormley poses for a photograph in front of a new piece of work entitled

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    Shiva Ahmadi Animates Tales of Violence and Beauty

    “Sugarcoating a grotesque mess age” is how Detroit-based Shiva Ahmadi, in her strong Farsi accent, describes her aesthetic trickery. Populated by folkloric creatures, the artist’s pastel-hued fantasyscapes in watercolor on Aquabord—a textured hardboard panel coated with clay—reveal dark undertones that assert themselves in washes of blood-red ink and carefully rendered grenades.

    Ahmadi’s recent work addresses ideas she has been toying with for eight years: the selfish motives, masked in moral ideology, that drive armed conflict; the pervasive nature of corruption; and the political dynamics of social injustice. Lotus, 2013, portrays, on a wildly patterned pistachio ground, an enthroned leader, turbaned and faceless, his body dissolving into velvety maroon abstraction. His ornate throne, inscribed with Allah, sits on a bed of lotus flowers similar to those found in 18th-century Tibeto-Chinese Buddha statuettes. An array of underlings—horses, birds, and monkeys—surrounding him make offerings of ticking time bombs. The turmoil and fantastical use of animals in the three-panel work echo both the Garden of Earthly Delights of Hieronymus Bosch and the ancient Persian epic Hamzanama.

    After completing Lotus, Ahmadi came to feel that transmission of her message—unchecked political power backed by dogma inevitably ends in social destruction—was restricted by the static quality of painting, so she decided to convert it into animation. The resulting 10-minute film, Lotus, 2014, is on view through August 3 at the Asia Society in New York. “I don’t consider myself a digital artist,” she declares, “but for the sake of my concepts, animation is the perfect medium.”

    Ahmadi’s notions of violence and armed hostility, along with her stockpile of conflict imagery, are drawn from tumultuous life experiences. When she was four, the Islamic revolution ravaged Iran, culminating in the overthrow of the secular and corrupt Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Soon afterward, the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq broke out, marring her formative years. “It was as if a black funerary fabric covered the country. There were bombings all the time. Women were screaming, and people were struggling,” Ahmadi recalls. “When the war was over, I tried to put it behind me, but the post-traumatic stress stays with you. I don’t notice it until I’m in a creative space, then it pours out.”

    She earned a degree in painting at Azad University in Tehran, where her education focused strictly on technique. Her teachers encouraged abstraction and still life, discouraged figural representation, and forbade the depiction of nudes—indeed, any female over nine had to be rendered fully clothed, with her head covered. The censorship laws that enforce such restrictions are based partially on the conviction that the creation of all living forms is unique to God alone.

    From Tehran, Ahmadi moved to the United States to study fine art at Wayne State University and, later, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Not surprisingly, once in the West, Ahmadi became obsessed with figure drawing, lapping up the naked contours to which she had never been exposed. Her newfound freedom led her to develop progressive feminist values. These surfaced first in her “Veil” series, which depicts a woman crouching in the corner of a picture plane wearing an oversize head scarf that spreads out across the rest of the composition. Paradoxically, the vibrant veil—richly patterned and seemingly lavish—weighs the woman down, restricting her movement. It becomes a metaphor for the social confines of morality and beauty that entrap women.

    Shiva Ahmadi's Yellow Veil (2009)

    The serenity of the basement studio in Ahmadi’s two-story suburban Detroit house seems far removed from the chaos of her childhood. The large rectangular space is mostly bare except for a few paintings propped against off-white walls and two wide shelves—one with Farsi and English books, the other with color-coded art supplies. The relatively low real-estate prices in the area were a draw when she moved in two years ago. Ahmadi makes regular trips to Ann Arbor, where she teaches fine art to freshmen at the University of Michigan, and visits New York occasionally to see her dealer, Leila Heller.

    Yet in the West, Ahmadi says, she often feels disconnected from her audience: “Most Americans don’t even know where Iran is. Their understanding of the Middle East is confined to war and violence.” Her renditions of weapons and camouflage and the spatterings of carmine-red ink, eerily similar to blood, might seem to perpetuate these stereotypes, perhaps giving her viewers a familiar point of reference. However, Ahmadi’s choice of subject matter—faceless rulers and mindless armed subordinates—is an attempt to unearth the causes behind the violence, making her an advocate of awareness and peace. “I am against war, invasion, and violence in any form, mainly because I have experienced them firsthand,” she says.

    The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 triggered Ahmadi to develop the illusionary aesthetic and antiwar themes she employs today. The violence caused by the attack made her homesick, and, like most immigrants, she was forced to reassess her identity. She did this by immersing herself in the Islamic artistic traditions of her homeland. She says she hated the kitschy miniature paintings of such artists as Mahmoud Farshchian that surrounded her when she was growing up in Tehran. Still, after the invasion, she decided to revisit Persian book art and miniatures of the 15th and 16th centuries; she was drawn to their two-dimensionality and aerial perspectives and inspired by the vegetal patterns that cover every surface in Islamic art. From the 50,000 verses of the Persian classic Shahnama (Book of Kings), she adopted battle scenes and princely pursuits. Her symbolic use of animals was influenced by the Hamzanama, a chronicle of the adventures of the Islamic Prophet’s uncle, as well as by Rumi’s poetry and the Orwellian Iranian tale Shahr-e ghesseh (The Story Land).

    She discovered neo-miniaturists like Shahzia Sikander, who in the 1990s was one of the first to give traditional miniature formats a contemporary framework. Ahmadi falls only loosely into the rubric of neo-miniaturist, mainly because of her lack of formal training in traditional miniature painting. Her works are, rather, best seen as contemporary Islamic art—made by a Muslim artist commenting on the culture created by the faith, and incorporating some of the basic elements of the genre, such as floral patterns and calligraphy. Her foreboding watercolor Al-Khidr, 2010, portrays a tangle of demonic creatures under the command of a ferocious dervish whose features are replaced with streaks of blood. In a corner, enclosed by rocks, crouches Al-Khidr, an angelic guide for those who seek God. The work hangs opposite the entrance to the Islamic wing of the Detroit Institute of Arts, paying homage to centuries of Islamic spiritual enlightenment while nodding at the dark ages the religion has entered.

    Ahmadi’s “Oil Barrel” series comments on the U.S. involvement in the Middle East. The three-dimensional works consist of recycled sheet-metal oil barrels painted in black, gold, and primary colors. They are seductively decorated with delicate floral designs interlaced with her characteristic fanciful camel-like creatures. The pleasant visual is rudely interrupted by images of combat boots, bombs, and bullet holes oozing blood, reminding us of the works’ piercing significance. In Ahmadi’s own words: “If the Middle East didn’t have oil, nobody would care about it.”

    According to the artist, the U.S. presence in the region and other similarly conflicted areas is not primarily to protect civilians but to guarantee its own stability. Her opinions have not always been well received, especially when they are not disguised in a charming visual veneer. “Once, after a talk about the invasion and my work in Oregon, people became really angry,” she recollects. “They asked me what right I had to comment on issues relating to America when I was a foreigner and an outsider. They hold Muslims responsible for so much violence in the world, but they don’t really see the U.S. as a problem.”

    Ahmadi wanted to translate her iconography—miniature riffs and military motifs—onto other symbolic objects, such as drones and tanks. But her ambitions were thwarted. “I called the U.S. Army to see if they had a spare drone to give me. I am not sure if it was my accent, but the officer freaked out, got suspicious, and started questioning me: ‘What’s your name? What’s your social security number? Where are you calling from?’ I was like, ‘I don’t want a functional one, I’m an artist!’”

    Shelving the idea of working with weapons, she decided to focus her attention on watercolors and animation. Her process for both is largely intuitive. She does not plan her paintings but fleshes out the images in her mind directly on the board with a mixture of unbridled strokes and controlled rendering. Her command of the medium makes up for her lack of preconceived composition.

    The same instincts drive her animation. It took her 10 minutes to decide exactly which elements of the painting Lotus to animate. She used a traditional animation technique, which requires 12 drawings on paper for each second of film. She did all the drawing and rendering but hired a professional animator, Sharad Patel, to help with production. “Painting allows you to capture a moment,” she says, “but animation gives you a sense of time that no other medium can.” Bill Viola’s “Water Portraits” series inspired her to incorporate elements of time and motion into her practice.

    The animation starts peacefully. A glistening Buddha sits on a throne. Near him, candy-like bubbles float past playful monkeys. Slowly, the film takes an apocalyptic turn. Coiled snakes begin to slither; the bubbles mutate into bombs, which the now sinister-looking monkeys start to juggle; blood stains the ground; and gradually the benevolent Buddha mutates into a tyrant. This account is rooted in a real-world realization that “everywhere you look there are governmental systems with heads of state on top. They make disconnected decisions, and regular people suffer the consequences,” Ahmadi says, with both anger and empathy, as she continues her struggle to unveil the narratives behind injustice.

    A version of this article appears in the June 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine. 

    Shiva Ahmadi's "In Focus" exhibition at Asia Society

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    5 Must-See Gallery Shows: Birdie Lusch, Mark Hagen

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    Birdie Lusch at Kerry Schuss Gallery, through June 29

    Lusch’s collages of flower arrangements are pitch perfect; sliced-and-diced magazine pages become the fodder for vases and blooms in whimsical yet refined compositions. The artist, who died in 1988, made this portfolio of 26 pieces in the summer of 1973. Here they’re arranged and framed sequentially — Karma is publishing an accompanying book — demonstrating the range of Lusch’s curious vision. In one collage, a cut-out version of Rodin’s “Thinker” ponders a baby-blue arrangement of flowers, its vase an excised image of power lines. In others, brightly patterned words and Lusch’s own penciled words provide an enigmatic context for the series: “Were there no beginning there’d be no ending / Were there no entrance there would be no door.” Some may find this all a bit twee — especially after noting the artist’s “signature,” which is a tiny cartoon of a bird — but Lusch’s compositional inventiveness pushes these simple pieces to the next level. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jonas Wood was looking at Birdie (as well as Matisse’s cut-outs) when making paintings like this one.

    Supports/Surfaces” at Canada, through July 20

    You know what would be a cruel experiment? Gather 50 or so working artists in Brooklyn, blindfold them, and deposit them in the center of this survey of the Supports/Surfaces movement on the Lower East Side; record the expressions of dismay and heartbreak on their faces as they register the breadth and quality of the experimental, abstract work; and then, after an appropriate pause, remind them that it was all made by French artists, mostly in the early ’70s. These “paintings” — made from dyed rope, textiles, cut vinyl, gauze, and other materials — explored territory that continues to be mined, inadvertently or otherwise. Fun game: Compare this Patrick Saytour work in the show with Joe Fyfe’s “Maundy Thursday”; or this 1970 Louis Cane oil-on-cut-canvas with Joe Bradley’s output from a few years back. (Bonus assignment: If you’re still in the mood for brilliant color and textiles, head over to Polly Apfelbaum’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book” at Clifton Benevento.)

    Mark Hagen at Marlborough Chelsea, through June 21

    “Guest Star” is a collection of space oddities. There are sculptures incorporating metal that has been anodized with Coke Zero, as well as a readymade composed of a car that was struck by a meteorite — the most sensationalist, yet least interesting, piece here. (The auto-sculpture was crafted by “alien hands,” the press release confirms.) Overall, Hagen does a bang-up job of engaging with the gallery’s massive, concrete-floored space — for instance, stretching an aluminum-and-stainless-steel armature, “To Be Titled (Ramada Chelsea #3),” between one wall and a central pillar — and the works share a cohesive, intergalactic vibe. A series of acrylic-on-burlap-on-panel abstract paintings explore gradient fades and washes of somber color, as cool and impersonal as the surface of the moon (one has a plastic bodega bag stuck on its surface, a gentle reminder that there’s still human life here, after all).

    Sam Moyer at Rachel Uffner Gallery, through June 22

    Moyer’s work has always been interesting — from early pieces that turned moving blankets into sculptural paintings, through experiments with bleach on fabric — but her latest exhibition is next-level amazing; I’m left wondering if she’s ingested some illicit art-steroid that’s propelled her rapidly forward into some new, ridiculously mature career stage. The minimalist textile works are still there, but now flattened beneath layers of glass — sometimes tinted, sometimes painted — each one invested in a single type of loose, painterly gesture writ large. Upstairs, hybrid works pair shaped, ink-on-canvas panels with chunks of marble. Often the two pieces combine into a solid square or rectangle; occasionally, as in “Zola” (which uses a simpler stone than marble), a rectangular canvas looms above an irregular, unwieldy plane of rock. Each piece is a delicate exercise in contrast and balance. Downstairs, the installation “More Weight” — also the name of the exhibition overall — combines a platform of marble on the floor with a framed expanse of dyed fabric suspended from the ceiling. The large mottled surface of that canvas is lit from above, making it appear at first glance to be an enormous slab of concrete hanging overhead. Moyer will invite fellow artists in for a night of performance on Thursday, June 19. Seriously: if you don’t make it to the Lower East Side before “More Weight” closes, you’ll have missed something heavy and substantial, indeed.

    Tris Vonna-Michell at Metro Pictures, through July 25

    Check out Louis Lawler’s wall drawings downstairs, but don’t miss 2014 Turner Prize nominee Vonna-Michell’s installation, tucked away upstairs. “Postscript III (Berlin)” is a slideshow projection with accompanying audio — the artist himself, narrating a characteristically circular meta-story that’s really about the act of storytelling itself, as well as the elusive qualities of memory. The click-clack of the changing slides punctuates Vonna-Michell’s hypnotic voice — during live performances the artist is just as obsessively dense, turning himself into a sort of instrument, an avalanche of words — and the still images (sometimes singular, more often in pairs) only obliquely jibe with what’s being spoken. Vonna-Michell takes unresolved histories and narrative dead-ends and transforms them into something paradoxically whole. 

    ALSO WORTH SEEING: Jason Brinkenhoff's weird mix of Pop, Picasso riffs, and other paintings at ZieherSmith, through June 21; Bill Jenkins's “Wet Light,” an immersive, but resolutely unspectacular, environment at Laurel Gitlen, through June 22.

     

    Click here to see highlights from these top shows

    5 Must-See Gallery Shows: Birdie Lusch, Mark Hagen, and More
    5 Must-See Gallery Shows: Birdie Lusch, Mark Hagen, and More

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    $13 Million More for DIA, LA Vies For George Lucas Museum, and More

    $13 Million More for DIA: Just after automakers promised $26 million to the “grand bargain” plan to save the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has pledged $10 million and the J. Paul Getty Trust has vowed to give $3 million. If the DIA raises $100 million, the city of Detroit will transfer the collection to a nonprofit. According to James Cuno, president and chief executive of the Getty Trust, the Getty is "proud to participate with other distinguished supporters in addressing the unique situation that is currently facing the DIA, through no fault of its own." [LAT]

    LA Wants Lucas Museum: Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has made a bid for the George Lucas Cultural Arts Museum by launching a social media campaign that encourages locals to tweet reasons for #WhyLucasinLA. The mayor has proposed Exposition Park, where a sports arena currently stands, as the potential home of the museum. Look out Chicago and San Francisco! [CBS]

    Gurlitt Task Force Confirms Rosenberg Ownership: The group of experts tasked with combing through the collection of recently deceased art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt have officially confirmed that a Matisse painting belongs to the heirs of Paul Rosenberg. The family, however, was none too pleased that the decision was first announced to the press. "We would like to express our disappointment...with the Task Force's decision to release this information to the press before informing the heirs," said Christopher Marinello, the lawyer representing the Rosenberg family. “It is the height of insensitivity and continues the vein of disregard for due process and compassion that we have seen since the discovery of the Gurlitt hoard." [WSJ]

    Guccifer Goes to Jail:Guccifer, the hacker who exposed George W. Bush’s paintings to the world, has been sentenced to four years in jail by a Romanian court. [Reuters]

    Voina’s Strange Support of Putin: Turns out Oleg Vorotnikov, a co-founder of controversial Russian art collective Voina, supports Putin’s Crimea annexation. [TAN]

    MoMA’s First App:MoMA senior curator Paola Antonelli explains Bjork’s “Biophilia,” the first downloadable app in the museum’s collection. [MoMA]

    Sylvia Yount will replace Morrison Heckscher as the head of the Met’s American Wing. [AiA]

    — Three paintings and five sculptures by Cy Twombly have been donated to the Tate, as per a stipulation in the artist’s will. [The Guardian]

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    Works of art at the Detroit Institute of arts are shown June 9, 2014 in Detroit,

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    Nancy Newberry's "Halfway to Midland"

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