Expat

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Crab Walking to the Future


“I wasn’t breaking rules; I was actually making up my own.
Barbara Kasten

For most of her career the eighty-year-old, Chicago based photographic artist Barbara Kasten has ignored the documentary aspects of her craft, but rather the creation of stand-alone images has been front of mind.

As she told Bomb Magazine’s Leslie Hewitt “My introduction to photography was not an academic one. I took one class to learn the basics; after that, it was more of a hands-on relationship. To push the boundary of photography has never been my motivation; I am interested in how it can be united with other disciplines... I had no restrictions on how to approach photography. I felt free to incorporate any of these concepts into my thinking.

In fact, Kasten has turned the traditional concepts behind photography on their head in the pursuit of her own vision.

As she explained to ArtForum’s Andrianna Campbell “Light is the essence of photography, but it is not what I am after. The important thing about light, to me, is not how it falls on an object, but how the shadow is created. I am photographing the shadow, and not the object that is creating the shadow. I am after another form—one that defines reality, but it is not reality.”

It is a principle that has driven Kasten’s work.

“In the 1980s and ’90s, when I showed at the John Weber Gallery in New York, I wasn’t looking at photography for inspiration. I wasn’t trying to break any of the “rules” of photography. I was just looking for a way to combine my interests in sculpture and photography—photography not as way of documenting sculpture but as a way to make a new work. For me, these media function side by side, not as cause and effect.

And today in the digital age the octogenarian photographer is heartened that her baton is being picked up others as they pursue their dreams of what the medium can be.
About which she has said “My work is being discovered by a group of people who are half my age and are looking at photography in a much more open-minded manner. It doesn’t all have to be done through the camera. I think the creative spirit of the day is more toward individualism, and that fuels younger people to see how they can put their own twist into this medium. We are looking at the essentials and not looking at traditional prescriptions… The Internet and digital technologies are providing fertile ground for artists today. Photography is now an even broader category, and whether or not these practitioners are photographers is an open question.

A major survey of Kasten’s work Stages is currently on show at Los Angeles' MOCA Pacific Design Center until the 14th of August.




Monday, May 23, 2016

Painting as Haiku


“Paintings can convey an immense significance with few colors and details.”
Nguyen Than Binh

The frugal simplicity that is one of the hallmarks of much Asian art is a predominant characteristic of the paintings of the Vietnamese artist Nguyen Than Binh. Using Western materials, Nguyen employs a palette restricted to subdued hues of creams, browns and whites punctuated occasionally with reds and blacks to create his almost impressionistic works that evoke the strains of classical music and Japanese Haiku poetry.

As he told Toriizaka Art “I use oils and canvas originated in the west and combine them with my easter eyes, hands and mind to create my paintings. My pieces may appear to be simple but my mind is brimming with memories, feelings and passion and each of them quietly resonates from my soul.”

A point he elaborated upon at Tanya Baxter Contemporary stating “I like minimal subject and a maximum idea just like Japanese Haiku or Tang dynasty poetry. I like Haiku very much because it is very simple and contains many ideas. I have no difficulty with simplicity but I need a lot of time for a painting. Sometimes I work on a painting for a few days, a few weeks, or even years.”

Nguyen also gains inspiration for his work from western ballet and classical music.

About which he told the Thavibu Art Advisory “Fine Art is not about philosophy or literature, but about music”.

But overall it is the juxtaposition of the two ideas inherent in the 5-7-5 syllable constructed Japanese poetic form that underpins Nguyen’s work.

As he told Tutt’art “I’m not trying to follow any trends, I’m just searching for beauty as I see it, a beauty for everyone. The structure in my paintings tells the viewer many things beyond the surface. The aim in my work is to condense the narrative. I like minimal subject and a maximum idea just like Japanese Hiaku.”


Nguyen’s current exhibition Hometown is on show at Ho Chi Minh City’s Craig Thomas Gallery from the 27th of May.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Art in Chess


“I have come to the personal conclusion
that while all artists are not chess players,
all chess players are artists."

Marcel Duchamp

In his mid-thirties the French born artist Marcel Duchamp gave up art to study chess. Considered to be, along with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists, Duchamp is arguably best known for his controversial found object art works.

Some thirty odd years later he told Time Magazine in 1952 I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art—and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position."

Now almost half a century after his death, Duchamp’s fascination with the strategic board game has been reinvigorated through the work of British painter Tom Hackney.

It was whilst he was studying at London University’s Goldsmiths College for his Masters in Fine Art that Hackney conflated Duchamp’s fascination with the game he had played as a child.

As he told Aesthetica Magazine “The idea for the chess paintings came out of my time at Goldsmiths, partly as a reflection on the strategic language applied in art discourse. I was also interested in Marcel Duchamp’s abandonment of art for chess – a ‘move’ in itself and something viewed as a direct challenge to the whole enterprise of painting. These elements combined, paradoxically, opened up a space for painting. Both activities (chess & painting) share an oscillation between the arenas of the eye and of the mind. The paintings are based on transcriptions of games played by Duchamp, the path of each move painted in sequence in white or black gesso.

As a serious chess player Duchamp kept a record of his moves in the games he played and Hackney’s study of the games has resulted in the paintings.

As he explained to Axis Web “The games were all originally played by Duchamp. As a serious player, Duchamp recorded many of his games by notation, as is common practice, to be studied later and reviewed to see how the game took its course. These notations have since been assimilated into various online databases, books and articles which I have researched and collected as source material for the paintings.”

Whilst the paintings are built up using black and white the colored versions relate to Duchamp’s design for a colored chess set. 

As Hackney has said “Duchamp assigned colors to the different pieces in relation to their movement and strategic power. The resulting paintings locate themselves more emphatically within a tradition of abstract painting but without taking a typical route to their form.”

And it is a tribute to Hackney’s skill as a painter that these transcriptions of Duchamp’s games are so aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

About which Hackney says “I think the aesthetic of this work resides in an overall form. We all have an awareness of chess to a lesser or greater extent, and the same can be said for painting. Perhaps in this work both elements can balance each other, without prioritizing painting over chess or form over content.”


Hackney’s exhibition of these works Corresponding Squares: Painting the Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp is currently on show at Saint Louis World Chess Hall of Fame until the 11th of September.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Art of Simplicity


“The frames choose the photographs actually.
Jefferson Hayman

In what he describes as “A reverse way of creating the final product I guess,” the New York photographer Jefferson Hayman uses his hand made antique frames to determine their contents.

As he told the Sycamore Review’s Juliette Ludeker “My studio walls are filled with empty, antique frames. The sizes and various elements of the frame dictate what photograph will go inside.”

It was while he was studying for his Bachelor of Arts degree from Kutztown University that Hayman learned his frame making skills and appreciation.

As he explained in 2015 to Siegel+Gale’s Simplifiers blogWhen I was back in art school, I needed a job, and I had two options: a dishwasher, or picture framer. Those were the only two jobs available and I had already been a dishwasher for longer than I care to say. So I decided that I would take this job as a picture framer and learn a skill—and also hopefully get free art supplies, which I needed at the time. After taking the job, I realized the importance of the picture frame. It’s this DMZ between the art and the world. It’s that last area, a border basically, between reality, and the reality of what the artist is creating on the page.

And within these borders Hayman places his nostalgic styled photographs that strive for a timelessness aesthetic of simplicity.

About which he says “The more simple a composition, I have always thought, speaks louder than a more complicated one. There’s a phrase out there: “A whisper is more powerful than a shout,” that’s something that I think about when composing work or when formalizing an idea. I think it evokes a sense of contemplation. A lot of artwork these days doesn’t require that you stand in front of it for too long. A lot of it is flash and pop-oriented images. But what I’d like to do, what I hope to do, is to engage the viewer to contemplate my works in hopes that it stays with them once they’ve moved beyond my artwork.


Hayman’s current exhibition Limerence is on show at New York’s Robin Rice Gallery until the 19th of June. 


Monday, May 16, 2016

From Street to Studio


“My four days in county jail were horrible,
but disappointing my parents was a million times worse.”
Andrew Hem

For the figurative artist and illustrator Andrew Hem doing jail time for his graffiti exploits was the turning point in life that saw him change from illicit street art to fine art.

As he told the Erratic Phenomena Blog’s Amanda Erlanson “I think that a majority of graffiti artists pursue the life of an artist or graphic designer after their graffiti career is over – mainly because there aren’t that many jobs available for felons. When they turn graffiti into a felony, you kind of have to be self-employed after you get caught. A few of my friend can’t find any jobs because of this, and turned to a life of drug dealing.”

The son of Cambodian refugees who ended up in Los Angeles after fleeing the genocide of the Khmer Rouge, Hem found his first friends as a teenager with the clandestine outsiders of the street art world.

As he has said “It was hard for me to make friends, but when I started graffiti, I was finally labeled into a group, and that’s when I started having friends.”

But Hem’s brush with the law saw him change tack and in 2006 he graduated from the Art Center College of Art and Design with a BFA in illustration. From collaborating with brands like Adidas, Lucky Brand Jeans and Sony Pictures Hem’s career has evolved into shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York, London and Zurich.

Drawing on the urban sensibilities of Los Angeles which he combines with the rural animistic society of his Khmer heritage, Hem produces dreamlike memories inspired by personal experiences that vary from back packing in Europe to returning to his roots in Asia.

As he told the Huffington Post’s John Seed “I’ve been fortunate to travel to some amazing places. And from that I’ve met some amazing people and experiences. Life experiences turns to stories which then turns into paintings.

About which he has elaborated, telling Hi-Fructose magazine “I love creating worlds that do not exist. A world where people don’t care about others’ appearance, and nobody has to worry about fitting in or being an outcast. Where everyone is accepted. No necks, long arms, no nose, blue faces are all normal. This is a world that doesn’t exist, and that’s why I love creating it. I’ve experienced and witnessed too many times where people are disgusted with what is different.”


Hem’s first solo New York exhibition Mountain Full is on show at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery until the 11th of June.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Photography as Advocacy


“The stewardship of natural resources
and the challenging complexity of human interaction with our world
are of utmost importance to me.”
 
Dornith Doherty

The University of North Texas’ Research Professor of Photography, Dornith Doherty’s interest in the environment is a driving force behind her photography.

As she said of her turn of the century Constructed Landscapes project “By combining the precise detailing of photographic realism with the extravagant exaggeration of the still life, my photographs navigate the border between nature and artifice in order to explore my interest in the human presence in the environment.

With projects that have included the examination of US and Mexican cultures in her Rio Grande project and the resilience of coyotes in her back yard, Doherty’s current preoccupation is the exploration of “the role of seed banks and their preservation efforts in the face of climate change.” Archiving Eden has been an eight year and counting labor of love for Doherty.

As she told Hyperallergic’s Laura Mallonee Archiving Eden was inspired by an article about the opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault near the North Pole. When I read John Seabrook’s “Sowing for Apocalypse” in The New Yorker, the simultaneously pessimistic and optimistic aspects of a global seed vault built to save the word’s botanical life from catastrophic events made a profound impression on me.

Since 2008 Doherty has collaborated with biologists around the world from the US to Australia, from Britain to the Arctic circle documenting the vital role seed banks play in protecting the genetic diversity of both wild and agricultural species.

Doherty has also explored the poetic beauty inherent in her core subject matter through the use of x-ray photography.

About which said in an exhibition press release “The amazing visual power of magnified x-ray images, which springs from the technology’s ability to record what is invisible to the human eye, illuminates my considerations not only of the complex philosophical, anthropological, and ecological issues surrounding the role of science and human agency in relation to gene banking, but also of the poetic questions about life and time on a macro and micro scale.”

To which she has added “And while they are an incomplete and subjective response to this global effort, it is my hope that these poetic visual artifacts may inspire conversation and awareness of this important effort.

Doherty’s current exhibition Stow is on show at the Houston Center for Photography until the 10th of July.




Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stories in the Abstract


“I’ve had this constant interest in mythology and storytelling
and its presence through time.”
Natasha Bowdoin

For the Houston based artist Natasha Bowdoin reading is an integral part of her practice, from being the well spring for her inspiration to her solace when the gods of creativity turn their backs.

As Bowdoin told the Angela Fraleigh blog “When I’m feeling confused about the thinking behind new work I usually gravitate towards reading. Reading from my pool of source material usually lets me refocus and find the crux of the work. I try to constantly replenish the books I read – outside the realm of visual art – from poetry, mythology, fiction, naturalist accounts, etc. That keeps things fresh, visually and conceptually, in the studio.

For Bowdoin is an intuitive artist, her beginnings don’t know their ends.

As she told …might be good’s Wendy Vogel “There is no plan for the final image. Usually what happens is that I first have to accrue a pile of raw drawing material. Once I have this material I can start to investigate how to organize, layer and assemble it. I think of it like gardening. I have to grow the material that I’m going to use first and then I can harvest it to use in the actual making. Sometimes drawings that are intended to be discrete pictorial images get cut up and integrated into something else. I find I can’t get anywhere compelling if I plan out the process ahead of time. Things have to be allowed to accumulate and fall away in an unpredictable fashion for the work to get interesting.”

From this process Bowdoin builds her abstract collaged drawings about which the Monya Rowe Gallery has said “That play of pattern and disorder are at the core of Bowdoin’s work. Each layer collapses into chaos only to return to some kind of natural order. In Roberto Bolaño’s 1996 short novel, Distant Star, Bruno Schulz’s writing is described by the protagonist: “I was reading, but the words were passing by like incomprehensible beetles, busy in an enigmatic world”.


Bowdoin’s current exhibition Animal Print is on show at Florida’s Monya Rowe Gallery until the 24th of July.


Saturday, May 07, 2016

Fun in the Unknown


The artist plays the role of a strange kind of bridge between class structures.”
Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann

The Taiwanese-American painter Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann had travelled much of the world, the United States, Asia and the Middle East before she started on her career as an artist. It was a life that saw her mostly as the outsider looking in.

As she told East City Art’s Wade Carey “When I was a kid moving around, I was very bad at making friends. I was not social, really, at all.

And it is an aesthetic that has found its way into her work.

About which she says in a statement about painting “I think of my work as baroque abstract: a celebration of the abundance of connections and clashes that can be found in the disparate mess of matter in the world.

Mann’s abstract paintings start from a chance encounter of pigment and paper upon which she builds a complex mixed-media expression of western abstraction influenced by Chinese and Japanese traditional ink painting techniques.

As she explains “I begin each piece with a stain of color, the product of chance evaporation of ink and water from the paper as it lies on the floor of the studio. From this shape, I nourish the landscape of each painting, coaxing from this organic foundation the development of diverse, decorative forms: braids of hair, details from Beijing opera costuming, lattice-work, sequined patterns. Although founded in adornment, these elements are repeated until they too appear organic, even cancerous... and they at once highlight and suffocate the underlying ink stained foundation.”

Mann developed this process after receiving a critique from the Abstract Expressionist artist Grace Hartigan whilst studying for her Master of Fine Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

As Mann recalls “She came into my studio and said, “You’re not a painter, you’re a draftsman.” At the time, I thought of myself as a painter but I was making these pieces that were very graphic and very controlled. I was interested in the control. She was the person that I would completely credit with the idea of the stain, the idea of bringing in the physicality and the spontaneity of paint. It is all because of Grace Hartigan’s kind-of mean crit to me during those first couple weeks of grad school.

Mann now revels in her process.

As she told the Carroll County Times “It’s fun to make something when you don’t know how it will end.”


Mann’s current exhibition Empire Builder is on show at New York’s Gallery nine 5 until the 12th of June.


Thursday, May 05, 2016

A Search for Simplicity


“Life is interesting if you let it be.
Carmen Herrera

The Cuban artist Carmen Herrera, who has lived in New York for last 62 years, sold her first painting at the age of 89. In September of 2016 the 101-year-old artist will have a solo retrospective exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.

After attending a finishing school in Paris, Herrera returned to Havana in 1935 to study architecture and four years later she was married to the American teacher Jesse Loewenthal, had given up architecture and moved to New York.

About her 70-year marriage Herrera told the Guardian Newspaper’s Hermione HobyI always used to say: my husband, he likes to teach and I like to learn.

In New York she took up painting which quickly turned into a vocation.

As she told the Telegraph Newspaper’s Helena de BertodanoIt hit me in New York. I realized one day, my God, I’m an artist, how horrible.

After the Second World War the couple moved to Paris. And it was in Paris that Herrera discovered the hard edge geometric abstraction that was to become the mainstay of her oeuvre.

About which she explained “I was in Paris at the time. I was walking around and I found something called Nouvelles Réalités [a salon of artists focusing on abstract art]. And that was an eye-opener. I thought this is what I want to do. I went to the studio and I worked and worked and worked and worked. I was angry that I didn't know about this before.

And thus began her life long quest, about which she reminisced in 2005 “I began a lifelong process of purification, a process of taking away what isn’t essential.”

In the early 1950’s the couple returned to New York and Herrera continued to paint in relative obscurity.

As she says “Things happen in a funny way. I mean you have to be in the right place at the right time, which I always managed not to be. But at the same time, people were not ready to receive my work. Years ago somebody called Rose Fried had a very avant-garde gallery in New York and said she was thinking of giving me a show. Then I went back to the gallery and she said, you know, Carmen, you can paint circles around the men artists that I have but I'm not going to give you a show because you're a woman. I felt as if someone had slapped me on the face. I felt for the first time what discrimination was. It's a terrible thing. I just walked out.

Undeterred Herrera continued with her work and her quest which she says “is for the simplest of pictorial resolutions.” To which she has added “There is nothing I love more than to make a straight line. How can I explain it? It’s the beginning of all structures, really.”


Herrera’s self-titled exhibition of recent paintings is currently on show and New York’s Lisson Gallery until the 11th of June.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

With Lace in the Limelight


“I loved being on stage.”
Mark Flood

The Houston based artist/musician Mark Flood has been making art and music for all his life but only found commercial success in his early 40’s.

During Flood’s high school years, he was obsessed with art “Making art was just this way of processing my emotions or [that] tried to give my life meaning,” he has said.

Whilst studying art in college Flood developed an interest in Punk rock and performance by becoming the vocalist for the Industrial Punk band Culturecide who played underground venues and espoused establishment angst.

As he told the ANP Quarterly’s Brendan Fowler “I tell you, Brendan, the thing about me is that I like to connect with an audience, I think the audience is a necessary part of the equation, but for whatever reason I really don’t give a shit what the audience thinks. As long as they’re not killing me; that’s my boundary. I feel like you have to have an audience, I don’t want to do stuff in obscurity, but I’m not living for the roar of the crowd. My main satisfaction is just making the stuff.”

To support his music making and his art during the 1980’s and early 90’s Flood work at a variety of jobs that ranged from being a clerk for Texaco to an assistant at the Menil Collection. And his art, like his music, was always seeking the edge as a critique of the status quo.

About which he has said “All my attempts to be in commercial galleries with my art were never very successful. It was always a bad fit… As every struggling artist knows, it’s a bitch and it grinds your soul down to the nub. And yet you have to do it, because otherwise you’re doing your art and just sticking it in your attic. I never thought the lace paintings would be commercial, I had never had any commercial success, but I’d come to see that to keep doing new stuff you had to have a new technique. If you use old techniques, you can only express old ideas.”

Flood’s new technique was to use lace sourced from Thrift shops as part of the process in making his paintings.

As he told the Interview Magazine’s Joseph Akel “I was entirely inspired by David Hickey’s 1993 book, The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty, how ugly art can exist when you have an art bureaucracy providing an audience. But, for an artist wanting to give an audience otherwise, beauty is one way to do that. That was news to me. And it begged the question, what exactly is beauty? So I started studying, looking for technical means, and as soon as I started looking for it, it kind of popped up in front of me.”

Flood’s lace paintings, that some have called “spinster abstraction” have been a commercial success beyond the artist’s imagining.

And as he told the New York Times’ Randy Kennedy “I didn’t know they would be popular, though people sometimes assume that it was some calculated sellout on my part. Because if I could calculate how to sell out, I wanted to wait until 2000. My life changed dramatically. I no longer need some art professional Standing there saying, “This is good because of Jasper Johns, because of Duchamp,” because someone was coming up to me saying: “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Here’s $5000.” And then I quit my job.”


The survey exhibition of his works Mark Flood: Gratest Hits is currently on show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston until the 7th of August.