Lighthearted yet formally serious, Stas Volovik’s paintings–on view through April 18 in his New York solo debut, at Thierry Goldberg Gallery–prove that abstraction still has fruitful terrain to explore. Circles, starbursts, triangles, rectangles, and looping umbrella-or-cane shapes combine in unexpected ways, all rendered in a lively yet subdued color palette that is defiantly timeless (especially when combined with a certain weathered quality to the surfaces, which makes them even harder to affix to a specific era). These works (most all of which were made from around 2008 onward) might properly be called whimsical, if that adjective didn’t carry such negative baggage. Instead, let’s agree that they’re restless and kinetic, an invigorating exercise in recombining simple ingredients to make something uncommon and strange. The gallery has two quite large canvases on view, but it’s in the 23 smaller-scale pieces that Volovik’s pared-down compositions truly shine. Volovik was born in Uzbekistan, and now works in Germany, so it’d be interesting to know how (if at all) that interesting geographic background has found its way into his quirky iconography. Check out the show downtown; the gallery will also be bringing Volovik’s paintings to the EXPO Chicago fair this September.
You’ve only got until March 29 to dig into two thoroughly strange environments at The Suzanne Geiss Company. Artist Molly Surno presents Ivar, pictured above–a reference to an essay by Mike Kelley–a navigable installation of plants and sand, drenched in very Kelley-ish light; walk through the fronds and you find a mostly abstract film projected, quite small, on the wall. (The piece, according to press materials, “examines issues of fetish, desire, and fantasy symbolized here through the creation of a tropical other,” making it a nice counterpoint to Radamés “Juni” Figueroa’s tropical-themed piece over at SculptureCenter).
Also at Suzanne Geiss: Molly Lowe, below, who fills a room with Claes Oldenburgian “soft sculptures” that have a visceral nastiness about them, despite their lumpy cartoon nature. Against one wall, the lower half of a person appears to hump the wall after unsuccessfully attempting to scissor with a pair of equally disembodied legs.
If you miss this pair of shows, make sure to look out for what’s next at the gallery: “Particular Pictures,” a massive group show curated by Josh Abelow and Emily Ludwig Shaffer, opening April 5.
At the back of Callicoon Fine Art‘s Delancey Street space hangs the straightforwardly named Red White White Blue, pictured above—a wall sculpture composed of corrugated plastic and gel. It’s a work by the former physician Thomas Kovachevich, who, beginning with a solo at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 1973, has been making two- and three-dimensional work via fairly humble means. Get up close to Red White White Blue and you can see the incisions required to piece it together, yet it still hums with an almost Turrellian glow, despite its D.I.Y. nature. Likewise Solid Geometry, below, a constellation of 35 sculptures in black corrugated plastic that, arranged together, resemble a seriously warped, seriously high-powered sound-system.
Kovachevich’s work is on view at Callicoon’s two spaces in New York through March 30. Their Forsyth location features a range of small-scale paintings of various fantastical objects and shapes floating on black backgrounds. (At first glance they’re not that impressive, but stick around a while and you’ll find plenty to admire in the way light plays on the surfaces, not to mention the thoroughly bizarre subject matter itself). A third exhibition is also up at Show Room Gowanus in Brooklyn. Fans of B. Wurtz or Richard Tuttle will find plenty of oddball ingenuity to admire here.
After previous stints in Rotterdam, Ljubljana, and San Sebastian, among other places, the Manifesta biennial is coming to the Russian city of St. Petersburg this summer. Curated by Kasper Konig, the event should be one to watch: Just think, a few months ago the main worry was about the country’s caveman-style legislation regarding the LGBT community. That was before chaos in the Ukraine and Russia’s ongoing takeover of Crimea, all of which set off a media frenzy about ‘the new Cold War.’ (All I can say is that I imagine getting a Russian visa will be even more entertaining than it normally is for American visitors).
No matter–organizers insist the show will go on, with a wealth of names including Thomas Hirschhorn, Vadim Fishkin, Elena Kovylina, Timur Novikov, and drag artist Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe (responsible for the excellently defaced portrait of Gorbachev above). Joanna Warsza is curating a public program that includes pieces by Ragnar Kjartansson, Slavs and Tatars, and others. A trio of painters will be shown in the Winter Palace: Nicole Eisenman (a stand-out of the last Whitney Biennial); Marlene Dumas; and Maria Lassnig (who currently has a solo at MoMA P.S.1). Perhaps to prick Putin’s backwards stance on alternative lifestyles, Dumas is contributing portraits of the likes of Oscar Wilde and Jean Genet (“notable cultural figures,” according to the press release, “whose achievements can be celebrated above their identification as homosexual men.”)
During a recent press release, Konig (who is based in Germany) reflected on the ongoing friction between Russia and the rest of the world. “In response to the comments I have received regarding the current geopolitical circumstances, I would like to stress that obviously I am very concerned with the escalating crisis, and because of it I do believe it is and should be our goal to continue to make MANIFESTA 10 happen,” he said. “It is itself a complex entity, to prompt its artists and its viewers to assume their own strong political positions, to pose questions and raise voices. To neglect and quit, would be a sign of resignation. There is vulnerability in this situation, but also a challenge and we shall have a courage to go on, a decision backed up by many Russian colleagues. It is upon us not to be influenced by prejudices against minorities or nationalist propaganda but to reject it. It is more important than ever to continue our work with courage and conviction for the local and international publics. As someone who has worked in many and various political climates and challenges, the experience tells me to stay calm and continue to work on the complexity and contradiction, that art has to offer and on how it can engage, and oppose the simplifications of our times. I support all efforts – both in art field and at large – in that direction, and I am sure that the presence of critical contemporary art in Hermitage and in the city will contribute to pluralistic and healthy debate on for complexity, and artists’ beauty.”
Visit the Manifesta 10 site for more information on what to expect from the biennial, which runs June 28 through October 31.
Okay, it’s official: Spring is a cruel tease; we’re clearly entering a new Ice Age; it will never, ever, ever be warm again in New York City. In honor of today’s plummeting temperatures, I thought it might be nice to look back at a recent exhibition in Gstaad, Switzerland: Elevation 1049, curated by Neville Wakefield and Olympia Scarry. The duo gathered a bevy of Swiss artists to create site-specific works in and around the village, many of them involving snow, ice, and other features of the natural environment.
Scarry and Wakefield plan to possibly tour the concept to other locales in the future. If current trends keep up, they might as well look to their hometown: I’m guessing they’ll be able to commission frozen sculptures in the middle of Central Park as late as early June.
Below, a few ephemeral highlights from Elevation 1049 (the main image above is Olaf Breuning’s Snow Drawing, which turned sleds into kinetic brushes that made their marks on the terrain).
Claudia Comte, Tornado Kit
Christian Marclay, Bollywood Goes To Gstaad, 2013 (a collage of clips from Bollywood films filmed in or around the Swiss village).
All images courtesy of Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich.
MTVs’s RE:DEFINE exhibition opens this weekend at Dallas Contemporary; it’s on view through the closing auction and party on April 4, with all works also hosted online via Paddle8. A fundraiser to benefit the MTV-helmed HIV/AIDS charity Staying Alive Foundation, as well as the museum itself, RE:DEFINE kicks off a weeks-long spree of art events in Dallas: Julian Schnabel, Richard Phillips, and Paula Crown at Dallas Contemporary; Fredrik Vaerslev at The Power Station; David Bates at Nasher Sculpture Center; and the Dallas Art Fair, April 11–13.
RE:DEFINE is curated by The Future Tense and Peter Doroshenko, working in conjunction with the Goss-Michael Foundation. Artworks being auctioned include Chris Levine’s fluorescent-screenprint-with-Svwarovski-crystal portrait of the Queen, above, as well as sculptures by Sarah Lucas and Nicolas Lobo; painting by Josh Abelow, Angel Otero, and a (seemingly very undervalued) Chris Martin; a huge photograph of Lindsay Lohan by Richard Phillips; and much, much more.
Oh, and here’s where I really bury the lede: Yours Truly has a small painting in RE:DEFINE as well, marking perhaps the only time something I’ve made will share a room with something that Damien Hirst made. (Mine costs about 1/100th of what Damien’s costs. Also, it’s better. Just saying). You can bid on it here, starting March 21. I fully expect my market to expand quite rapidly (think Oscar Murillo + Lucien Smith, on steroids AND cocaine), so your investment is more than sound.
Visit the MTV RE:DEFINE site here for more information. And if you’re visiting Dallas in April, don’t forget George W. Bush’s debut solo exhibition at the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum (a shockingly sympathetic institution). The man may have blood on his hands, but I’ll admit he has a knack for painting dogs and cats, not to mention shower self-portraits.
Who could ever predict that ‘whimsical, flying condoms’ might become the art world’s sleeper meme for the spring season? I’ve already discussed Michael Mahalchick’s recently opened show, in which a poster of Keanu Reeves is decorated with brightly colored prophylactics; now, having finally made it to Jordan Wolfson’s exhibition at Zwirner, I can see that this mini-theme is officially ascendant (tumescent?). The centerpiece is Wolfson’s Raspberry Poser, a 13:54 looped video that combines live action, animation, and various digital effects. The camera zooms in and through a number of familiar and slightly generic places–New York City streets, the unpopulated interiors of plush apartments–over which a floppingly acrobatic condom cavorts, filled with what appear to be red, heart-shaped candies that periodically spill out all over the place. This is all set to a number of pop songs, including Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You and two versions of Beyonce’s Sweet Dreams. The musical segments are intercut with animations in which a tough-looking manchild (whom a catalog essay smartly identifies as a sort of grown-up version of the kid from Calvin & Hobbes) smokes cigarettes and, several times, self-eviscerates, his liberated organs doing a shuffling dance as he bleeds out.
All pretty normal, right? Just wait until you get to the bits where Wolfson himself appears as a generic ‘punk,’ walking around Paris in a leather jacket marked up to celebrate Iggy Pop, carrying a bag of baguettes. He checks his smartphone; harasses strangers; pulls his pants down and humps the grass; and, at one point, appears in hastily-applied blackface, chatting up some guy on a park bench.
The video is paired with a number of mixed-media works that combine found and original imagery. One work includes a stock image of a woman in the guise of Rosie the Riveter, her portrait marred by bumper stickers advertising CRIPPLED SEX or claiming that “Socrates was an asshole.”
On one hand, this all reeks strongly of disjointed shock-and-awe. But there’s something deeply compelling about whatever it is Wolfson is up to. He’s intelligently obscene, not afraid to entertain, and clearly interested–as are so many younger artists these days–in mirroring the informationally overloaded mindfuck that is our digitally enabled, 21st-century existence.
It’s also nice to think of some of these impolite ‘paintings’ (which reference masturbation, a certain 4-letter pejorative for the female anatomy, and poetic nonsense like “Choco Nose! Boom Murder! Money”) hanging on the wall of a collector who is trying, probably desperately, to not seem like a prude. Hey, maybe they’ll end up at Leo’s house! The Wolf of Wall Street star is clearly an aficionado of the next wave of flying-condom-based practice; he was chatting up gallery staff alongside Tobey Maguire when I visited.
I’m not going to pretend to know what Michael Mahalchick’s exhibition, “Last Arrangements,” is about. The show–which opened over the weekend, and is on view at Louis B James through April 26–contains sculptures along with found posters and other objects that relate to a mixed-bag of pop cultural touchstones: My Own Private Idaho; Kate Moss; the band Motorhead; Jay-Z. The latter hip-hop star is represented by a collage work containing a print out of the lyrics to “Picasso Baby,” the song that Hova endurance-rapped at Pace last year. (Mahalchick, who is very tall, and very white, enacted his own version of that performance at Louis B James not so long ago). There are also mixed-media sculptures incorporating odd things (bear tchotchkes, trashy paperbacks). Oh, and those posters–none of them are presented in their natural state. Mahalchick takes the advertisement for Gus van Sant’s film and augments it with colorful condoms, so that it looks like a clueless Reeves is being harassed by radioactive cartoon sperm. A Calvin Klein advertisement featuring Moss is altered with latex rubber and pearls.
If you’re looking for theoretical guidance, the exhibition’s press release–which is either an earnest attempt at explanation, or a winking parody of obtuse press releases, or a bit of both–won’t be much help. Your best bet is simply to dive into the weirdness and see if it moves you.
The art market is a weird, often depressing thing. I’ve got a friend–an artist who also collects with some regularity–who possesses a semi-uncanny ability to sense when some young thing is about to explode onto the radar, dollar signs flashing in their eyes. One of the emerging talents he was talking up (back during 2012’s Independent fair in New York) was Oscar Murillo, whose oft-repeated origin story cast him as a janitor-cum-painter who was suddenly creating a whole lot of buzz. I remember being thoroughly unimpressed with the canvases in question (Murillo is often pegged as the ‘next Basquait’ or, less kindly, as a sort of Basquiat retread or copycat).
A lot has changed since then, as Carol Vogel’s weekend profile of the artist in the Times makes clear, and it’s given fodder to plenty–like Gallerist–who seem unconvinced of Murillo’s staying power. His readymade rags-to-riches story is encapsulated early in the piece: “That night, after fierce competition, ‘Untitled (burrito)’ sold for $322,870, more than six times its high $49,000 estimate. Only two years ago, Mr. Murillo, who was born in Colombia, was waking up at 5 a.m. to clean office buildings to cover his expenses at the Royal College of Art in London.”
It will certainly be interesting to see what happens to this new guard of artists who, at least in some sense, seem to merely be along for the ride as sales skyrocket according to some enigmatic backroom mathematics. “But almost any artist who gets that much attention so early on in his career is destined for failure,” says Allan Schartzman, an art advisor quoted in Vogel’s profile. So where will Murillo be in 2024, both as an artist and as a commodity? What about the members of the Still House Group, or any of the other hot tickets whose buy/sell/hold status is tracked by the newly launched ArtRank (formerly Sell You Later), which is currently touting Sam Moyer and Zak Prekop as #1 best bets for the under $30K and under $10K budget, respectively? (By the way, the site is also urging followers to ‘liquidate’ their Murillo holdings).
And anyway, what does it say about our values as a culture that we even care so much about a 28-year old painter making comparatively ‘crazy’ money from their work, when in 2013 the average Wall Street bonus was $121,900?