[Editor's note: James Huckenpahler directed a project called Five Things from 2000-2003 (archived on his site). I had the pleasure of participating in the project, along with the author of this article, Jason Gubbiotti. I am delighted to keep the spirit of Five Things going and to plug James's efforts whenever possible! pf]
I have not written for a blog for more than 2 years. After writing for five things for a long time, I did not feel a need to state my opinions and preferences in a public forum. With that in hand, I felt good about writing a piece about the past month or two.
The majority of the art world was focused on Art Basel the week of June 13th and I was able to attend the openings of the fair and Liste 06. It is a lot of art to digest in 3 days, but it is possible. Here are my top fives for the Liste and Art Basel/ Art Unlimited.
1. Some of the galleries in the Liste presented solo shows of one of their artists. At Evergreene from Geneva, They were proposing a booth with Parisian artist Delphine Coindet. Her ” minimal kitch” sculptures and works on paper are quintessential examples of a movement taking place in France and Swtzerland which is a melange of the rigor of minimalism and the attitudes taken in POP art.
In the Liste, Coindet offers an installation of sculptures and two works on paper. What appears to be a wooden plank that leans against the wall with two perpendicular staggered boards laminated in pink and green flanks a multi colored sphere that is made of individual multi colored sheets of plexi that seems like it could be a necklace for a giant teen age girl. lacquered balls painted gold roll around on the floor while a grey drape flows through them. It is not the best installation that Coindet has made, but considering the rough and limited space of the Liste, Coindet’s work stands out form a lot of the glue and glitter.
Delphine Coindet, Venus, 2003
2. At Nosbaum and Reding from Luxembourg, they had a suite of abstract paintings on raw plywood from German artist Jens Wolf. This Berlin artist has in the past presented a wide range of takes on his very graphic motifs. From wall paintings to canvases that seems almost finished. What he had in Basel were a tight focused set that was a breath of fresh air. He will be having a solo show at the gallery at the end of June and I have been looking forward to it since Basel.
3. Jules de Belincourt has been catching my attention over the past few years. This frenchman educated in the states and living in Brooklyn was in both fairs, but since I saw his work first at LFL and it was kinda difficult to choose 5 from the Liste, I am inserting him in this group. Anyhow, Even though the type of paintings that Balincourt is making is really hip right now, I think he makes really interesting paintings. His 4 pieces in Paris in ” Notre Histoire…..” at Le Palaise de Tokyo stuck out like sore thumbs. His collegues were presenting large inflatable sculptures that tried to keep up with the vastness and chicness of the space, while belincourt’s paintings were humble, confident, wonky and inventive.
4. Alois Godinant was the recipient of the Prix de l’assurance National and was offered a nice space in the Liste to present his work. The unrepresented artist presented an expansive group of works that rested on the shoreline of a group show exhibited one of my favorite pieces in the LIste. It is about 8 stacks of soft covered books who reach about 30 inches in height and whose pages edges are tinted different colors. The books are interlocked by their pages and form a simple system that operates theoretically and formally.
5. Stuck in the corner of a both that was stuck in the corner of the basement of the List were 4 little gems by British artist Eline McGeorge at Hollybush Gardens. At the opening, the gallery was showing 2 wall reliefs, a floor piece and a video animation mounted on the wall. They are homegrown constructions that can be read as a misinterpretation of origami. In fact, there is nothing really spectacular or fantastic about her constructions. They are in fact though very aware of there potential. Maybe another artist would build them as a model for more monumental works, especially the floor piece. The video seemed a bit innocent too. It is not some elaborate computer program built with the most recent software but rather a running image that seems like it was born form a source who has not much understanding of it’s process. I found them discreetly profound.
1. Mattias Weischer is a young German painter whose work I first came across in the Italian pavilion in the last Venice Biennial. His small luscious paintings contain understanding, rigor and and a slight sense of humor. Most of all, Weischer is capable of making a small painting without having it seem precious or insufficient. The paintings are packed with information starting with their surface and application which introduce a trove of historical references. At times, the references in Weischer’s work become overwhelming and the viewer, or at least me starts to think about other artists from different Ã©poques rather than thinking about the painting at hand. His palette is also a curious one. Imagine Odd Nerdrum 30 years younger and listening to techno.
Mattias Weischer, Femsehtum (TV Tower), 2004
2. Ryan Gander’s piece in Art Unlimited is not the type of work that I normally find compelling. More and more I try to separate what I like from what I think is good and most of all trying not to allow my taste to hinder my curiosity. On that note, Gander ’s installation brought together ideas of access, power, curiosity and secret detention centers all to one point. I kept going back to it and was left with a set of questions and curiosities. It’s presence was clear, definitive and mysterious all at he same time.
3. Phillip Decrauzat is an artist that I learned about before moving to EU. Hailing from Lausanne, Switzerland, Decrozat painted almost the same exact paintings as Sylvan Lionni at the same time, same scales… kinda creepy. Anyhow, in Basel, Decrauzat was showing a black and white shaped canvas that resembled an old Frank Stella tied in a knot and tidied up a bit.. The piece though had all of the trade marks of his oeuvre. Black on top of white, shaped canvas while maintaining the reputation of minimalism, OP art and a little Swiss graphic design. The piece, was/ still is confident, direct and a bit groovy.
Decrauzat has a solo show up right now in NY at the Swiss Institute
Phillip Decrauzat, Mae West, 2005
4. I don’t know what # 4 is
5. Walking by Zurich’s Mai 36, I stumbled across one of my favorite artist, Manfred Pernice. Normally he makes singular sculptures that get unified into an installation. Under the the conditions of the art fair, Pernice provided us with a typical structure that slides in between a architectural sub-structure and home repair turned bad.
_____Zurich [ Monkeys with glasses]
The weekend before the opening of Art Basel, it seemed that Zurich was the town in Switzerland to be in. The galleries had great shows up and many of the people traveling far to come to the fair made it a point to go to Zurich to catch some great art. One show that was a specific treat was Laura Owens at the Kunsthalle Zurich. The tardis like space was an thorough overview of the past decade of this young painter hailing from Ca.
Full disclosure, I have not seen that many of her paintings in person and up close besides a few here and there. What I discovered immediately though was this expansive facility she has with materials and her willingness to let her paintings find new sources. The combination of these two have prevented her work from getting stale and formulaic. That doesn’t mean that Ms. Owens doesn’t have a repertoire of applications, motifs and a cast of characters. She does, and she uses them well.
One of the most revealing and insightful aspects to the show are two small rooms littered with small paintings that act as an image bank and experiments to larger more committed paintings. Individually, some of the canvases don’t really hold up. One might be a pink canvas with thin black noodles made from a pastry decorator that seems to resemble a fish net or a wonky grid, while another might be a sketch of a monkey, panda or a couple kissing that looks like it got lifted from a 100 year old french painting. Soem of them look like they were cut out of larger paintings and stretched. some look like exact copies of sections of other pieces.
All in all, the show made me a believer. Before this I liked her worked and appreciated her mixed salad of rigor and flat out silliness - there are plenty of other ingredients too, including spray paint and felt. The main key that this show stated and confirmed is that Ms. Owens did not paint herself into a corner. Unlike some of her colleagues, she does not lay down what a Laura Owens painting looks like and how it is made. Instead she installed a working armature that will allow her to move freely and produce interesting paintings for the years to come.
Laura Owens, untitled, 2004
____Being Jack White
About 6 years ago, a friend of mine told me to watch out for a band called the White Stripes. He said that it was a guy and a girl playing post modern AC/DC. Two weeks later in the Washington City Paper, I saw that they were playing at the Black Cat. Viola! So I went and I was not sure what to make of it. Every song sounded like Sabbath, The Stones but perhaps songs that were never written. It sounded nostalgic but pushed through the filter of Nirvana and some octane booster from the airport.
After listening to their CD’s , I realized that rock had made a turn. It had become highly self aware of itself. Since 1988, it became extremely difficult to rip a guitar solo and think that it was original or serious. Nirvana surely pulled rock from the grave and gave it a raw unpolished feel. They literally took rock into the 90’s. But Jack White perhaps had to deal with what was left, like making a painting after Ad Reinhardt made black paintings. He basically started over from scratch but knowing exactly what had come before. He peeled it back to drums, guitar and a mediocre voice. Some of it sounded like it was recorded in a tin shed. Within this, He had set up a set of rules that really directed and defined his band. 2 people, revved up blues and a sound that made your gear shifting hand swollen.
4 albums later I asked myself where this project was heading and how long it was going to stay fresh. Right form the start though, it had the strict image of KISS, never be seen without red, white and black on, took pointers on mythology from Alice Cooper, Ozzy and a bit of the Osmonds - brother and sister or ex lovers still in love. Keeping with that, Jack kept it in line, and big record contracts gave him the access to any sound he wanted. The last album, ” Get Behind Me Satan” was a bit of a surprise. Jack decided to break with his plan a bit and added some other instruments. This was the equivalent to Kubricks glass falling in “2001, A Space Odyssey”repetition.
But where then? Was Jack going to follow the Agnes Martin path which is revelation through repetition, Tom Nozkowski’s endless games that ravel into a cocoon. Perhaps it would be like Terry Winters who prefers generation and refinement. Maybe Jack would follow his colleague Karen O which would be more like “FUCK IT” and do what ever she wants and who cares.
Jack caught us off guard though. He formed another band with his old pals form Detroit and called it The Raconteurs. It was the perfect side step for Jack. The relieved him of being Jack White of the White Stripes and let him be the other one. If one thinks about it, the strategy gives him some time to figure out how to make the White Stripes fresh and vibrant again. His defense on NPR (excuse the quote from memory) “;It is like moving furniture from one hotel room to the next. There is only so much Meg and I can move. With these guys though, we can move a hell of a lot.”
So after a year of touring, what’s next?