Monthly Archives: November 2016

Review: MCA Talk on the topic of New Mythologies for the Future with Prof. Nora Taylor

On Oct. 25th, 2016, I went to an art discussion at the Museum of Contemporary Art on the topic of New Mythologies for the Future. Nora Taylor, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Ivy Wilson, associate professor of English and faculty affiliate in Asian American Studies at Northwestern University participated in the discussion with Naomi Beckwith, curator for the exhibition The Propeller Group. 

The Propeller Group is an artist group based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Two of the group members, Matt Lucero and Tuan Andrew Nguyen, have studied and lived in the United States of America. Including the third member, Phunam, the Propeller Group produces artworks in multiple art mediums including paintings, fabrics, sculptures, media productions. Since the establishment in 2006, The Propeller Group has attracted attentions from the public from both commercial video works and fine arts. The exhibition The Propeller Group at the MCA collects a wide range of types of works by the artists from the past five years and the videos are the highlights of the entire exhibition.

The discussion of the New Mythologies for the Future featured some interesting questions that are related to the exhibition and the artists. The discussion started with an explanation of the works and the intention of the exhibition which is to show viewers in the US the perspectives of Vietnamese artists. Because of the Vietnamese War, two countries, especially Vietnam have gone through traumatic experiences and gradually move towards the start of a post-war situation. Artists from Vietnam frequently face the problem of unable to make art freely due to the government control. The Propeller Group, artists who have a greater degree of freedom in art making in the US, touches on some sentimental and taboo topics in their commercial works and tries to inject a new possibility in Vietnamese art circles.

https://mcachicago.org/Exhibitions/2016/The-Propeller-Group

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The Propeller Group, still from The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014. © The Propeller Group Courtesy of James Cohan, New York

Chicago EXPO (Review #1)

Being invited to Chicago EXPO 2016, I had the honor of previewing the show and was able to gain a

first-hand experience before being influenced by others pinions. For someone who has limited experiences visiting art fairs, I’d make myself a fool if I write this review by comparing the pros and cons about Chicago EXPO. However, I’d still like to describe my experiences about this most-popular art fair in Chicago, and maybe my fresh eyes can capture a subtle sense in this overwhelming art festival.

I visited the exhibition twice; once before it was open to the public and another time with the crowd. Even though the preview was only open to limited people, I was still overwhelmed by the size of the venue and the number of booths in there.

For the preview, the majority of the people were either invited by the event or taken as a plus-one. For my understanding, these people were mostly collectors and artists, and the venue purposely invited them before the opening because they would have a better environment for conversations with the

dealers and a higher chance opening their check books. As a plus-one, I understood that I wasn’t one

of the elites but I purposely dressed up and purchased a glass of wine that was too pricy for a 6 oz cup.

While paying close attention on my posture and surrounding, I tried my best to focus on the works in

front of me like I was in a museum, but I soon realized that my effort was naive: I was either surprised by the price on the wall, or I was distracted by the dealers questions about if I had any questions. My effort to reading the works soon became glancing, and even when my brain started consciously refuse processing all of the exciting visualizations, my eyes were quickly attracted by the next interesting thing. I realized: going to an art fair is no less tiring than running a marathon.

For both of my visits, I paid a close attention on galleries from China and I spent more time analyzing

the works at these booths. The names of famous galleries like PACE, Pearl Lam and Red Brick have attracted my eyes, but their works told a different story. When visiting galleries from or related to China, I care more about the presentation than the quality of the works. Pace Gallery, for example,

chose most of their artworks by western artists, including Sol Lewitt and Rauschenberg. While

understanding their market strategy, I definitely would like to see more works done by artists from China. In occasions like Chicago EXPO, galleries should consider the importance of demonstrating and advocating arts that’s not in the center of the western context. I understand that the purpose of art fairs are always money-driven so that international galleries should alway put the primary market first. But I also believe that shedding more lights on foreign artists is essential for establishing an international context.

If I have to pick ONE thing that I absolutely hated in Chicago EXPO, I’d choose the SAIC booth without hesitation. It was absolutely not necessary to make the booth a curatorial space since it looked nothing more than an expensive garage. The chosen artworks were created by SAIC students graduated from last semester, and their talents and creativity were bluntly used for advertising the school. While I was pleased to see that just-graduated students were able to present their works in such important venue, I was much more angry at the fact that the school showed no effort to advocate for them. To a point, I was too shamed to say that I was a student

from SAIC because neither the works nor the curatorial statement demonstrated SAIC students

really talents. Alter spending over 10 minutes of inner-meditation, I finally drew a conclusion that was comforting enough for me to calm down: as long as “Chicago EXPO” holds a weight on an impressive cover letter, who cares what really happened in the show? As long as the price was good, even schools like SAIC would be bending towards the dollars, right?

SAIC Fall BFA Show 2016

Including more than 200 undergraduate students, SAIC BFA show in Fall 2016 opened on November 19th at Sullivan Galleries.

Due to the conflict to the annual art sale at SAIC, only a few people visited the BFA show at the opening. One advantage of having that conflict at the opening is that the viewers who are the most eager were able to explore the most of the space, time, and freedom at the show. I, as one of the eager visitors, stepped into Sullivan Galleries the moment when the door opened.

Personally, I find this year’s BFA show more engaging because some of my good friends have their works at the show. The difference between seeing a regular art show v.s. a graduation show is my familiarity about the artists. I was able to recognize some of the works without checking the names of the artist. My strong knowledge about the artists has reinforced my understanding of the works and the concepts. On the one hand, I was able to connect with some of the pieces more. On the other hand, my interpretation has been rudely distracted by my emotional/sensational familiarity.

Standing from a biased perspective as a viewer, I later tried to be an honest friend by criticizing Eddie Shen, who places his work at the gallery entrance, for “having a good idea but a shitty craftsmanship.” The idea of hiding a magnet inside of the pedestal and having calabashes floating freely is excellent. In fact, it could be one of the best ideas in the entire show, in my opinion. But the presentation of the overall work is a disappointment: exposed hot glue, uneven paint on the pedestal, a non-functional earphone, and badly-cut edges. The closer I look, the more imperfections reveal.

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My overall experience of viewing this piece is very similar to a typical love story: falling in love at first sight but falling out of love with disappointments and bitterness. However, this experience isn’t too surprising to me due to my familiarity to my dearest friend.

One of my favorite works at the show is untitled. Besides the knowledge of the artist’s name, Amadeo Morelos, I have no further information about the work nor the artist practice. However, I’m deeply in love with the presentation and the concept. Underwears, let’s assume this is the title of the works for an apparent reason, is simply smart, elegant, fun and extremely attractive.

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The artist chooses G-strings, an erotic yet meaningful symbol of male bodies, and expands its representation and presentation with different colors of the “skins” and sizes of genitals to test audiences acceptance and recognition of homosexuality and other controversial topics.

When starring at these playful objects, for the first in my life, I had a lustful fantasy at the school art gallery.

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Chillfest

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SAIC Holiday Art Sale

By Nick Giorgini

The SAIC Holiday Art Sale was an interesting experience, as I participated in it myself.  I had never been involved in any sort of art sale as a seller before, only as a viewer.  There are several different strategies for these sales.  Some artists created work specifically for the sale, like small pottery, laser cut jewelry or scarves.  Other artists, like myself, were selling work that they had created for themselves or in exploration that they just happened to be selling.  In my case I was selling paintings and sculptures that were very subjective and required a much larger interest than small pieces for someone to purchase.  There were also a few strategies toward selling either of these types of work.  Some artists had a spiel that they had prepared and told each passing customer, while some simply answered questions if the customers had any.  I chose the latter method for my work and it seemed to work well.  I was not interested in having some prepared explanation for my work but rather having individual conversations with people that were already interested.  I chose this method because I think it’s more effective to increase people’s interest through explanation rather than create it by explaining everything to everyone.

It’s interesting to be involved in the selling of one’s work as the artist.  As an artist, I typically don’t think about selling my work while I’m making it.  My attitude is that if it sells that’s great but if it doesn’t it’s fine.  Having fine art in an art sale setting is peculiar.  It changes the atmosphere of art that is meant for a gallery setting.  I had one person who told me my paintings were terribly underpriced and explained to him that we are all students who typically haven’t sold much of our work.  Also, being at a sale changes how an artist prices their work because they are there to sell the work, whereas in a gallery typically a gallerist would handle that and is much more experienced with it.

Overall, it was a great eye opening experience of how art can be sold and how people get interested and invested in a work.  The most important piece of information that I learned was how subjective art is.  I was aware of the subjectivity of art, but actually seeing it in such a large setting is something entirely different than being aware of it.  The vast difference in people’s opinions, from the people that walk but without so much as a glance to the people that are extremely interested is somewhat shocking to experience for the first time.  The art sale was a wonderful experience that I would participate in again.  It is a completely different event as a seller rather than a buyer or observer.

Symposium

https://arts.uchicago.edu/event/symposium-conserving-industrial-materials-and-processes-art

Beauty and the Beast

https://mcachicago.org/Calendar/2016/12/Julie-Muz-Mat-Fraser-Beauty-And-The-Beast

The MCA is hosting a modern take on the classic Beauty and the Beast tale, featuring Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser. Tickets are now on sale.

Bernard Perlin

Unabridged Bookstore will be hosting a Q&A session with Michael Schreiber, regarding his book “One Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin.” Bernard Perlin was a 20th century painter, working primarily with queer and political themes.

Here’s the link to the event:

http://www.unabridgedbookstore.com/event/one-man-show-life-and-art-bernard-perlin

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present Review

 

At the entrance of Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is a dimly lit entrance, a setting that quietly echoes the contemplation that frames the artist’s works. As with all major exhibitions, the show begins with a brief background of the artist; with phrases that embody and reflect a man of exemplary philanthropy, scholar, and visionary. Coincidentally, this description mirrors the language much like that of the philosophies of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s, with the personalized touch of context with mentions of constructivism and Eastern European histories of the Bauhauss.

The exhibition is curated chronologically, with each new area focusing specifically on a different medium, such as oil on untreated canvas, photograms and photomontages, letterpress, cinema, and plexigas works. Within the realms of a curatorial critique, this seemed to somewhat simplify Moholy-Nagy’s work in a way that is reductive instead of additive of the initial statement at the entryway of the exhibition. Repeatedly, I found that descriptions of a group of works were placed in counterintuitive spots in relation to the group that they were supposed to supply commentary for.

Aside from the domain of curatorial critique, the works that I took the most interest in were ones that embodied or contrasted the initial quotations from Moholy-Nagy, “Art must be matched to its moment” and “The illiterate of the future will be ignorant not of writing but photography”.  In relation to the first quote, is the contextual considerations of Moholy-Nagy living in several industrial cities in Europe during the rise of Nazism. His earliest paintings include several oils on untreated burlap, the first titled Radio and Railway Landscape, 1919/1920 and the second Tilled Fields Painting, 1920/21. Both pieces depict a type of abstraction of the factory and mechanized immersive lifestyle that Moholy-Nagy was growing a part of.

A separate series that seemed to politically situate itself within the realm of what is considered art and the attitudes that surrounded much of Eastern Europe, were the three enamel paintings, Construction in Enamel One, Construction in Enamel Two, and Construction in Enamel Three. I particularly favored these pieces in how they were exactly the same, except for size, and they seemed to defy all that was considered a painting. In many ways, it could be argued that this was a confrontation to “sameness,” or an attitude that was evidently promoted by eugenics in Germany in WWII.

Lastly, I focused on a group of photographs which seemed to transcend its medium and the distance of time, and featured images shot from the top of the Berlin Radio Tower. According to the curatorial text, Moholy-Nagy’s intention was that “claiming an idea was not as important as communicating it”.  At the time, 1928-1929, the tower was new to the city and was an exciting advancement of public technology and infrastructure. What I appreciate most about these images is the perspective from the top down; a metaphor that seems to demonstrate not only Moholy-Nagy’s fondness for the Berlin Radio Tower as a spectacle, but that his view seems to conquer it as such a spectacle. Such a conquest through vision seems to parallel the attitudes of industry, to embrace new advancements in technology, while simultaneously challenging for new ones.