Author Archives: rigouvasia

“Nonchalance in a Cult of Self”

In a mix of vintage with modern pieces, African prints with polka dots and plaid, flamboyant colors with classic lines, Dandy Lion brings together more than twenty-five established and emerging photographers and filmmakers in an attempt to redefine common stereotypes and preconceived notions about black men and black masculinity.

Kia Chenelle, The Waiting Man I, 2013

Kia Chenelle, The Waiting Man I, 2013

Victorian and Edwardian era Europe influences meet the contemporary Black Dandy in urban, rural –wildlife even– literal and abstract landscapes across the globe. In leopard suits and top hats, bow ties of colorful patterns and vibrant ensembles, these young, black men of meticulous grooming and very particular ideas of fashion and style prove that it is not all about playing dress up. With the Black dandyism and the photographic documentation thereof growing around the world, more than fabrics and fashion-consciousness are at stake. Deconstructing black men representation in popular culture, the twenty-first century dandies, challenge stereotypical images of masculinity within the global Black community, stressing the importance of self-actualization, self-importance and self-expression. Exploring notions of belonging and not belonging ­­–some sort of cultural resistance reflected in their clothing choices and elegant style– these bona fide rebels provide an alternative perspective recreating modern narratives of the contemporary Black man.

Dandyism is not a cult, it’s a lifestyle. It’s attitude –a choice that rises above dress choices and hair neat, clean and well-groomed. “Be clear: every brother in a zoot suit and bow tie does not a dandy make,” explains the exhibit curator Shantrelle P. Lewis. What more is there? As Baudelaire wrote some fifty years ago, “Dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind. Thus, in his eyes, enamored as he is above all of distinction, perfection in dress consists in absolute simplicity, which is, indeed, the best way of being distinguished. What then can this passion be, which has crystallized into a doctrine, and has formed a number of outstanding devotees, this unwritten code that has molded so proud a brotherhood? It is, above all, the burning desire to create a personal form of originality, within the external limits of social conventions.”

Like Baudelaire’s definition of dandyism, Dandy Lion moves beyond external appearances –that might, at first, seem of superficial nature­­– and across the fine line of style and substance. What it essentially showcases is the aesthetic sensibilities of African descent males –how and why they strategically use their clothing choices to define their identity in constantly changing cultural and political contexts. Functioning as status symbols, underneath their well-cut suits contemporary black dandies are fighters and conquerors –true to the exhibit’s title, lions at heart.

Allison Janae Hamilton, Tell me no tales, 2013

Allison Janae Hamilton, Tell me no tales, 2013

“Experimental Forms” –On Liz Larner at the Art Institute of Chicago

Liz Larner, Art Institute of Chicago

Liz Larner, Art Institute of Chicago

Experimenting with reinterpretations of standard geometric shapes, Los Angeles based artist Liz Larner, has added a modern touch on Chicago’s skyline –two three-dimensional, toy-like objects located on the Bluhm Family Terrace on the third level of the museum’s Modern Wing.

Larner’s works, the shimmering stainless steel, X (2013,) and the delicate colorful steel version of a cube, 6 (2010-11,) play with experimental materials, forms and the physicality of objects in space, in a playful installation that is open to interpretation. Creating connections between the artist, the viewer and the environment surrounding us, she strategically positions the two sculptures creating a site-specific context –an invitation to the public to experience and interact with the work itself. Laying on an expansive wooden platform, the sculptures are exposed to the elements and to the viewers, who are invited to step onto the platform for a closer look of their inside and the outside —in the case of X, viewers may enter the physical space of the form itself.

Viewed against the backdrop of Millennium Park –an important addition to the city’s art collection– and Chicago’s skyline, Larner’s work is challenging the viewer to create new experiences of spaces familiar. Between fragility and concrete forms, minimalism and futuristic, sci-fi references, color and the absence thereof, each work remains open to interpretation. Prompting real-time encounter it triggers both the intellectual and the emotional capacities of the viewer. And if not, finding themselves on the platform it’s as good a time as any to simply take a picture.

Geiger > Welsh at Document

Installation view of Marcus Geiger sculpture and column covering

Installation view of Marcus Geiger sculpture and column covering

Emphasizing value in materiality Marcus Geiger (Vienna) meets Margaret Welsh (Chicago,) in a joined exhibition, co-curated by Michael Hall and Aron Gent, where low quality materials create high quality art.

After years of artistic hiatus, Welsh, has six object-paintings hanging at Document gallery –a single-room space dominated by a monumental cardboard sculpture. The arrangement of this monolithic structure –large cardboard pieces temporarily fixed together– reveals Geiger’s approach to both material and subject matter. With a history of questioning the inner workings of the art world, he is using the simplest of materials and the space as an extension of his canvas, as he is reconstructing the boundaries between value and worthlessness and blurring the lines between art, physical architecture and design. Ready-mades created by found objects that are deconstructed then put back together, surround the gallery walls. Welsh works with common paper bags that are torn apart creating some kind of a footprint. Then, connecting two at a time, she composes a final form that she later covers with latex paint sourced from home improvement stores.

Reprocessing materials that were meant for disposal, the two artists’ works peacefully coexist informing one another and creating a dialogue that moves beyond painting and sculpture, to link the symbolic and the literal, the personal and the universal –with Welsh’s works titled: “Lost Inside You,” and “Right Where I Want You”– at the same time prompting the viewer to approach art as an open-ended, processed-focused experience.

Installation view of Margaret Welsh’s Paintings

Installation view of Margaret Welsh’s Paintings