By Colin Darke Until July 23, Re:View Contemporary presents selected work from Wesley Taylor and Chitra Gopalakrishnan, two recent Cranbrook Academy of Art graduates. In viewing art, I am thrilled when I discover artists who think deeply and create unique art. Namely, I love to see those artists that create art that mirrors their unique, inquisitive view of their world. Wesley Taylor and Chitra Gopalakrishnan are two such artists. For me, the highlight of the show is their use of digital media. Their individual discoveries show that gifted artists can use a limited medium to engross viewers with distinct visual spaces. They add to the successes of Takashi Murakami, Mark Grotjahn, and Inka Essenhigh, each of whom create complex, layered, computer-sourced paintings that escape the limits of RGB color and digital printing. That is, there are several contemporary artists that use a visual language that initially employs the RGB color available through computers. Through the use of simple, non-mixed colors, clean lines, and often text, these artists reflect a post-pop appreciation of our current commercial society. These works reflect our consumer society because they reflect our consumption of glossy, flat, imagery throughout any given day through our computers, iPhones, iPads, etc. While this style of work has an immediate impact, its impact often disappears just as quickly. So this work runs the risk of pure graphic design in the guise of fine arts. Yet Taylor and Gopalakrishnan bring a depth to this medium, which captured my attention long after I left the show. Their respective “show stopper” pieces are Gopalakrishnan’s “The Song” and “The Prefect Human Being,” and Taylor’s “Color Fields with Bullet Proof.” Gopalakrishnan’s work arrests you visually with bold colors and a complex interplay of disjointing imagery of dolls, tissue, and (what appears to be) parasitic worms. In fact, Gopalakrishnan’s anchor imagery is the detailed parasitic worm imagery that creeps into her pieces. She manages to use this imagery to create beautiful pictures. She also manages to avoid the problem of layering too much imagery into a piece, which several artists that employ these techniques do not avoid. Both artists create safe havens for the viewer to rest his or her eye to avoid being overwhelmed (in a bad way) by the piece.
Taylor’s “Color Fields with Bullet Proof ” is probably the piece that will grab your attention when you first walk into the gallery. This piece consists of 18 square canvases that balance each other through a complex interplay of contrasts and sharp and blurred digital imagery. I enjoyed this piece because it approaches the line of being too complex and being too much out of the graphic design arena, but it does not go over the line. The artist knows when to hold back and create an unique experience for the viewer rather than mimicking an experience the viewer will have when they surf adverstisments on the internet or in a magazine. Another strong series of work is Gopalakrishnan’s “Sugar Allegories.” These are quiet pieces that are a stark contrast to the show as a whole, yet if you look closely she does use her worms to add an additional subtext. At first, these paintings are simple watercolor (possibly ink) brushstroke studies. But upon closer scrutiny the viewer is treated to the intricate dance of her parasitic worms.
Re:View Contemporary is located at 444 W. Willis St., Detroit, and it is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. You can contact them at 313-833-9000, and its website is reviewcontemporary.com.
On Friday, July 22 Taylor will perform Quantum Leap from 7 to 10 p.m. as part of the closing reception. The gallery advertises Taylor’s performance piece as “an installation/performance project that translates key principles of complex science into music and visual art.”
So I am fixing the placement of his eye, and I am smoothing the lines and adding more color to his skin -- the last go around was looking too Pop. I also wanted to make sure he looked like a bad guy-- but I don't want him to look like he is out of a video game
Until July 16, 2011, the Detroit Artists Market presents Unmentionables: The Underwear Show. Jack Summers and Gary Eleinko curated the show, and they used this platform to challenge established artists. They asked artists to create work based on this theme, so it was not a traditional call for entry process. Jack told me that because they “asked very established artists, [they] knew [the artists] would step up to the plate and ‘deliver’...which they did.”
The show’s theme creates a specific risk: artists would deliver immature work. It’s a theme that can inspire imagery that ranges from the erotic to the hamper. But the majority of the artists used the theme to challenge themselves as artists to create mature work.
My favorite piece is Topher Crowder’s Yelo Kiteh. In this piece, Crowder creates a strong, stylized image of an erotic, provocative African American woman etched on orange Plexiglas. He created the woman with belt buckles, wires, telephones, and other objects. She is seductive, and she conjures references of blaxploitation film and R. Crumb illustrations. Yet the medium and execution is purely original and purely Crowder.
I also enjoyed Claudia Shepard’s contribution to the show, Longing. It is a beautifully executed oil painting of negligee hung in a closet. The image initially strikes you as simply an attractive and delicate silk negligee. You then notice that the negligee appears torn. Then you notice that the silk imagery is contrasted harshly with a background stained with a dark blood red. The execution, composition, and titling of this work intrigues me.
There was one piece that I found in poor taste because the artist used the theme to create a piece about sexualizing adolescents. The piece is by Julie Lambert and titled My Little Pony L.H.O.O.Q. The piece consists of several panties (which appear to range in size from an adult to a child) repeated over a toy “my little pony” doll. To dispel any question about the artist’s intent, she titles her work with “L.H.O.O.Q.,” which is a reference to a work by Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp titled one of his ready-mades, a postcard image of Mona Lisa with a mustache, “L.H.O.O.Q.” as a pun based on it sounding like “she has a hot ass” when read aloud in French.
That piece aside, this is a strong show that brings together an eclectic group of artists that work in various media and with widely different and intriguing points of view.
The Detroit Artists Market is open from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays. It is located at 4719 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, just down from The Detroit Institute of Arts. Its website is www.detroitartistsmarket.org.
For a college final exam, I worked with a group of students to conceive of and participate in a performance art piece. We clashed on every idea. Our final idea frustrated me, because I thought it was devoid of any conceptual or artistic merit. The day of the final we were in the fine arts building’s basement. I only remember one other performance. One group displayed a very detailed, beautiful drawing. Then each group member took a turn and erased the drawing (I only later discovered this concept mirrored a conceptual piece by Robert Rauschenberg where he erased a William de Kooning drawing). I remember vaguely the other groups who had elaborate videos and performances. My group turned the lights off, and then we took turns and walked across the floor- - the floor was dirty with sand and the room was cavernous. We all had different cadences—someone kicked a plastic ball – and at the end we all walked together in a muffled shifting through the room. In his class critique, the professor described our work as monotonous, frustrating, and borderline pointless. This, in his viewpoint, showed that we understood contemporary art and we received an A. We deserved a D. Actually, in this professor’s contemporary art philosophy, we deserved an A. In my view, we deserved a D --- maybe a C. I believe that there are two sides to conceptual art (at least for me to write about the subject, it is easier if I can simplify conceptual art into two categories). On one side, there are artists that demand that you contemplate deep issues through an unfamiliar, creative new language – their language to tell, or better yet, open up a dialogue of questions about difficult concepts. On the other side, there are artists that demand that you acquiesce to them knowing better. They are smarter than you. They think deeper than you. They are Artists, and you are not. This group irritates me since they often rehash ideas that other artists explored at the conceptual art’s birth. An idea can only be original once. So these artists bask in self-importance while they skim the top of substantive issues, which results in an insult to the viewer and to their predecessors in this field. In my view, Barely There is great because you get to see both sides. In fact, I believe that you can get an immersive education in conceptual art if you attend Barely There. My review of the show breaks down the pieces showcased by Barely There into three categories. First, I discuss one of the important historical pieces. Second, I discuss one piece that frustrates me, and which adds to the discussion regarding the purpose of conceptual art and the duty of the artist who puts forward conceptual art. Third and finally, I discuss two pieces that inspire me and sparked a conversation in my head about what is good about conceptual art. Because this show hits all three of these categories, I think it is a brilliant example of MOCAD’s mission to educate the public. Art History The show’s cornerstone piece is a pivotal video in conceptual art, the World Question Center, 1969. James Lee Byars created this piece. His performance work shows the value in conceptual art. It can force us to ask questions and add substance to what may be the seemingly mundane of the everyday. Namely, all of us have questions, none of us have sufficient answers, and this highlights the beauty of communal interaction. The piece consists of a group of artists, which includes Byars, who sat at a call-in center. Prior to the live broadcast on Belgian T.V., various intellectuals were asked to call into the broadcast with an important question. And that was it. Byars merely acknowledged the questions—Byers offered no answers. Art Misery There is one piece that is merely a blue pen without a cap positioned at an angle by a red pen cap. It is by Wilfredo Prieto and titled Infidelity. While it invokes an initial laugh at its title’s implication, this piece falls flat as an original conceptual piece when compared with the other pieces in the show. In my mind, this piece fails because it echoes Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. In 1917, Marcel Duchamp entered a urinal into a show and titled the urinal Fountain. Through this act, Duchamp expressed his belief that the artist defines the art and not the viewer. He selected the urinal, he positioned it at a different angle, he created a new context for the object, and through this process he highlighted the value of the artist’s intellectual analysis of an object (his “readymades”) in contrast to an artist’s physical ability to create a piece of art. How does Infidelity add to this important piece? I enjoy conceptual art, but the artist needs to challenge himself or herself before I can appreciate his or her particular idea. As noted, these discussions and these types of questions are only original once. Art Ecstasy There are two pieces that highlight particularly deep thought by extraordinarily unique and creative voices. The first is a remarkable multiple faceted piece that the artist presents in several stages. The artist was inspired by his thoughts on his father’s death. The artist is Pablo Helguera and the piece is titled Endingness, 2005. The artist provides an essay on memory, death, and his art practice. He also provides a movable art sculpture, which consists of geometrical shapes. The shapes are made of wax and framed with wood and the artist carved his essay into the wax. You can see the artist’s hand at work, and you can see an artist that is open emotionally to let viewers experience the artist’s process as the artist explores difficult questions. The final element is an orchestral score that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performed at MOCAD. The second piece was Love Lettering, 2002, by the brother and sister art team Rivane and Sergio Neuenschwander. Rivane is the sister artist, and her brother Sergio is a neuroscientist. This is a beautifully quiet piece. This collaboration illustrates what is great about conceptual art. It engrosses viewers through a single-channel video where color saturated fish swim through the screen with pieces of a love letter attached to their tails. The words are taken out of context, which highlights fleeting, fragmented memories of love and lost. You get the tragic sense of someone that tries to grasp a beautiful memory, yet is unable to grasp it fully. The piece also has an organic, industrial soundtrack, which accompanies the piece without competing with the gentle and quiet ephemeral strength of the main imagery of the piece. There are other pieces, but these are the ones that resonated with me the most. The piece that frustrated me the most also sparked the most discussions after I saw the show a second time. Does that fact validate it? Please see the show and let me know your thoughts.