Monday, August 09, 2004
art art art art art art art
Julie Doucet made her debut in an underground magazine. After working away at various magazines, including Weirdo, she was nominated and won the Harvey Award for the best new talent. During her time with Weirdo magazine, she became inspired by Robert Crumb.
Ida Applebroog's art captures the cadences of the social and psychological deviations that dwell beneath the sanitized, orderly veneer of daily life. Seducing the viewer with its humorous edge and technical acuity at the same time that it confronts the painful violations in even the most nurturing relationships, her powerful work explores the frightening gulf between the real and the ideal through universal themes such as sexuality and power, the loss or corruption of innocence, guilt and penitence, and personal isolation in an intrusive world. Applebroog addresses these thorny issues essentially as a satirist, denouncing our lax, immoral society, revealing our base affectations, contradicting our stereotypes, and dashing our cherished icons with a sharp-edged, decidedly vitriolic, and often indignant point of view. Hers is a language of dislocation in which each work is constructed to be read image by image, like a succession of phrases. But while representationally forthright, her paintings give up their content only gradually; the nuanced subtexts of her pictures reveal a visual diction of rare precision, one that insists on telling a finely honed short story through elliptical liaisons and startling juxtapositions. Radical transformations ensue: myths and verities are stripped of certainty; innocence slips into experience; and safe havens become landscapes brimming with threat. In Applebroog's multifaceted worldview, humanity is a murky amalgam of positive and negative impulses, best observed through a cacophony of reflections and refractions that ultimately crystallize into a strongly personal vision.
The thing is, when you see it, because it's taken out of the narrative flow, you look and you think the speed is wrong. Or like in "Laverne and Shirley," which was called "(A)drift of Politics" - my first installation - there are two women. That was all about two-shots. They confront the world together; they face the world together. This was the end of the so-called nuclear family in America, meaning: Where is the father? Where is the mother? We are, as adolescent Americans, alone now. They're women, but girlish women. They go out; they work on an assembly line. When you see the original program, "Laverne and Shirley," they are working on a Coca-Cola bottle line. They finally take off their rubber gloves - this is around 1977 - and put the rubber gloves over the Coke bottles. Now with AIDS, unfortunately, there is a need for everything to have this rubber membrane. But here they cover the Coke bottles with these rubber gloves, and they leave the plant. They go out into the world. And they are their own nuclear family. I presented this work with another woman, Suzanne Kuffler. We were both doing our own work û but for me it was "Laverne and Shirley" - that we had to go out and face the world together, and at least I had another very bright woman to talk with. We wouldn't do collaborative work, but we would collaborate in getting the work out there. But I thought, it's really important not to change the speed and not to change the medium. "You don't speak from another voice. You speak from that voice." And with "Laverne and Shirley," for example, I took only the two shots and butt-edited them. Then I made subtitles, because I took the audio and I put it in a separate room. And I thought, "Let the audio be like a radio play when you go in there. And in this first room let this only be imagery - the "two shots." But you could read in the subtitles what they were saying in the frame. The subtitles went by so fast that you couldn't believe what they were saying.
If her format was obscure, her subjects weren't. The early films are in the classic diaristic mode of experimental film: shot in her bedroom, starring an array of objects both culture-constructed (Barbie, natch) and self-constructed (masks). Her main subject was herself, coming to terms with a pervasive 1980s culture of junk TV and mindless consumerism and finding some kind of comfort level there as a budding dyke-artiste. In the early films, she appears as a fragmented character, floating elusively in and out of the frame. But Jollies, made when she was 17, shows her as an increasingly bold presence in her own work. In overdub she reads some lines describing her sexual awakening: "It started in 1978 when I was in kindergarten. They were twins and I was a tomboy. I always thought of real clever things to say, like I love you." A brief visual counterpoint to these words is the famous Diane Arbus shot of twin little girls.
Benning's manipulations of her material show a surprising complexity. In spite of her youth she was increasingly regarded as an important video artist, with frequent showings at film festivals and museums and a Rockefeller grant at 19. During an interview with The Advocate in 1990, she showed a strong political bent too: "My dad said to me, 'You know, I'm really worried that all your work is just going to be on one subject.' And I was like, 'Yeah, my life.' He makes [experimental] films. What are his films about? They're about his life. It just so happens that his sexuality isn't something that people are going to label or talk about or say, 'He's the heterosexual artist.'"
Central to Darger's work is his 15,000 page, 12 volume, single-spaced, typewritten epic entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, as caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Darger exhibit curator Stephen Prokopoff summarizes the story:
The story recounts the wars between nations on an enormous and unnamed planet, of which Earth is a moon. The confict is provoked by the Glandelinians, who practice child enslavement. After hundreds of ferocious battles, the good Christian nation of Abbiennia forces the 'haughty' Glandelinians to give up their barbarous ways. The heroines of Darger's history are the seven Vivian sisters, Abbiennian princesses. They are aided in their struggles by a panoply of heroes, who are sometimes the author's alter-egos. The battles are full of vivid incident: charging armies, ominous captures, alarms and explosions, the appearances of demons and dragons.
Hundreds of watercolor paintings illustrate the Realms of the Unreal. Some are huge double-sided murals, painted on scrolls four feet high and ten feet long. Darger often employed collage or traced figures from comic strips and children's books, but his keen sense of composition and use of vivid color allowed him to create landscapes, battle scenes, portraits, and even an odalisque, of incredible intensity and beauty.
In inspiration her work is essentially classical. Nude and semi-nude females, shorn of any trappings that might express their individuality, contractually obliged to remain as silent and immobile as possible, posed vertically and arranged in a group composition on a horizontal plane — the sum effect is something like a painting by Poussin except for this one crucial difference: Beecroft’s subjects are not made of paint but of living flesh. To abstract from the life model in order to paint a timeless figure is one thing, but to abstract the life model herself is another. What appears as classicism in the first case becomes depersonalization and suppression of individuality in the second. The mathematical techniques of proportion utilized in the first case — the Golden Mean and the "rule of three" — become anorexia and girdles in the second. Fashion is used by Beecroft not to individuate but to homogenize, and even nudity is exploited not as an expression of sexuality but rather as a way of reducing the models to an appearance of sameness — nudity is, after all, the original uniform. An old art-historical distinction holds that romantic art is premised on the expression of the individual, whilst classic art suppresses the hand of the individual in favor of rationalism, formalism, and mathematical order.2 In the hands of Beecroft, however, classicism goes a step further: it is not only the individuality of the artist that is restrained, but the individuality of the subjects that is actively suppressed.
the content of Griffin's work overwhelms. But it is not the content alone that creates the particular force in his images. It is what is thought to be told and untold. It is a feeling that there is something withheld in these images, like a fragment that stands in place of the whole-a fragment that instead becomes a world.
Griffin creates stories through images that seem strangely intimate yet distant, at once knowable and somehow inconceivable. Each work provides a fragmented narrative-featuring animal characters in scenarios of exacting violence and wrenching sadness. These images appear incongruent-Griffin's fuzzy creatures are portrayed in ways that force a suspension of collective sentimentality. Here one finds the intersections of childhood and mourning, hip-hop vitality and ghetto death - frightfully real and fantastic�. To engage with this work is to be complicit in its unfolding fictions. Situations of mourning , loss and violence that lack certain biographies, or more specifically genealogies, that can be traced, fleshed out and rationally dealt with. The whole is not known nor does the fragment by its nature stand-in for the whole. The story is taken from the story teller; in this case, as the viewer unpacks the images they are made secure by the fictions one hopes exist, as an explanation, as a meaningful anger, which are drawn upon its surface. These images are given a history by the viewer.
The delicate scale and enticing colors of Laylah Ali's works on paper invite close scrutiny . Ali's first solo museum exhibition presents twenty-four works from the Greenheads and Attack of the Blueheads series. With their hybrid bodies, contrasting uniforms, and various accessories, Ali's attenuated figures raise difficult questions about identity and power struggles in contemporary society. At first the viewer may see the figures engaged in sinister or aggressive activities, but the apparent violence is mitigated by those figures who seem to offer assistance or hurry to the rescue. The similarities between figures often make it difficult to discern who wields power and for what ultimate purpose. Ali's open-ended narratives prompt the viewer to attempt to make sense of the odd, often violent acts being committed in this brightly colored, cartoonish world.
Following World War II, a mood of near-despair brought process and performance to the forefront of the artworld. Art as contemplative object now seemed irrelevant: the Holocaust, the atom bomb, and the guilt associated with these disasters sparked a monumental shift in consciousness. In the United States, action painting heralded the transition from two-dimensional representation to an art that, in the succeeding fifty years, would embrace almost every medium and every form. Europe and Asia saw similar shifts. By the early 1960s, artists had begun to use their bodies as an extended medium creating actions that would shock the public into confronting the inescapable realities of sex, aggression, greed, and destruction.
trinh t. minh-ha
"identity...has long been a notion that relies on the concept of an essential, authentic core that remains hidden to one's consciousness and that requires the elimination of all that is considered foreign or not true to the self, that is to say, not-I, other." What makes you who you are is primarily that there is a "not-you" out there; each self is defined by having a not-self, an other, who enables one to occupy the "self" position. This way of thinking should be fairly familiar, by this point in the semester; it's drawing on the same logic as Saussure's negative relations of value and Derrida's binary oppositions.
Thus the concept "self" or "identity" is held in place, is stabilized, by being paired with its binary opposite, "other." Being a self requires establishing a boundary between self and other, and maintaining/enforcing that boundary at all costs. Thus an equation is set up, whereby Subject A is invested in having a stable identity, and achieves that (in part) by casting itself as not-B. Subject A then wants B to be not-A consistently and constantly. B then achieves a stable position (in relation to A, and in terms set by A), but usually doesn't have that position recognized as "self" or "subject" in the way A does. A then needs some form of power to keep B in the position A desires B to stay in. A uses that power to dictate the terms in which B can make claims to identity or selfhood.
The obvious problem, as Trinh and other theorists point out, is that B never gets to become a self, since B is always kept by A in the position of being other, so that A can be a self. B's place and social function is thus always relative to A's selfhood. But this is also a problem for A, who is just as structured by this binary opposition as B is
One of her most important works, a pencil drawing entitled, Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features attempts to reconcile her experiences as a light-skinned black woman in a racist society. In addition, this comprehensive survey of Piper's 35-year career includes several remarkable works in video and audio from 1968 to 1991, outlining her early experimentation with new media in conjunction with her ongoing interests in Conceptualism, racism and identity.
She began her career at a time when the art world was just beginning to focus on the relationship between the existence of a mass media society and how the implements of this society --television, film, and photography, among others-- could be used to further reinforce and redefine the icons and the rites of this rapidly expanding popular culture.
In this context, Sherman was able to achieve almost instantaneous success, though some critics doubted whether her work was the result of insight into the media mind, or simply, constant unquestioning exposure to the same forces and stereotypes that she sought to critique. As more and more artists turned to the media as the subject of their artistic expression, as as an unprecedented number of them did during the 1980s, Sherman expanded her work beyond her recreation of "film stills", and used her technique of photographic parody to comment on other vehicles of gender stereotype: the magazine centerfold, the fashion spread, advertising, children's literature, formal portraiture, historical records, and, most recently, mannequins.