POST BY PADDY JOHNSON AND KAREN ARCHEY
Observing a curatorial echo chamber privileging appropriation and conceptualism, art critic Jerry Saltz made his own list of artists engaging the plastic arts after 1999. The writer selected nineteen women and fourteen men — thirty-three in total in keeping with the Younger Than Jesus triennial — none of whom have been in a Whitney Biennial (with three exceptions). We consider this a challenge and respond with our own list of artists. The selection reflects our desire for a better integration of conceptual and material-based practices. We also remained dedicated to showcasing artists emerging after 1999. This is the second in a three part post. Part One here.
Kevin Bewersdorf maintains Maximum Sorrow, a website hosting diverse projects ranging from CD compilations of the artist’s latest music to a towel covered with the image of man carrying his son and animated gifs. The driving force behind the artist’s practice, which resembles a weird corporate cult, comes from an intense mental and spiritual practice. As the core teachings go,
The Marketplace is empty of everything but products; you are the Product, and therefore contribute to the market; Info is the free-flowing energy generated by your production and consumption. The INFOspirit, which encompasses all of these concepts, is both the state between the knowable and unknown, and mediocrity in its purist form.
I don’t quite get it all, but I’m told Bewersdorf meditates on these concepts several hours a day, so I’m sure he’s in the process of working it all out.
Melanie Schiff, Natalie 1 and Natalie 2, 2008, Archival Inkjet Print, 2 Panels, 50 x 40 inches.
Melanie Schiff's utopian landscapes and unapologetic use of hypersexualized androgynes recall fashion photography, and may account for her weaker moments. Schiff excels when she pairs her preoccupation with psychedelic culture with unobtrusive references to photographic history.
Wendy White, Flappy, 2008, Acrylic on four canvases, steel, aluminum, cement, foam, 70 x 72 x 9 inches. Image via: The artist. Wendy White is represented by Leo Koenig in New York and Galeria Moriarty in Madrid
A loosely defined sport – in this case soccer – meets 1980′s graffiti artists at a party in a giant stadium. That’s what we read in many of Wendy White’s paintings, though her process is fairly intuitive, so obviously this interpretation varies from piece to piece. White is included in our list of 33 artists for the muscular structure to her work. There’s precision to these paintings, but there’s also a bold aggression seldom equaled by contemporaries.
Annika Larsson, Poliisi, 2001, 17 minute loop. Video excerpt here.
No one can make a weird dude getting beaten up by the cops look as appealing or sexy as Annika Larsson. Poliisi, a slow-synced 17-minute video made in 2001, offers slow close-up pans of characters' faces and a mesmerizing, ooncing soundtrack. All of this may sound a little “club-video-esque,” but Larsson manages to critically meditate on masculinity in her entrancing video.
Walead Beshty, 3 sided picture (YRB), Color photographic paper, 78 x 50 inches, 2007. Wallspace
Walead Beshty splits his time between being an artist, professor, and writer and excels at all of his roles. Beshty's work vacillates between being outright political to being contemplative of the photo medium. His recent body of work takes photographic paper which he folds, exposes, and dips into chemicals, resulting in a beautiful version of a photogram that records its past as a three dimensional object. There are few artists working today that excel within so many mediums and boundaries.
Michael Mahalchick, For What it’s Worth, Installation. Image: Canada
Michael Mahalchick’s virtuoso eye for collecting and combining weird crap finds no equal. Banana thongs, an abortion tower and a weird plastic cast used for making penis ice cubes all find their way into For What It’s Worth, the artist’s last exhibition at Canada. Nowhere is the absurdity of our gross cultural consumption more apparent than in Mahalchick’s work.
Paul Slocum, You’re Not My Father, 2008, Screengrab. Video here.
To quote myself:
You're Not My Father, remakes a scene from Full House featuring Candice Cameron and Dave Coulier with the paid help of actors and fans. The new vignettes take place in a photocopy depot, an actors studio, and array of suburban homes, none matching the exact rhythm of the original dialog delivery.
By layering the original and re enacted pieces, Slocum's video may reveal a collective sympathy towards an essentially empty scene, but its real virtuosity lays in the musical composition. Carefully building a nuanced soundtrack whereby even the collective voice of its re-enactors never drowns out the source material, what might be an otherwise banal video collage eloquently reveals our personal response to nostalgic ephemera to be a whisper relative to the flat and highly constructed voice of pop culture.
Peter Coffin, Untitled (Free Jazz Mobile), 2007, Installation Le Confort Moderne, Poitiers, France. Andrew Kreps Gallery
Peter Coffin comically threads metanarratives of science, horticulture and art history, creating gems like Free Jazz Mobile. It isn't often that an artist takes subject matter that could plummet down the rabbit-hole of bad art and spin it into something almost poignant and definitely likable.
We have to admit: it's always a treat to discover a contemporary artist that works regularly with 16mm film. Rosalind Nashashibi's Bachelor Machines part 1 — a Marcel Duchamp reference — patiently explores the deck and crew of a cargo ship traveling through European waters. Nashashibi pairs the ocean's painterly landscape with drawn-out pans of ordinary objects to fill the dynamic 31 minute film. Though Nashashibi also works with collage and installation, her thoughtful film-based ruminations on the banal are by far her most successful efforts.
Marc Handelman’s creepy painted corporate camoflauge drapes a 19th century style landscape in his last show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Revealing the aesthetic political facades of painting during that time and its lineage since, Handelman actually makes the sublime feel dirty.
Dasha Shishkin, I Love You And I Can't Pretend. Such Beautiful Feet, 2007, Oil pastel, acrylic, and ink on paper, 84 x 120 inches. Dasha Shishkin is represented by Kantor Feuer and Zach Feuer
We don’t often have the chance to use the name Henri Toulouse-Lautrec around here, but despite variance in scale, Dasha Shishkin’s colorings certainly find similarity with the master. But unlike Toulouse-Lautrec, the loose narratives with Shishkin’s work above (a body of work first show in LA) are not based on people she knows but Franz Kafka’s First Sorrow. Shishkin’s paintings and drawings deftly explore life, death and eroticism.