Gallery Goings: from Pettibon to Collins


Brief recap of gallery exhibitions from October 2, 2013.

Aldo Tambellini We Are the Primitives of a New Era at James Cohan Gallery
Blows everything away. Read review here.

Raymond Pettibon To Wit at David Zwirner
Pettibon’s ongoing original narrative on America culture with his interest in language, humor, film noir, baseball, and surfing now includes personal expositions on his family (wife, son, dog). 

David Noonan at Foxy Productions
Theatrical in content, David Noonan’s de-sconstructed works usually hold a mythologized quality to them that’s sooky and enchanted. The interest in his new works that appropriate images of Butoh (Japanese experimental theater) lies less in the abstracted imagery and more in the politicized content the group embodies. 

Michael Raedecker at Andrea Rosen Gallery
While it may be tempting to discuss this work solely in terms of its formal qualities, it seems far more interesting to discuss the embodiment of suburbian norms through seriality and literal inversion in a nearly post-apocalyptic landscape.

Damian Ortega at Gladstone Gallery
Twenty-five suspended steel objects, each lit by overhead lights, cast shadows of the alphabet. Considered this a spatial call for a new language. STUNNING. (see image)

Phil Collins at Tanya Bodakar Gallery
Installations where the viewer must participate in order to fully comprehend the work aren’t really where my interests lie but Collin’s video The Meaning of Style is a mesmerizing commentary on the appropriation of subcultures (in this case, UK Skinhead culture). 

Aldo Tambellini – Making the Void Visible


REVIEW: Aldo Tambellini – We Are The Primitives of a New Era: Paintings and Projections 1961-1989 at James Cohan Gallery

For Void is, like Darkness and Silence, a negation, but a negation that does away with every this and here, in order that the wholly other may become actual. – Rudolph Otto

Aldo Tambillini’s We Are The Primitives of a New Era is nothing short of a sensory revelation. An immersive, disorienting, and transformative installation of projections (a configuration of older works in a new arrangement by Tambellini), it feels like entering The Twilight Zone by way of A Clockwork Orange. Six projections of blackness, spheres, and phrases surround on three walls while one overhead projector swirls phrases from Tambellini’s Manifesto Series onto the floor. A static hum permeates the room while bursts of a space-shuttle launch countdown punctuates the space. Formally succinct, the collection of his accompanying paintings depicting the time/space sphere are ridiculously powerful in their simplicity. There is much to process here, none of which is an easy contemplation: origins and future of the universe, the infinity of time. It’s a simultaneously terrifying and promising proposition. In short, the void here offers the thrilling possibility of accessing what we cannot know.

Profound blackness is the beginning of new visions. – Aldo Tambellini

Featuring works from 1961-1989, We Are The Primitives of a New Era is thoroughly of the moment. At the forefront of new media and video in the 1960s, Tambellini thrives in a contemporary environment where the ever-changing advancements in technology dictate how we live our lives. Positioned at a perpetual tech evolvement along with new modes of thinking that contemplate how this technology and blackness shape our socio-political and spiritual lives, his work imbues a universal relevancy. What we’re left with is wondering: what do we do after the void is made visible? Scientists grapple with a simple dilemma in the hypothesis that Dark Matter (a virtually undetectable matter that neither emits nor absorbs light) constitutes a significant portion of the universe and this dark matter is responsible for the formation of the universe. Thus, in this theory, we are all born from an unseeable darkness. It’s the possibilities that emerge from the presence of such blackness that are so terribly exciting.

Black is the beginning. It is birth, the oneness of all, the expansion of consciousness in all directions. – Aldo Tambellini

Blackness has taken over contemporary philosophy, artistic practice, and filmmaking as a way to understand the world around us. Embodying horror, the post-apocalypse, origins and endings, the void has become a crucial signifier in processing a new way of being. Simply, the void is a possibility. And while black metal and cultural theorists dominate contemporary provocations for darkness, artist Aldo Tambellini has been exploring “Black” for over fifty years with his videos, paintings, and installations. The title of his exhibition at James Cohan Gallery, We Are The Primitives of a New Era, is perpetual. We are, as we were over a half century ago, in the process of becoming.

Aldo Tambellini’s We Are The Primitives of a New Era continues through October 19, 2013 at James Cohan Gallery in New York. Please visit the exhibition page for more installation images and a fantastic video of the piece. A screening of his Black Film Series screens at the Museum of Modern Art on October 18.

On the Desperate Edge of Now – Folkert de Jong

Dutch artist Folkert de Jong’s sculptural works are a grotesque and playful representation of international social histories. He establishes new narratives through the deconstruction of the past (referencing art history, warfare, colonialism, assassinations) assembled in figurative forms so that the viewer can recognize and remember our collective history.

His characters emerge through the time barrier like tarred ghosts, an evocation of negative energies brought forth to enlighten and entertain. These sculptures aesthetically ooze with attraction and repulsion; this push/pull creates a rupture that becomes our portal into an at once familiar and foreign struggle. Carnivalesque costumes, sickeningly sweet colors, and devilish grins are accompanied with barrels of oil, decapitated heads, and rifles. Humor is used to translate the horror and make it palatable. As the bad twin to characters in a Disneyland ride (think Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean) De Jong’s figures urgently perform and unfold the history of human drama. These ‘tableaus’ are dropped directly into our present – the gallery, the museum, the studio are the background settings. Here is where time and space collapses as the past merges seamlessly into the now. These are not the desolate and isolated wastelands of Ed Kienholz, they are frighteningly alive ghosts beckoning us join their ‘danse macabre’.

As sheer material form, the sculptures are wholly hand-made and consist of Styrofoam, polyurethane foam, and occasionally clay. The usage of Styrofoam is significant beyond its easily modifiable form; it’s the same medium used in the film industry for architectural and stage design and it’s also produced by the same company who manufactures Napalm (that deadly chemical agent used prolifically in military operations). This subversive combination of fantasy (film) and reality (warfare) makes de Jong’s works resonant with power; an explosion occurs between representation and the acts being represented. And it’s within this space the horrors from the past emerge to haunt our present consciousness.

De Jong gives the viewer an arsenal of information. With just enough bit of candy coating, he coaxes us into our historical tales of terror that do not exist within the confines of film set but have been living amongst us within our everyday world. In his latest exhibition at James Cohan Gallery brings this forth via newer and older works including the large-scale and ominously fragmented Operation Harmony (2008). Titled after the contradictory name given to Canada’s 1992 military mission in Bosnia this sculpture references another political invasion, the lynching of Dutch political figures the DeWitt Brothers in 1672. Depicting five headless bodies strewn across the vibrant pink scaffold, only four heads (smiling, direct, sinister) look out at us. They represent men involved in various political assassinations and genocides. With title and source separated by hundreds of years we bear witness to the fact that “progress” often involves a sacrificial death. The conflation of these different historical events and geographical locations together with the present day makes for a curiously charged experience. These men are long dead but their stories have been re-animated.

A newer installation is The Balance II: Trader’s Deal 6-9  (2010) featuring a vignette of proud Dutch traders prance with their treasures of beads and whiskey from Manhattan’s Native Americans. Place in the front portion of the gallery and directly facing the street, these men beckon viewers to share in their spoils. However unlike the charm from the buccaneers in Pirates of the Caribbean, we are more suspicious of these fellows and their inviting presentation of swindled goods. Other works like Business As Usual: “The Tower” (2008) the “No Evil” or “Morality Monkeys” remind us of our ability to look the other way and even perhaps America’s obsession with eliminating anything sad from our thoughts.

Seeped in the significant role art has played in the expression, sublimation, and manipulation of war and terror, de Jong continues the art historical tradition of bringing atrocities to light. In this sense he also acts like a skilled horror film director whose purpose is to manipulate reaction and produce affect. Tackling a myriad of historical traumas, like horror cinema, de Jong exposes universal truths to engage the viewer in a proactive remembrance.

Images (top to bottom):
Halleluja, 2007
Installation view:  Operation Harmony (2008) and Business As Usual: “The Tower” (2008)
Detail view: Operation Harmony (2008)
Installation view: The Balance II: Trader’s Deal 6-9  (2010)
Business As Usual: “The Tower” (2008)

Photos: Jason Mandella / James Cohan Gallery