I admit it, I didn’t watch the winter olympics. However hard I was rooting for Canada to win a gold in hockey, my lack of TV kept me from the games. But one olympics I was sure not to miss was the first, and hopefully not the last, Art Handling Olympics held today at Ramiken Crucible in Manhattan Chinatown. A bunch of teams of art handlers from institutions, companies and galleries competed in activities like packing, delivering, hanging, the “static hold” (holding really heavy art while a “curator” with a fake German accent barked at them), and “the eliminator,” which included uncrating, assembling, and recrateing a “work of art.”
Before I started working in museums I didn’t know what an art handler was, but quickly realized they are the backbone of the arts world, especially here in NYC. Very few run of the mill people really think about how art makes in from the studio to the gallery or auction house to the museum to the wall, but this is what these guys and ladies deal with everyday. Trucks. Heavy stuff. Impatient dealers, gallerists, curators, and registrars.
Being there felt a little bit like being at Duke Riley’s piece “Those about to Die, we salute you” that took place at the Queens Museum this past summer. It was an art world event. However, it was also really fun to get together and make fun of ourselves in the art world a little bit and make an invisible community a little more visible. Maybe this is what it felt like when bike messengers started having races. Maybe art handling is going to become the next hip thing? Probably not, because I can’t see how it’s marketable in the way bikes are, but I was surprised at how many media reps were at the event, so it definitely sparked some curiosity. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Earlier in January I wrote this article profiling the amazing street artist Aiko for Venuszine.com. I really enjoy talking to Aiko about her artistic vision, experiences, and projects. I always emerge from our conversations with new insights about living and working as a visionary and brave artist in a very male-dominated field. Please check out the article and let me know what you think!
Following up on a long time personal interest and involvement, I interviewed four artists: Stella Marrs, Nikki McClure, Becca Albee and Amy Yao, about their art making process and, many years later, their thoughts about how Riot Grrrl (all of whom touched or were touched by this movement in some way) related to their art making. I’m so happy how this story came together and you can check it out here on Venuszine.com. The image above is an installation by Becca Albee. Many thanks!
Aiko Nakgawa is an artist about town (I suppose quite literally, since she is a street artist as well as making works of fine art like the one pictured here). Sometimes I wonder when she has time to paint, especially as she has been having so many awesome shows lately. I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of the group show she is part of, “Locked and Loaded” at the Joshua Liner Gallery in Chelsea. This is the gallery’s inaugural show and includes work by other artists such as Crash One, Shawn Barber, Kenji Hirata, Jessica Joslin, and Tomokazu Matsuyama. Much of the work in the show was too slick for my tastes (I think Aiko Ishigawa, a new writer friend, called it the “Juxtapoz style” in reference to the magazine). I was quite taken, however, by the acrylic painting “3Rip Horse” by Tomokazu Matsuyama, the delicate yet creepy sculptural constructions of Jessica Joslin, and of course, Aiko’s work. I love how her large canvases look like work that has been put up on the street and had layers of wheatpasted fliers and other artwork put up over it. Her paintings and stencil work has texture that keeps you engaged in looking, while their graphic boldness immediately catches the eye.
On Friday evening I braved the wind driven rain and the G train for a trip to Long Island City to see Marcus Romero’s new work showing at The Space Gallery. Marcus paints fantastic starscapes and landscapes, which are alternatively based on science and science fiction. If they were less delicately worked I could almost imagine them adorning the cover of a sci-fi paperback. What is evident from looking at the show, which contains both small pieces a few inches across as well as those covering entire walls, is that Marcus is a painter. By that I mean to say that he loves and is comfortable with working with paint as a medium, applying it in layers and reworking his paintings until they have a luminous, almost lacquered quality. The Space Gallery was crowded with artists, friends and well-wishers. For me, who is regularly caught saying that I hate contemporary art, it is always refreshing to see a small gallery mount efforts that really support artists and the work that they create.
Another favorite at the Petra Projects U-Turn show, Karl Glave’s small, painted portraits. There’s something almost classical about them and their position on this shelf reminds me somehow of an alter or mantle piece. The solid backgrounds isloate you with the subjects’ gaze. I felt myself wanting to have a conversation with these women, wondering about their relationship with the artist, the challenges in their life and how they found strength to overcome them.
Thinking about gaze though, most of the artists in this show were men and most of the subjects female, many scatily clad or naked. It brings up those age old questions of subject and object, active and passive. It kind of shook me because I felt like there’s much strength in many of the women portrayed, while at the same time they are constrained by the canvas and remade how the artist (male gaze) wants to see them. I think I’d also like to see different (feminist) approaches to portraiture as well. What does a feminist gaze (as opposed to “female” gaze, as it’s debatable that such a thing exists) look like? Can we “gaze” in a feminist manner, or do we use feminism as a lens with which to examine?
Here is Jason himself in front of one of his other works. See other thoughts below.
Last night was the opening of the show “U-Turn,” a group show of portraiture at Petra Projects in Soho. Shown here is Jason Grunwald’s painting “It could have been oh so…”. I had seen this image on the postcard before the show and I was refreshingly taken with the “real” thing. To me this shows again the power of the actual object of art, with visible brushstrokes and all its painterly qualities. Plus I really love the intensity of this girl’s gaze, even though her eyes are hidden behind the sunglasses. There’s a sense of expectation, but also a hint of a challenge in the subject’s face.
I don’t go to galleries expecting to enjoy the art and I was happy to say that while some works in the show I was more taken with than others, it was nice to see a strong showing of portraiture in different mediums in one space. There was a kind of conversation between the pieces, asking us how we see people and how artists choose to show us their subjects. What captures the essence of someone? Is looking at people ultimately comforting or does it confront us with questions about our own identities and what we present to the world?