Archive for the ‘Check out…’ Category

So It Begins

large_thirteenth My last post for BorderTalksBlog is dated February 3, 2012. I was two years out from having received my MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College. My writing interests had taken me in new directions. Now, on January 1, 2017, I find the world of states and men (primarily) has either retrenched or ruptured, rather than grown toward the light of creative problem-solving.

Talk about transgressing borders! In art, in life, I have applauded honest challenges to and transgressions of the accepted order not for the sake of anarchy but for the sake of renewal, enlargement, and the fulfillment of human and creative potential. A thriving community of art makers whose business it is to challenge accepted norms often speaks to where growth needs to happen, and where stagnation has taken hold in the larger culture.

The art makers of 2016 had given us fair warning. From photographer Nona Faustine’s “White Shoes” series to the writings of Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates; from author J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy to Ava DuVernay’s documentary film 13th, we are reminded that the evils we had thought to be in decline are, in fact, not. These artists and others have sounded the alarm. Our society, not for the first time, is at odds with its principles and ideals.

The election of Donald Trump shouldn’t have been a rude awakening, yet it was. We didn’t believe our country could be that racist, that misogynistic, that ignorant of history and science. Yet the country proved itself to be so, and more. Years of economic decline, political stalemate, and complacent journalism, along with the neglect of communities forgotten by the educational system, industry, the corporate state, and the technological innovators has fomented a new class of aggrieved and anarchistic citizens willing to implode our very political system in order to make their presence felt.

In 2017, we will see the reckoning. In the meantime, each of us has a responsibility to push back against “the new normal” by revealing what it truly is: the old order.

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Photo of urns created by Sheri Mendelson. New York artists Barbara Lubliner, Bernard Klavickas, Shari Mendelson, Janet Nolan, Olivia Kaufman-Rovira, Ilene Sunshine and Tyrome Tripoli are upcyclers. They turn garbage into art. Upcycling, according to Wikipedia, is “the process of converting waste materials…into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.” The term is on everyone’s lips these days—and why not? With increasing numbers of shopping bags flapping in trees and plastic six-pack yokes skittering down streets, it shouldn’t surprise us that environmental detritus would get funneled through the creative process as often as the recycling plant. (more…)

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Mouna Andraos e-quilt

Some time ago I posted my enthusiasm for the Gees Bend quilts and their makers. Working with their families’ old work clothes, and influenced by their faith and surroundings, the Gees Bend quilters created astonishingly beautiful designs that rival the New York School artists celebrated in our art history books.

Now comes 21st century quilting, where technology meets sewing! I should have seen this coming: electronic quilts made from e-textiles. E-textiles are conductive, meaning they can carry an electrical current. When configured with “soft circuitry“, the textiles can respond to environmental changes—such as the presence of people—as well as to changes in light, temperature and wind. Textile artist Mouna Andreos has combined traditional sewing/quilting techniques with a contemporary design sensibility to create electronic quilts that represent and interact with Canada’s chilly climate: (more…)

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rirkrit-tiravanijaI live across the street from an empty lot—two, actually. The first (let’s call it “Lot A”) is directly across the street and faces the front entrance to my apartment building. For twenty years it has been advertised as the site of a new coop building project. The ramshackle and weather-beaten plywood barrier that fronts the property is “secured” by a chained link gate with huge gaps on either side where people can, and do, enter.

The second lot (“Lot B”) is on a side street. From my fourth floor perch I look down on its cement perimeter with the embedded metal fence that marks an intended outdoor parking lot. At the front, a paved drive barely makes it past the padlocked gate before fading to dirt road and grass. In the middle of Lot B there are several mature of trees and scattered weed-bushes. Someone mows the abundant grass regularly. (more…)

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coleI’m planning my first visit to the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, so I checked out their web site. Happily, the museum is featuring one of Dave Cole’s American flags. Cole is a conceptual artist whose work is as strong on social and political commentary as it is on celebrating the physical side of art making. He is best known for his startling reinventions of the American flag. For instance, “Memorial Flag (Toy Soldiers)” is made entirely from red, white and blue “troops”; a bristling thicket of tiny soldiers that turn the American flag’s design into manufactured postures of war.

The Aldrich will be displaying Cole’s “Flags of the World.” “Flags of the World” is zigzag stitched from the red, white and blue scraps cut from 192 flags that represent the countries who are United Nations members. (more…)

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The Art of the Phone Card

When I went to the show “The Poetics of Cloth: African Textiles/Recent Art” at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU I had a preconception. I thought I was going to see beautiful, contemporary renditions of traditional African patterns. Not that I was entirely wrong, but the show features work made by groundbreaking artists who use various textile traditions as inspiration and render their work in wildly inventive and diverse fashions.

My favorite piece was made by the Ghanaian artist Rikki Wemega-Kwawu. I first saw his piece “Kente for the Space Age” from a distance as I entered the gallery and I was instantly drawn to its intense colors. The hanging “textile” had a sheen to it that suggested it was made of plastic. It hung like a long and tall shower curtain dangling from a piece of wood. The flow of tinctures hinted at traditional patterns, but it also announced a strikingly contemporary sensibility, with hues of bright orange, red, purple, blue, and chartreuse that are more common to pop art than kente cloth. (more…)

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©Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

…it would be easy to mistake this military diagram for a game board, a Navajo sand painting or a Situationist map. The guy in camouflage is the giveaway.

The caption: “A Kazakh officer shows off a large map with a plan of the joint Kazakh-Russian military exercise at Otar range, some 93 miles west of Almaty, Kazakhstan, on October 3, 2008.”

From Activate.com

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Waterboard Thrills?

I bet you didn’t know waterboarding is a spectator sport. Yep, that’s right. Coney Island — home to the Cyclone roller coaster, Nathan’s hot dogs, the sun and sand — has added a new thrill to its roster of cheap entertainments. For just a dollar you can step right up and peer through a barred window (like some creepy voyeur) to watch the “Waterboard Thrill Ride” advertised by a cheeky Sponge Bob Square Pants look-alike. Get the thrill of your life watching a robotic “guard” torture a robotic “prisoner.” When the guard pours water onto the prisoner, its body convulses. Hey, it’s unreal reality! It’s a freaky freak show!

This unfortunate Coney Island “attraction” was created by American artist Steve Powers. Powers told the New York Times that he hopes his tableau will help people “explore” the issue of water boarding and torture “without doing any harm.” I disagree. This does harm. (more…)

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They say that there is no bad publicity in the art world, and well here we go round the mulberry bush yet again with Bill Henson’s latest at Roslyn Oxley9 in Sydney. The truncated sound bytes we are hearing across the media waves say much less than there is to say and take us nowhere; Its art, tis not, tis, etc echoing the characters of another artist by the name of Henson, with Miss Piggy landing a good purse wallop through the moral majority and the shock jock media while Kermits’ and other Muppets mount a strident arm waving and lame high pitched art for arts sake, defense.

Now I have not followed the career of Bill Henson closely but I believe those who have the power to dispense titles or deal in superlatives have added him to the list of Australia’s greatest artists. But in my humble opinion Henson is just an artist who over the years has achieved a technical competence and a recognizable subject oeuvre that has given him an audience, some good opportunities and a fairly regular paycheck. (more…)

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Now don’t get me wrong, I am not easily scandalized by art or performance. And I certainly don’t think I’m prudish. After all, I’m one of those New Yorkers who thinks he has seen it all. Yes, I’ve raised an eyebrow when I watched Karen Finley penetrate herself with yams in her installation at the club Area in the early 90s. Okay, I was startled when HIV-positive Ron Athey dripped blood over the audience (not his blood) at P.S. 122 in ‘94. But I’ve wondered what the big deal was when I saw Chris Ofili’s painting “Holy Virgin Mary” at the Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in 1998–the painting that caused such an uproar in the Giuliani years in part because it was painted with dung. (more…)

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