An Ocean of Art and Seeing Spots

#49 – Tuesday February 21st

I spent the week in NYC, swimming through an ocean of art, my visit a combination business with pleasure. The business . . . exploring opportunities for my work. The pleasure . . . a delectable cornucopia of art, architecture, cuisine, and socializing with friends, all drenched in the dynamic energy of the city.

Back in December I wrote about the book Tantra Song, published by Siglio Press and by happenstance Feature Gallery, NYC had exhibited a group of these amazing paintings just prior to my being in New York. But with a phone call, the gallery was kind enough to extend an invitation to view a selection of images from the show, and I welcomed that opportunity . . . I find these simple anonymous paintings incredibly beautiful.

The New Museum’s Triennial Exhibition Ungovernables”   was also well worth seeing. As excerpted from the promotional blurb, “The New Museum Triennial features thirty-four artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives—totaling over fifty participants—born between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, many of whom have never exhibited in the US. The exhibition title, “The Ungovernables,” takes its inspiration from the concept of “ungovernability” and its transformation from a pejorative term used to describe unruly “natives” to a strategy of civil disobedience and self-determination. “The Ungovernables” is meant to suggest both anarchic and organized resistance and a dark humor about the limitations and potentials of this generation”. Following are a few of my favorite pieces from the show . . . two installations by the Mexican artist Jose Antonio Vega Macotela, a projection piece by Argentinian artist, Amalia Pica, and Thai artist Pratchaya Phinthong’s money sculpture.

In Vega Macotela’s “Time Divisa” (2008-2010). The artist attended and video taped significant events in the lives of prison inmates families. In exchange for his acting as their substitutes, the inmates tracked smuggling distribution methods, documented patterns of movement within the prison, emphasizing areas where they were under observation by prison guards, and collected the refuse of everyday prison life. The work examines social and financial dynamics in a hyper controlled environment as a metaphor for the political system of his country. In Vega Macotela’s second installation, “Habemus Gasoline” (2008), he explores the politics of oil. Mexico exports one million barrels of crude oil to the U.S. every day. After being refined into gasoline, here in the states, it’s then sold back to Mexico, an arrangement that enormously benefits the corporations controlling U.S. refineries. In this installation piece, Vega Macotela altered an apparatus for distilling tequilla, into one for processing crude oil and set up a makeshift refinery in the gallery, highlighting the potential in which Mexico could regain control of its natural resources.

Amalia Pica’s “Venn Diagrams (under the spotlight)” (2011). Is a poignant commentary on the capricious and absurdist exercise of absolute power. During the military dictatorship in Argentina, the Venn Diagram’s intersecting and overlapping circles were banned from primary school curricula because they were feared to encourage “seditious models of collectivity.”

Pratchaya Phinthong’s piece “What I learned I no longer know; the little I still know, I guessed”  a square multicolor patchwork of stacked bricks of Zimbabwean bank notes, assembled through an exchange between the artist sending euros to residents of Zimbabwe, and receiving bills “worth” trillions of Zimbabwean dollars rendered worthless by inflation and bad monetary policy. Re-contextualized as art the Zimbabwe notes begin to regain their “value”.

What I found equally interesting about Phinthong’s piece, was its juxtaposition to another exhibition taking the opposite tack. Rather than turning money into art, turning art into money. Gagosian Gallery’s presentation of Damien Hirst’s “The Complete Spot Paintings” . Gagosian is simultaneously exhibiting Hirst’s spot paintings in New York (three locations), Beverly Hills, London (two locations), Rome, Geneva, Athens, and Hong Kong. I saw the show at one of the Chelsea locations and not only were the paintings on view, but from the Gagosian Gallery store one could purchase “I spot Damien Hirst” coffee mugs, t-shirts, wall clocks, key chains, iron on patches, skate board decks, cufflinks, and for the affordable price of one dollar the DH “spot” pin (all available in your favorite spot color), plus one can register and qualify to receive a limited edition “spot” print, in the “Complete Spot Challenge” by visiting all Gagosian Gallery locations during the exhibition’s run (with the proper government ID, no joke). For the record, I believe it’s essential for artists to make a living through the sale of their work. I like spots. The New Museum gift shop does sell  “Ungovernables” t-shirts.

Thanks for reading.

Charles

I welcome any and all comments, thanks for reading!

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