Monday, January 26, 2009

Black and White pleasures at Hasted-Hunt

Sometimes I want art to challenge me, to shake me up, to confuse me. A friend of mine once suggested to me that one learns more from art that you hate than art that you love. Yet sometimes I want to luxuriate in art that I know, that I understand, and that gives me simple pleasure in viewing again and again.

Bill Hunt and Sarah Hasted have provided just such an experience for me in their current show: "Contradictions in Black and White". I don't think I've ever seen a gallery show that had more work from my all-time wish list than this show has.

It started with the large-scale Adam Fuss photogram of smoke. I've mentioned this work before in this blog. I lust after it every time I see it and wonder if I'd ever grow tired of it.

Next was a number of fab composites by Ray K. Metzker supplemented by a "double frame" and a few unique images by him. Composites are the ne plus ultra for Mr. Metzker and I covet each one I see, but the double frame series is equally rigorous formally. I own a few and admire most of the rest. It is an amazing set of work in which he combines two frames (two negatives) in one picture that must be shot sequentially in the camera. The challenge of composing a what is basically a photomontage in camera without digital imaging is simply astounding.

Michael Flomen is not so well known as Metzker and Fuss, but his work is on my list as well. Check this artist out. Don't be fooled by the simple beauty of his surfaces. There is substance under the appeal of the image.

One of my favorite Irving Penn platinum prints was here, too: the crushed Deli Package. I love this series so much more than the celebrities, portraits, and fashion. If I had to pick one Penn to own, this would be on the short list.

Add to the list some pretty great Callahans, a few choice Margaret Bourke-Whites, and a sweet Vera Lutter, and you have a recipe for my visual happiness. If you want to see for yourself, it's up until February 28th. Check it out.

Hasted-Hunt Gallery

25th Anniversary Exhibition at Laurence Miller Gallery

There has been a recurring event in my gallery-going life the past 12 months. It goes something like this: I see a photo in a gallery or museum from the 70s or 80s by an artist with whom I'm unfamiliar. I go to do some research on the artist, and I discover that he's on the roster of Larry Miller's gallery. It happened when I saw the work of Michael Spano at MoMA last year. It happened multiple times last November at the American show at the Biblioteque National in Paris where I saw work of Les Krims, Charles Harbutt, and Burk Uzzle as if for the first time. It happened when I was looking at a Toshio Shibata print at a Chelsea Gallery in a group show.

Of course, that's just the artists with whom I'm unfamiliar. Larry and gallery director Vicki Harris have been my guides and teachers in discovering the pleasures of Ray K. Metzker. Add to Ray K. the marvels of Helen Levitt and a picture begins to develop of a significant slice of important American post-war photography all firmly in the program of Laurence Miller Gallery.

There's an anniversary show on at the gallery through March 7th which highlights these artists and more. The show limns a gallery career few have matched. Go to see the work of great artists you know. Go to see the work of great artists you don't yet know. No gallery is perfect, and one can't run a gallery without ruffling feathers. But I can say I have happily spent long hours discovering spectacular work in the flatfiles of this gallery. I urge others to do the same.
Laurence Miller Gallery

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Raphael Lozano-Hemmer & Cory Archangel at MoMA

I went to the lecture and interview mentioned below at MoMA on Tuesday:

Open Source

Artists Speak: Conversations on Contemporary Art with Glenn D. Lowry
Panel Discussions & Symposia

This program explores contemporary art in the age of YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia, online resources that connect people and information in countless ways and through immeasurable distances. Artists Cory Arcangel and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer discuss the ways in which they utilize electronic databases to create works of art. Glenn D. Lowry, director of The Museum of Modern Art, moderates a discussion.

Readers of this blog will remember that I am a huge fan of Raphael Lozano-Hemmer. I mentioned his amazing installations in the Mexican Pavilion/Villa at the 2007 Venice Biennial as well as the recent heart-beat/light installation here in NYC at Madison Square Park. He was also included in a MoMA show in 2007 about art intersecting technology. It was called Automatic Update and you can view the exhibit archive here. Cory Archangel was also included in that show.

While I haven't mentioned Cory Archangel's work in this blog before, I have certainly been aware of and impressed by it. I've seen many videos at Team Gallery here in NYC, and I've seen one video game work at the Margulies Warehouse in Miami. The work he described in this MoMA talk was more intriguing in that it explored even more inventively the ways technology fails us and fails to live up to our expectations. It is a central tenet to much of his work. His web based piece, Dooogle, in which any search brings back Doogie Howser, MD results was a treat. Try it here. I was also very taken with a piece he did called "a couple of thousand short films about Glenn Gould. He dubs microsecond snatches of guitar shred videos from the web and knits them into a performance of a variation from Bach's Goldberg variations. A boomy, unsatisfying video of an installation of the work is on YouTube here. A precis about the project from the website of The Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art in the UK:

New York-based artist Cory Arcangel's newly commissioned two-screen installation
'a couple thousand short films about Glenn Gould' rescores Johann Sebastian Bach's famous 1741 composition the 'Goldberg Variations'.

To produce 'a couple thousand short films about Glenn Gould', Arcangel has spliced together nearly 2000 clips of amateur musicians' performances taken from video sharing web sites such as YouTube. Each note of the score jumps between individual clips of different musicians, with each screen carrying a separate melody line. The final effect is an almost hallucinatory montage - a flood of images which we are engulfed into. Arcangel allows anonymous guitarists, keyboard players, tuba players and other enthusiasts from around the world to unintentionally collaborate in recreating Bach's masterpiece.

But my biggest pleasure was a fraternal one. Time ago, my brother, Matthew, wrote a column for the New York Times covering digital and web-based art. It was called Arts@Large. He was the first major journalist to cover many of the artists, and he was way ahead of the curve on Cory Archangel and Raphael Lozano-Hemmer writing about Mr. Lozano-Hemmer as far back as 1999. I remember when I told him about this fabulous installation I had seen at the Mexican Pavilion in Venice 2 years ago, he said, "Oh yeah, so you met Rapha. I interviewed him 8 years ago". I don't know what the Times was thinking in letting him go. There still isn't a major art journalist consistently covering this field, and Matthew's reviews are consistently prescient. I couldn't be more proud and impressed by him. Here are links to two articles about Lozano-Hemmer:

Mirapaul, Matthew. "Electronic Messages Become A Beacon In the Darkness", The New York Times, Thursday, November 6, 2003.

Mirapaul, Matthew. "Online Art Lights Up A Square in Mexico City", The New York Times,1999,

If you want to read more, his column was called Arts@Large and can be found here.

Cory Archangel's website

Raphael Lozano-Hemmer's website

If you have any curiosity about or interest in computer/digital/online art, you can't go wrong with either of these guys. their work is consistently great. Check 'em out.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Printed Picture at MoMA

The Printed Picture
October 17, 2008–June 1, 2009

The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries at MoMA

If you look at the exhibition dates for the Printed Picture at MoMA you might think that you have all the time in the world to catch this show. I urge you not to procrastinate. First of all, you will not be able to take in all the information from just one viewing. Second, you will want to come back more than once (maybe even more than twice) so you can approach the show from multiple perspectives. MoMA calls this show an "educational installation". Well, I wish my education had been as beautifully, thrillingly, and comprehensively presented to me as this show is presented to the New York public.

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a Daguerreotype and an ambrotype? Are you curious about how etching creates a photographic verisimilitude? Are you in the dark when you hear terms like digital C-print and archival inkjet print? Wonder no more. Your questions will all be answered in the exhibit.

The show is arranged in rigorous chronological order starting from prehistoric cave drawings all the way to the newest printing technologies. Each process has an example, wall text, and, in many cases, a 50x enlargement of the example so you can see microscopic details inherent in that process. My first time through the show, I tried to go in the chronology that the exhibition lays out. But I found myself circling back to reread text about one process or another that suddenly had unexpected significance in a later process. Also, the exhibition cannily uses the same image multiple times so we see how a different (later, more sophisticated, and supposedly better) process renders the same image.

The only criticism I have of this important, hugely satisfying show is that it's almost too objective. Especially once we get into 21st century processes, I expected some kind of perspective on the merits of one version over another. Instead, a kind of democracy seems to be propounded where each process has its merit, but one is not better than another. I'm not so sure.

Surely though, this is quibbling. I have never seen a show like this, and I feel that I'm unlikely to see another like it soon. I urge everyone who cares deeply about photography and the printed image to make time to see this show.