Energy That Is All Around: Mission School Exhibition at NYU Grey Gallery

ENERGY THAT IS ALL AROUND, which originated from San Francisco and was on view at the NYU Grey Gallery in New York, provides a rare opportunity to view early works by five Mission School artists—Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri. These five artists were friends and collaborators who attended or were associated with the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) and came together at a particular time and place in the early ’90s in the Mission neighborhood in alternative art spaces such as Four Walls, The Luggage Store, Victoria Room, The LAB, New Langton Arts, and Adobe Books. They were each strongly influenced by Bay Area Figuration, the Beat movement, Funk art, and punk. The group has been defined by their celebration of social art-making, community, folk art, nostalgia for the obsolete, low-production values, and “street” aesthetics. These values are manifest in the use of found and reclaimed materials, decorative patterning, cartoons, a distinctive color palette, hand lettering and printmaking, cluster paintings, and a crafty immediacy of materials.

I found the exhibition refreshing from usual New York summer group shows as I was pleasantly surprised by the freshness and still vital energy of the works by all five artists, especially Alicia McCarthy’s naive yet sophisticated and nonchalant yet intense abstract pieces. The above photos Continue reading

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New Oil Painting in Progress

I have been working on a new oil painting, featuring dragon fruits for a few months now (and still a long way to finish). This is a first oil painting that I have done in over 10 years, and I have been learning and re-learning many technics, which has been both challenging and exciting at the same time. Here are some of the photos documenting the progress of the painting. I thought that it might be fun to see how the painting was made.

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glazing the seeds for the fruit

glazing the seeds for the fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Artist’s Life and Institutional Changes: Open Engagement Conference

unisphereI attended Open Engagement Conference, a three day international conference on socially relevant art making on the weekend of May 17 and wrote a little review for Temporary Art Review. Here is a direct link to the article, but I thought I would post the article on here for my regular visitors.

Conceived as a graduate school project by the founder Jen Delos Reyes in 2007, Open Engagement Conference has grown in scope and ambition. This year’s Open Engagement (OE), a three-day international conference exploring various perspectives on socially engaged art making, highlighted the theme of Life/Work. The various sessions at the conference explored the social conditions in late capitalist economy such as labor, education, and food production in the context of being a socially responsible artist. Unlike many academic conferences, OE tries to incorporate its founding philosophy into the format itself and hosts many social gatherings, workshops and open platform presentations in addition to more traditional lectures and presentations. The workshops tried to address questions such as: What are the impacts of artists living and working in community? What is the work of art today? How has the idea of life’s work changed in the 21st century? These are obviously very big questions Continue reading

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New Studio at the Elisabeth Foundation for the Arts

studio01It has been a while since I posted anything on my blog, and there is a good reason for it! I was selected to become a member at the Elisabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA) and got a new spacious studio.  Moving is a pain, and it took a long time to pack, unpack, clean and organize the new studio, but I love the new space. And above photo is a peek at what is going on at the studio right now. The EFA Studio Program was created to provide affordable studio space within a community of artists, facilitate career development, and promote public and critical exposure for the members in the middle of Manhattan in the Garment District. If you are interested in becoming a member and getting a subsidized studio space, here is the link for the application. The application is open every year in December.

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Mathew Barney’s River of Fundament

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Scene at a drydock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Act III of Mathew Barney & Joanthan Bepler’s “River of Fundament”

On a frigid February night, I made a pilgrimage to BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) to see the 6 hour epic of Mathew Barney‘s new film, River of Fundament, loosely based on the 1983 Norman Mailer novel, Ancient Evenings. In the Mailer’s novel, the protagonist, an ancient Egyptian named Menenhetet I seeks to reincarnate three times in the hope of achieving immortality. According to the BAM program note, River of Fundament “borrows its structure from Mailer’s text, corresponding to the seven stages the Egyptian soul undergoes in its journey toward new life.” Conceived as a nontraditional opera (with the music by Jonathan Bepler), the movie’s narrative (or whatever narrative might be) is driven mainly through the music that is percussive and meditative at the same time (also the most enjoyable element in the movie).

Much has been said about the overflowing of feces in Barney’s new movie (Review in Hyperallergic can be found here). To me, the obsession with feces seemed entirely superfluous, neither shocking nor interesting that seems to overshadow Continue reading

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Palette Exhibition and Lecture at Salisbury University

I participated in a fun, food themed group exhibition, Palette and also gave an artist lecture to enthusiastic students at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD last weekend in February. In Palette, Salisbury University Art Galleries exhibited artworks by artists who use food as subject, material or content. From carefully contrived still-life paintings, to humorous time based videos of drinking milk, the participating artists showed us that our stomachs are not the limit. In conjunction with the exhibition Palette, the Salisbury University Art Galleries has invited local chefs to create artworks out of food to explore the art and culture of the foods we eat, which celebrated the closing of the exhibition. Here are some of the photos (Click the post to view more photos). Continue reading

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The Metro Show: outsider and folk art

Last weekend of frigid and snowy January, I went to the Metro Show to see some very inspiring works that I have seen in recent years. Held at the Metropolitan Pavillon in Chelsea, the Metro Show features very manageable 37 exhibitors who deal antique prints (C&J Goodfriend, for example, who brought etchings by Dürer, Rembrandt, Piranesi and Picasso, among others) to folk art sculptures to contemporary art and everything in between. I was mostly interested in viewing what is generally termed as “outsider art.”

The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut, a label created by Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by those on the outsides of the established art scene such as an insane asylum inmates and children. German Expressionists particularly fell in love with the schizophrenic artists such as Adolf Wölfli, Karl Brendel and August Naterrer and Continue reading

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Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AK

Another memorable place that I visited during my Christmas holidays is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, a diaphanous shrine to American fine art. The museum, founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, opened on 11 November 2011 in an area that lacks any large fine art museums. First major art museum opened since 1974, the museum had $488 million in assets as of August 2008, of which over $317 million has been donated by Alice Walton. The museum first attracted public attention with Alice Walton’s purchase of the coveted Asher B. Durand landscape entitled Kindred Spirits  (Photo 4) from the New York Public Library for more than $35 million in a sealed auction in May 2005. Calming the concerns that a major American work of art will be forever disappear from the public eye, Walton revealed the extent of the ambition for the museum. I found the museum’s collection of  Colonial and 19th century work one of the best in the country covering well-known paintings such as Charles Willson Peals’s George Washington, 1780-82, Kindred Spirits, many strong Hudson River School paintings, excellent Thomas Eakins (Photo 9) paintings, including Professor Benjamin Howard Rand, 1874 and amusing oddities like Edward Dalton Marchant‘s portrait of Samuel Beals Thomas family (Photo 7).

The museum continues its ambitious acquisition program: in September 2012, the museum announced the acquisition of a major 1960 painting by Mark Rothko entitled No. 210/No. 211 (Orange). The abstract expressionist painting had been in a private Swiss collection since the 1960s and had only been shown in public twice. When I visited last month, the museum also unveiled the new acquisition of Andy Warhol, Coca-Cola (3), 1962 (Photo 21). The museum’s permanent collection Continue reading

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Precious Moments: An American Sistine Chapel?

Over the Christmas break, I visited St. Louis, MO area where my boy friend is originally from. It is always a bit of a culture shock to leave the coastal enclave of cosmopolitanism (or den of atheism :)) that I am used to and visit the “heartland” of America. Here in Midwest, people at every store and restaurant are incredibly patient, pleasant and accommodating (almost making my inner New Yorker feel uncomfortable). Also refreshing is the utter avoidance of trendy diet fads (no carbs, no fat, paleo, gluten free diet, anyone?), foodie excesses (no artisanal hand-cured proscuitto made by a bearded hipster, who grew and butchered the pig himself) and stressed-out hollow-eyed women picking at salads for lunch. Instead, we see families of men dressed in matching camo hunting gears, who go out in the early morning to shoot the ducks, but refuse to eat them. (Apparently due to weird taste. See Anthony Bourdain‘s travel TV series, No Reservations, Season 10, Episode 5: Ozarks)  In this spirit of exploration of “the other,” we went to Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, MO.

Precious Moments Chapel is a theme park, run by Precious Moments, Inc., a catalog order company that sells “giftware” of figurines, but nonetheless cloaked in Christian spirits. The Chapel, designed by Samuel J. Butcher, is touted as inspired by Michelangelo‘s Sistine Chapel in Rome. It is decorated with gigantic murals with doe-eyed (or tear drop shaped, according to the promotional material) cartoon characters (Precious Moments messengers), depicting heavenly salvations and stories from the bible, and arranged indeed like classic Renaissance chapels like Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel (rather than much grander Sistine Chapel, but perhaps Giotto was too obscure for the target audience). My first impulse upon entering this kitschy yet pious sanctuary (after passing through obligatory gift shops and candy stores where you can buy many different figurines depicted in the murals) was a total dismissal and an outraged disdain at the audacity to compare itself to Sistine Chapel. It is perhaps pointless to Continue reading

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Mike Kelley at PS1 MoMA and Isa Genzken at MoMa

This winter New York museums seem to have many interesting retrospectives of contemporary artists, and two of the best are Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1 and Isa Genzken: Retrospective at MoMA. The recent suicide of Mike Kelley (1954 -2012) was shocking to many people in the art world as he seemed to be at the apex of an art star career. The exhibition at at PS1 covers his entire career including early works from his MFA thesis shows at Cal Arts (California Institute of the Arts) in Los Angeles County (Photo 2) and gives viewers very good understanding of the oeuvre of Kelley, whose work encompasses performance, sculpture, painting, video, etc. all based on the esthetic of craft. The setting, a vast former public school turned into a contemporary art space is also perfect as Kelley was deeply concerned about the formative years spent in American public schools. What comes through clear after examining all the work spanning more than three decades is his commitment to skewer the myth of innocence and the sanctity of childhood, utopian fantasy of home, egalitarian social structure, and the dominance of masculinity in America Continue reading

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