ReviewArt

Art Experiences in Bloomington, Indiana, and elsewhere

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cubism and Soup

When we think of cubism in terms of its classical era, earth colors come to mind...
Of course, even classical cubism wasn't always soberly colored...
Darned Good Soup - a soup oriented restaurant on the Bloomington square - has turned its large picture window into a rather amazing gallery and this month it demonstrates that contemporary cubism certainly can be brightly colored...

These paintngs are by Gustave Ekobe

Ekobe's paintings are full of cheerful colors and caressing curves...

Ekobe calls himself Ekosser and cites influence such as African  markets and European mask carvers (family)...

Just down the street a lovely colored paper collage was to be seen in the window of the public library...
Look at the colored paper plants mocking the still bare plants in the open air in front of them - making the most of their moment of glory!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Young at Art

This reviewer is back to wandering.  As usual, much is to be found that way in Bloomington, any day of the week.  Recent wanderings featured a visit to the Waldron Art Center, which is featuring youth art of Bloomington from Bloomington North and Bloomington South high schools.  Many artworks in various media by young artists are on display and all are very interesting.  My favorite was probably this wonderful stained glass panda amidst grasses by Tasha Lim ...
It is such a gentle creation, and done with glass, not such a gentle material!

Another image that glows with happiness in a different way is by Mary Devitt...

Devitt's piece reminds me of the sixties and seventies graphic artist Corita Kent...
Ceramics are very strong in the youth show.  I love this playfully traditional piece that looks like stoneware, by  Joy Brown...

But other media are also strongly represented.  A photo by Andrew Brown is a wondrous study in textures...
Strikingly similar is a mystery-filled print by Esther Winterman ...
Yet another marvelous photo by  Callie Brummett   explores abandoned spaces that are not so abandoned...

The building itself seems to be a zombie space that refuses to die.
An collage self portrait by Jack Donnelly seems lost in thought...

Utilizing collage pieces that remind of one  of mosaic tesserae, Donnelly's artwork recalls  Byzantine  art...
A brilliant pencil drawing by Regan Smith seems to capture that otherworldly moment of pure sensation and memory that happens when one takes a bit of a favorite food...
Another beautiful drawing by Ambrosia Morris seems to convey both loneliness and the intricacy of feelings and thoughts...
I think this curiously questing  creature is by Britney Slaven ...
... directly behind which is a sculpture of another kind of quest, created by

where the story of Sisyphus pushing a stone up a hill is somehow translated by
Charlotte Jones as an underwater scene...
Nearby a dark dragon lurks and words erupt from a book ...
In   Lucie Ross' sculpture,   charging warriors seem to destroy a book ...
Godlike beings are envisioned by Hara Farnsworth...

and Mora Maclaughlin ...
The New York Art Critic approves ...

Also meeting the approval of the New York Art Critic was a show next door in the Waldron...
Nathan Foxton's work has childlike aspects - bright colors and characters playing at being warriors with folded up paper 'helmets', reminiscent of early Philip Guston paintings...
There seems to be much the same concern in Foxton's work for the childhood origins of martial attitudes, exploring - as Foxton says - the gap between victoryh and defeat.  Here some medieval knights, not being equipped with Bilbo's ring, seem to be facing defeat in the lair of a snake-like Smaug...

“It’s a weird combination of historical reference and characters made from the colors on my palette,” he says. “I hope it can bring up questions like, ‘What are you hunting in life? What are you trying to conquer?’ Some of the characters look really out of place, so there’s also the idea of whether we are all really focused on our goals.” - See more at: http://www.magbloom.com/2015/02/nathan-foxton-a-young-experimental-painter-photo-gallery/#sthash.sgvgEBPu.dpuf
Foxton's paintings ask us to look at the distinctions we make between play and struggle.


Outside the Waldron, informal street art was found...

... and once again even our tough Famous New York Art Critic approved...

At the Blueline Gallery, we were joined by a tough Famous Chicago Art Critic...
The Blueline show also features various media.  This hanging sculpture, apparently made by Erin Tucker out of fabric molded to a body shape, seems to portray the unsolid nature of identity...
Izzy Jarvis uses linocut printing as a medium and even shows a large original inked linocut as a finished piece...


In a way, both these artists work with soiled textures...

As always, Bloomington is jumping with art.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ai Wei Wei Escapes To Alcatraz

The best take I've ever seen on Ai Wei Wei's career comes from  Sean Scully, a noted Irish painter...

Scully is an admirer of the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935). Malevich’s work was suppressed and destroyed by the Russian Communist authorities because abstraction was seen as a decadent inferior to the favoured artistic mode of socialist realism. But, conversely, there is a suspicion that the growing popularity of abstraction in China is due to the fact that the genre is very hard to censor. “It’s uncensorable,” Scully agrees. “However, that said, from what I see when I go to China, the censorship is minimal.”
I suggest that Ai Weiwei, who remains under heavy surveillance and travel restrictions, might not agree. “Ah, I knew you were going to say Ai Weiwei. He was a student of mine [in New York]; I know him very well. He’s manipulating all that to stimulate his market in the west; he’s playing a game against China, and the west loves him for that.
         my emphasis
I think that's it in a nutshell.  It's understandable, of course, that Wei Wei would  focus  his work on the sins of China, since he and his family have suffered from those sins, but as Wei Wei's fame has grown, that focus seems increasingly opportunistic or even cynical.  A film about Wei Wei disputes such a negative interpretation ...
Klayman also dissolves the longstanding myth, perpetuated by the government, that Ai is a Western stooge, someone who is not actually popular in China. In scene after scene, average Chinese come out of the woodwork to help with his investigation, shake his hand, and rally around his studio when the government demolishes it. These are people lacking political protection and with much to lose. Yet they do it anyway. 
Klayman's argument, as noted here (I haven't seen the film) seems disengenuous.  To claim that  Ai  may be, wittingly or unwittingly,  a Western stooge is not the same as to claim that he is not popular in China.   But as his reputation and work have  expanded beyond China, his responsibility to speak to global situations has surely grown.

 Ai's recent exhibition at Alcatraz would have been an ideal opportunity for him to embrace the challenge of speaking to the world situation and not just China's situation.  Alcatraz is the preeminent symbol of the American penal system, a system which - as Ai must know - is reportedly far larger than China's penal system, both in terms of absolute and per-capita numbers.  No doubt such numbers can be disputed, probably on both sides, and no doubt Wei Wei can claim that the very fact that he has chosen Alcatraz as his art-site implicitly calls for such comparisons, but based on the reading I have done about the Alcatraz exhibit, such implicit comparisons are  weak,  far outweighed by the official program, which  pointedly highlights Russia and China as offenders against civil rights in the world today.  Yes, apparently Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden appear in a kind of floor mosaic made of legos, which pays tribute to 176 global  icons of  persecuted dissent, but most references to oppression in America seem to be safely buried in the past (eg. Native Americans once imprisoned at Alcatraz).


CNN describes Ai's Alcatraz exhibit:

Visitors to Ai's exhibit, called @Large, can sit in a drab, 8x5 feet concrete cell and listen to the works of dissidents, such as anti-Apartheid singers and anti-Soviet musicians whose poems or songs landed them in prison.
Among them is Lolo, a Tibetan singer whose song implores the children of Tibet to "raise the Tibetan flag." Lolo is serving a six-year prison sentence for calling for independence -- a direct challenge to China's rule.
In another installation, the image of Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, fashioned out of black, grey, blue and white Lego peers out at visitors. Liu, who called for the end of China's single-party rule, is serving an 11-year prison sentence.

 Like most of the really famous artists of our time, Ai Wei Wei does not fit the stereotype of the nearly mad genius wrestling with the interface of mind and material in a lonely, paint-stained studio.  He seems to be more of an impresario, a man of big ideas, capable of  setting armies of helpers in motion each time he sweeps his arm across the globe.   As such, Wei Wei has lots of pizzazz.  One moment he is a kind of Shepard Fairey who works in legos.   Next he is a Lee Bontecue working in steel and (carefully selected) found objects...

Creating in a more stripped down mood, Ai arranges voices that are heard in abandoned cells...
... but  over-the-top drama is not stinted, as represented by a huge dragon which seems to represent the spirit of freedom, truth and dissent...

Is the overall effect of Wei Wei's creation truthful?   I say no.   How can it make sense, as truth, for Ai to come to America's most infamous prison in order to stage an exhibition that seems to focus almost entirely on sins against freedom outside of America (or buried in America's past)?  This seems perverse at best, deeply cynical at worst.

One reviewer raises more questions about Wei Wei's show, about the use of volunteers in his works...
The positioning of work such as Refraction or Trace in the New Industries building where inmates earned prison wages for assembly work, mostly sewing, raises interesting questions about For-Site’s open call for volunteer labor to assist with production. Given that a very successful Kickstarter was launched — in addition to the project budget raised by For-Site — to pay for the art guides program, the absence of compensation for assembly work seems to perpetuate the art world’s penchant for free production labor.  It also appears shortsighted given the site itself and the larger history of prison labor.
Al Wei Wei is perhaps the most famous artist in the world today.   Events like Alcatraz help build his reputation and this in turn helps him make more money.   In view of the fact that de facto slavery within the US penal system is a major issue at this time, Ai Wei Wei's use of volunteer labor in Alcatraz  comes off , I would say, as a slap in the face to anyone concerned with freedom and prisons in America, to say the least.

It's good that Ai included Snowden and Chelsea Manning in his lego floor mosaic, amongst 176 other icons of dissent. He deserves praise for that.  However,  I would have been more impressed if, say, Mumia's voice would have been featured in the part of the exhibit that featured Pussy Riot, perhaps.  But would that have ever happened?  Probably not, since permission was sought from the State Department to do the exhibit in the first place and such a feature might not have gone over well with the government.  And that might be the point.  We are blind to the ways our own government oppresses freedom both at home and around the world and Ai Wei Wei doesn't seem to mind playing his part in perpetuating that blindness.  If Ai did an expose in America such as the one he did about shoddy government construction in China, does he really think that he would face no danger of harrassment, or worse, and on top of that simply being ignored into nothingness by the corporatized media?
Ai Wei Wei came to Alcatraz to make a show about ...  China and Russia?!!  Really, Ai?   Almost seems a bad joke...
Here is some information that Ai Wei Wei ought to take a look at and perhaps create an art piece about...
To put these figures in context, we have slightly more jails and prisons in the U.S. -- 5,000 plus -- than we do degree-granting colleges and universities. In many parts of America, particularly the South, there are more people living in prisons than on college campuses. ...

The rise of what Marie Gottschalk, the author of “Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics,” calls “the carceral state” is ominous.It will not be reformed through elections or by appealing to political elites or the courts. Prisons are not, finally, about race, although poor people of color suffer the most. They are not even about being poor. They are prototypes for the future. They are emblematic of the disempowerment and exploitation that corporations seek to inflict on all workers. If corporate power continues to disembowel the country, if it is not impeded by mass protests and revolt, life outside prison will soon resemble life in prison. 


Followers