Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Carnegie International 2013

Phyllida Barlow  -TIP
Phyllida Barlow TIP
I am getting this in just as late as could be, with the Carnegie International closing on March 16. I have talked to several friends over the course of the last few months, but only made my first trip to see the exhibit a few short weeks ago and visited again this past weekend.I'll say this, right off. I don't usually read the catalog. I like to go into an exhibit cold, without reading a bunch of statements. The first thing that I would tell anybody about going to see the exhibit is to at least look at the installation map in the gallery guide supplied by the museum. Otherwise, you'll miss some of the installation.

The work by Phyllida Barlow, pictured above, greets visitors to the museum at the street level. I thought that the juxtaposition with Richard Sera's monumental work really set the tone for the International. If you look into the structure, you'll see how it has accumulated detritus at its roots, with empty fast food containers and Big Gulp cups, which may be unintended but surely not unexpected. So many of the works and artists in CI13 were working with ephemeral materials, but not on this grand of a scale.

Sadie Benning (back wall) and Vincent Fecteau (foreground sculpture)
Sadie Benning and Vincent Fecteau
The exhibit is installed with especial care. For instance, the dialog occurring between the works of Sadie Benning and Vincent Fecteau is really well thought out. Both artists have an interest in the obvious mark of human hands in their work, and their palettes are similar. It's a harmonious pairing in this case.

In fact, there is a sense of deliberation on the curators' parts throughout the exhibit. This International was co-curated by Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski, and I am sure that there was a lot of discussion and negotiation to reach a consensus on which artists and works to include. The curators' selections, according to the statement, "...presents new voices rooted in history, a sense of place, and play." The curatorial team, and artists whose work is included in the exhibit, went beyond the walls of the museum to work with community members, as well as some local artists.

There are a few buzzwords floating around the art world lately, and types of work that seem to be garnering a lot of attention. The sculptor as painter, artists whose work is a curation of life, abstraction, and anti-monumental art are all concepts that have surfaced in recent critical discourse. The curators of CI13 certainly included examples of these types of art in the exhibit. Since these are current trends, and this is a survey exhibit of contemporary art, there is real reason to acknowledge this type of discourse. Many of the works referenced the artworld and previous art movements. The exhibit reflects the pluralism prevalent in the arts community, with narrative paintings sharing space with found object assemblage and an exhibit that runs the gamut of static to ephemeral to installation.

While I did enjoy several of the pieces and artists included in the exhibit, I would be hard-pressed to say that I found anything particularly compelling. I suppose I've grown jaded, after decades of producing and viewing art. Although the politics and social commentary in some of the pieces is well-expressed, they are already points of view that I hold; I need no convincing. Nothing really stopped me in my tracks and made me say I've never thought of it that way or I wonder how that was made. But that's okay. I may be outside the demographic that the show is trying to reach.

Pedro Reyes - Disarm
Pedro Reyes Disarm
Pedro Reyes' Disarm is unequivocally the most popular installation in this edition of the Carnegie International. Disarm is an orchestra constructed from salvaged guns and other weapons of destruction. It's such an uplifting piece, with its idea that you can undermine the violence of war by repurposing its tools. I found myself waiting for those moments when the instruments would produce a concert of sorts, with several instruments producing sound at the same time. Honestly, I really enjoyed this work. It would be interesting to see a performance of musicians using these instruments.

Guo Fengyi
Guo Fengyi

Guo Fengyi's scrolls were installed in the last of the line of galleries. Of all of the works presented in the exhibit, these were the ones that tugged at my heart.These seemed very personal, from their subject to their execution. The marks were practiced and deliberate while the work itself freely flowed.

Nicole Eisenman
Nicole Eisenman
The museum had an interesting photography policy allowing visitors to take pictures of some of the exhibit. It wasn't permitted with Nicole Eisenman's work, so I linked the above image from Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. The work pictured above is not included in CI13, but I think it is representative. Ms. Eisenman's presence in the exhibit is a retrospective of her work, spanning twenty years of painting.

The paintings borrow from several movements, heavily influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and Fauvism. Her hand on her tools is as varied, from flat, broad brushstrokes to areas where contrasting colors are blended into harmony. Her work is very art meta, talking about style and technique in a cacophony of colors and figures that become the focus rather than the vehicle of expression.

This post has gotten long, and I don't think I've said everything I'd like to say about CI13. So, even though I didn't intend to, I will post a second installment in the next few days. There are a couple small details that I want to mention. CMoA is closed on Tuesdays but is open on Mondays, with extended hours on Thursdays. The Museum is free every Thursday evening in March.

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