In: mixed-media

It’s no secret that the Latin American art scene has exploded over the past couple of years. Auction houses, galleries, and even museums have tagged along this trend and have finally begun giving these artists the recognition they deserve. However, for those not deeply invested in the ebb and flow of the art world, the current 2016 summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro are a perfect time to familiarize oneself with some of the top contemporary artists of Brazil, a country rich in cultural and visual history. Here are a few of my favorites.

Beatriz Milhazes

Beatriz Milhazes, Bye, bye, love, 2011-2012. Acrylic on canvas.

Beatriz Milhazes, Bye, bye, love, 2011-2012. Acrylic on canvas.

Beatriz Milhazes (b. 1960) finds her inspiration in nature and its many, ever-changing forms. Her work is characterized by a vibrant palette, floral motifs, and organic patterns that resemble mandalas. Her recurring arabesques also hold a foundation in Brazilian culture—carnival decorations, Baroque colonial architecture, and popular music. The process of creation is rather laborious and structured —she paints her motifs first on a sheet of clear plastic, which she then applies to canvas to dry. The result is a rhythmic flattened surface, with shadows of color and forms where the color was not completely transferred. Her work has been used worldwide in outdoor spaces, for interior decoration, in stained glass, and for dance productions.

Rodrigo Mogiz

Rodrigo Mogiz, Between My Charming, 2010. Embroidery and Painting, Stabilizer. Courtesy of Fabio Pena Cal Galeria de Arte.

Rodrigo Mogiz, Between My Charming, 2010. Embroidery and Painting, Stabilizer. Courtesy of Fabio Pena Cal Galeria de Arte.

Rodrigo Mogiz (b. 1978) creates dream-like compositions where figures outlined in colorful strings float in an empty, white space. He appropriates images from magazines to explore themes of sexuality, gender, and expression, and to highlight the base superficiality of social media outlets and how audiences merely absorb aesthetics. These fantastical works fall somewhere between painting and embroidery (also using application beads, lace, and pins), poetically fusing the two mediums while simultaneously manifesting each of their unique characteristics. Mogiz has been exhibiting since 2000 and is based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Vik Muniz

Vik Muniz, 'The Birth of Venus, After Botticelli (Pictures of Junk)', 2008. Digital C-Print. Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Art (c) Vik Muniz and licensed by VAGA, New York.

Vik Muniz, ‘The Birth of Venus, After Botticelli (Pictures of Junk)’, 2008. Digital C-Print. Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Art (c) Vik Muniz and licensed by VAGA, New York.

Vik Muniz (b. 1961), an international sensation, is best known for producing imagery within the nexus of mixed media. Using a diverse range of everyday materials (from trash to diamonds to sugar to dirt) paired with elements from popular culture, Muniz excels in a layered appropriation of canonical artworks. His practice involves arranging his materials into a dense collage and then photographing it. He has recreated works by Leonardo, Dürer, Courbet, Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Malevich, Hiroshige, Warhol, Weegee —to name a few. What appears as a familiar image from afar, turns into a wondrous exploration of a myriad of minute details up-close.

Ernesto Neto

Installation shot of Life is a Body We are Part of in the 2014 exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao entitled The Body That Carries Me. © Ernesto Neto and Galeria Fortes Vilaça.

Installation shot of Life is a Body We are Part of in the 2014 exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao entitled The Body That Carries Me. © Ernesto Neto and Galeria Fortes Vilaça.

Ernesto Neto (b. 1964) is a highly influential figure in the contemporary Brazilian art scene. His work falls within the categories of sculpture and installation, but is not limited to their parameters. Sensuous environments made of organically abstract forms are his trademark. His materials include soft, stretchy fabrics in different colors that he fills with items like coffee beans, spices, or Styrofoam. Interested in sensuality, corporality, and reflection, Neto strives to present conditions where the human body becomes aware of itself in relation to the space around it. Visitors enter his playful worlds and physically react to the immersive habitats. They may feel, smell, look, and share their experiences with those around them.

OSGEMEOS

2015 independent project with artist Doze Green, made as a tribute to ‘80s Hip-Hop scene. Located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 1st Street in the East Village, New York City.

2015 independent project with artist Doze Green, made as a tribute to ‘80s Hip-Hop scene. Located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 1st Street in the East Village, New York City.

OSGEMEOS (b. 1974), Portuguese for “the twins,” is the name of the street art duo created by brothers Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo. Working together since they were children, the two share a magically impenetrable bond that has helped them shape a unique visual language that has transcended from the streets and into galleries, auction houses, and even museums. Their work is easily recognizable by its whimsical yellow figures with tubular torsos, gangly limbs, small spaced-out almond eyes, and thin-lipped mouths. These playful characters are inspired by graffiti, hip-hop, and break-dancing culture, and often incorporate social or political referents relevant to each particular geographic location. The brothers have projects all over the world—so keep your eyes peeled, you never know when you’ll round the corner and find yourself face to face with OSGEMEOS.

Alice Quaresma

Alice Quaresma, Ninho 61 (Nest 61), 2016. Color pencil and sticker over photographic print. © 2016 Alice Quaresma Rodriguez.

Alice Quaresma, Ninho 61 (Nest 61), 2016. Color pencil and sticker over photographic print. © 2016 Alice Quaresma Rodriguez.

Alice Quaresma (b. 1985) is a native of Rio de Janeiro and currently lives in New York City. Her practice involves photography and mixed media and explores issues of identity, displacement, and memory. Referring to her works as “photo-objects,” Quaresma superimposes drawings and geometric shapes over flat photo paper to push the boundaries of the photographic medium by incorporating elements of texture and volume. Her faded, dreamlike compositions evoke the subtleties and inexplicable phenomena of the emotional and psychological connection we feel to the places we experience.

“I find inspiration every time I feel physically disconnected from the place where I am.”
—Alice Quaresma, March 2016 interview with
Artspace.

Adriana Varejão

Adriana Varejão’s treatment for the aquatics center built for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of the artist.

Adriana Varejão’s treatment for the aquatics center built for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of the artist.

Adriana Varejão (b. 1964) primarily focuses her practice on ceramics tiles, either appropriating their history and function to reveal a darker, underlying meaning, or using their formal qualities to produce new visual effects. Throughout her career she has explored themes such as colonialism, racism, subjugation, and cultural formation through violence. Her work has often oscillated between the grotesque and the delicately beautiful. Varejão was chosen to decorate the Olympic Aquatics Center in the 2016 Rio games. Her 2004-08 work, Celacanto Provoca Maremoto (“the Coelacanth Causes a Seaquake”), made of blue-and-white tiles, was restructured, blown-up, and printed on canvas to adorn the exterior of the stadium. The work’s obvious aquatic aesthetics seem to be a perfect fit for the center’s function. However, references to Portugal’s colonization of Brazil through azulejo-inspired tiles and Baroque imagery subtly keep the country’s dark history afloat.

Moscow’s contemporary art scene is evolving and growing every year. Still quite young, yet admirably accomplished and diverse, it presents itself in many possible manifestations: from fairly traditional mediums such as painting, to interactive multimedia art. Moscow galleries do not only seek to discover, nurture, and promote local artists, but also to introduce the public to the works of internationally established artists from all over the world. Such important objectives are amplified by diversified art education programs hosted at the galleries. These facilitate the profound international exchange of ideas. We have highlighted the top 10 venues, from large museums to smaller galleries, that you have to check out in Russia’s capital.

Garage Museum

Garage Museum, Installation View. Courtesy of Oma.

Garage Museum, Installation View. Courtesy of Oma.

In a nutshell: Two years ago, contemporary art center Garage, founded in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova, finally acquired museum status. Today, it may arguably be proclaimed the most influential contemporary art venue in the country. It has basically marked a turning point in the local perception of contemporary art. Providing the opportunity for creating new works and ideas, Garage reflects and defines contemporary art thinking in Russia and ties it to the international scene. It was the first to introduce the local public to such important names as James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama, and Louise Bourgeois, to name a few. In 2014, Garage became one of the venues hosting the longest lasting ongoing global art project, “Do it Moscow”, first conceived by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1993. The museum has recently moved to its permanent location in a former soviet restaurant, «Vremena Goda» (Seasons of the year”), executing an innovative and transformative preservation project.

Where: 9/32 Krymsky Val. Open daily 11 am-10 pm.

Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (MAMM)

MAM Moscow, Installation View. Courtesy of Voxxter.

MAM Moscow, Installation View. Courtesy of Voxxter.

In a nutshell: Previously known as the Moscow House of Photography, now MAMM is one of the most vibrant art venues in the Russian capital. Ever since 1996, it has been directed by its founder Olga Sviblova, who has over 500 exhibits of contemporary art and photography under her belt, along with curating the most important collections of Russian photography. MAMM is primarily famous for hosting two influential festivals: Photobiennale on even years, and Fashion and Style in Photography on the odd ones. The museum occupies a seven-story white cube where traditional works of art co-exists with innovative multimedia and video installations. One of MAMM’s objectives is to be open to fresh ideas and forms of visual expression in the fields of contemporary photography and new media art.

Where: Ostozhenka st., 16. Open 12 pm-9pm Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.

Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA)

Joseph Boyes Installation View. Courtesy of MMOMA

Joseph Boyes Installation View. Courtesy of MMOMA

In a nutshell: MMOMA is the first contemporary art museum in modern Russia and one of the most vital participants in the country’s contemporary culture. The museum’s collection mainly narrates the history of Russian twentieth-century avant-gardes through the works of Malevich, Chagall, Goncharova, Tatlin and Kandinsky, just to name a few, with a rich addition of works by European and American artists. MMOMA’s exhibition program, however, is focused on studying and displaying the visual culture of the twenty-first century, from debut shows of contemporary artists to international festivals and retrospectives.

Where: the museum is housed within 4 different venues: Petrovka street 25; Ermolaevka Lane, 17; Tverskoy boulevard, 9; Gogolevsky boulevard, 10. All of the above are open 12 pm-8 pm, Monday-Sunday, and 1pm-9pm on Thursday. The museum is closed every third Monday of the month.

Center MARS

In a nutshell:

Mars was established in 1988 in Soviet Moscow as the oldest and first non-governmental center for contemporary art. It was known for actively promoting Russian art of the late twentieth century, and for its participation in Tokyo ArtExpo in 1992. Today the venue,  which resembles a labyrinth rather than a traditional white cube, focuses on interactive digital art projects. It invites its viewers to experience an interactive multimedia space with all their senses. Here you will encounter works by local media artists such as TUNDRA, ::vtol::, kbln, Pixelord, noobusdeer, and many others.

Where: Pushkarev street, 10. Open 12pm-10pm daily. Closed Monday.

LABORATORIA Art & Science Space

In a nutshell: Laboratoria is the first and, so far, the only interdisciplinary space in Russia where artists and scientists investigate intersections within their practices under the guidance of gallerist and curator Daria Parkhomenkno. Here, artists interested in present-day scientific disputes aim to discover new ideas about their surroundings and to translate them into art. These almost magical experiments are an unavoidable interaction between art and science in today’s world.

Where: 3 Obukha per. Open Thursday-Sunday 2pm-8pm.

GLAZ Gallery

GLAZ Gallery, Installation View. Courtesy of GLAZ

GLAZ Gallery, Installation View. Courtesy of GLAZ

In a nutshell: Glaz is one of the biggest local galleries specializing in photography. Along with the majority of the leading Moscow galleries, Glaz is located at the Winzavod art center. The location makes it easy for visitors to cruise around in their art pilgrimage. The gallery’s collection consists of contemporary conceptual works as well as soviet classics, and counts over 4000 pieces. Along with the works of established artists, Glaz displays young and promising names, helping them to find their audience and collectors.

Where: Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art, 4th Syromyatnicheskiy Lane, 1, Bld. 6. Open Tuesday-Sunday 12pm-8pm.

Gallery Iragui

In a nutshell: The founder of the gallery, Irina Iragui, started her career in Paris as an independent art project manager on various sites, later opening her own venue in the Marais quarter. The Moscow branch of the gallery opened in 2008 and is now known for promoting French artists, mostly born in the ’70s, within the Russian audience, as well as for helping the local artistic community to integrate itself into the international contemporary art world.

Where: Moscow, Malaya Polyanka st., 7/5. Open Tuesday-Saturday 2pm-7pm.

Triangle Gallery

In a nutshell: Triangle is the youngest gallery on our list, yet it is already acutely representative of the local art dynamics. Before opening a space in Moscow in February 2015, gallerist Nadezhda Stepanova worked in the gallery business in Turin for over seven years, and she still lives between Moscow and Italy. The gallery is managed with the help of Elvira Tarnogradksaya, an art consultant, and Alisa Bogdanayte, a curator at Vladivostok contemporary art center ZARYA. Their diverse program includes displays of both Russian and foreign contemporary artists, such as artistic community VGLAZ (do not confuse with the above GLAZ gallery) and video artists such as Sasha Pirogova and Dmitry Bulyigin.

Where: Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art, 4th Syromyatnicheskiy Lane, 1, Bld. 6. Open Tuesday-Sunday 1pm-7:30 pm, or by appointment.

Ruarts

In a nutshell: One of the biggest local galleries. Its sleek space designed by architects Anton Nadtochia and Vera Butko is located in the city’s museum district. It is one of the leading contemporary galleries representing art today, from painting and photography to sculpture and new media installations. Ruarts has built a reputation for supporting both beginning and already established Russian artists. It has also brought to Russia’s capital names such as Ervin Olaf, Nabuko Watabiki, and Herve Ic, among others. Most of the shows at Ruarts are curatorial collaborations between local and foreign curators.

Where: 1 Zachatievskiy st., 10. Open 12pm-8 pm Tuesday-Saturday.

MSK Eastside Gallery

MSK Eastside Gallery, Installation View. Courtesy of MSK Eastside.

MSK Eastside Gallery, Installation View. Courtesy of MSK Eastside.

In a nutshell:

Earlier this year, the gallery has opened its new space in the city center, after moving from its first location in the art district near metro Baumanskaya. During the last few years, gallerist Wildrik Batjes (France), together with curators Jabagh Kaghado and Zak Kaghado (USA), has discovered and supported a number of talented Moscow-based artists with an alternative artistic vision. The majority of them have made their way into fine arts from a graffiti movement. Therefore, the gallery owns a large collection of post-graffiti art, photography, paintings and installations. In addition to promoting young Russian artists, MSK Eastside also curates shows of internationally renowned artists, and works closely with auction houses like Phillips NYC, Christie’s Paris and ArtCurial Paris.

Where: Leontyevskiy per., 5. Open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm.

As politically minded as he was self-reflective, Thornton Dial (1928-2016) was difficult to pin down. Since the early 90s, the artist has been featured in exhibitions at museum’s across the country, and over the years his work has been acquired by major institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, the MoMA, the Philadelphia Museum, and the Hirshhorn in DC. Inspired by his upbringing in Jim Crow-era Alabama, much of Dial’s early work focuses on issues of race and class, and how the identity of the “outsider” played into national consciousness. The agonized expressions of the figures in Raggly Flag confront us with the contradictory message of unity the American Flag is meant to convey in a nation where many are still treated as second-class citizens. In his later work, Dial began exploring a more universal struggle, while never failing to address the nation with its own problematic history. As the first exhibition in New York since the artist’s passing earlier this year, We All Live Under the Same Old Flag at Marianne Boesky Gallery represents this change of perspective, along with Dial’s ability to capture a wider audience through his use of Americana style and appropriated consumer culture.

The Raggly Flag, 1989 Enamel on wood 48 x 96 inches 121.9 x 243.8 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Marianne Boesky

The Raggly Flag, 1989 Enamel on wood 48 x 96 inches 121.9 x 243.8 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Marianne Boesky

As a self-taught artist, Dial began his sculptural style of painting by compiling found objects and scrap materials from his job as a metalworker. He was able to transform old tires, chains, twigs, and rusted tools into highly textured and often expressionistic wall reliefs, paintings, and works on paper. His practice of weaving used fabrics together harkens back to the tradition of African American quiltmaking, seen in Negro History, a relatively recent work made from carpet, metal, putty, oil, enamel, and spray paint on wood.

Negro History, 2003 Carpet, metal, putty, oil, enamel, and spray paint on wood 50 x 49 x 3/4 inches 127 x 124.5 x 1.9 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Marianne Boesky

Negro History, 2003 Carpet, metal, putty, oil, enamel, and spray paint on wood 50 x 49 x 3/4 inches 127 x 124.5 x 1.9 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Marianne Boesky

Thornton believed in the individual interpretation of his work, but his titles are often times highly charged and specific to the black community and experience, which the gallery refers to as “a secret language of symbols that convey strength, survival, and freedom – important to the dialogue of the black experience.” The extent to which this language is “secret” can be left up to the viewer; nevertheless, Negro Story is an apt title for a work that takes something old and worn and uses it to create something beautiful.

We All Live Under the Same Old Flag (Installation Views) Marianne Boesky Gallery, 2016

We All Live Under the Same Old Flag (Installation Views) Marianne Boesky Gallery, 2016

As Dial shifted his focus to wider national histories of oppression and equality, his work became more simplified in form, material, and color. In the weeks following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the artist worked almost non-stop on large-scale paintings and sculptures in an attempt to capture a national ethos. The resulting works incorporate the expressive quality of his earlier works, but are more focused on scale and composition. Winter Jackets, a beautiful painting featuring a figure in the grasps of a ghostly form, represents this newfound sensibility.

Winter Jackets, 2007 Clothing, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood 80 x 66 x 2 inches 203.2 x 167.6 x 5.1 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Marianne Boesky.

Winter Jackets, 2007 Clothing, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood 80 x 66 x 2 inches 203.2 x 167.6 x 5.1 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Marianne Boesky.

Dial left behind a visually and historically rich body of work that tells anything but a singular perspective. “Art is a guide for every person that is looking for something,” Dial said in an interview with the New York Times. “That’s how I can describe myself: Mr. Dial is a man looking for something.”

Thornton Dial: We All Live Under the Same Old Flag closes Saturday, June 18, 2016.

Anselm Kiefer once said, “art is difficult, it’s not entertainment.” Indeed, when I first encountered Kiefer’s art at his retrospective in Royal Academy of Arts in London in late 2014, I found his art almost unbearably heavy and dark. His first retrospective in France is happening right now, and gave me a better understanding of his art.

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Anselm Kiefer, Display Case. Photograph by Rickovia Leung

Now held at Centre Pompidou in Paris, the retrospective showcases 150 works by this 70-year-old German artist who emerged in the art scene of post-war Germany in 1969, spanning almost half of a century. Organized chronologically and thematically into 13 sections, the retrospective exhibits around 60 selected paintings alongside drawings, installations, artist’s books and 40 “display cases” of micro-fragmented environments or ruins consisting of broken machinery, rusty metal, old photographs and filmstrips.

Firstly, the large-scale installation in the Forum of Centre Pompidou, Steigend, steigend, sinke niede [In climbing, climbing towards the heights, fall into the abyss] with materials resembling hundreds of filmstrips, symbolizes the exhibition as a film running backwards, which simultaneously echoes the perpetual theme of memory in the art of Anselm Kiefer.

“Memory”, “history” and “myth” are some of the keywords to understanding Kiefer’s art as he is one of the first artists in post-war Germany to look into Nazi history by means of his art. In 1969, the artist made a series of photographic self-portraits in which he performed the Hitler salute, dressing in his father’s old Nazi army uniform. In the painting Notung, the sword bears Kiefer’s fascination with the Germanic heroes who are part of the national identity. It is also stained with blood, simultaneously becoming a witness to the nation’s history of the past century. Representing Germany at the Venice Biennial in 1980, Anselfm Kiefer and Georg Baselitz opened a Pandora’s box by making references to German history – the history that the whole nation wanted to forget. With the series Wege der Weltsweisheit [Ways of Worldly Wisdom], Kiefer insisted on the need to face the Nazi history by painting a web connecting the portraits of German intellectuals with some Nazi figures with a forest at the background representing Germany. In Kiefer’s philosophy, “only by going into the past can you go into the future.”

 Anselm Kiefer, Malen [To Paint], 1974-2. Photograph by Rickovia Leung

Anselm Kiefer, Malen [To Paint], 1974-2. Photograph by Rickovia Leung

This links to another significant aspect of Kiefer’s art – the sublime and regenerative power of art. Kiefer explores the role of the artist after Nazism, with a drawn palette superimposed on a ruined landscape in Malen [To Paint]. As the bluish rain showered by the palette seems to be refreshing the burnt field, Kiefer illustrates the power of art to salvage and regenerate from the wreckage. Therefore, one could say Kiefer’s art is bipolar – it bridges joy and hope with gloomy catastrophic ruins.

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Anselm Kiefer, Bose Blumen. Photograph by Rickovia Leung

In the painterly Bose Blumen, the expressive colors of flowering meadows, with references to the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, does not only witness the transformation of Kiefer’s art from monochrome black to a variety of colors, but also denotes cycles of perpetual regeneration as the essence of Kiefer’s artistic philosophy. This is reinforced by the final, site-specific installation, For Madame de Staël: Germany, with cardboard mushrooms indicating various German intellectuals sprouting from sands that are spread over a large gallery space in front of a painting of a dark forest that signifies Germany. With this latest piece indicating transformation and rebirth growing from his nation’s tormented past, Kiefer is determined to emphasize the transcending power of art.

As Kiefer once said art may not be easy, as his art deals with the past, the present and the future in this complicated world. Take a chance to experience and understand Anselm Kiefer’s art at Centre Pompidou until 18th of April, 2016. 

 

“Unorthodox”, which opened at the Jewish Museum in November and will run until March 27th, features a diverse collection of works by fifty-five contemporary artists who, according to the exhibit’s catalogue, “operate outside established norms” of the art world and “carry their nonconformist approaches into the art they make and vice-versa”. The exhibit is a response to the apparent paradox of elitism within the world of avant-garde art. “Unorthodox” features various paintings, videos installations, sculptures, and other works that challenge the “establishment” either in their form or content. I was really impressed both by how engaging and inviting the exhibit was, and by the inclusion of so many talented female artists, most of whom I had not heard of before.

Upon entering the exhibit, I was greeted with  a black and white video by the German Jewish cabaret dancer and artist Valeska Gert called Das Baby. In this video, the middle-aged Gert coos and gurgles like an infant and makes exaggerated facial expressions at the camera. This video certainly set the tone for the rest of the exhibit: expressive, bizarre, and a little bit whimsical.

“Unorthodox” features a little bit of everything: painting, sculpture, collage, video, even weavings. There is certainly something for everyone to enjoy and one art form is not presented as superior to another. I was delighted by the hilarious ceramic “Jugheads” by Clayton Bailey which, like Das Baby, were simultaneously thought-provoking and humorous.

Clayton Bailey, Jugheads, 1991-1994.

The show also features a bounty of beautiful watercolor and acrylic paintings that really brightened up the room. I was particularly drawn to the imaginative and surreal watercolors by Nick Payne as well as an equally dreamlike acrylic by Austé which featured gorgeous and sensual forms and dramatic colors. Vent D’Husain by French-Indian artist Nadira Husain was probably my favorite of the paintings in the collection. In this piece, Husain uses the traditional Indian kalamkari hand painting technique with vegetable dyes and which results in brilliant hues of teal, yellow, and red.

I was also intrigued by a series of acrylics by author and journalist William T. Vollmann called “The Artist, His Model, & Dolores”. Vollmann, who is better known for his literary efforts, is interested in cross-dressing and through his alter-ego Dolores attempts to explore “what being a woman would be like”.

Nadira Husain, Vent D'Husain 2015

In addition to the painting, sculpture, and other works, I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit’s video installations. The two that resonated with me the most were Tommy Hartung’s “Lesser Key of Solomon” which addressed themes of race and religion and Moroccan artist Meriem Bennani’s “Pamela” which I watched twice. “Pamela” is a dark and erotic stop-motion cartoon that depicts the tragic saga of two anthropomorphized beasts and is captivating in an almost frightening way.

William T. Volmann, The Artist, His Model, & Dolores 2015.

Even though “Unorthodox” is meant to address serious issues in the art world, the exhibit itself is fun, inviting, and accessible for all ages to enjoy and in no way cynical or alienating. The exhibit does a masterful job of giving women and minority artists a voice and celebrating the rich diversity in the art world and different forms of art as well. “Unorthodox” was a breath of fresh air and definitely worth a visit. In addition to free tours of the exhibit, The Jewish Museum is also hosting “Unorthodox Programming” in collaboration with the 92nd street Y to  accompany the exhibit. These programs include “On Museums”, which will take place on February 28th,  “In Response:Unorthodox” on March 6th, and “On Philosophy” on March 22nd. To learn more about the exhibit and these special programs consult the Jewish Museum’s website.

Global/Local 1960–2015: Six Artists from Iran is currently on view at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University’s fine arts museum. As the title suggests, this stunning exhibition brings together six modern and contemporary artists working with their local Persian traditions in Iran as well as internationally, broadening the discourse to current political and social situations. Spanning three generations, the Grey has assembled a critical, thought provoking, and visually breathtaking show that depicts the diverse artistic production stemming from a country whose art is not as accessible to audiences outside of its borders.

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A complex yet culturally rich narrative unfolds as we move through the galleries. The show begins with the pioneering modernists of the 1960s and 1970s, Parviz Tanavoli (b. 1937) and Faramarz Pilaram (1937-1983). It then moves to Chohreh Feyzdjou (1955-1996) working right after the turbulent Iran-Iraq War years (1980-88), and ends with the youngest artists Shiva Ahmadi (b. 1975), Shahpour Pouyan (b.1980), and Barbad Golshiri (b. 1982) working within the 2000s up until today.

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This show is exceptionally rich and compelling as it brings together a broad and genuine portrayal of Iranian culture based in ancient traditions and forms while simultaneously questioning bleaker themes of power, authority, identity, violence, and military aggression that have all been pertinent throughout the country’s history and as well as today. These themes and motifs are handled in such subtle and incredibly clever ways that the resulting affects are illuminating. Through diverse mediums such as painting, ceramics, metalwork, mixed media, photography, assemblage, watercolor, and video these artists manipulate their heritage and history to make intriguing new claims and connections.

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Much of the exhibition is heavy on artistic and curatorial installation that actively engages visitors as they maneuver through the space. The conjoined galleries of Feyzdjou and Golshiri show the dedication and precision in which the exhibit was planned out. Golshiri, who is interested in tombstones and cultures surrounding death, helped arrange the works within his own gallery in order to have it resemble a cemetery plot. Photographs of cemeteries are hung low with a few resting on the floor and leaning against the walls. A stone cenotaph is snuggly fit in a corner while three large rectangular marble slabs are arranged in the middle of the floor. As we walk through these works we arrive at an intimate gallery displaying Feyzdjou’s large-scale installations. 403 scrolls are hung in a grid pattern while rolls, wooden crates, and a large canvas strewn scaffolding resembling an Iranian bazaar display inhabit the rest of the space. These dark, grim objects have been made from reused materials and appropriated works from Feyzdjou’s early art school days. They speak to her quest for identity and represent cycles of destruction and reconstruction.

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My favorite artists within this exhibition are Ahmadi and Pouyan, whose works are ground in fine details and toying with the audience’s initial perceptions. Nothing is quite what it seems with these two. Both employ past traditions through their use of miniatures, most notably from the Shahnama (Book of Kings), an illuminated manuscript detailing various Persian epics. Ahmadi takes these narratives and recasts them into contemporary contexts. Her works are colorful, alluring, playful, and rendered in watercolor, giving them an ethereal softness. Her subject, however, is corruption. Faceless rulers sit upon bleeding thrones while monkeys and other circus animals present candy-shaped offerings, which are in fact bombs and grenades. Pipes, industrial and traditional Iranian architectural forms surround these mythic scenes creating an apocalyptic play land. Ahmadi loves “sugarcoating” images where they appear beautiful from afar but reveal darker narratives when we step closer. These works are as mesmerizing as they are grotesque. Rendered with masterful subtlety yet poignant critique, she is commenting on the military aggression that has been present within Iran since the 1979 revolution as a battle over the country’s natural resources and the civilian traumas faced at the hands of their own governments.

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Pouyan similarly subverts the meaning of the Shahnama epics by taking specific illustrated pages and stripping the scenes of any figurative elements. What we are left with is an eerily empty landscape void of the elite figures that would have been a part of the scene. These small-scale works are fascinating and leave us to ponder on the contexts of power and patronage, and how authority can dictate “what is left unseen” within society.

Another exquisite series from Pouyan is his “Projectiles.” These monumental hanging works invade the gallery space as missile-like structures. Inspired by medieval Persian armor he explores how technology has served power throughout history. These first appear as menacing weapons but upon closer inspection reveal Pouyan’s fine calligraphic ornament. They are sharp and suggest violence but are also aesthetically striking and in fact very beautiful.

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I have come back and seen this show multiple times and with each new visit I have discovered something new. You are set into a sort of trance as you move through the galleries, mesmerized by the ornately fine detailed works and the variety of mediums. The exhibition as a whole is a feast for the eyes as well as a deeply psychological portrayal of Iran’s past. The artists’ consistent referencing to history and Persian heritage allows us to begin to better understand the country’s complex present.

Beautiful and enlightening from all angles, I highly recommend making a visit to NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. Global/Local 1960–2015: Six Artists from Iran is on view until April 2, 2016.

I attended the preview of Saatchi Gallery’s newest exhibition, ‘Champagne Life‘, and it certainly did not disappoint. Saatchi is committed to its advancement of the art scene here in the UK and internationally, which is why for the first time in its history, the gallery decided to formulate a display of all female artists for the exhibition. Within this exhibit, visitors can see the work of female artists from around the world, ranging from Iran to the USA to Australia and Saudi Arabia, and all the artists produce distinctive pieces including paintings, sculptures, mixed media works, and more.

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‘Champagne Life’ is a celebration of women in art but the subject matters that each artist deals with go far deeper than just femininity. The artists look at the media, at heritage and much more and they explore these issues in a range of interesting ways for visitors to take in. Whether it’s a taxidermy horse, a canvas, a wall of over 200 pans or a papier mâché animal, these women display the vast [and varied] forms that art can take, and placed within the gorgeous setting of the Saatchi it makes for a great exhibit.

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champagne life

Although the canvas pieces were excellent, for me the true highlights of this exhibition lay in the mixed media work and sculptures. These artists seem to have mastered the art of taking the everyday object and molding it into thought-provoking pieces. They are new, fresh and in the words of Maha Malluh, one of the artists featured, it ‘forces you to pause, to contemplate and think harder about your surroundings‘. So to see this groundbreaking exhibition, head down to the Saatchi from 13th January and be part of what will become a historical moment for the gallery.