MBG Issue #135: Punished with Beauty

Issue # 135

Punished with Beauty

December 4, 2009

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Mel Bochner, Blah, Blah, Blah, 2008, Oil-based printing ink on paper, 30 1/8 x 22 1/2 inches. Courtesy Lawrence Markey, Inc.

from the editor

Joan Jonas’s recent workshop on drawing and performance, held in Austin just before Thanksgiving, centered on the idea of the list. Artists, Jonas pointed out, use lists all the time and in all sorts of ways. Reflecting upon this point, I considered doing a feature on artists' use of lists. But when I began to enumerate examples, my list of possibilities became increasingly unwieldy.

Ever since Jonas’s workshop, I haven’t been able to shake the list. Partly, this has to do with last week’s holiday. A few nights before the big day, my girlfriend and I sat down with a bottle of wine (the best accompaniment to a good list) to write a “to do” list—mostly cleaning duties in preparation for the arrival of our family—and a grocery list for our Thanksgiving meal.

Then, on Monday, Artforum and Bookforum arrived in my mailbox. Artforum’s December issue always revolves around “best of” lists. (…might be good will put out its own such list at the end of the month.) This issue is anxiety-producing and irritating, and yet irresistible. On one hand, its “best of” lists inside it draw attention to how much there is to see, and the impossibility of ever keeping up with it all. On the other, these lists say more about their authors (today’s art world luminaries) than they do about the exhibitions, films and performances they inventory. This is irritating if you’re reading for content, but also irresistible in an Us Weekly kind of way. Each list gives readers a peek at the life of a taste-maker—where she’s traveling, what she’s seeing, who she’s talking to—and together, the lists create a catalogue of “what’s hot now.”

I skimmed Artforum’s actual lists and then opened Bookforum, only to find a a review of Umberto Eco’s new book The Infinity of Lists, released last month. I put the book on my Christmas list.

By way of closure to this meditation, I offer my reflections on Mel Bochner’s current show at Lawrence Markey, which closes today. Much of Bochner’s work can be understood in relation to the list: lists of numbers, lists of measurements, lists of words, lists of possibilities. At Lawrence Markey, Aggravate and Fool (both 2009), two of Bochner’s Thesaurus Paintings, are obvious examples. Each depicts as many synonyms for “aggravate” and “fool,” respectively, as fit on the canvas. In addition to these two paintings, Markey hung three Blah, Blah, Blah, prints (all 2008) in the front gallery. In these works, Bochner used a stamp in his characteristic all-caps bubble font—BLAH,—to print the word repeatedly on the page. The beauty of the stamp is in the comma. That small, slanted mark not only suggests the endlessness of the blabbering list grammatically, but also formally. Set askew from the bold, upright letters, it gesticulates obliquely upward and to the right, sending the eye dancing around the canvas from comma to comma. Visually, the comma creates the grammatical and gestural movement that keeps BLAH from getting stuck to the page, and makes it echo over and over beyond the picture frame.

Bochner’s Blah, Blah, Blah, is a poke at language art, his own and others’. But more interesting to me is the way Blah, Blah, Blah, captures the arbitrariness of most lists, their potential endlessness and, ultimately, their sameness.

In this issue, don't miss Dan Boehl's coverage of Okay Mountain's Corner Store, presented by Arthouse at Pulse, Miami. Our next issue will include reviews of David Bates and Jade Walker, both at the Austin Museum of Art, as well as onetime Austinite Tony Feher's current show at D'Amelio Terras in NYC.

Claire Ruud is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.


Karin Higa: On Curating the Contemporary & Productive Orientalism

By Claire Ruud

Foreground: Manfred Perniceikebana 1 (2006). Background: Anya Gallaccio, In a Moment (1997) in Living Flowers: Ikebana and Contemporary Art at the Japanese American National Museum, June 15 - September 7, 2008. Photo: Joshua White.

This year Lectures on Art in the Black Diaspora in the Department of Art and Art History at UT Austin partnered with the Center for Asian American Studies to bring a series of speakers to talk about art and Asian diaspora. Among the invited speakers was Karin Higa, who is currently writing her dissertation on Japanese American artists in Los Angeles during the 1920s and 30s. As the senior curator of art at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, Higa curated a number of exhibitions including View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945, and One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now at the Asia Society in New York. Here, she talks to ...might be good about the issues surrounding curating Asian American art today.

…might be good (mbg): I want to begin by talking about One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now, the exhibition you co-curated at the Asia Society in 2006. It seems to me this exhibition has something in common with Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement at LACMA in 2008.

Karin Higa (KH): One Way or Another came about because the Asia Society in New York was thinking about how to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Melissa Chiu, the director of the museum, wanted to do a show that featured Asian American issues. So from the beginning, that framework is complex because the Asia Society is an American museum known for its work in traditional Asian arts, and here they wanted to explore the idea of Asian American art, something they inaugurated with their Asia/America exhibition in 1994.

Melissa invited me to co-curate the show with her, along with Susette Min who is a professor at UC Davis in Art History and Asian American Studies. We started off organically; we wanted, in essence, to take a snap shot of what was going on at that moment. So we started looking at a whole bunch of work. What we found was really exciting. There were all these young Asian American artist who were, on one hand, for lack of a better word, proud of who they were, completely conscious of their ethnicity as Asian Americans and their complicated role within American politics. But at the same time, they weren’t bound by those parameters, and they were exploring different formal and aesthetic strategies along with their peers. Simultaneously, there was this awareness of race and ethnicity, but no feeling that race and ethnicity defined their artistic practices. That’s not to say that none of the art in that show addressed identity, because certainly some of it did.

mbg: So in the case of One Way or Another, or for that matter in the case of Phantom Sightings, is the history of American art institutions creating the parameters of these shows?

KH: I don’t think it’s institutions that define the parameters. I mention the situation at the Asia Society because its particular governance raises another issue, maybe a parallel one, about the culturally specific institutions. The Asia Society is a culturally- and regionally-specific institution that has a history of showing traditional Asian art. I guess I brought up that situation to point out that the role of traditional art, whether it’s in a museum of African art, Asian art or Latin American art, is another part of this dialogue.

mbg: What is significant about putting contemporary work into those kinds of spaces?

KH: Well, I think exhibitions of contemporary work in these spaces represent that non-Western cultures exists in the here and now, not just in the past. There is a tendency to think of Asian as “ancient” and African as “primitive,” and not as living entities. It’s also important to represent the diasporic nature of the world in the 21st century, that there have been mass migrations over the past couple hundred years, and that these migrations influence our notion of race and cultural production.

mbg: So given that the work in a show like One Way or Another selects artists on the basis of their identity as Asian Americans, but the work isn’t “about” race, how does the work cohere into an exhibition?

KH: One criticism I heard about One Way or Another was that essentially it was a show about race, because the whole organizing principle is race. I have no problem with that idea. I have no problem doing a show about race, especially when the parameters are transparent.

To me, that was a very important part of One Way or Another: it was a show about race that showed that race wasn’t determining the artists’ aesthetic output. In the end, the art has really little to do with race. It was a race-based show that revealed the fallacy of making a show about “race-based art.” I wonder whether Melissa or Susette would put it the same way. I bet we would all put it differently, which goes to show that curatorial projects cannot be fixed, even in the minds of the co-curators. We have a tendency to think that ideas are fixed, or that the visitor experience is fixed, but it’s not. Hopefully, in a good show, there will not be unanimity.

mbg: More recently you curated a very different kind of show that paired a traditional Japanese art form—Ikebana—with contemporary artworks not necessarily, or even mostly, by Japanese American artists.

KH: Yes, it was called Living Flowers: Ikebana and Contemporary Art, at the Japanese American National Museum last summer in 2008. Living Flowers is my way of thinking about what I might call productive Orientalism, or productive borrowings of different cultures. I was interested in works of contemporary art that reminded me of things I saw formally, conceptually and materially within ikebana. Some of the artists in the show were explicitly referencing Ikebana and others weren’t at all. Then I juxtaposed those works with works by Ikebana sensei, or teachers. For me, it was about a collision of two different systems of artistic production today. Ikebana is a living art, in the sense that it is practiced today and it’s a very vital way of making art, with its own codes and structures. Some people would say that it’s not creative because there are all these rules. But you know, contemporary art has a lot of rules. In contemporary art, the rules are suppressed, so people don’t necessarily know what they are, but in Ikebana they are explicit, they even exist in writing. But within those structures there is a tremendous amount of creativity and authorial voices. It was interesting to think about these two different spheres of practice that exist in the same time and place, but also are so different.

mbg: Were you thinking about formal relationships between the works or philosophical ones?

KH: There was a lot about form. On the one hand, you think of form as being really important but it’s also in some ways superficial because it’s formal affinities. Affinities is one of these really loaded terms because it was one of the key words William Rubin used when he curated Primitivism in 20th Century Art at the Museum of Modern Art in 1984, which brought together non-Western art of the past with art of the current century–Picasso was emblematic. That show was hammered for the way it framed the non-West in terms of the past, in a way that was primitivistic and reductive. I was interested the possibility of doing a show that was, in a way, reductive, but in that reduction was also an expansive way of thinking about both contemporary art and Ikebana. That was what Living Flowers was about, and I don’t know if it came through in the show, but that’s what I was interested in. I was asking, why do superficial borrowings have to be bad? Why can’t they be interesting and a point of inquiry?

mbg: I’ve seen a couple of shows lately that seem to be very much about formal qualities. What were you trying to get at through such a formal approach?

KH: One thing was about looking. I feel like no one looks in museums anymore, so presenting them with the contrast between contemporary art and ikebana makes people look more carefully. Ikebana is ephemeral; it changed every week. Over the course of the show, we had over 135 different discreet arrangements. That’s a big management issue as well. It’s good though; it makes you think about how the kinds of forms we use in exhibition-making are dictated by the form of exhibition itself. In this exhibition we changed things over time, we had living material in the galleries. Homegrown plant materials have pests, so there were some galleries in which we couldn’t allow them. For the Ikebana artists, these materials were very important, so we had certain areas where they could have homegrown materials, and we had to do pest management. Bamboo may look like it has no pests, but the minute it rests ants come pouring out.

Because the Ikebana changed every week, sometimes week-to-week you would see things that you hadn’t noticed before in artworks because, say the color of the floral arrangement was different. Because of the Ikebana in the galleries, the exhibition also operated on many senses. There was sight, but also smell, and I don’t know if it was increased humidity or something else, but the gallery itself felt very different. So the exhibition was formal on some level, but it also got into ideas about what constitutes art and what happens when the art is ephemeral.

mbg: It sounds like the exhibition was an experiment for you. What did you learn from it?

KH: It was totally an experiment for me, so I learned a lot. All these things I’ve told you are things I thought about intellectually, but really only understood once the show opened. For instance, the management. I completely underestimated how tiring it would before me and my colleagues and the Ikebana artists to do new arrangements every week. The arrangements really only last for a couple days, so on Friday we would do a new installation, Tuesday the artists would come and refresh the arrangements, and then Friday the arrangements would change again.

mbg: As you’ve mentioned, it’s possible that a show like Living Flowers could end up marginalizing or reducing Ikebana into a prop for contemporary art. I’m wondering whether you saw this happen in the coverage of the show in the press.

KH: Among the people I talked to, the art people thought that the Ikebana was a major revelation, and the Ikebana people thought the art stuff was intriguing. Beforehand, I had an assumption that the Ikebana people wouldn’t engage with the art, because some of it was strange. But they looked at it carefully. They were so respectful of the art and vice versa.

mbg: The contemporary artworks you selected for the show were quite wide-ranging. Would the exhibition have held together without the Ikebana works?

KH: No, I don’t think so. The art was interesting, but the works and the arrangements needed each other. The Ikebana could have held up more as an exhibition on its own. There is a wow factor with Ikebana, but what I wanted to do through the show was elevate our response to it, not to think of Ikebana as just a flower arrangement, but as an art practice.

mbg: You’re here in Austin to speak as part of a series of lectures on art and diaspora at the University of Texas. What are you working on right now?

KH: When I have these conversations, it seems like my work is all over the place. In addition to contemporary art, I also have an interest in historical examples of Asian American artists. It really started with the show I did about art from the internment camps [The View from Within, Japanese American National Museum, 1992]. It was 17 years ago, but what I found when I was looking at art from the camps were all these Japanese Americans who actually had careers as artists. This was the 1940s, so that means they had these careers before that in the 20s and 30s. And I was like, “why didn’t I know this?!”

Partly, I went back to graduate school in 2006 in order to finish this study I had started of early 20th century Asian artists in Los Angeles. The Japanese American National Museum was very supportive of the project, and initially I thought this project could be an exhibition. But some of the ideas I wanted to get at weren’t really appropriate for an exhibition form. For example, most of the work is no longer extant. There are period descriptions or photographs of it, and I could show a journal with a photograph in it, but after awhile that gets kind of boring. I didn’t want the project to be about the archival, I wanted it to be about the art. I can do this in words, but I can’t do it in an exhibition if the work doesn’t exist. The project also became more discursive, in the sense that I wanted to talk about art practice in LA. The study is not just about Japanese Americans; it’s become more about Japanese Americans in an ethnic ghetto in a marginal city on the West Coast of the United States. It’s about looking at different connections on the fringes of things. Even though the museum was supportive, it’s difficult to do unapplied research in a museum context, in that research needs to have a specific exhibitionary outcome. It’s simply hard to justify spending time on something that is not moving toward an exhibition. Going back to graduate school provides a good way of writing this book and getting intellectual help and resources to do it. It probably does little for me in terms of my career as a curator, but finishing this project was really important to me.

Claire Ruud is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.


Noriko Ambe
Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin
Through December 31, 2009

By Katie Anania

Noriko Ambe, Sailing to: ...: Cy Twombly, 2009, Cut book, 12-3/16 x 31-5/16 x 2-11/16 inches, frame. Courtesy Lora Reynolds Gallery.

Noriko Ambe’s new work is creepy. “Creepy” here doesn’t mean unbearable, terrifying, or foul. Her process of cutting, with surgical precision, concentric holes into artists’ books has, in fact, a mesmerizing charm. The whole show is a project resulting from a conversation between Ambe and New York collector Glenn Fuhrmann. In the past, Ambe has worked with white paper, applying similar cutting processes to stacks of paper until they resemble stark-white Grand Canyons or ghostly geodes. Fuhrman and Ambe have extended her Cutting Book Series to include the books of poppy behemoths (Murakami, Koons) and high modernist titans (Giacometti, Twombly) alike. Formally, the books’ illustrated pages provide more tonal and pictorial variation to Ambe’s forms. At the same time, Ambe’s incisions physically alter these books, books that enshrine the output of other artists; she literally messes with our shared narratives about them. Her sculpted pages repeat what we know about each artist’s reputation and announce her feelings, her thoughts, her connections and private communions with each artist, designing these things onto the objects.

One reaches in vain for a verb to describe what she’s doing. In His heart, his life: Andy Warhol (2009), for instance, she uses round and fluid cuts to gradually slice through the book and reveal portions of Warhol’s own face. She articulates through subtraction a series of layered concave depressions in the material, thus dissecting the artist’s persona and then situating it within amorphous holes. Some viewers might want to assign an agent to the empty spaces: acid perhaps, or some disease that eats away at a book’s tender flesh. Those viewers then become creeps, taking Ambe’s subtle animism to its most logical and absurd conclusion.

Noriko AmbeSculpture: Richard Serra, 2009.

Each swath of pages is both a unit and a mass of layers. Each book is both an archive of the canon and a fully violable personal mark-making space. Occasionally, Ambe’s feelings about a particular artist’s book seem transparent and uninteresting. Sculpture: Richard Serra (2009) is like this; she slices Serra’s book Sculpture: Forty Years into three equal parts, extending each part further out from its dust jacket to create a terse lack of equilibrium common to the sculptor. But maybe this move is a productive one: the beauty of her practice abutting our cultic feelings about fame, artists and artists’ objects. Amorphous holes mapped onto spectacular illustrations. So this work is also creepy in that we can follow Ambe’s mark as it creeps, pathogen-like, across her medium, and are left with an object so brilliant that it appears to have been punished with beauty.

Katie Anania is an art critic and doctoral student in Art History.

Okay Mountain, Austin
Through December 12, 2009

By Claire Ruud

William Hundley, Art Now on Cheeseburgers, 2007, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy the artist.

Two things happened on my way to review booksmart at Okay Mountain. First, I stopped to purchase a copy of Esquire’s touted augmented reality issue. By downloading some software and holding the magazine up to your webcam, you can access video supplements to the printed features. It’s novel to see Gillian Jacobs bat her eyes at you while she murmurs a “funny joke from a beautiful woman,” but the whole setup is still a bit cumbersome. Then, listening to NPR in the car, I heard about Cushing Academy, the elite prep school that’s giving up its physical library in favor of a digital database and electronic readers. My encounters with Esquire’s November issue and Cushing’s electronic library set the stage for my rendezvous with booksmart. The magazine and the Academy are in step with a parade of producers/consumers seeking to take advantage of the virtual word. booksmart, meanwhile, is about the printed word. And the present anxiety surrounding the printed word cannot help but frame the exhibition.

In light of all the hype surrounding the future of the written word and partly because of it, booksmart falls disappointingly short of curator Josh Rios’s promise to investigate, as his press release puts it, “the cultural phenomenon of the book as an intellectual structure.” Primarily, the exhibition’s ineffectiveness arises from over-ambition. Books, as cultural objects or intellectual structures, are a lot to tackle, and the exhibition would have benefited from a narrowed focus. As it is, individual works are conceptually all over the place. William Hundley’s photograph of Tashen’s ART NOW Volume 2 on cheeseburgers is pretty, and pretty funny, too. But its irreverent jab at the big-press art compendium has little resonance with works like Neva Elliot’s nearby Mellon Homes, a book of plans for low-income housing in South Africa, the sales of which go toward building an actual home. Throughout the show, disjunctions like this one result in a superficial treatment of “the book.” Each piece alights briefly on a relevant issue, but few dig deep enough to compel further engagement. Secondarily, the exhibition’s downfall lies in its visual structure. There isn’t one. I need something—installation design, wall text, a focal point, the formal qualities of the works—to draw me through the gallery. Rios’s intellectual investigation of the book might make a great essay, but it doesn’t translate into an exhibition.

Gareth LongPlatoon / Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada, 2007.

Nonetheless, one standout in booksmart makes the show: Gareth Long’s Platoon / Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada (2007), a full-length recording of Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) in which Long replaces the English subtitles with the text of Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada (1968). (Watch the first ten minutes on the artist's website here.) The text is synched to the dialogue on screen. In the second sequence of the film, as the platoon sweats and pukes their way through the jungle, the subtitles read, “This is a handbook/ for draft resisters who have/ chosen to immigrate to Canada./ Read it carefully,/ from cover to cover,/ and you will know how.” The movie is brutal, but the Hollywood war film is a well-worn genre. In Long’s hands, the Manual’s text, drawn out slowly in time through the subtitles, reframes the movie’s images and narrative powerfully.

At Okay Mountain, a dog-eared fourth edition Manual rested on the pedestal beside the monitor. I picked it up and leafed through it as I watched the soldier’s cruelty to the Vietnamese and the death-dealing infighting of the platoon. In my hands, the Manual was a handbook for deliverance, but the text made no bones about the difficulty of a draft resister’s life, either. “Finally, the toughest problem a draft resister faces/ is not how to immigrate but whether he really wants to./ And only you can answer that.”

Certainly, the weight of Platoon / Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants swells with Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. The heavy emotional content of the piece, however, is also what makes it the exhibition's most engaging investigation of the book as an intellectual structure. In Platoon / Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants, knowledge and feelings are enmeshed. The book is a manual of information. But by pairing its words with the film’s images, Long foregrounds the emotional urgency of the text. The images magnify the desperation and hope within imperatives like “read it carefully, from cover to cover…” Yet this desperation and hope are inseparable from the book’s promised knowledge: “read it carefully, from cover to cover, and you will know how.”

In our texts, whether old-fashioned books and movies or new-fangled augmented reality readers, feelings and knowledge are co-determining. Platoon / Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants depicts this reality simply, but powerfully: what we feel affects what we know, and what we know affects what we feel.

Claire Ruud is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.

Tierney Malone
DiverseWorks, Houston
Through December 19, 2009

By Wendy Vogel

Tierney Malone, My Ship, 2009, 10 x 52 feet, Tempera and latex on sheet rock. Courtesy the artist.

Tierney Malone’s current solo exhibition commissioned by DiverseWorks is undeniably musical: sound spills out from the gallery, filling even the reception area with mellifluous jazz notes. I paused at the exhibition’s entrance, where the space normally occupied by vinyl wall text was instead filled by a series of wooden planks nailed together, suggesting an old wooden door or life raft, hand-painted with the show’s title, Third Ward is My Harlem.

This reconfiguration of the entrance serves as a structural key to the exhibition-cum-installation, which imports and transforms cultural signposts from the Third Ward into the white cube with varying degrees of success. Drawing a parallel between the contemporary artistic community in Third Ward, Houston’s historically African-American neighborhood where he lives, and the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ‘30s, Malone’s work borrows the celebratory idiom of vibrant collage-inspired paintings exemplified by Harlem predecessors such as Stuart Davis and Jacob Lawrence. A former sign painter, Malone often focuses on language-based signage and typographical design of well-loved jazz record covers, which become fractured and cropped under his hand.

These works reveal playful juxtapositions among different registers of art-historical and cultural production. For instance, a section of Malone’s wall painting My Ship devoted to the cover of Sonny Rollins’s iconic record Way Out West tightly focuses on the title in sans-serif typeface, recalling Ed Ruscha’s early paintings in terms of graphics and content. Just One of Those Things, a mixed-media work on paper centered on the eponymous Nat King Cole record cover, and the three collage works entitled Study for Third Ward is My Harlem, most effectively mine and re-combine the language of modernist design, mid-century pop culture and language-based Conceptualism. Here, Malone layers record cover designs, signs and street views in a visual analogue to the syncopated rhythms filling the gallery. The jazz soundtrack, composed by Malone, accompanies a video installed in a black-box outfitted like an old cinema, complete with a ticket window and plush seats. The video is composed in three non-linear “movements” that gloss the artist’s biography by weaving intertitles with zooms and pans over the paintings and collages installed elsewhere in the gallery.

How such visual information holds up through the disparate mediums of the exhibition is questionable, and this is where the installation begins to break down. Rather than create an immersive experience, the different registers of artistic production remain discrete. The collage paintings, on a scale similar to the work of 1950s affichisites Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé, lose their resolved quality when writ large on a wall. In the video form, they become illustrative. The intimate materiality of each work, like that of vinyl records in a collection, is lost when painted or projected in monumental scale. While ambitious, Third Ward is My Harlem repeats a well-worn lesson: even the most well-intentioned formal experimentation cannot circumscribe the energy and diversity of a neighborhood such as Houston’s Third Ward. Lucky for visitors to DiverseWorks, however, they can explore the neighborhood themselves in just a few minutes’ drive.

Wendy Vogel is a Critical Fellow in the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Okay Mountain's Corner Store
Presented by Arthouse at PULSE, Miami
December 3-6, 2009

By Dan Boehl

Okay Mountain, Corner Store, 2009, Installation view. Presented by Arthouse at Pulse, Miami. Courtesy Okay Mountain.

Convenience stores have their own distinct atmosphere. You build relationships with the clerks, you talk to the same people buying the same beer every Friday, and a community is built within the Day-Glo yellow bricks and iron grates that cover the windows. It’s this phenomenon that Okay Mountain (OK) seeks to recreate with their Arthouse sponsored project at PULSE Miami.

Okay MountainCorner Store, 2009.

Corner Store features hundreds of products that OK bought and altered by redesigning the packaging. There is Get A Baby Drunk bubble bath, Premium Horsemeat in a can, Sneaker bars, and Dookie Saddle Pampers featuring Baby Ikki. Like real life, each product represents countless hours of design thought, and like Doritos and Coke, each project represents a cultural phenomenon or social activity. Every 7Eleven in America represents billions of dollars of marketing, a fact consumers mostly ignore. The Corner Store illuminates the opaque commercial marketing process by face-lifting every product and forcing the consumer to inspect the products anew.

Corner Store is the brainchild of OK partners Nathan Green and Sterling Allen, executed by the entire OK collective. Like other OK endeavors, the sheer size of their eleven member outfit allows them to tackle their projects in ways a single working artist with a crew of hired laborers would not be able to accomplish. An ATM/Poker machine, hotdog and soda dispensers, a surveillance system, the products cramming the shelves, building facades, and two murals transform the booth into a store you would find on an East Austin corner. It’s a comment on the product mentality of the art fairs, but it takes this comment further by providing products every visitor can purchase. Priced from $5 to $10,000 and including a free product circular, there is something in the store that everyone who visits can afford.

Art fair booths are small, cramped with usually one or two employees. “Merchandise” is not given proper spacing because the idea is to fit all you can in a booth. Multiple $25,000 paintings clutter a single wall. OK set out to replicate the art fair interaction, but with many, many art objects. Fair-goers still walk into a booth and see an attendant, but instead of a smartly attired gallerina, staff are OK collective members there to talk about the installation and bag purchases.

Corner Store is the culmination of thousands of hours of work undertaken by each member to transform a C shaped PULSE Miami gallery booth into an Austin-style convenience store. Like installation projects before it, (Claes Oldenburg’s The Store, Street Market at Deitch Projects, Justin Lowe’s Helter Swelter, Xu Zhen’s Supermarket), Corner Store seeks to totally transform the space, but with a very important distinction. Like your local corner store, everything is for sale at reasonable, if marked-up, prices.

Dan Boehl is a workshop fellow in the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program. His chapbook Les MISERES ET LES MAL-HEURS DE LA GUERRE will be available from Greying Ghost soon.

...mbg recommends

San Antonio, and not just for the Fiesta de las Luminarias

By Claire Ruud

Moo Kwon Han, Gravity (still), 2009, HD video; 00:03:11. Courtesy the artist.

The Fiesta de las Luminarias isn't the only thing lighting up San Antonio right now. Check out these excellent exhibitions, and don't miss Circulatory System's one-night-only event next weekend.

Adriana Lara, Mario Ybarra, Jr. & Adrian Esparza
445 North Main Avenue, San Antonio
Through January 10, 2010

These are the strongest end-of-residency exhibitions I've seen at Artpace in quite a while. Adriana Lara's video of San Antonio-based artists at work, which begins with an installation of bathroom appliances spelling out the word "ARTIFICIAL," may sound saccharine in description, but is quite poignant in person. Mario Ybarra, Jr., an artist known for his community-based projects, used the residency to literally "try his hand" at something different, drawing, with great results. In my book, Adrian Esparza takes the cake. His immense quilt draws on the strategies of Conceptualism and Minimalism to depict landscape outside El Paso. I'd like to see it installed at Chinati, where its conversation with the natural and social landscapes, as well as sculptures of Donald Judd, would be powerful.

Jillian Conrad & Moo Kwon Han
Unit B Gallery
500 Stieren Street at Cedar
Through January 2, 2010

The sweetest moments in Jillian Conrad’s installation at Unit B are in the spatial relationships she establishes between objects. Three works in the series Wishing You Are Here each consist of a vintage postcard lacquered to the wall and a small modified concrete brick sculpture on the floor. Meanwhile, Moo Kwon Han's two videos are visual poetry with a healthy dose of humor, reflecting on life's constants, such as gravity.

Circulatory System's Traveling Video Show #1
Unit B Gallery
500 Stieren Street at Cedar
December 11, 7-10pm

Austin's Circulatory System is a curatorial venture on wheels. A project initiated by Kate Watson and Morgan Coy, Circulatory System travels the state in a converted school bus. Their inaugural program, Traveling Video Show #1, was organized by Austin- and New York-based performance artist Jill Pangallo, and features the work of artists from Austin, Atlanta and New York.

Gary Sweeney
Sala Diaz
517 Stieren Street at Cedar
Closing December 6, 2009

Gary Sweeney's installation is a metaphor about metaphors: a life-size house of cards. One card with an image of dice imprinted on it reads, "Sometimes disguised as idioms, gambling metaphors suit those times in ones life where change and unpredictability rule—times when we have no answers." Many such gambling metaphors have been used to describe the economic crisis of 2008/9. Sweeney's installation points to the (reverse) irony here: sometimes metaphors are only masquerading as figures of speech. Like Sweeney's actual house of cards, they're actually literal. Ouch.

Sean Ripple
Stella Haus
106A buliding B Blue Star at South Alamo Street
Reception December 4, 7-9pm

Artist Sean Ripple is deleting three years of photographic work from his hard-drive, but he isn't doing it quietly. Ripple owns up that Artificial Scarcity is "a publicity stunt of sorts." He's copied all his photos from the last three years onto discs and tossing them from the window of a moving car. Ripple explains, "if the disks are found, you'd better believe they're for sale." Otherwise, they'll be gone. This weekend, Artificial Scarcity is in San Antonio. Next weekend, you'll find the artist at Apama Mackey in Houston on Saturday, December 12, from 6-8pm and in Austin at Co-Lab on Sunday, December 13, from 6-8pm.

Claire Ruud is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.

Announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

Lisa Marie Godfrey: Everyday Magik
Domy Books
December 12, 7-9pm

Lisa Marie Godfrey describes her new drawings, "I am a collection of experiences, memories and belongings. Through the telling of stories, I can create myself into a hero or villain, ultimately creating my own myths." I've never seen Godfrey's work in person before, but what I have seen online suggests a playful, childlike style and a good eye for graphic design.

Joshua Saunders
Co-Lab Space
December 5, 7-11pm and December 6, 12-5pm

Collections seem to "say something" about their collectors. For this installation, Joshua Saunders shows a collection of items purchased from the Blue Hanger and then organized over the course of two years. Before you go, watch the trailer for Jill Pangallo and Max Juren's The Collections to get you in the mood.

Austin on View

David Bates
Austin Museum of Art
Through January 31, 2010

I love Roberta Smith on David Bates in 2006: "In fashionable art-world circles the paintings of David Bates are considered conservative if not reactionary or, at best, guilty pleasures, if they are considered at all. If I wanted to signal my agreement I would say that I like them against my better judgment, but in truth I just like them."

Jade Walker
Austin Museum of Art
Through January 31, 2010

As the first in AMOA's New Works series, Jade Walker's installation is a huge success. I'll be reviewing it in the next issue, so look for my thoughts then.

Noriko Ambe
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Through December 31, 2009

See Katie Anania's review in this issue.

Teresita Fernandez
Blanton Museum
Through January 3, 2010

See Dan Boehl's review in last week's issue.

Austin Closings

Okay Mountain
Through December 12, 2009

See Claire Ruud's review in this issue.

San Antonio Openings

Sean Ripple: Artificial Scarcity
Stella Haus
December 4, 7-9pm

Artist Sean Ripple is deleting three years of photographic work from his hard-drive, but he isn't doing it quietly. Ripple owns up that Artificial Scarcity is "a publicity stunt of sorts." He's copied all his photos from the last three years onto discs and tossing them from the window of a moving car. Ripple explains, "if the disks are found, you'd better believe they're for sale." Otherwise, aside from 5 x 7 printouts of the images and documentation of the event, they'll be gone. This weekend, Artificial Scarcity is in San Antonio at Stella Haus. Next weekend, you'll find the artist at Apama Mackey in Houston on Saturday, December 12, from 6-8pm and at Co-Lab on Sunday, December 13, from 6-8pm.

San Antonio on View

Diamond Life: Jillian Conrad & Moo Kwon Han
Unit B Gallery
Through January 2, 2010

The sweetest moments in Jillian Conrad’s installation at Unit B are in the spatial relationships she establishes between objects. Three works in the series Wishing You Are Here each consist of a vintage postcard lacquered to the wall and a small modified concrete brick sculpture on the floor. Meanwhile, Moo Kwon Han's two videos are visual poetry, reflecting, with a good dose of humor, on life's constants, such as gravity.

Adriana Lara, Mario Ybarra, Jr., Adrian Esparza
Through January 10, 2010

These are the strongest end-of-residency exhibitions I've seen at Artpace in quite a while. Adriana Lara's video of San Antonio-based artists at work, which begins with an installation of bathroom appliances spelling out the word "ARTIFICIAL," may sound saccharine in description, but is quite poignant in person. Mario Ybarra, Jr., an artist known for his community-based projects, used the residency to literally "try his hand" at something different, drawing, with great results. Adrian Esparza takes the cake, in my book, for his immense quilt depicting the landscape outside El Paso, a project that draws on the strategies of Conceptual and Minimalist artists. I'd like to see it installed at Chinati, where I think it's conversation with the natural and social landscape, as well as sculptures of Donald Judd, would be powerful.

San Antonio Closings

Gary Sweeney
Sala Diaz
Closing December 6, 2009

Gary Sweeney's installation is a metaphor about metaphors: a life-size house of cards. One card with an image of dice imprinted on it reads, "Sometimes disguised as idioms, gambling metaphors suit those times in ones life where change and unpredictability rule—times when we have no answers." Many such gambling metaphors have been used to describe the economic crisis of 2008/9. Sweeney's installation points to the (reverse) irony here: sometimes metaphors are only masquerading as figures of speech. Like Sweeney's actual house of cards, they're actually literal.

Announcements: events

Austin Events

Joan Jonas: Screening & Conversation
Blanton Museum of Art, Auditorium
December 5, 2pm

A screening of Joan Jonas's early works, followed by a conversation between the artist and art history professor Ann Reynolds. To see what Jonas has been up to more recently, check out this video of the artist discussing her work in the 2009 year's Venice Biennial.

San Antonio Events

Circulatory System
Unit B Gallery
December 11, 7-10pm

Austin's Circulatory System, a new curatorial venture that travels exhibitions connecting the dots between Texas’ various cities, travels to San Antonio. Their converted school bus will park in the Unit B yard to debut their inaugural program, Traveling Video Show #1, organized by Austin- and New York-based performance artist Jill Pangallo. This one-night only exhibition features seventeen artists from Austin, Atlanta, and New York and was originally screened at the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music and Love in Marfa, Texas (in conjunction with Monofonus Press and El Cosmico); in Austin (Fusebox Festival’s MERGE); and will travel to Dallas in 2010.

Announcements: opportunities

Call for Proposals

Franchise Two
Deadline: December 15, 2009

Based on the idea of creating its own franchise, apexart is currently holding a worldwide open call for 250-word proposals asking participants why the franchise should come to their town and provide all of the support necessary to produce an exhibition.To submit a proposal visit www.apexart.org.

Call for Artists

Studio Visit Program
Deadline: December 15, 2009

In conjunction with its Visiting Lecturer Series, Arthouse invites artists to submit applications for studio visits with a Visiting Lecturer. The studio visit program is open to artists or MFA candidates living in Austin and the immediately surrounding area (Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties).For more information visit Arthouse's call for applications.


Rijksakademie Studios
Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten
Deadline: February 1, 2010

The Rijksakademie residency in Amsterdam is a space for the development of ideas for emerging professional artists. Resident artists work in an individual studio for one to two years on research, experiment, projects and production. The Rijksakademie has fifty-five studios. Annually, approximately half of these become available for new residents. Visit the Rijksakademie's website for more information and the online application form.

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