MBG Issue #186: Paging Sun Ra, Place Is The Space

Issue # 186

Paging Sun Ra, Place Is The Space

March 23, 2012

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Gabriel Kuri, rr, 2012, Steel, concrete, lacquer paint, 6 ¼ x 78 ¾ x 47 ¼ inches. © the artist. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.

from the editor

As I find myself in the frenetic last week of my stay in Omaha, the idea of place has once again come to the fore of my thinking. If place is the transformation of space through accumulating experiences, an engagement with specific communities and the resulting residue of memories, then over the course of the last three months, Omaha has completed that metamorphosis for me. I’ve enjoyed my time here in the Midwest, smack in the middle of downtown Omaha, cozily nestled along side the Missouri River, living and working since January. As technology and globalism render the world increasingly flat it strikes me as increasingly critical to actually be in the place I happen to find myself. ‘Be present, be here’ is a familiar refrain heard between my ears these past few months. Presentness is one potential antidote for the erasure of cultural differences that has become all too common. It makes little sense to me to write places off, to go somewhere but never really be there, to be unaffected by location and talk about the merits of every place except the one I'm in.

Comparison and judgement are de facto states of mind for even the best of us. I’m certainly not immune to occasionally dreaming of greener pastures or passing hasty judgements on a place I know little about. The challenge is resisting that urge and reminding ourselves of the intricacies of every place—to resist pandering to our own quick thinking. The nomadism that has become an ingrained part of the contemporary art world presents a particular set of challenges to those engaged in it. How can we be present, in an authentic way, in places we might only be for short periods of time? How do we form meaningful relationships and engage in critical conversation with residents of places other than our own? In many ways these questions get us back to the complexities of localism and globalism addressed in my very first letter for ...might be good. Active participation within the local coupled with a global awareness remains a potent recipe for resolving some of these issues while providing a stable platform on which to build conversation, projects and audience.

Many of these ideas surrounding place are articulated—and evidenced—in a more skillful way by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Chief Curator Hesse McGraw throughout my interview with him. Mcgraw is spearheading an ambitious and rigorous exhibition program that extends beyond the walls of Bemis’ galleries, engaging a diverse cross-section of the Omaha community and artists from around the country. His curatorial work, rooted in a place yet deploying an international perspective, strikes me as a particularly exciting and relevant for those in second or third tier cities. It fearlessly capitalizes on the potential present in Omaha in spite of what may be perceived as a smaller audience with less exposure to contemporary art. In many ways McGraw’s work and thinking finds a parallel in San Antonio’s Artpace. From the Alamo City writer Wendy Atwell writes thoughtfully about Isaac Julien’s film Ten Thousand Waves (2010) on view at The Linda Pace Foundation. New York-based artist Alex Hubbard’s two new films on view at The Hammer in Los Angeles are the topic of writer Catherine Wagley’s piece for this issue. The relationship between places, in this case Chicago and New York, is the subtext of Chicago-based artist, writer and educator Patrick Boblin’s review of curator Helen Molesworth’s exhibition This Will Have Been at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Our Project Space this issue is from Brooklyn-based artist Yashua Klos who provides us a glimpse into his studio to witness him grappling with the formation of his work.

I hope, wherever you might be in the world, you’ll take a moment and send us your feedback by emailing us at: askus@fluentcollab.org.

Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.

Like what you see? Fluent~Collaborative is currently accepting applications for internships to assist us in the production of projects at testsite and …mbg. See our Opportunities section for more details.


Hesse McGraw

By Eric Zimmerman

Whoop Dee Doo performance in Sean R. Ward's A Pre-Conscious Space (2009), Paria head-banging contest for children, runner-up celebration. Photo by Chris Machian, minorwhite studios.

Last Wednesday evening I sat down in my studio at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts with its Chief Curator Hesse McGraw to talk about non-profits, working in the Midwest, and his upcoming curatorial projects.

Eric Zimmerman [EZ]: You have a background as an artist. Are you still working?

Hesse McGraw [HM]: No.

[EZ]: How did that transition come about, from artist to curator and writer?

[HM]: For me it was more fluid than the labels might portend. My BFA is in Fine Arts and I was doing site-based installations utilizing appropriated footage, media, and sound. As part of a set of survival strategies, I began writing criticism shortly after I got out of undergrad and then began working as an editor for a magazine in Kansas City called Review. I then saw an opportunity to found a project space in Lawrence, Kansas about a year after I graduated.

[EZ]: Was that Paragraph?

[HM]: Yes. All those things were very organic developments and I think it was a pretty natural progression. I was putting my energy into writing and into curatorial practice, but in many ways it felt like the same kind of practice. It didn’t really feel like there were significant divisions thinking-wise. If anything, I was more interested in other art practices than my own and found I could be engaged in a greater scope of ideas and projects through curatorial work than through studio work.

[EZ]: Do you ever find any of your concerns as an artist emerging in your curatorial work and the work you’re drawn to?

[HM]: Only in as much that the studio concerns were external and about an engagement with contemporary culture and its ideas. Ultimately I think that gets you to a set of highly discursive activities. So it’s hard to tie it back directly, but it feels like an evolution of the same creative practice, however the authorship is different. The last show of my work was in 2005 and I find it strange that people, perhaps without fully knowing what curatorial work involves, will ask me about fulfillment, or when I plan on going back to the studio. I don’t feel like there’s anything to get back to. If anything the work that I am doing is about moving forward.

[EZ]: Between the proliferation of art fairs, museums adopting corporate structures, and an increasingly commercialized art world what role do you see non-profits like Bemis playing?

[HM]: I’m interested in the idea that a non-profit, particularly at the scale of Bemis, can retain enough agility to continually ask the question, what kind of organization do we want to be? In our case, the question has implications for the way that we support artists, how we engage our local community, and the ways we engage with an international art world. Often as an organization grows it begins to lose that kind of agility. I can see ways in which it becomes problematic for non-profit institutions to be contingent upon the market, but there’s a reality in which it’s often much easier to fund projects within a non-profit for artists that have an established market. That’s just a reality. I think the challenge that I feel, having come up in a very small-scale non-profit space in the Midwest, but then also having experience in the commercial world is that you have to find ways to curatorially engage artists who have thriving markets and artists who don’t. The market cannot be the only barometer for achievement.

[EZ]: Why the Midwest? What about the visual arts here brought you back after a Masters in Europe and living and working in New York for a couple years?

[HM]: The shortest answer is the Bemis Center. At the time I was thinking about leaving New York I was also looking at a variety of opportunities and what I found here was a really unique and singular situation within the contemporary art world. Bemis is literally an organization that functions as a site of production. This building is perpetually humming with artists making work and thinking in their studios. Things are happening in real time, so that the energy, or the way that this place is activated by the residency program, is a spur to imagine the exhibition program as a laboratory for artists. That’s enabled me to realign our emphasis towards commissioning work and developing artists projects that are created specifically for Bemis.

Beyond that, the Midwest feels like home, it always has. Professionally there’s value in being rooted in a place and I think to deny that rootedness ultimately serves a broader cultural ill, which is the erasure of cultural differences. Something that I hope to avoid is being the kind of curator that hops from place to place and has a lack of place-based practice. For me that’s manifested itself into real community engagement with Omaha. Trying to be present here. Trying to have the work be present here. I felt like that was something that Bemis really valued and continues to value and it’s an amazing thing to be part of.

[EZ]: What’s the biggest hurdle living and working in the Midwest?

[HM]: It’s the Midwest (laughs). It’s difficult to find shared sensibilities with an international perspective that are deployed within a local context. The shared sensibility that I’m talking about is one of audience. I’m really thankful that this is an organization whose mission is first to support artists. We believe in supporting artists first and catalyzing their work to create public engagement and challenge the public. Our programming is not driven by a presupposition about what the audience might be ready for. I like the tension that develops in that freedom. I think for anyone working in a second, third, or fourth tier city, you’re always comparing yourself to the first tier and that’s something you have to find peace with. As a cultural producer, or especially as a curator, it’s an impossible barometer. Your budgets don’t align and the spaces are often very different. But I think there’s value in being present in a place and being committed to building something there that contains a broader perspective but also real value for the particular city and region.

[EZ]: What you’re describing reminds me a lot of Texas. Similar issues and problems.

[HM]: They’re the same issues in Kansas City. They occur to varying degrees and it’s often the case that the scale of those issues has some sort of inverse relationship with the propensity for people to stop into your town on their way to somewhere else (laughs). So I find myself spending a lot of time luring people here. Like, “Oh it’s easy to stop by Omaha on your way to Minneapolis” or “You’re going to L.A.? Fly to Omaha and stop in, we’re right in the middle.”

[EZ]: There’s a rumor circulating that curators have a tendency to put the same group of artists in shows. But you’ve avoided that. Is that a conscious decision?

[HM]: I can’t claim to be totally absolved (laughs). Something that I have trouble with curatorially is instances where someone’s doing a series of group exhibitions that have very different premises but there’s four or five of the same artists in each of those shows. That starts to look a little fishy. The essence of an idea might come first, or conversely maybe it’s a set of artists who are dealing with similar issues, and that starts to create the core of an exhibition. Every curator probably has a list of artists that they hope to work with. I also think there’s a curatorial value in having longstanding conversations with artists. I’m trying to push towards an eclectic sensibility that is also itself–one that has some singularity within it.

[EZ]: You work in close proximity to residents. How do you navigate the relationship between lots of hungry artists and your role as a curator?

[HM]: One thing is just math. I’m not able to do projects with every resident that comes through. And also trying not to view the residency process as a proxy curatorial process. I think it’s important to separate the two. The thing that I’m very interested in is to engage with residents while they’re here and use it as an opportunity to really learn about their practice and listen to what they’re doing and listen to what they’re talking about. It feels like a luxury as a curator to have that in such close proximity. All I have to do is walk the stairs from one floor to another and I can have serious conversations with artists who are in the midst of doing real work. In terms of thinking about site-specificity and things that might be specific to Bemis and Omaha, that is catalyzed by residents having spent three months here. They often have a pretty deep relationship with the city, and that relationship was formed through the intensity of their own work and time here. I like that residents form particularly charged relationships with Omaha. I try to productively navigate these relationships, within my role within Bemis, and as I’m able to have conversations with artists while they’re in residence, it sometimes leads to a different level of conversation when they leave. I often initiate projects with the question, ‘Is there a project that could be developed for Bemis that could be singular for the artists’ career?’ Is there a project that we could help to realize with the specific resources that exist here. Particularly in the case of former residents, they may already have an answer to those questions and they’ve already been thinking about them while they’re here.

[EZ]: What projects do you have coming up?

[HM]: Michael Jones McKean’s project, which we’ve been developing for nearly four years is called Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms or The Rainbow Project. Michael had been testing and producing very large-scale rainbows utilizing solely sunlight, water, and off-the-shelf sprinkler and irrigation equipment. He initiated that research process about eight or nine years ago and about four years ago I had asked him if it is possible to make this happen on our roof. Michael was very excited about that idea and as a former resident was familiar with the building so he sent back a sketch and off we went. Early on we determined that the project would utilize captured and recycled rainwater and use our existing downspouts as the harvesting system. So that’s where the logistical complexity of the project comes from—making a rainwater harvesting system sustainable over a four month period. The project is launching this summer and the installation has already begun. It’s an extraordinarily exciting project and it’s required a very large set of collaborators, including an atmospheric scientist, and engineers from Lindsay, which is an irrigation and rainwater harvesting company. From a sculptural perspective I think an element of the project that is extraordinarily exciting is the way that it addresses scale, ephemerality and direct experience. It transforms the building into a work. The rainbow’s only visible for twenty minutes, twice a day, so it creates a temporal destination. You have to be here at the right time. As a public artwork it questions the agency of a viewer’s experience and participation and what someone might take away from that.

The other project, which is happening simultaneously, has been in development for about two and a half years. We began talking with Theaster Gates about his community engagement and building reclamation process. Theaster got interested in North Omaha, which is a predominately African American area of the city. Omaha is very segregated. It has huge divisions across race and class and those conditions are starkly present between suburban Omaha, North Omaha, South Omaha, and Council Bluffs, which is East of the river. The project really began with an extensive research process where Theaster was asking artists living in North Omaha, about their current needs and how he and the Bemis might develop new cultural infrastructure to support those needs . This spring we are initiating a renovation of a city-owned building in North Omaha that will become a small-scale artist in residence workspace, gallery, performance space and cultural hub. It’s similar to his projects in St. Louis and Chicago, however in this case, Bemis has taken a large role as an institutional partner. It’s exciting that this work is driven by Theaster’s community and cultural planning practice. It also involves a deep collaboration with the Rebuild Foundation—a non-profit that Theaster founded—an organization that directly illustrates and embodies the impact that artists can have in transforming places. An exciting aspect of the project is the connection it will have to the residency program here. It’s using that accumulated knowledge from Bemis as a foundation for this activity. The artists who will be working in the building will each have year-long residencies and receive monthly stipends.

[EZ]: Local artists?

[HM]: Local, yes. We’ll hire a new program manager who will be completely focused on that project. There will be links back to the Rebuild Foundation in St. Louis and Chicago. I think the thing that is both enlivening and extraordinarily challenging about these projects and others, which are being initiated, is that these projects are emerging from an exhibitions program. We have 12,000 square feet of exhibition space, and now we suddenly find ourselves deeply engaged in projects that predominately happen outside of the galleries and even our building. On one hand it’s about ambition, but on the other hand it’s about being able to say yes to artists regardless of the directions of their projects. And I think I’m a little complicit in exceeding the walls of our gallery (laughs).

[EZ]: If I only had twenty four hours in Omaha and need minimal sleep, where should I eat and drink?

[HM]: How much can you eat and how much can you drink? I’ve had the best steak I’ve ever had in my life in Omaha at a place called The Drover. The whiskey filet is phenomenal. Omaha is also home to two restaurants that were founded by artists Vera and Mark Mercer—The Boiler Room and La Buvette. The Boiler Room chef Paul Kulik, and La Buvette chef Julie Friederich, both have a French sensibility but also a compelling Midwesterness. You can go to the Boiler Room and eat a pig’s head. There’s another place, Krug Park, which was recently opened by some artists and whose bar was designed by local artist Sean R Ward and is an amazing place. Those spots can keep you busy.

Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.


Isaac Julien
Linda Pace Foundation, San Antonio
Through June 30

By Wendy Atwell

Isaac Julien, Yishan Island, Voyage (Ten Thousand Waves), 2010, Endura Ultra photograph, 120 x 160 centimeters. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

A metanarrative, or story about a story, sparks a complex series of concepts. In the aptly named Ten Thousand Waves (2010), a 49-minute audio-visual installation on view at the Linda Pace Foundation, Isaac Julien employs a single incident to reflect on the grave situations faced by millions of immigrant workers who undergo suffering and hardship, and risk their lives so they may obtain 'a better life' for their families.

Julien works in a collaborative manner, and Ten Thousand Waves, like much of his work, is expansive in nature. One hundred Chinese people contributed to this piece, including actors, visual artists, calligraphers, musicians and poets. The result of these efforts, a chain of narratives and archival footage combined with evocative sound, music and voice, is an enormous feat that, as the title suggests, bring continuous revelations to viewers. Though the primary medium is film, multiple genres of art are present. For example, during the opening and closing of the film, a calligrapher paints a life-sized character in black paint with a brush the size of a mop. In the end, several Chinese men wash it away.

On February 5, 2004, between 21 and 25 illegal Chinese immigrants (the exact count remains unknown) were digging for cockles in Morecambe Bay, just off the northwest coast of England, an area known for rapidly rising tides and quicksand. Despite calls for help, all, except for one worker, died that night. As the tides rose in the North Wales Sea, the workers, who walked out into the middle of the bay during low tide, succumbed to hypothermia and drowned. The tragedy exposed the difficult conditions that millions of immigrant workers face in foreign countries. With no knowledge of foreign surroundings, culture or the language, they face a double jeopardy as they undertake difficult, unwanted jobs for little pay.

Assorted shots on each of the three screens and the 5:1 Surround Sound offset the viewer’s conventional gaze. In certain segments, Julien utilizes all of the screens, for example, to let a streetcar glide across their expanse. During other segments, Julien uses audio without any visual while sometimes he only uses one or two screens. This non-traditional formal structure mirrors how Julien treats his content. He delves deeply into his subject matter, looking at it through mythology, history and personal accounts, uncovering countless links and interconnections in the process.

The ancient goddess Mazu, who protects sailors and fisherman, serves as a connecting thread throughout the film. Translated as “mother-ancestor,” Mazu originates from the Fujian province, which was home to the majority of the Morecambe victims. Her popularity continues to this day. In the beginning of the film, Mazu, played by actress Maggie Cheung, makes her first of many stirring, ethereal appearances throughout the film. On adjacent screens Julien juxtaposes Mazu with footage from the heat-seeking cameras that were in the rescue helicopters on the night of the Morecambe Bay disaster. Dressed in flowing white robes, Mazu hovers over the ocean, scanning its vast surface for those who summon her. Disembodied, ghostly voices call out in mourning and desperate tones. These male and female voices are reading heart-rending evocations of the drowned cockle diggers, poems commissioned from Chinese American writer Wang Ping, who draws from the victims’ personal stories as well as Chinese history to create Small Boat and The Great Summons. These poems are an essential aspect of the film and are published in the accompanying catalog.

Another narrative thread throughout the film centers around a beautifully costumed woman (played by Zhao Tao) who languishes in lavish but lonely settings. The framework and setting suggests the emptiness of “a better life,” as far out of the immigrant’s grasp as heaven itself. Also interspersed throughout the film are multiple shots of the crew and sets at the Shanghai film studio. Scenes also reveal Cheung being lifted and guided by cables against the green screen. This transparency deepens the contrast between the film’s fictional narratives and historical footage. Mazu’s enchanting presence has the power to seduce the viewer, yet Julien strips it away by including the green screen. The resulting tension points to the seminal role of art to help process critical situations that are transnational and transhistorical in scope.

In his rich examination of the Morecambe Bay tragedy, Julien reveals the mythology and history specifically related to these types of tragedies. Then he widens his view to China’s political history, contrasting scenes of busy Shanghai streets, a frenzy of cars and buildings and traffic, with the documentary footage of the Cultural Revolution in the throes of its passion—zealous marching women in white uniforms carrying red banners. These disparate scenes, along with the film’s transparency, question how specific world views become framed. They leave the audience to consider what, exactly, is the elusive ‘better life,’ against what odds can it possibly be attained and how is the western world complicit in this illusion?

Wendy Atwell received her M.A. in Art History and Criticism from The University of Texas at San Antonio. She is the author of The River Spectacular: Light, Color, Sound and Craft on the San Antonio River.

This Will Have Been: Art, Love and Politics in the 1980s
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Through June 3

By Patrick Bobilin

Installation view of This Will Have Been Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, MCA Chicago (Feb 11 - June 3, 2012). Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, February 9, 2012.

Curated by Helen Molesworth,This Will Have Been is a critical historical revision divided among the MCA’s galleries as 4 intertwined sections: Democracy, Gender Trouble, Desire and Longing, The End is Near. In certain terms, the show is a watershed, as the 80s are overdue for a historical retrospective that accounts for the philosophical and political conditions in which artists of the era lived and worked. The personal became vehemently political during this period with art practice politicized through artists’ biographies and identities.

The 1980s saw European communism crumble, the end of apartheid, the disappearance of industrial production in American cities and the subsequent crack epidemic.This Will Have Beenfails to address those issues, not because they’re irrelevant, but because Molesworth’s show is centered on the curator’s own 1980s, one with a specific scene of New York artists at its nucleus, comprised of friends and contemporaries of Molesworth, many of whom are now blue chip artists and/or chairing prestigious academic programs. The exhibition of New York’s art historical lineage strikes this Chicago artist/writer as yet another self-deprecating submission of Chicago as secondary to New York. Outside of the inclusion of Gran Fury’s iconicKissing Doesn’t Killbillboards, which made their rounds via CTA busses and trains in 1989, this show’s exhibition at the MCA fortifies the role of Chicago and its strong academic art programs as little more than a springboard for a young artist’s New York career. More people remember the billboards through their MTA display in New York anyhow.

In the context of this show, just feet from Nan Goldin’sBallad of Sexual Dependency, right next to a video by Cindy Sherman and in the same room as Jeff Koons’Rabbit, David Robbins’ series of portraits titledTalentis a cornerstone. The work is a freshman Facebook of the scene’s stars, from whom much of the work inThis Will Have Beenis drawn. Upon seeing this, the curatorial process becomes transparent—the show is largely biographical, an account of relationships between artists who Molesworth is or was affiliated with as well as the political associations that drew them together, including ACT UP, Gran Fury and the Guerrilla Girls. But in an effort to promote social justice, she has done a large injustice to the depth of the 1980s narrative and to the effect that it had outside of a small social group of art school graduates in 1980s New York.

Molesworth’s feminist curatorial practice attests to the importance of balancing both historical reinsertion and absence. There is something to be said for the exhibition of works that aren’t easily found on Google image search—it’s important that they don’t disappear (or are given the opportunity to find their way into the public archive.) The inclusion of Rotimi Fani-Kayode alongside David Wojnarowicz, Felix Gonzales-Torres and Robert Mapplethorpe creates an arresting view, past which one can see General Idea’sAIDS Wallpaper. The works approach biography, identity and the AIDS crisis from important and now iconic perspectives. If not for the view being obscured by Koons’Rabbit, it would create, more than just a great installation shot, but a pitch perfect vista of identity politics powerfully articulated in contemporary art.

One can easily see Molesworth’s ethical and passionate curatorial practice through the inclusion of portraits from Jimmy Durham, Eric Fischl and Albert Oehlen, each revealing the insecurities of the author in the section titled “Gender Trouble.” When presenting this show at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies last fall, she spoke of the inclusion of male artists in this section as based on her interest in discussing “boy trouble” alongside “girl trouble.” This is an important point of inclusion, essential to Molesworth’s profoundly democratic project. But one can’t help but notice the still missing voices of important female artists like Joan Braderman and Hannah Wilke when so many well-exhibited male artists get yet another notch on their belts.

It’s always disappointing when radicals like Molesworth make safe moves. One wants their intellectual heroes to also be superhuman, to take the path of an Ulrike Meinhoff, trading an electoral career for homemade explosives and political martyrdom. I saw Helen Molesworth discuss her emotional conflicts with this show when she was confronted about the possibility of radicalism when the exhibition is being underwritten by Deutsche Bank. She was quick to assert that there was still revolutionary work to be done. As a young curator/artist with no comparable credentials, I have the privilege of claiming a hyperbolically pious perspective, but I am also unafraid to ask curators like Molesworth to push even harder, not to place voiceless artists in a context “where they should be” but to be even more radical in their choices.

Patrick Bobilin is a Chicago-based artist, educator and director of Noble & Superior Projects.

Alex Hubbard: Friend Eating and other Great Shtick
The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Through May 20

By Catherine Wagley

Alex Hubbard, Eat Your Friends (still), 2012, Digital video, color with sound. Courtesy of the artist.

New York artist Alex Hubbard’s two new videos at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles are like dark comedies with no clear-cut crime or travesty to fuel them. They remind me ofGrosse Pointe Blank, that dark comedy that’s nowhere near as dark as it could be, where John Cusack is an assassin at his high school reunion who has a run-in with a rival hit man (whom he kills) while reminiscing in high school hallways. Only a few hours earlier, Cusack’s character has been hanging out contentedly and hopefully with his high school girlfriend in her childhood bedroom. He has adult equipment and a life with adult stakes but hopes and dreams that haven’t changed since his teenage years.

In Hubbard’s films, too, the equipment and craft are grown-up but the impulses are precociously, and almost optimistically adolescent.The Border, The Ship(2011), a moving collage of sorts, shows black paint spilling, a chainsaw cutting through wood and pulleys with weights attached that are useful for transporting paint-drenched bones to nearby tarps. The whole thing plays out in front of a white backdrop and the “equipment” acts on its own with no visible human intervention. Gravity sometimes fails and a chainsaw might fall upward instead of down. The colors resemble those from the tool aisle at Sears, or maybe from a traffic control storage room; there’s a lot of road-cone orange. Suspense and glee comes merely from the turning on of a chainsaw or dipping of bones in blue pigment.

Though Hubbard’s compositions fill up like collage or paintings in-progress—you’re always looking at the same white screen as objects move in and out and get composed before your eyes—it’s the history of comic movies you think of when watching them more than 20th century painterliness and art-house film. This has something to do with the fact that all the stuff in them feels like it was taken from a prop room somewhere, and also with the production value, the hi-res imagery and seamless editing.

But what really makes them most movie-like is their pace. They keep moving, and one sometimes-slapstick scenario follows another, like in Charlie Chaplin classics or in 30 Rock, where the density of gags is impressive but the show keeps a sort of nonchalance even as it builds up one kind of absurdity after another.

InEat Your Friends, Hubbard’s second film in the Hammer show, he stacks coffee cups, filling each with dark, dark brew. At the same time he’s stacking cups, he’s pulling the metal frame of a human-sized box into the room. Both actions take place simultaneously against a single white backdrop. When the coffee tower collapses, spattering liquid across, Hubbard leaves the spill there and keeps arranging the metal frame while also stenciling at the bottom of the screen, in green spray paint, the words “EAT YOUR FRIENDS.”

The Uncyclopedia—self-described “content free encyclopedia”—has an entry on friend-eating. “Eating your friends has several useful functions,” it says. “In many cases, friend eating can lead to the simplification of a shared experience.” Playing a game is easier, so is having a relationship, because if you’ve eaten the person you’re trying to interact with, you only have to navigate life with yourself. I imagine, if you eat your cast, your references and your inspirations, you can also be a one-man movie machine, who, as Hubbard does, piles up a whole symphony of actions and plot-devices singlehandedly.

Catherine Wagley regularly contributes to the LA Weekly and is a columnist for the Art21 Blog and Dailyserving.com.

project space

Yashua Klos

Often the imagery in my work appears to be both living and dying at once. I often make images of sculptures, which themselves, are simultaneously ‘works in progress’ and ‘works in regress.'

Some of the images I’ve contributed here are unfinished pieces, some complete and some are drawings from my sketchbook.

I have not yet been able to accept ‘drawing’ into my current practice, and would therefore not typically show these drawings from my sketchbook. They primarily operate for me as notations on how to begin my collage practice on the wall.

Through arranging and compiling these works in progress in this project space however, I’ve found a continuity between them which establishes a context, that helps ‘complete’ their intention.

Yashua Klos received his BFA from Northern Illinois University. After graduating, he studied Italian Renaissance oil painting at L’Atelier Neo Medici in Monflanquin France. In 2005 Klos was awarded a residency at The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and in 2009 received his MFA from Hunter College in New York. Klos’s works are in private collections in New York, Chicago, Flint Michigan, and in Atlanta. His works have been published in Daniel Parker’s African Art: The Diaspora and Beyond, featured in Essence magazine, and reviewed in the New York Times. Born in Chicago Illinois, Klos now lives and works in Brooklyn NY.

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Gabriel Kuri: Classical Symmetry, Historical Data, Subjective Judgement
Sadie Coles HQ, London
March 1 - May 26, 2012

Julie Blackmon, Night Movie, 2011, Inkjet print, 44 x 62 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Robert Mann Gallery, NY.

Platforms, table-tops, and tableaux’s have a renewed currency within contemporary sculptural practice. The careful placement of objects and materials within these contexts are a way to examine the process by which we come to understand them while extending the historical inquiry surrounding the readymade. Quasi-museological displays color with abstraction commonplace objects and the ideas that surround them, displacing meaning, and forcing us to look anew at their origins and uses. This symmetrical tension (and its realization as a sculptural condition) between historical data and subjective interpretation underpins Gabriel Kuri’s current exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ in London. Based on mathematical graphs Kuri’s symmetrical, sculptural self-portraits, made from gold-colored insulation foam introduce seemingly random objects (conch shell, crushed drink can) into the orbit of the curved utilitarian material. Like his platform sculptures these self-portraits complicate the idea of the object–sculptural and utilitarian–while referencing bodily functions and processes. Kuri’s three platforms take found panes of glass, concrete, and plywood and presents them upright on wooden pallets. Colorful metal disks lie overlapping on the floor, a strange material filling and manipulating their intersection. Together, these alluring non-figurative sculptures mirror the indexical slices of information made familiar by science, while reinvigorating discarded utilitarian objects with aesthetic beauty and new associations. Cash-in those frequent flyer miles for a trip to London, Kuri’s exhibition is just one of many reasons to do so.

Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.

Julie Blackmon: The Power of Now and Other Tales from Home
Houston Center for Photography
March 9 - April 22, 2012

Spooky and surreal, Julie Blackmon’s photographs are unsettling portraits of urban familial life. They are grounded in an off-kilter reality, one that contains familiar elements, yet is a complete and unabashed fallacy. Reminiscent of Flemish and Dutch paintings, the compositions are deliberate to a point of profound strangeness, down to every last detail. And those details—the nonsensical light sources, the perspective aberrations and the impeccably placed objects—are what make the work particularly successful. Even the subjects themselves seem to be only renderings, a physical representation of a father or child, but ultimately fictitious characters whose roles only exist within the psychology of each frame. Many of these subjects remain anonymous by virtue of their placement. Blackmon often hides the subject’s face or even entire body, leaving in only a pair of legs or a hand performing a specific action. This bold cropping suggests a continuing chaos outside of the frame, adding to the perplexity of the narrative. Ultimately characteristic of the eerie children’s portraits of Loretta Lux or some of the older work of Anthony Goicolea (think You & What Army or Detention Series), Blackmon finds her own voice—or perhaps in this case stage—through the nostalgic going-ons of the nuclear family and the non-conventional domestic settings she stitches together for them.

Emily Ng is an artist and Production Associate at Fluent~Collaborative.

Announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

Kollin Baker
Co-Lab Space
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 17, 7-11pm

It is not that a bunch of twigs arranged around a room is that interesting to you or me, it's the concepts and thought/s.

Nick Brown & PJ Raval
Tiny Park
Opening Reception: Friday, March 23, 7pm-11pm

In Nick Brown's recent work, mortality is sought out, feared, dreamt about, lamented, and memorialized. Tiny Park will present three of PJ's animated short films.

Conrad Bakker
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Opening Saturday, March 24

Lora Reynolds Gallery is pleased to present Untitled Project: RECORD SHOP [45s], Conrad Bakker’s newest body of work. Bakker will turn our project room into an ersatz record store by displaying more than 30 LP covers—all shaped from wood and painted with oils.

Michael Menchaca
Red Space Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 24, 7-10pm

For Of Migratus, Menchaca presents a narrative framing the contemporary Mexican diaspora to the United States as a dysfunctional cartoon. Using a familiar Saturday-morning-cartoon format, the video portrays the story of a coyote hired by downtrodden felines to be illegally smuggled into the US.

Austin Closings

Miguel Andrade Valdez
Through March 25

Andrade Valdez’s video Monumento Lima is a chaotic, rapid-fire visual compendium of the monuments that occupy Lima’s traffic circles and pedestrian malls. They range from the forgotten to the futurist, the Spanish Mediterranean to the brutal, as well as the Modernist. In the video, the trapezoid emerges as a very popular shape due to its common motif in pre-Columbian Peruvian architecture.

Jennifer Davis, Mark Nelson & Terrence Payne
grayDUCK Gallery
Through April 1

Through pattern, candy colors and imagery, Absurdities Crept In is a show of odd tales waiting to be told. Tales about the awareness of time, stumbling through life's fleeting experiences and one's true character. This exhibition features three artists with meticulous drawing styles and abundant illustrational talent, including paintings from Jennifer Davis and Mark Nelson and color pencil drawings from Terrence Payne.

Austin on View

Tom Molloy
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Through April 14

Tom Molloy's New World is a group of nine different LP sleeves-all from the same recording, Dvořák's New World Symphony-whose text has been painted to blend in with the cover image.

Leah Haney
AMOA Arthouse
Through April 22

Leah Haney will debut fresh, new paintings that toy with our perceptions of spatial relationships and depth.

Lee Lozano
Visual Arts Center
Through April 22

Curated by Katie Geha and presented in partnership with The Blanton Museum of Art, Pun Value: 4 Works by Lee Lozano is a case study of works by Lee Lozano from The Blanton collection, which will examine the artist’s process and influence on the art world of the 1960s.

Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani
Through April 22

In Toute la mémoire du monde – The world’s knowledge, Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani reinterpret French director Alain Resnais’ similarly titled 1956 film. Resnais’ twenty three-minute documentary sweeps through the historic French Bibliothèque Nationale on Rue de Richelieu in Paris, exposing how the library functions as a storehouse of all the world’s knowledge.

Christie Blizard
Women & Their Work
Through April 26

In When I was 16 I saw the White Buffalo, Blizard uses collage, sculpture, video animations and installation. Half of the exhibit represents her studio as a metaphor for: the daytime, the physical, the present tense, the here and now, but also the space where artists can go away and create.

Art on the Green
Through May 20

Art on the Green encourages visitors to explore the unique setting of Laguna Gloria with its 12 acres of grounds on Lake Austin, and outdoor sculptures which are part of AMOA-Arthouse’s permanent collection. For the exhibition, nine Texas artists and designers will create minature golf holes that respond to the site and encourage a diverse audience to go outside and play. A bonus tenth hole will be located on the rooftop of the Jones Center, linking this exhibition to both museum locations.

San Antonio Openings

James Smolleck
Sala Diaz
Opening Reception: Friday, March 23, 7 - 11pm

In the bag were many knives and hoods, diverse rites and images, ointments and herbs.

Megan Harrison
cactus bra SPACE
Opening Reception, Thursday, April 5, 6- 8pm and Friday, April 6, 6-9pm

From the artist: "I imagine myself as an explorer entering into strange and unforgiving surroundings. In my drawings I reference images of arctic exploration where the horizon line lays open and there is little to obstruct the view over large expanses of space."

San Antonio on View

Tony Feher
Through April 29

Tony Feher’s installations take inspiration from existing architectural elements, revealing the environment anew for viewers. His artworks’ relationship to the space in which they are presented is inseparably fundamental, and in effect, the architecture becomes a part of the exhibition. In this way, the Hudson (Show)Room and the Artpace facility play leading roles in Thomas Hoving.

Issac Julien
Linda Pace Foundation
Through June 30

TEN THOUSAND WAVES was filmed on location in China and poetically weaves together stories linking China’s ancient past and present. The work explores the movement of people across countries and continents and meditates on unfinished journeys. Conceived and created over four years, Julien collaborated with some of China’s leading artistic voices.

San Antonio Closings

Riley Robinson
cactus bra SPACE
Through March 25

Maryanne is Robinson’s first San Antonio exhibition in 3 years. The new sculpture follows a series of welded steel works that make sardonic statements about memory and belief systems. The artwork is based on the steam shovel in the children's book "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" by Virginia Lee Burton.

Houston on View

Marina Zurkow
Diverseworks Art Space
Through April 21

Commissioned by DiverseWorks to be part of Fotofest 2012 Necrocracy is an immersive art exhibition exploring nature and petrochemical production that combines video animation, drawings and sculpture by Brooklyn-based artist Marina Zurkow. In the space, the public is invited to explore a labyrinth-like landscape, populated with an array of petroleum-based artworks and a series of new animated video works.

Emily Peacock
Lawndale Art Center
Through April 14

Solo exhibit in the Grace R. Cavnar Gallery: You, Me, & Diane. Emily Peacock presents a series of photographs based on work from the seminal book Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph for the exhibition.

Jim Nolan & Linda Post
Lawndale Art Center
Through April 14

Jim Nolan and Linda Post present their first major collaborative project, a site-specific installation that looks toward Lawndale Art Center itself for inspiration for the exhibition: LOW IMPACT (RESISTANCE TO FLOW/THIS IS BOB DYLAN TO ME) SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

Randall McCabe
Lawndale Art Center
Through April 14

In the Project Space, a portion of Randall McCabe's 100' long drawing consisting of repetitive marks made since the drawing began in 2005 will be on view in the exhibition Scroll.

The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973-1991
Contempoary Arts Museum Houston
Through April 15

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is pleased to present The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973-1991, a survey of leading women artists that examines the crucial feminist contribution to the development of deconstructivism in the 1970s and ’80s. This exhibition is organized by Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York.

Houston Closings

McArthur Binion
Contempoary Art Museum of Houston
Through April 1

Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion is the Houston debut for this Chicago-based, mid-career painter and the artist’s first solo museum exhibition. For this exhibition, Binion has created a new body of work that extends his visual narrative through color and geometric form. Decidedly minimal, Binion’s work embodies a strong intellect rooted in the expressive capabilities of color and abstraction.

Amy Blakemore
Inman Gallery
Through April 7

Amy Blakemore's new photographs depict a variety of scenes the artist observed while traveling through Mexico and her home of Houston, Texas. Ranging from landscapes to portraits to still lifes, the images document situations in which objects have been arranged or placed, sometimes carefully, sometimes haphazardly and sometimes inadvertently on display.

Demetrius Oliver
Inman Gallery
Through April 7

Demetrius Oliver's new series of drawings derive from an installation he created at D'Amelio Terras Gallery in New York in fall 2011. Entitled Orrery, the installation featured umbrella frames and studio debris suspended around a single light bulb, mimicking the eponymous model used to depict the movements of the planets and their satellites in the Solar System. The drawings, the artist's first in ten years, recycle Orrery's umbrella ribs and stretchers to articulate line and space in two dimensions.

Kyle Young
Art Palace
Through April 7

PUSH PLAY is exactly what Kyle Young has done recently. Taking a pause from his studio to work on other ventures, he has picked up the remote and pushed 'play' again. Returning to the studio has proven to be a continuation from where he left off approximately eight years ago.

Dallas Openings

Cassandra Emswiler and Kevin Todora
Oliver Francis Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 24, 6-9pm

Cassandra Emswiler’s first immersive flooring installation, Gilding the silk lily, compiles vernacular surface materials from the sprawling Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex and examines their
relationship to photography, memory, and wilderness. Kevin Todora will display photographs of inanimate subject matter, mostly fruit.

The Mirrror and the Monitor: Female Self-Portraiture in Video Practice
Haggerty Gallery
Opening Reception: March 30, 6:30-8:30pm

For women artists in particular, using one's own body to unleash the political power of autobiography can be countered and potentially undermined by the history of the objectification of the female body in art and mass-culture. The artists in this exhibition embrace some of these paradoxes by both celebrating and revealing their own images, yet simultaneously obscuring themselves through various strategies including masquerades and pseudonyms and the manipulation and desynchronization of the video medium itself.

Wayne White
Marty Walker Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday March 31, 6-8pm

Marty Walker Gallery presents a site specific gallery installation of murals and paintings by award-winning artist Wayne White, known for his signature punchy word combos injected into the “sofa-art” scenery of found thrift store lithographs.

Dallas on View

Linda Ridgway
Talley Dunn Gallery
Through April 14

Talley Dunn Gallery is pleased to present Alice, the poet and the grasslands, an exhibition of recent drawings and bronze sculptures by renowned artist Linda Ridgway.

Mark Manders
Dallas Contemporary
Through April 15

The first major North American exhibition of work by acclaimed Dutch artist Mark Manders, Mark Manders: Parallel Occurrences/Documented Assignments features a body of new sculptures and works on paper created specifically for it. This nationally touring exhibition includes roughly fifteen new sculptural works and three loaned works, one of which is from The Pinnell Collection of Dallas.

Elliott Hundley
Nasher Sculpture Center
Through April 22

Elliott Hundley's The Bacchae featuring 11 recent medium- to large-scale wall-mounted and free-standing constructions highlights his investigations of the ancient Greek tragedy "The Bacchae" (ca. 406 BC) by Euripides. Encompassing a variety of media including assemblage, theatrical staging, and photography, this exhibition continues the Nasher’s exploration of sculpture’s rich and myriad possibilities.

Dallas Closings

Ian F. Thomas & Jon Shumway
Richland College Galleries
Through March 29

In their collaborative installation Incidental Transformations, Ian F. Thomas and Jon Shumway's project digital video and light onto ceramic forms. The Pennsylvania based artists offer a reexamination of traditional media and a restructuring of gallery usage. Erecting several walls and blacking out windows, the installation engages interior/exterior dynamics, requiring audience members to disrupt lighting patterns and projections as they navigate the re-situated space.

Marfa on View

Data Deluge
Ballroom Marfa
Through July 8

The ongoing dialogue between the digital and physical worlds provides the backdrop for Data Deluge, an exhibition that presents a selection of sculpture, furniture, painting, photography, video, sound and works on paper by artists who shape Web-based and software-generated data into art.

Announcements: Events

Austin Events

2012 Five X Seven SPLURGE
Wednesday, April 4, 7-10pm
Admission: $25

Attending the Five x Seven SPLURGE on April 4 ensures you will have first pick of over 1,000 original 5×7-inch works of art by emerging and established contemporary artists.

A bold, beautiful benefit for Women & Their Work
Women & Their Work
Saturday, April 14, 8-11pm

Get your art on at an evening of high style, delectable edibles and drinks, a silent art auction and intriguing entertainment.

Houston Events

The Asia Society Texas Center Opening
Asia Society Texas
April 12 - April 15

The Asia Society Texas Center opens its new headquarters in the heart of Houston’s Museum District with a four-day celebration April 12-15, 2012.

Announcements: opportunities

Call for Applicants

Land Arts of the American West Program
The College of Architecture at Texas Tech University
Deadline: April 9, 5pm

Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University seeks to cultivate collective energy within an expanded disciplinary range of examinations from architecture, the built environment, public culture, literature, science, and geography to explorations of contemporary art practices.

Call for Entries

New Art/Arte Nuevo: San Antonio 2012
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Deadline: March 23

The University of Texas at San Antonio, announces New Art/Arte Nuevo: San Antonio 2012. This biennial juried exhibition will feature the work of artists living and working – or with roots/raices – in South and West Texas. A print catalog will accompany the exhibition.

2012 Austin Screen Play Festival
Austin Film Festival
Regular Deadline: May 15 ($40) Late Deadline: June 1 ($50)

The Writers Guild of America, East is now the underwriting sponsor of the Drama Screenplay Award category (open to Historical, Western, Drama, Family, Romance, Horror, Thriller, etc.). Drama Finalist scripts will be judged by a select panel of WGAe screenwriters and the winner will be presented by a WGAe representative at the Awards Luncheon during the 2012 Conference.

Residency Opportunities

Deadline: May 11

The Ox-Bow hosts artists from around the world, working in a wide variety of media. Given the small nature of the program, residents have a remarkable opportunity to create a close community. Most nights feature slide lectures, studio visits, or informal conversations.

Lawndale Art Center
Deadline: May 25

The program is part of Lawndale's ongoing commitment to support the creation of contemporary art by Gulf Coast area artists. With an emphasis on emerging practices, the program will provides three artists with non-residential studio space on the third floor of the Lawndale Art Center at 4912 Main Street in the heart of Houston's Museum District.

Internship Opportunities


Fluent~Collaborative seeks interns! The Editorial Intern will be primarily assisting with the online publication, …might be good. The Production Intern will assist with the preparation and gallery hours of exhibitions at testsite. If interested, please send a letter of interest stating which internship you are interested in, a list of three references and a current resumé to eng@fluentcollab.org with the subject line: “Fluent Internship”. Please note that both internships are unpaid.

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