MBG Issue #198: Power Play

Issue # 198

Power Play

October 12, 2012

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Emily Roysdon. Installation view of Pause, Pose, Discompose. Photo Credit: Sandy Carson

from the editor

Another art fair is on the horizon here in Houston as well as on the other side of the Atlantic. (Hot on the heels of Frieze New York, Frieze London opens to the public this weekend.) While Houston’s fairs haven’t reached the fever pitch of say, Miami circa 2006, there’s still a palpable excitement in the air and the Texas Contemporary looks to capitalize on that buzz when it opens on October 18. Fluent~Collaborative is proud to be a cultural sponsor of the event and we hope to see you there wandering the aisles of the George R. Brown Convention Center. Aside from the standard fair fodder—commerce in-action, over-priced Turkey sandwiches, discussions and tours—Artadia will use the event to announce the winners of its sixth cycle of grants to Houston artists. Our congratulations go out to all of the finalists and we’re looking forward to seeing their work in Artadia’s booth.

Elsewhere in Texas its the time of year for shrimping—a season that runs from May through November—and Austin-based writer Dan Boehl recently took a voyage with the crew of the F/V Discovery, otherwise known as the Shrimp Boat Projects. A conceptual project by artists Eric Leshinsky and Zach Moser, Shrimp Boat Projects will take you out for a day of shrimping in the Galveston Bay. Boehl recounts his experience at sea while delving into the issues that lie at the core of the endeavor. From San Antonio, writer Wendy Atwell reviews Shahzia Sikander’s project The Last Post at The Linda Pace Foundation. A metaphor for society and cultures ever-changing status Atwell finds Sikander’s work both mesmerizing and apocalyptic. Look for an interview with Sikander in an upcoming issue.

where is the power at Forth Worth Contemporary Arts, our Recommends from Issue #196, is the subject of U.T. Arlington Assistant Professor Benjamin Lima’s thoughtful review. In it he parses the complexities that are an inherent part of the exhibition, anchoring them firmly in the objects contained therein. As the current election season lumbers towards a close ‘power’ is an especially relevant topic—the exhibition and Lima’s review are good places to begin thinking about its intricacies. Bundled up with notions of power are often issues of gender, sexuality and identity. Two other exhibitions up in Texas right now tackle these issues head on. At the CAMH in Houston an exhibition of photographer Alvin Baltrop entitled Dreams Into Glass is the topic of writer Sally Frater’s review. The works included in the exhibition span a thirty-five year period from the mid-60’s to early 2000’s and capture sex-workers, pivotal societal moments and the denizens of New York City’s pier district in the mid-70’s and early 80’s. In Austin, Stockholm and New York-based artist Emily Roysdon’s exhibition Pause, Pose, Discompose at U.T.’s Visual Art Center is a beautiful and rigorous examination of politics, gender and sexuality through a wide range of materials and actions. DiverseWorks Assistant Curator and writer Rachel Cook has made Roysdon’s exhibition the topic of her attentive review.

Whether you’re out shrimping this weekend or wandering the halls at the Texas Contemporary drop us a line and let us know how we’re doing. Email us at: askus@fluentcollab.org or post a comment directly on the site.

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

Reviews

EMILY ROYSDON
Visual Arts Center, Austin
Through December 8

By Rachel Cook

Emily Roysdon, Installation view of Pause, Pose, Discompose. Photo Credit: Sandy Carson.

Pause: mid-action, a moment of reflection, an element in a sequence; Pose: mimicry, the history of representation, my body in response; Discompose: capacity, frame, re-purpose, imagine, apart

Emily Roysdon’s latest project at The Visual Arts Center in Austin, Pause, Pose, Discompose, encompasses portions of her overarching interests, but also addresses key issues of subjecthood and objects in contemporary culture. Roysdon’s exhibition breeches multiple topics including performative practice’s inhabiting artistic practice and a more malleable understanding of institutions all of which are being heavily discussed at the moment. Currently based in Stockholm, Roysdon has a long-standing dialogue within the New York context of Queer politics, performance history, feminism, critical writing, and abstraction, including staging a collective “herstory” as a one-night performance event at The Kitchen1. Other recent solo projects have brought together bodies of works that surround “a dialectic consideration of language, choreography, and political representation” or have addressed “the limits of representation and legibility—the limits of the intelligible, and strategies that undermine hegemonic oppositions.”2

Pause, Pose, Discompose employs a conceptual approach to a black box theatre as a way to construct an installation in the VAC’s enormous Vaulted Gallery. The black box was itself an act of resistance to traditional notions of theatre. Beginning in the sixties and seventies, the black box was a way to produce low-cost theatre while stripping away excess material in order to focus on the gestures of performance itself. Constructed in a similar manner as the white cube exhibition space⎯which came into vogue during the same time period⎯the black box is meant to give the audience the sensation of anyplace by taking over abandoned warehouses or repurposing odd spaces without track lighting or tech booths. Roysdon’s approach takes this form and inserts it back into the white cube. By utilizing this gesture, she pinpoints a conversation currently occupying contemporary cultural institutions with the understanding of the boundaries between performative and artistic practices⎯a notion quickly becoming increasingly difficult to identify and distinguish.

At the VAC Roysdon has painted the gallery walls black with a white frame bordering them, allowing the entire installation to be seen as a single unit. A video projection space created out of two walls, whose corners intersect and hug the mezzanines ceiling, appears like a large open book standing in the gallery, an aesthetic device that links us to a more porous understanding of objects and their agency. The black and white video projected on its surface combines the movement of a woman sitting on a chair raising her legs up and down with other abstract gestures that disrupt our notion of gendered bodies in space. Along the perimeter the gallery walls are lined with black chairs. Some of them face the video while others indicate the potential for a larger performance space yet to be inhabited. A large black panel is placed in front of some of the chairs, a tactic of resistance that prevents audience members from occupying the space. The panels also function as display spaces for framed photographs and mimic the structure of the video wall. Photographs of static objects, photograms, and prints (some of drawings others of text) hang above and around the chairs. One photograph in particular exemplifies Roysdon’s practice; a carefully composed black and white photograph presents a seemingly innocuous still life of a butt plug and a toy train. Roysdon talks about how the photograph arrests movement; how things can be linked to choreographic thinking and queer seeing; how formal concerns can be political ones; and how spatial politics are utilized within the gestures of performance. By taking and re-appropriating movements, histories, objects, space, and time this action leads to finding a new grammar that is “rarely imagined,” and addresses issues of subjecthood and the agency of bodies and objects, a topic ripe for further investigation.

Three recent curatorial endeavors relate to Roysdon’s practice and her current project at the VAC. On view at the Sculpture Center, A Disagreeable Object explores a host of artists who are thinking about “how trauma, technology and capitalist culture inform representations of the body” and “how notions of the self are influenced by objects, materiality and impact those very same forms and materials.”3 At MoMA PS1 the exhibition New Pictures of Common Objects explores the ever-expanding understanding of the relationship between photography and sculpture by attacking the elastic and diffuse nature of images, as well as considering how images can “challenge expectations of genre, form, and meaning.”4 Finally Anti-Establishment at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College presents a group of artists who re-imagine the institution as something to be embedded with a critical gesture; who consider “novel collective relationships and emergent models of engaged citizenship, and where power is not dispensed with but instead re-routed to other ends.”5

I bring these exhibitions up not as footnotes, but as points of contact and intersection with Roysdon’s larger practice and Pause, Pose, Discompose. While the exhibition leaves much unresolved, it also digs up much that needs to be considered. In our current political and economic climate it seems more and more important for artists to be asking the questions Roysdon is. Finding the language in which to articulate how and why the female body is still a site of contestation, how power and politics play out in space through gestures, and how resistance and choreographic thinking is a key to remembering our critically engaged bodies and selves, is what gives Roysdon’s exhibition its real power.

Rachel Cook is the Assistant Curator at DiverseWorks in Houston. Presently she is thinking about radical hospitality, human rights, and the agency of images and objects.

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1. Roysdon’s project A Gay Bar Called Everywhere (With Costumes and No Practice) at The Kitchen, New York City in 2011.

2. Roysdon’s recent solo projects include Positions at Art in General, New York City in 2011 and Ecstatic Resistance, which the artist curated an exhibition at Grand Arts, Kansas City in 2010.

3. Taken from Ruba Katrib’s essay from A Disagreeable Object, SculptureCenter, on view until November 26, 2012.

4. Taken from Christopher Y. Lew’s text from New Pictures of Common Objects, MoMA PS1, on view until December 31, 2012.

5. Taken from Johanna Burton’s essay from Anti-Establishment, CCS Bard Galleries, on view until December 21, 2012.


SHAZIA SIKANDER
Linda Pace Foundation, San Antonio
June 1, 2013

By Wendy Atwell

Shahzia Sikander, The Last Post (still), 2010. Courtesy of the Artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., NY.

Soundtracks may play second fiddle to film and video images, but not in The Last Post, (2010) a ten minute animated video collaboration between Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander and Chinese American musician and composer Du Yun. During the screening at the Linda Pace Foundation, Yun, who received her PhD from Harvard, performed her original composition that accompanies Sikander’s animated paintings and drawings.

Sikander is trained in the traditional art of Indo-Persian miniature painting, which she puts to fascinating and subversive use. For example, miniature style painting is included in The Last Post, but this video appears to perform an exorcism of exploitation, embodied by a featureless East India company man who, at the climax, explodes into hundreds of pieces.

The soundtrack is as fluid and varied as the constantly evolving layers and animations of Sikander’s paintings. Their confluence provided a bizarre and unsettling experience. Every jump and change of notes corresponded with the video’s movements and moods and enhanced its visual and emotional complexity.

As the lights dimmed, Yun appeared wearing a spiky bleached wig and a metallic dress, her face painted with black twiggy lines. Standing behind sound equipment stage left of the large wall projection, Yun picked up an instrument made from a tree limb partially shaved to allow for strings. Yun used this instrument like a slide guitar and also plucked and played it with a bow. The instrument’s electrical component made difficult, grating sounds, which were a central component of her performance. Yun cried disturbed sounds into a microphone. The sound scratched along like the open-mouthed, exhausted cry of a torture victim. These almost unbearable noises, along with her tragic and demented singing, accompany some of Sikander’s most mesmerizing imagery.

Yun’s muse-like performance channeled sound and drew forth an energy equal to the constantly morphing film. Like the Hindu concept of Maya, Sikander’s changing drawings perform a lifting of veils. At least five layers of drawings and paintings recede and project throughout the video’s space. In some scenes, a watery painted background conjures up a cosmic galaxy that also could be an image of rotting, molding destruction.

Scenes progress through a redcoat standing on the balcony of a Mughal palace to a river landscape to deep space where the redcoat appears and is obliterated. A fat deity perches atop a huge jumbled ball of goods, then tumbles off. This starts a wheel of karma, made from female silhouettes turning. The jumbled ball turns black—in it are eagles, houses, men, cycles; perhaps all of the stuff that makes up the East India experience. Both in subject matter and style, this ball appears as an homage to Kara Walker. It drops from the screen and the redcoat appears again on the balcony—synchronized drums beat like bullets firing, sirens wail and monks chant as the wheel turns.

Sikander’s drawings and paintings are mournful and apocalyptic, steeped in the recognition of horror. The cries and noises of Yun’s composition reinforce this sensibility. The video’s revelatory nature stems from the continuously changing and shifting spaces. Dismembered arms float first in the distance, but gradually towards the viewer, spinning around as they move closer. Gory details seem to emerge through the painted red and blue colors, causing the viewer to consider how one’s perspective alters what one sees. Sikander’s fractured images float through the narrative space like unbidden memories of trauma. It is like trying to put the many pieces of the past together: one may have the vantage of hindsight, but the terrible damage is already done.

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.


ALVIN BALTROP
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Through October 21

By Sally Frater

Alvin Baltrop, Three Navy Sailors, 1969–72, Gelatin silver print, 8½ × 12¾ inches. Collection Morteza Baharloo, Houston.

Something feels very familiar about Alvin Baltrop: Dreams into Glass at the Contemporary Arts Museum. At first it seemed that the images within the exhibition are redolent of Nan Goldin, though they feature a very different aesthetic (never mind the fact that Baltrop’s practice predates Goldin’s by at least a decade). Perhaps it is the intimacy within the images, or their frank depictions of sexuality. However the reality is that the similarities between the two artists begin and end with their documentation of the communities in New York that they were privy to.

Alvin Baltrop: Dreams into Glass serves as both an introduction and retrospective of the photographer’s oeuvre. Baltrop exhibited his work in galleries only a few times during his lifetime: the artist’s efforts were often unsuccessful as many felt that his depictions of gay life and subcultures would reflect poorly on queer communities during the height of the AIDS panic. As part of CAMH’s Perspectives series the exhibition provides a comprehensive look at Baltrop’s practice, focusing on the portraits that documented the activities of the denizens of New York City’s piers district throughout the mid-70s and early 80s. Though a few color photographs appear amongst the selection the works are mainly in black and white. The architectural landscape though often in the background figures largely in the images and recalls the area before gentrification.

The portraits of sex workers and cruisers were produced at a time when the issue of a public vs. private binary was beginning to be explored in art and many of Baltrop’s images are decidedly voyeuristic in nature. In one image, a woman stands on the street corner with a canned beverage in one hand and a paper-bagged snack in the other, her top pulled down to reveal her breasts while she grins at someone (or something) out of the camera’s frame. Another image depicts naked sunbathers while another features an image of a man clad only in sneakers and a skimpy pair of jean shorts who looks down his pants while bathed in the glow from a street lamp. In photographs such as these, the subjects seem unaware of the presence of the artist and that they are forever being fixed in the moment that Baltrop has captured with his camera lens. Baltrop’s works may contain elements of intrusion and exploitation (in terms of not receiving many of his subjects’ permission to be photographed) yet the images themselves tend to not feel exploitative. The play of light and graininess of the film in the artist’s photographs imbues beauty to its subjects and conveys the sense of reverence that Baltrop had for them.

One factor that also serves to undermine the sense of exploitation is that the artist often turned the camera on himself, subjecting himself to his own photographic gaze. Self portraits of the artist, both nude and clothed are included in the exhibition, as are images of the artist towards the end of his life while he was suffering from cancer. Standing before a mirror, he appears frail and vulnerable in sharp contrast to the manner in which he depicts most of his other subjects.

The familiar feeling that Dreams into Glass permeates might be due to the fact that at this point, seeing images of this type is not that unusual for most viewers of contemporary art: exposure to naked bodies, images of naked bodies in public space and queer narratives have not been uncommon subject matter in exhibitions for the last 20 years. Yet this denies the force and impact of Baltrop’s work, for his photographs document a historical moment that is often overlooked and the ways that the piers functioned as a multiracial space that operated outside of heterosexual and class norms. At this moment following the repeal of Don’t ask, Don’t tell and It Gets Better campaigns it is easy to forget just how ahead of their time Baltrop’s photos were and continue to be.

Sally Frater is an independent writer and curator. She currently is a Critical Studies fellow in the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


where is the power
Forth Worth Contemporary Arts
Through October 27

By Benjamin Lima

where is the power, exhibition view, Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, August 25 - October 27, 2012.

In a welcome and all-too-rare instance of both creative and rigorous curating, where is the power assembles work from a diverse list of contemporary artists, all of which explores some dimension of the main concept: “power.” The art differs widely in medium, origin, tone, subject matter and approach, but the title question exerts a gravitational pull that keeps a viewer circling back to the topic at hand.

where is the power impressively avoids the pitfalls of two common types of group show. The first type brings together artists linked by historical context, but without delving more deeply into the fundamental aesthetic questions. The second type begins with a concept, but fails to convincingly demonstrate the concept’s inherent importance for the artworks on view, leading to a sense of arbitrariness or irrelevance.

Here, by contrast, curator Terri Thornton proposes a topic that is both inherently important and capable of illuminating connections among the wide variety of works on view. Like a few other related concepts (such as the life force, the sex and death drives, ambition or creativity), the idea of power is broad and deep enough to serve as the basis for an entire view of the world. In such a case, there is an inherent danger of an exhibition becoming vague or too broad. (One might ask, isn’t all art and human culture about power in some way?)

This show avoids that problem by situating the work in relation to a definite trend in contemporary art history: the postmodernist loss of belief in aesthetic autonomy (that is, the idea that aesthetic values in themselves are sufficient for art). It is a widespread, axiomatic belief in the contemporary art world that aesthetic values are never autonomous but always embedded in power relationships. This piece of context provides a definite point of reference for what could otherwise be an overly broad exploration of power and art.

All of this would seem to suggest a reference to the radical intellectual historian Michel Foucault, and indeed Thornton cites Foucault in her text, but his ideas do not dominate, as Thornton immediately cites the very different ideas of writer, scholar and peace activist, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh for contrast. Actually, the show encourages us, as it should, to answer its question primarily by interpreting the artworks on view, rather than by delving into scholarship on the topic. What strikes me about the selection of works, in spite of their formal diversity, are several aesthetic commonalities among them, which help define what I am tempted to call an aesthetic of power, generated from the broad field of contemporary art as a whole, rather than a specific movement within it.

The first element is the use of text as a medium. When visual artists use texts, it is often to explore ambiguity in the meaning of the words and the identity of their author, and the significance of the words’ material form (typeface, color, material, etc.). In where is the power, text is central to Alejandro Cesarco’s Zeide Issac (as a traumatic narrative spoken by the artist’s grandfather on video), Liam Gillick’s It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards (an eleven-inch Lewis Carroll quotation with an entire wall to itself), Glenn Ligon’s Condition Report (a replica of the “I Am A Man” placard from the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike), the recorded dialogues on Kris Pierce’s Red Telephone, the titles on the spines of the books in Valeska Soares’s Love Stories II (all including the word “love” in various European languages), and the title of John Wilcox’s Tender (a watercolor extending across two sheets, delicately joined together). All of these works explore the power inherent in a particular author, text or dialogical situation.

The second element is the use of a drawn line to define space. Drawing a line, as most clearly seen in the case of a political border, can be an act of both authority and authorship. It creates a division, or demarcation, in a formerly undivided area. This interpretation suggests similarities among several line-based works in the show. These include Mona Hatoum’s Projection (a map of borders and geopolitics), Cornelia Parker’s Bullet Drawing (a wire grid made from a melted .44 magnum bullet) and Fred Sandback’s Untitled (two axonometric drawings used to design his string installations). In a similar vein, Robert Kinmont’s 127 Willow Forks (This is Who I Am), made from cut willow branches, and Richard Wentworth’s Thus, made from two black walking sticks, occupy three-dimensional space without filling it with solid matter.

The third element is the use of white monochrome, withholding the immediate pleasure of color for the sake of asserting the primacy of form (as most famously in the case of modern architecture). In this show, Hatoum’s and Ligon’s pieces, as well as Chris Powell’s twin (chairs joined with plaster) are all white-filled, and Josiah McElheny’s Three Historical Mirrors, in its inherent absence of color, is nearly so.

Text-based, linear, white or colorless artworks may sometimes seem forbidding to novice viewers, but this is inherently related to their exploration of questions of power. Rather than offering viewers a jolt of immediate satisfaction, they ask us to consider the issues of force, legitimacy, authority and strength inherent in the expression of forms. The variety of work here establishes a creative and supple sense of what power is. It allows viewers to creatively interpret the parallels among the different pieces (as I have tried to do here), rather than didactically insisting on a literal definition of the term, or worse, making the art subservient to a pre-existing concept. This is the spare, restrained, analytical aesthetic of power that the present exhibition does well to investigate.

Benjamin Lima is assistant professor of art history at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Long Read

Long Read

SHRIMP BOAT PROJECTS

By Dan Boehl

Halfway through my day working aboard the F/V Discovery as part of the Shrimp Boat Projects open call to artists, a program that takes artists shrimping on Galveston Bay, I asked Eric Leshinsky how he and his partner, Zach Moser, got started.

“It started as a conceptual art project,” Leshinsky said, as we stood over the bait tank in the back of the boat, sorting shrimp from the bycatch, a hodgepodge of catfish, flounder, shad and the occasional blue crab.

Since Leshinsky’s answer, I’ve had a hard time divorcing my experience of shrimping from the crew’s shrimping enterprise whereby two lubbers purchase, restore and rig a shrimp boat, and must then learn the intricate practice of running it as a commercially successful endeavor. It would be like a shrimp boat captain deciding to open a Houston art gallery. I’ve worked the water many times before, either crabbing or fishing, but always with people who knew what they were doing.

Leshinsky and Moser, you see, are not native shrimpers. The concept of Shrimp Boat Projects began about five years ago, and was realized when they became artists in residence at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston. Through this residency Leshinsky and Moser were able to purchase the F/V Discovery in March of 2011. The boat’s restoration took six months and the refurbished F/V Discovery took its maiden voyage that August, three months into the shrimping season, a season that runs May to November.

Throughout their now year and half long shrimping endeavor, the crew has relied upon the guidance of various individuals who make a living off of gulf shrimp. The man who sold them the boat, John Collins, owns a shipyard, and lent the crew the use of his tools during the F/V Discovery’s refurb. An experienced shrimper, Gary Jones, helped the crew restore the belabored boat and supervised the first two weeks of shrimping excursions. At Shrimp Boat Projects’ website you can see a video of John pulling the boat into dry dock and pictures of Gary welding steel panels and next to the wheel during one of the early voyages.

By the time of my excursion on the Discovery, Leshinsky and Moser demonstrated a basic understanding of the mechanics of shrimping, but they hadn’t quite worked out any of the subtleties of trawling, the process of catching shrimp in nets.

Trawling works by lowering a huge net into the water and letting it fan out behind the boat. Two heavy slatted wooden pallets at the opening of the nets, known as doors, used to keep the net spread open. After trolling the channel for about forty-five minutes, the nets come up, and their contents are dumped into the two-chamber bait tank at the back of the boat. It was my duty to help Leshinsky sort the shrimp from the bycatch by netting a load of shrimp and fish from one chamber of the tank, dumping its contents onto a movable table that rested between the chambers, throw the shrimp into the empty chamber, and toss the fish off the side of the boat and back into the bay.

The crew stayed connected to the shrimping community via the radio, Moser’s chatter with other shrimpers reported updates on catches while others figured out which channels were empty and where the shrimp were running. Back at dock we sold our catch to the live bait shop and the shop’s owner, Bobby Weldon, spent an hour examining the F/V Discovery’s rig. He ruminated on proper trawling depths, net rigging and the swelling of the doors.

The crew’s time with Weldon best demonstrated the relationship Shrimp Boat Projects is nurturing with the larger shrimping community. Because Leshinsky and Moser don’t know what they are doing, they are forced to seek out advice just so they can make a decent catch.

By my count, in the eight hours we were out in the channel, the crew trawled five times. I feel asleep sometime around noon, sitting on a cooler on the foredeck, so I may have missed one. The first catch was mostly shrimp, but not many. The second was full of fish and not many shrimp. The third was mostly fish and few shrimp. Sorting all those fish filled me with desperation. The net was twisted and empty on the fourth trawl and the fifth was a light catch but mostly shrimp. When I asked Moser how he thought we did, he said we made enough to pay for gas.

The work is hard, smelly, painful and dangerous. Swinging nets and cables threaten from overhead, water is constantly dumping over the side of the tank creating a slippery slurry of discarded fish, seagulls and pelicans swoop down to grab at bycatch, shrimp are flicking themselves into the air. The sun beats down. The exhaust pipes are hot and exposed. I felt like I was always in the way of the crew frantically shuffling to bring in the catch. Besides the captain’s seat, there was nowhere to sit.

Here are some the things I saw: a ring of morning cats waiting in the darkness at the bait shop; a cargo ship loaded with containers crossing a red sunrise; a dolphin and her calf cresting by the boat; seagulls balanced on the trawl lines; a fist-sized catfish stuck by its dorsal fin in my left forearm; a shrimp leap from the sorting board into the mouth of a passing pelican.

Along with their connections in the shrimping community, the crew has been seeking out relationships with the food industry. On Saturdays they sell shrimp at a Houston farmers market. They maintain a contact list of Houston chefs. The crew sorts out the biggest shrimp and sells to restaurants through the back door. Leshinsky told me they can make six hundred percent as much at restaurants than they can selling the shrimp as dead bait.

Shrimp Boat Projects is a work in progress. I am interested to see where shrimping takes Leshinsky and Moser and what kind of community they can build at the intersections of Galveston Bay's commerce and ecology. If shrimping is the Shrimp Boat Project’s artistic practice it’s a practice they’re far from mastering. Shrimping takes a lifetime to learn, and I am awed just by the fact that Leshinsky and Moser go out seven days a week to shrimp the season. But if shrimping is their practice, their art form is connecting artists, students and the wider Houston community to the environmental and economic realities of Galveston Bay.

Dan Boehl is author of Kings of the F**king Sea.

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Facing the Sublime in Water, CA

Armory Center For The Arts, Pasadena, CA
October 7, 2012 – January 20, 2013

Katie Shapiro, Untitled from Malibu, Sandbags, 2011, Pigment inkjet print. Courtesy the artist and Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA.

Where bodies of water are concerned California’s Salton Sea is particularly notorious—as evidenced by the recent odor of a massive fish die-off wafting to more populated regions of the state. California’s largest lake is also the inspiration for a project by artists Nicole Antebi and Enid Baxter Blader, a website entitled Water, CA, that was in turn the jumping off point for Facing the Sublime in Water, CA at the Armory Center For The Arts In Pasadena. (The website will be listed as a work in the show drawing further attention to the relationship between platforms that is at the core of the exhibition.) Bringing together the work of fifteen artists ranging from Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn to Felix Gonzalez-Torres the exhibition is a meditation on the idea that constraints—explicit and implicit—can make ‘an idea, an action, or an object fluid.’ Water, and our drive to constrain and harness its power, is used as a metaphor in the exhibition and historical triumphs and blunders can be understood as the exhibitions undercurrent. The paving of the Los Angeles River, the failure of New Orleans levees, and the New York Subway system—which would be fully submerged in twelve hours if the constant pumping of water were to cease. Outside of being the source for an intriguing group of artists, these events remind us of the urgency of the environmental movement while revealing our social ambitions and the necessity for an ethical approach to meeting human needs while we move into the future.

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

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Lucian Freud: Portraits

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
July 1 – October 28, 2012

What could be said about Lucian Freud’s paintings that hasn’t already been said? Profoundly emotive, Freud’s paintings have been inspiring people for generations, myself included. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has put together a truly impressive exhibition of the late painter including over 100 works spanning seven decades and pulled together from collections all over the world, concentrating on his portraiture. Following the artist's career from his more linear, stark portraits from the 1940’s to his later, more gestural renderings of nudes, you are able to fall deeply into his work, self-described by the artist as autobiographical. Freud always painted from real life, and as you spend time with the paintings that he himself spent countless hours on, you begin to wonder if his wooden studio floors smelled like turpentine, or about the softness of the sheets so many of his subjects find themselves on. Rarely does a painter create such intimate relationships with his sitters that they translate so viscerally onto the viewer. Freud transforms simple stagings of a nude reclining on a couch, or a subject and their pet dog, into something that is a psychologically intense and seems to vibrate with human emotion. Even a pile of rags, another source of imagery the artist uses often, you could stare at for hours. Organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London, this will be the only US showing so you are urged to get yourself to Fort Worth for the opportunity to see these works in person before the exhibition closes on October 28.

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

Added on 2012-10-11 11:32:20

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