Y Gallery, New York >>
By Kristin Reger
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco >>
By Megan Seelie
Duncan R. Anderson
Kasia Kay Art Projects, Chicago >>
By Lynda Wellhausen
Never Run Away
STUX, New York >>
By Megan Marie Garwood
Gallery 532 Thomas Jaeckel, New York >>
By Mary Hrbacek
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Y Gallery, New York
By Kristin Reger
Argentinian artist Tamara Kostianovsky, represented by Y Gallery (based in New York’s new Lower East Side LES art district) is one of the featured artist in the VOLTA art fair this month, and her work was also shown at the PINTA art fair earlier this season. Kristin Reger of M spoke with Ms. Kostianovsky about her work in this interview which took place at New York’s Bowery Hotel.
How did you start with the idea of doing these fabric meat pieces? The story goes a few years back. I was born in Israel, but grew up in Argentina and I came to the US in 2000 to study art. That year, there was a huge default of the Argentinean economy. For those living in the US with Argentinean money, overnight we found ourselves with limited resources. I didn’t have money to go buy art supplies, but I did have a lot of clothing I had brought from Argentina. When you travel you pack a lot and often end up wearing only two or three things! So I had all this clothing, warm sweaters and things that connected me to a part of my life in Argentina that I missed. I started by
making 3-dimensional maps out of clothes. Slowly the imagery of the cows and meat came about. It was the perfect marriage; the sweaters were perfect to make fat and muscles. I always liked the reddish colors in the sculptures. It was a very good match.
These materials lend themselves well to expressing the detail in the muscles. To recreate a piece of meat on bone, using fabric, it’s really successful. Can you talk more about the maps? I started thinking about how a map can represent a person and the connection between geography and the body. How geography seems to be so outside of ourselves, as a science on its own. I felt there was a geographical problem inside myself. Because I was an immigrant, I had a difficult time understanding my surroundings. All the names were foreign, I didn’t know where things were, but somehow I started associating my figure with the map of Argentina. It’s feminine and skinny. It has a humanoid shape. I started making a map of Argentina out of leather, made with my clothing. It was very heavy! There was something endearing about it. It represented the feeling of displacement.
To make it out of leather seems like a natural choice since there’s the whole tradition of the gaucho, the cattle industry in Argentina. Cows really found a way into my work in the beginning. I always say that in Argentina there are as many trucks bringing cattle to butcher as there are delivering Budweiser here! I grew up with this imagery.
When did you come to Argentina from Israel? What part of Argentina did you grow up in? I grew up in Buenos Aires. I was born to Argentinean parents in Israel, we came back when I was very young.
Buenos Aires has such a vibrant gallery scene. Do you show back at home? I left early in my career so I haven’t had a chance to really investigate the Argentinean art scene. But every time I visit, everyone is really excited; it seems like there’s always more going on.
It always seems more exciting for an artist when you’re away from home, no matter how interesting home may be! When did you come to New York? Did you feel the pull, as an artist, to come here? Absolutely! I was in Philadelphia for five years, I went to school there at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, I studied sculpture. After a few years in Philadelphia, I realized that New York was the major attraction. I always wanted to come here but it was a dream that got put off for years. Then in 2004 I came to New York and I loved it!
How did you and Cecilia [Jurado, owner of Y Gallery] meet? We met at the Biennial at the Museo del Barrio, The S-Files. One of her artists was there, Dulce Pinzon. I had work in the Biennial. Cecilia saw it, loved it, and said “Let’s talk.” At first I was a little skeptical. But time went by, and one day I sent her an email saying, “Hey Cecilia, you still want to talk?” And she said, “Yeah, of course!” Although there are a lot of Latin American artists living in New York, there are different approaches to different issues; these pieces were not so straightforward. She said the work was “pretty” and yet aggressive, that the pieces were on her mind for a long time.
Which pieces did she see? The cow pieces. We’re setting up a show for the map pieces now, she has shown the meat pieces a lot, but not the map works.
What is the series called? I don’t want to just keep calling it the “meat sculptures”... It has many titles, but that works! Volta’s [the art fair] going to show the meat pieces, but new one. There are two works that combine the maps and the meat. One that will be at Volta is called, “Map of Truth”. It’s cow skin, mounted as a rug on the wall, and it has a map stitched on it. I’m really excited to show it, it hasn’t been shown before.
I understand that your studio is in Greenpoint [Brooklyn]. It seems like a little secluded artist peninsula over there! How do you like it? I love it! I live in Greenpoint; I have a new studio there that I moved into a couple of weeks ago. It’s a good building with many talented artists. My neighbor is a great designer. It doesn’t look like we’re in a
building of artistic geniuses, but we all do well. It’s great!
What artists would you cite as your influences? I was trained classically; Velázquez and Rembrandt and all those people are my heroes. I’m attached to color. I feel like what I do is sculptural, on one hand, but it has a lot to do with painting too; there is a lot of color coordinating and getting the right colors through layering fabric. Lately I haven’t been looking at artists so much, my references [for the work] come from the internet. It’s hard for me to visit slaughterhouses in the US, there is a lot of red tape to go through. However, I do that when I go to Argentina; the butchers are very friendly and explain to me what they are doing. I get a lot of inspiration for future works at home. But the internet is great for these sorts of images; I see them from every angle and I compose different pieces together into one sculpture.
Do you digitally manipulate images? I don’t work on the computer, I do drawn studies.
There’s a knitted feeling to many of these works; do you knit or crochet? Or are you taking apart pre-existing garments exclusively? I know how to knit but I don’t do it for my work, they’re strictly deconstructed.
I heard that a collector looking at your work, who was a doctor, remarked that it’s “anatomically perfect.” That’s part of what makes it real. You feel the tendons. Sometimes I want to make fantastical animals, but my anchoring is in anatomy, it makes the work more believable.
Are you working on other kinds of work besides the meat pieces? Right now I feel there is a lot I can say with this series, even beyond food, although that is the obvious connection. It also speaks about violence, about war, about destruction, desperation, poverty. There are so many issues that I feel theses pieces speak to, I’m not done with it. Recently, however, I did make a huge whale that is at Socrates [Sculpture Park in Long Island City] that’s showning until March. It’s a butchered whale. I think of it as the sum of all of our bodies, the whale, because it is so big and can live fore hundreds of years. It’s like a city that has been destroyed.
How did you take it apart? Were you using similar image references? It’s cut in the correct way they do when they butcher whales. I wanted to go to Alaska but I couldn’t. It’s a mix of a few different types of whales.
Do you feel there’s any connection with Damien Hirst’s work, you know, the calf piece? It’s an unavoidable reference. I admire his work, but we work from such different points of view. Sometimes the end result has similarities, but I’m working with discarded clothing and by hand, I don’t have any technology or the kinds of resources he has access to. Regarding subject matter, my inclination to work with this kind of imagery came from a very bloody murder in my family. It was a horrible crime that lead me to realize how humans can be treated as cattle or animals. So I started making the cows to bridge the gap between the animals we are used to seeing butchered and what happens to humans when things go wrong. As I said, I admire Damien’s work, but I’m coming from a very personal place, and then the route has lead me to work where this comparison comes up.
What specific pieces are you showing [at Y Gallery] in Volta ? I’ll have the giant map piece on cowhide, that speaks of where we come from and what we are, how geography is imprinted on our bodies. It’s an anti-globalization piece. There’s a new work that is two sections of a cow that are bound together by their ribs. It talks about love and connection, even beyond death. In my studio I have a quarter of a cow piece that has embroidery work related to the map imagery.
Well, I’m looking forward to seeing it. I understand that people talk about the connection of Judaism to your work. Is there one? I have a piece at the Jewish Museum [In New York]. The show is called Reinventing Ritual; the curators have taken typical rituals from the Jewish tradition and had artists speak about them in a contemporary way. My work illustrates a little bit of the Kashrut, the Kosher way of slaughtering. I’m comfortable with that association but I really want to work from a secular point of view, because as I was saying this devastation, this death, this crime is unfortunately universal. But there is something about the Kosher killing that examines the moral responsibility that has to do with taking the life of an animal. That can be a bridge to what I’m doing, examining the responsibility we have every time we take this sort of action.
Since you don’t necessarily make that assotiation yourself, do you find people over assessing your work from a Jewish perspective, particularly in New York? It’s actually not as bad as the food association that everyone brings up! They want to know if I’m vegetarian.
Well, there are lots of vegans in New York too! Yes, and they’re the ones who are outspoken and after me! It says something about the work that all of these outside associations can be made. But once the work is done, I don’t have any more say in it. When I’m in my studio I’m not really thinking about it. M
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Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
By Megan Seelie
Imagine a place and time where the far east and the west coexist, where villas of nineteenth century Europe neighbor dragon laced temples, where Chinese women dress in petticoats and twirl delicate umbrellas, and the inks of Chinese art are complimented by the oil paints of the west; this is Shanghai — as presented at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
This exhibition winds through the past one hundred and sixty years of Shanghai’s whirlwind metamorphosis, as seen through the lens of art, fashion and film. The most recognizable image of old Shanghai sets the tone here; a series of oil paintings that depict the district called The Bund, with its classical European buildings lining the river bank set against a backdrop of sailboats and cargo ships dotting the harbor.
The plum blossom has always been a popular theme in traditional scroll painting, and there are fine examples here. In 1916 Wu Changshuo depicted the traditional style of scroll painting by using thick flat brush strokes with blotches of red to create a plum tree in his piece Red Plum Blossoms. Only seventeen years later the same image can be seen in Tao Lengyue’s Plum Blossom Under the Moon, but in a completely different light. He creates the same image, but rendered in dark, haunting detail that illustrates the infusion of western style into eastern art. Lengyue’s piece is the point at which the entire show pivots out of Chinese traditional art into the full infusion of western styles into Chinese art.
From Lengyue’s scroll painting, the exhibit takes a fascinating turn addressing the roll of women in the 1930s. Yuan Xiutang’s poster paints a traditionally dressed Chinese woman lounging before the sprawling city of Shanghai in A Prosperous City That Never Sleeps. Women were seen as a symbol of progress.
Upon entering the Hambert Gallery almost all traces of China are left behind with photographs of buildings that could have been taken in almost any western city in the 1930s. In the Revolution portion of the exhibition the West fades to reveal a splintering China now caught between old and new styles. Woodblock prints show images of pain, struggle, conflict and turmoil, while the brightly colored graphic posters show images of a prosperous and perfect life. Li Hua’s print Roar, China! touches on the anti-imperialist sentiment in China with its disturbing image of a mangled man bound to a pole of wood, his knife just out of reach. It is hard to believe that all of these works are illustrating the same time and place.
“Joe Camel” — the cigarette advertising icon — smiles from ear to ear in Zhou Tiehai’s Shanghai Lily lightens the mood in Shanghai Today 1980 - 2010. Here is where the dust settles and we find a multiplicity of styles have risen from the ashes, with some pop-art, abstract art, video illustration, sculpture and even a piece resembling Rembrandt in brushstrokes and color palette. However, Liu Dahong’s embroidered silk robes reassure us that traditional Chinese art still has a place in this modern world. M
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Duncan R. Anderson
Kasia Kay Art Projects, Chicago
By Lynda Wellhausen
Figures at the edge of a vast universe face each other, themselves and ghosts both literal and metaphoric. An octopus schoolgirl clutches her books as she waits for the bus (or viewer) to bare witness to her amputated state. A table dreams of it’s past as a tree. A 19th century American woman clutches a rifle in one hand and her dress in the other while she awaits her husband’s return. Drawing heavily from Dada and Surrealism, Anderson seems to relish the creative freedom of such movements.
Filled with existential obstacles, hybrid creatures and fateful flashes of the human journey, this work often represents a singular moment within a larger narrative influenced by the artist’s southern origins, the occult, theater, and science fiction. Much of Anderson’s work is literary; everything is a stand-in for a bigger idea. In this regard, the figures are void of associative meaning alone. They open the door to a new symbolic language, a language the artist also explores in his collaboration with the Chicago based theater company, Collaboraction.
Although theater influences his work, it is not wholly narrative. These pieces work from a multiplicity of angles and viewpoints. The titles offer some insight into this perspective, be it from many angles or one, as in the case of the Occult Fantasies (Widow’s Walk). Here, the phrase “occult fantasies” signifies the notion of
sympathetic magic, the figure trying to cast a spell with her ritual of waiting and pacing, as if this will bring about her husband’s return. The fixed gaze of the widow turns away from the viewer, her “walk” only implied as she is destined to wait unfulfilled. The combination of her hope and the knowledge that her husband is not returning (as implied by the title), conveys a poignet sense of loss.
The weight of the past bares heavily in the piece Frontiers of Nod. The notion of pentimento is at play, but in this case it’s not an underlying layer of paint that is revealed, but a concept revealed in one’s consciousness, the notion of personal history and the cultural guilt that goes with it.
While this work is steeped in meaning, Anderson’s symbols are not always immediately clear. Some pieces are conceptualized beforehand, from the ground up, while others utilize found objects for inspiration. It is difficult to tell where the artifice stops or starts, and it’s not at all obvious that he’s making use of consumer available items. The found objects are constantly given little pushes to nudge them out of the packages they come in, moving everything into the realm of art. M
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Never Run Away
STUX, New York
By Megan Marie Garwood
This two-woman show, dubbed Never Run Away, features the photography of Sara
Rahbar, an Iranian native who lives in the United States and Iran, and paintings by Indian artist Reen Kallat. Rahbar shoots models in full costumes that reference Iranian and American iconography, e.g., the American flag, and revolutionary militant gear. Kallat constructs paintings out of rubberstamps painted with acrylic paint, which are then pieced together to form a portrait of her anonymous subjects. She also draws maps with archival ink applied to handmade paper, -reconceptualizing the form.
Together these works address the broad term, globalization, from an intimate perspective grounded in East/West experiences. Rahbar’s photography captures paradoxical images of traditional Iranian and American (or Western) symbols by manipulating the canonical meaning that these images hold in their respective cultures (traditional Iran textile lined with the American flag); her photographs question cultural identity in the modern world. Kallat’s work speaks to India’s economic development that outpaces the individual; her work literally delineates a list of a number of Indian citizens that have been “lost” during violent riots, changes in governmental policies and even natural disasters. In this regard, Never Run Away serves as a kind of contemporary history lesson in which the viewer examines other cultures through foreign eyes.
In the wake of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, Rahbar’s family moved to the United States where she was sent to schools in New York and also in London, mingling with a mix of Iranian diaspora and international students. Her work echoes Marjane Satrapi’s novels Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a
Return. Both artists left and returned to Iran, and as such their work deals with life in a capricious state of never feeling settled.
Rahbar’s exploration of cultural identity is presented in three series: the photography series entitled Love Arrived and How Red; and You Have Come Late and I Have Lost my Chastity; and the installation series, These expectations for sunshine. The first series focuses on costume choice in eleven large studio portraits. The photographs follow a love affair between two masked people, who are depicted together and separately, ultimately ending with the death of the bride. The bride first appears wearing a ski mask and heavily draped in traditional Iranian garbs; eventually, she lies in a contorted pose now dressed in a white lace wedding gown, gold bracelets and the black ski mask, while she clutches and is surrounded by dismantled fruits. The husband is shrouded with a similar black ski mask exposing only eyes, nose and mouth, and he is dressed in a camouflage ghillie suit decorated on one shoulder with red, green and white braided fabric. Each photograph is framed against an opaque black background; the contours of their faces only illuminated by the casted light.
One work from the firts series, Love Arrived and How Red #4, depicts both subjects in a full-frontal position grasping hands as they apathetically look out towards (and beyond) the viewer. Iranian textile nearly encompasses the bride, swallowing her silhouette. Standing next to a man uniformed in camouflage print, associated with military gear, she seems out of place.The couple embodies a dichotomy of love and war. The ski masks and the subjects’ gaze toys with exposition. (Notably, Satrapi’s novels center around the veil and acclimation to cultures without the Muslim’s sense of modesty.) The ski mask seems to allude to a hijab, a Muslim woman’s traditional head covering.
Many see the hijab as an oppressive tool that hides the personality and suppresses individuality; on the other hand there are some who make the case for the veil’s autonomous and empowering quality. Dividing the individual from the world, the mask grants a measure of personal space, taking control of what others see.
In #8, Rahbar photographs the profile of the bride in a white wedding gown veiled by the American flag. Again, she replaces expected iconography with disruptive canonical symbols. It seems that Rahbar’s work not only questions the cultural identity of Iranians who live in diaspora, but also it questions the viewer’s cultural identity.
How similar is the hijab, the wedding veil, the American flag, Iranian textile and garb? Throughout the series of Love Arrived and How Red, Rahbar substitutes an expected and loaded accessory with another accessory incongruent with the “accepted” religious or cultural significance, challenging the viewer’s preconceptions of cultural identity.
Kallat, who was raised in India, concerns herself with the economic and social state of India. After the worldwide economic bubble collapsed, the Indian government sought to revive the economy and state while many of its citizens still continued to fall through the cracks. Kallat focusses on the people who have been most impacted by the fallout from globalization in India in three series of works: Synonym; a series of paintings, Your Mileage May Vary; and the installation, Color Curtain. In Synonym, four larger-than-life portraits comprised of rubberstamps inscribed with the names of missing persons (directly attached to the wall) assert the place of the individual in a globalized society. Each portrait vaguely alludes to the race, social class and gender of the subject. Flattening the pictorial space and deconstructing formal composition into numerous rubberstamps, Kallat transforms three-dimensional objects into suspended images of unnamed, ordinary people. Her paintings morph into a living memorial for the lost. Each piece alone represents a person, but when each piece is connected with another the construction renders a person. A person who conveys an identity that is similar to the identity of the stamped name before it becomes lost.
However site-specific Rahbar and Kallat’s works may appear, the viewer may begin to reflect upon norms in any culture and begin to wonder about form of government (e.g., Capitalism with or without socialized healthcare?) because these artists take advantage of universal symbols and signifiers that all cultures recognize. In Rahbar’s You Have Come Late and I have Lost my Chastity #6 a pair of disgruntled and unknown people act out the frustration they feel, aggressively covering each other by grasping the other’s face, again shrouding it from the viewer. Kallat’s Your Mileage May Vary displays a map of the world with lines of travel marked by the names of the lost. She continues to desperately search for people, while also delineating a long road that leads to the interconnectedness of different countries. By combining these two artistic paths into one show, Never Run Away revisits the dialog about the relative merits of cultural change in a globalized, modern world. M
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Gallery 532 Thomas Jaeckel, New York
By Mary Hrbacek
Abstract shapes and images of flying building fragments collide in Per Adolfsen’s hybrid acrylic paintings of floating tableaux that engage the viewer in realms of fantasy and uncertainty. Disintegrating forms, pictures of off-kilter factories, dots, spirals and arrows are among the swirling features that populate these dreamlike visions. The lack of grounding displayed by the floating buildings seems to hint at social and environmental instability. Solid ground doesn’t exist in this universe of images. The roughly defined figures, with their rounded open mouths, recall the state of anxiety conveyed by Edvard Munch’s eerie “The Scream.”
Adolfsen has a playful, poetic way of expressing fear and anxiety. In a dream factory district, the tumbledown architecture combines with painted strokes that represent the remains of dilapidated foundations. Flying pipes spew effluents into the apparently polluted atmosphere. Even the few trees on view are endangered by muddy, cloud-like smudges that hover on the horizon. The lone human inhabitant in one image, presumably the artist, seems to search in vain for human comfort, companionship or perhaps even for just traces of human habitation. No one else is there to be seen. In another painting, there is a sleeping, levitating figure whose dreams seem to be a confusion of circles, chains and arrows that point in the direction of a white region of pictorial emptiness.
Today, loneliness and anxiety have not been eradicated by the accessibility of social media. It is still possible for the isolated individual to be alienated from any coherent society, especially if he or she lives in an industrial wasteland, apart from the nurturing comforts of a pristine, natural environment. It is almost as if the artist’s inner need for a unified social and urban environment is precipitating great longing and desire within him. In one picture, he discovers a small wooden hut with the sign “Heaven” posted in front, to clearly identify the spot. This bit of heaven, replete with open sewer pipes, and even a black cloud, is nevertheless a simple, comforting dwelling. If this patch represents the artist’s conception of heaven, he isn’t asking for much. It is surely an ironic conceptualization rooted in a “hellish” everyday existence, where he seems here, metaphorically, to be habitually entrenched.
Adolfsen expresses a personal dream of dread with great vigor and freedom of expression, utilizing a painting language of easy-to-comprehend, universal symbols. The message is in accord with the ideas to be found in Mathew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach,” and in T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” This is a dark vision of a fractured world, in constant flux beyond control. Life evolves here from one daily episode of uncertainty to another, leaving the individual devoid of any sense of personal security. This work is enmeshed in a classic, Scandinavian existential dilemma; in these symbolic, tormented pictorial visions the artist appears to be reaching for wholeness. M