15 February 2015

What's up

A.R. Penck's pictographs visually resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs, while the content of hieroglyphs resembles more closely the two-dimensional symbolism of Joaquin Torres-Garcia, who, though not aligned creatively with a political state, sought to establish "a universal law that would raise man above the level of individuality; for it is the individuality that separates men, while the universal law is what unites them." Jack Cowart wrote Penck "(proposed) a sort of tortured negative proof: I am not - therefore I am, or vice versa." Baselitz said that GDR Socialist Realism was possible only because Nazi art was not sufficiently reflected on: the 'systems' of Penck, for whom Michael Werner used to smuggle his paintings out of the GDR until he moved to the West in 1980, couldn't be any different from those forms. The strokes of Rauch, also growing up in the GDR, share their pictorial realism with Sots-art but little else. Self-taught, previously a drummer for Billy Bang and Butch Morris, the all-pictographic offerings here (4 e 77th, til March 28) are from Penck's recent years in New York. Looking at 2011's "Vulture Flight - Prey" (left) I jotted down 'carcasses of symbols' before I believe I saw the vulture hovering above (though it's hard sometimes to know for sure about these things) or looking at the title on the list. Birds of prey have appeared in his work from the beginning, at times like Broodthaers' Department of Eagles referencing the German Imperial Eagle but in Penck's case incorporated into an arrangement from the subconscious rather than an archive.

Djordje Ozbolt: "I've had three or four shows in New York, but I had a gap of like five years. This time I felt like presenting something that is the essential Ozbolt."  Whether this is in fact the essential Ozbolt I can't say, but this first show of his I've seen quite enjoyably fills up three floors at Hauser & Wirth (32 e 69th St, til Feb 21) .  There is a tendency to one-off humor, seeking surface reactions, a tendency of painters from the Southern or Western US, as Ozbolt resides in London, along with no shortage of art-historical references (shorthand of Guston and Picasso; Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe) but there are depths here as well, along the lines of Breton finding in Magritte "the great semantic bridge which allows us to pass from the proper meaning to the figurative meaning."  Visitors are greeted with the visual pun of a cross-eyed Karl Marx with the two gazes fixed on a sculptural hammer and sickle, titled "Before they Met," (above) inviting multiple interpretations. "Ye Olde Shrunken Head" fills a tiny wood block inside seven frames that suggest forms of psychoanalytical perception. A Serb, "I went to London in '91 to visit my brother, the war started, and I stayed in England. I couldn't go back because there was a draft for the army. I realized once in London that I wanted to study art," estranging him from what he describes as an insular Belgrade scene. The series "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," a title apparently arrived at after the series was begun, offers variations of painterly decontextualization from cultural myths with cartoon Primitism of Easter Island guys getting hammered, etc, as well as octopus heads and color fields.  The juxtaposed images in a series recalls recently Clemente's miniatures, as Ozbolt "lived in India and was obsessed with India for a certain period of time."  Also for those who associate Conceptualism with the objectives of some of its recent practitioners (I, II), Hauser & Wirth's London galleries feature Mira Schendel's monotypes (til March 7) from the early years of the Brazilian military government.

If one remains concerned that cultural products will wind up in the hands of the 1% there's the 'Honoring Political Freedom Fighters' poster at the best place to eat in NYC (I will take Thomas Keller more seriously when he puts up such a poster), B&B's African American (165 West 26th, 24 hrs).  I am there constantly, and in my last visit all the customers seemed to be, like the kitchen staff, from French-speaking Guinea, "The most corrupt country in the world" in the words of one diner who went on to ask, after a long political conversation in Fula, his English better than his chat partner, "Why do we kill our heroes? Why do we kill Lumumba?"
"Whenever there is good, there is bad behind."

Forty minutes should be set aside at the Met for Wolfgang Tillmans' Book for Architects which sequentially presents slides of architectural structures of different cultures and classes, causing a hushed silence, til July 5. Also there til July 25th is Motherwell's Lyric Suite, which I hope to type more about later.

Two shows of Kazuo Shiraga foot paintings (left; Levy 909 Madison til April 4, Mnuchin 45 e 78th til April 11) are in close proximity, while Dallas has Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga til July 19..  If you visit in between feeding times, groups of Caucasians may be in evidence, saying to each other "Franz Kline! Ellsworth Kelly!"  Indeed in 1965, Shiraga and his Gutai friends exhibited in Tokyo with Motherwell, Pollock, de Kooning, and Kline, to the consternation of the Japanese art establishment that didn't want them as their national representatives.  Joos van Cleve, Hubert Robert, and Grandma Moses were also Caucasian. "Shiraga was born and grew up in the city of Amagasaki which used to hold extremely rough festivals. Participants would slam into each other with all their might as they carried movable shrines and almost every year injuries resulted; often, those hurt were brought to Shiraga's house. Finally, one day a man who got crushed between two moving shrines was killed instantly right in front of Shiraga. Seeing the vivid color of the blood spread everywhere, the child felt it was 'beautiful.' (183)"  The altar of the Sistine Chapel, painted over the course of four years, depicts Caucasians judging each other.

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