Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Web of Possibilities

Spiders, ghosts, ravens, webs, and skulls are all part of the language of either Halloween or Day of The Dead, making Carlos Amorales: Discarded Spider a seasonally timed show at the CAC. Though fortunately, this current exhibition will remain on view into March. Because most interesting, what look like large spider webs and references to ghosts have little to do with the supernatural at all.

In this exhibition, Amorales pulls together many of artistic media and genres. Furthermore, his vector drawings rely as much on the sciences and mathematics as it does on the world of art. These digital silhouettes or "ghosts" have their foundations in rotoscopy, an early animation technique. With this, Amorales investigates the fundamentals of drawing and their role in other media like video, computer graphics, performance, sculpture, and through his Psicofonias, musical compositions. It is this last musical component that impressed me most. I am always excited to follow artists on their explorations of various media, but Amorales' translation of vector points into the music rolls of a digital player piano exhibits an artistic depth seen only in single artist shows. Instead of a Halloween decoration, the spider web then is a metaphor for interconnectedness of disciplines and media as well as for the organic gallery space that defines and is defined by the art.

CAC Director, Raphaela Platow does a wonderful curatorial job of utilizing the web metaphor through programming. Intertwining this exhibition with the “Bite Me” Ball on Halloween and the Cincinnati Ballet performance of Dracula and a film series is certain to lure museum patrons into the gallery for this one-person show. Rather than frightening, the "ghosts" are enlightening.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zaha Hadid Strikes Again

Since the opening of Cincinnati’s new Contemporary Art Center, I’ve heard only criticism of Hadid’s design. It seems as though everyone struggles not with the exhibitions at the CAC as much as with the building. Hadid’s structure upstages and so interferes with the exhibitions so people complain. Perhaps because I do not visit the CAC too often, I simply accept these critiques without question. Admittedly, I’m no architect, nor am I well versed in architectural style. Yet, I cannot help but to note a certain anti-art architecture criticism that I see reappearing with her latest structure, the Chanel Pavilion in New York’s Central Park.

Here, Hadid has designed a temporary exhibition space to house works influence by Chanel. I am in complete agreement with Nicolai Ourourssoff’s review in the NY Times. The economic timeliness of this exhibit could not be much worse. Yet what is more troubling is the fact that it took Christo and Jean-Claude over 25 years to gain permission to erect The Gates in Central Park. The resistance was based mostly on the risk of commercializing and physically harming this green space. Christo and Jean Claude are two artists who have devoted their work to the environment and can safely claim each of their pieces, including The Gates, is a celebration of the space in which they temporarily reside. I can't help but wonder if Chanel was audacious enough to mention The Gates in their proposal to erect Hadid's capsule in the park.

That a mere donation to the Central Park Conservatory permits Hadid and Chanel to sleep well at night is further testament to a displaced idealism. Another example of anti-art architecture.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Manifest Gallery Doubles Down

As an art historian, I am guilty of quickly categorizing each work of art I see into a neat historical framework. Though with each gallery visit, I hope the works exhibited force (not merely invite) me to venture beyond these boundaries. My visit to Manifest Gallery this week did just that. The art of both Petra Kralickova and Kathy A. Moore caught me off guard as they both challenged the classical dichotomies of geometric versus organic, private versus public spaces, and stability versus theatricality.

Immediately upon walking into the red-tinted gallery I was drawn to Inquietude. Kralickova’s three “cages” of black fabric, thread, and beautiful bead work gracefully hang from the ceiling. The black strands of thread of each of these cages meet a perfect circle of black sand on the floor below. While the work is tactile, Kralickova seems to display a resistance to the spontaneous for which Post-Minimalism is known. Instead her work seems more intentional; retaining geometric form and classic analytical lines. The combination of red fabric that drapes the windows of the gallery and the black “cages” along with the need for the viewer to carefully move around these pieces so as not to disturb the sand offers a sense of unease. Though the temptation of their elegance; the sparkle of the sand mirroring the glimmer of the bead work above was almost irresistible to touch. Only my desire to keep from harming these perfect forms allowed me to keep my hands to myself. It is this conflict of being confined outside of Kralickova’s cages that is most intriguing.

Kathy A. Moore’s Still Lifes From My Perspective also focuses on presenting spacial ambiguities in her drawings of her studio. Unlike Kralickova, Moore works with the more classical media of drawing and visual language of line, light, and perspective. Even the still life is a more traditional genre choice. Yet while her linear approach to space seems to contradict the organic forms in Inquietude, looking at Moore’s drawings offers no less stability. In each still life, the artist changes not always the objects, but forces a new and different angle or perspective that imposes movement that is almost dizzying. Her emphasis on light (though perhaps more obvious in her paintings) equals that of Kralickova. This focus on light allows both artists to define spaces; the studio or the gallery as equally dramatic.

A very quick look at the works of these two artists immediately reveals opposing artistic styles: classical drawings of still lifes against a Post-Minimalist installation. Yet by devoting the galleries to two artists and only two works Manifest allows the viewer to recognize and perhaps even wrestle with their similarities.