2da Trienal Poli/Gráfica de San Juan: América Latina y el Caribe
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The cardboard boxes in Christopher Cozier's Available At all Leading Stores (2006-2009) are printed with the text, "FEAR: Made in USA, Packaged and distributed in Trinidad and Tobago." Download your own copy at www.artzpub.com/fear
When visiting bi- and triennials, one might best remember that these are shows, organized periodically and meant to offer a snapshot of the times. "Poli/Gráfica," hosted by the Puertorican capital San Juan, is just such a show. Smaller than one might expect, the artworks nevertheless amount to a large exhibition presented in the numerous galleries of the Museo El Arsenal de la Marina.
"Poli/Gráfica," which was organized by a team consisting of artistic director Adriano Pedrosa, co-curators Julieta González and Jens Hoffmann, and guest curator Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, was succinct and neat in presentation as well as content. Displayed in galleries by distinct themes, it cohesively presents several prominent Latin American and Caribbean art trends most evident in print and paper-based practices: journals, literary forms, marginal money, personal records, public histories and vexillology. Walking into the 17th century Arsenale courtyard, the visitor is greeted by the commissioned flags comprising vexillology. "Dreams are free, motherfucker!" proclaims a yellow flag bearing a red eagle catching a massive black snake designed by Juan Capistrán, across from collaborators Julio César Morales and Pablo Guardiola's flag of red and yellow soundwaves.
Franklin Cassaro's Abrigo (2009) is a large pillow-like structure made of classified and financial newspaper sections and transparent packing tape. A nearby fan causes the sculpture to gently sway as if it were alive and breathing.
Notably, the 2009 edition of the triennial was not confined to the physical exhibition. A series of six posters and six magazines were commissioned in the months leading up to the opening. Distributed around the world to a mailing list that included prominent members of the art world as well as musicians, actors and cultural producers in other fields, the magazine, titled Número Cero, reached a far wider audience than the several hundred people I imagine were able to visit San Juan. Each of the six editions of Número Cero, developed by different teams of critics, curators, artists and designers, is modeled as a pilot issue for a hypothetical art periodical.
Furthermore, the magazine was not the only instance when projects were realized through a prompt from the curators. The team managed to organize the budget to allocate funds for the production of 20 limited-edition artist books, most of which were prepared in print runs of 300 copies; the books not stuck in customs were available for purchase during the exhibition. All the publications and posters were on view in a specially designed reading room by Gabriel Sierra, where Mauricio Lupini's catchy yet impossible to sing along with Listen and Repeat (2006-2008) video was installed on a loop, playing its found Bossa Nova melodies overlaid with spliced vocal syllables: "tu cha cha ta cha ta ta cha tu tu cha cha..." The books themselves represented a wide array, from humorous observations of daily life, like Tony Cruz's Como Guardar un Parking which included photographs of people doing just that, and drawings (presumably further suggestions on how to save a parking space), to the more scholarly, like Mario García Torres's 9 At Leo Castelli, a sort of catalogue for the 1968 Robert Morris-organized show by the same name. Produced three decades after the famed and myth-ensconced exhibition, García Torres's book is an attempted reconstruction of the event, including crime scene-like photographs of the Castelli warehouse where the show took place.
Nicole Cohen at Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Nicole Cohen's newest exhibition. entitled "French Connection," represents a composite of decadent French court life à la Marie Antoinette, as if inspired by the last scene in Stanley Kubrick's seminal work 2001: A Space Odyssey. Commissioned by the Getty to incorporate French decorative arts into an interactive video installation, "Please Be Seated," Cohen has created a visual compendium of exterior and interior spaces that seem to exist in a multiplicity of time zones from the French Revolution to the dawn of modernity. Cohen has fabricated replicas of several French chairs and placed them in a sterile, all-white room where viewers sit and watch the video installation. Particularly compelling are the works on paper, mostly drawings of French settees and chairs coupled with images of flayed animal skins floating in negative space. The drawings seem to refer to the exploitation of the natural world, how what has come to exemplify the beauty and richness of French court life derived from slaughter. This is an apt subtext that has particular resonance in today's modern political culture in which the wolf dons sheep's clothing.
Andrew Schoultz at Roberts & Tilton
A motif of burning candles shines in the mixed media drawings and paintings of Andrew Schoultz and casts a glimmer of truth on a world consumed by monetary value. The candles symbolically hold vigil for the actual world that was forced into premature obsolescence and which became hermetically trapped inside brick sarcophagi sectioned off by velvet ropes.
This exhibition recycles an arsenal of images like rotting and barren trees that appear as fragile as twigs. Germany and America become chameleonlike currency in the compositions to the point where they resemble the work around them. Looking at Schoultz's work becomes more like a treasure hunt. Schoultz harvests fantastical trees composed from spray paint, collage and gold leaf, while scraps of currency explode as if they were a light source that has shattered into hundreds of prisms. By defacing international currency and intricately collaging it as part of the composition, Schoultz strips the money of its value and renders it useless in the world of commodity and only useful in its appearance in his work.
Todd Hebert, Jennifer Nehrbass @ Mark Moore Gallery
Snake in the Grass, 2009
It seems like just a blurred, airbrushed skyline. Yet against the panoramic city lights, Todd Hebert reveals a plump brown spider spinning its web in the foreground. In Barn Spider with Lights (2009) Hebert combines nature with familiar metropolitan imagery for "City and Country" at Mark Moore Gallery. He relies on celebratory symbols like Christmas tree lights, multicolored bulbs and fireworks to counter the Angeleno nostalgia for a disappearing homeland. In his "Chinatownland" drawings, Hebert paints the demise of the buildings in LA's classic Chinatown along with ephemeral art galleries, showing the natural course that prevails even in the corporate, urban city.
In the project room hangs Jennifer Nehrbass' eight cameo-style female portraits. Amid the sober women, Snake in the Grass (2009) sets the tone for "Weep and Wonder." The figure is the only nude in the exhibit, yet her sensuous flesh struggles. With teary eyes and a soupy red nose, her pain simultaneously reveals her survival strategies. Her right nipple pushes forward, highlighting her resilience. Despite this inner strength, Nehrbass drapes her nude with clear jewelry, commenting that woman is only as timely as her adornment.
From commercial cityscapes and jewelry to spiders and humanity, both Hebert and Nehrbass explore the decline of the manmade and the natural by looking at the past and the present.
Dannielle Tegeder at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art
Dannielle Tegeder, The Library of Abstract Sound,
Images courtesy of Priska C. Juschka Fine Art
Dannielle Tegeder, whose elaborate drawings and paintings seem highly controlled, has included elements of chance in her latest show, while introducing sound and sculpture to add another layer to her refined approach to art making. Large, framed mixed media works on colored paper featuring highly detailed geometric abstractions are given ample space to breathe on the gray-painted walls of the main gallery, while delicate mobiles made of copper, stainless steel, stained glass and ceramic hang from the ceiling and cast shadows on the walls.
Tegeder's forms refer to the 20th-century Modernism of Malevich, Kandinsky and Calder, but it is in the second room where a mixed-media installation with framed drawings called The Library of Abstract Sound (2009) gets an update from contemporary technology with the use of a scanner. Working with a sound engineer who wrote a unique code for each work, she scanned 115 drawings from top to bottom and translated them into 1s and 0s. Translated through the dark and light tones of each work, every drawing came to have a distinct personality, some of them quite funny, which was unexpected from an artist who never thought of her work as humorous. Including noises like an orchestra warming up, to drops of water, to a staccato drum roll, Tegeder and the engineer were able to enhance the experience of viewing her works on paper, which will hopefully lead to future experimentation.
Paula Nadelstern at The American Folk Art Museum
The American Folk Art Museum may be something of a misnomer: As Louis Armstrong once said, ""All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song." Nevertheless, it remains (tautological moniker aside) one of the best places in New York to see art, and Paula Nadelstern's show of quilts is no exception. The "Kaleidoscope Quilts," as the show is titled, comprises hundreds of patterned bits of fabric cut into tiny triangles and painstakingly sewn together in compositions, mostly, of radial symmetry that imitate, quite impressively, the compositional systems of actual kaleidoscopes.
The way that each little piece of fabric repeats in the composition and then complements the adjacent forms in concentric interlacing patterns is astonishing. The presence here of several actual kaleidoscopes almost undermines this effect — as if such spectacular complexity could be attained serendipitously — but actually does the reverse. By calling attention to how precise and deliberate her choices are — and how materials and craft, no less than virtuosic patterning — are her among her chief concerns, the kaleidoscopes provide an apt foil for works that are, in fact, much more than the sum of their parts.