Sunday, March 29, 2009




Rigorous or excessive adherence to recognized forms, as in religion or art.
An instance of rigorous or excessive adherence to recognized forms.
A method of aesthetic analysis that emphasizes structural elements and artistic techniques rather than content, especially in literary works.

The aesthetic judgement must be one of disinterest, meaning that the empirical object is of no self-interest to the judge. The judgement is on no level concerned with the “real” object in relation to concepts associated with it, but instead seems to perceive the object as an end in itself, and the satisfaction or pleasure is induced by the judgement that has achieved this status rather than the judgement being a result of the pleasure experienced. It is at this point that true formalism comes into being, because, according to Kant, the judgement must only be concerned with form, rather than sensory content.

Rives Granade

Kevin Cyr

Kevin Cyr is a painter who, among many other things, paints images of neglected vans, bikes, campers, cars and trucks. He feels that painting these images conveys a sense of lineage, history, and tells a story about how these vehicles came to be how they stand and what they symbolize. These images also explore the idea of social economic classes within the asian american community. It also speaks about China's rapid movement towards modernizing their county and their ideas in contemporary culture.

Bear your motherland in mind while casting your eyes on the world. / 60 x 72 / oil on panel / date?

Glorious work. Happy life. / 48 x 60 / oil on panel / date?

Koolman / 24 x 48 / oil on plywood / date?

Candy Grumman / 72 x 144 / oil cardboard / date?

often times when i start a blog post, it's really hard for me to not just blurt out all over the page: HEY! I REALLY LIKE THIS. YOU SHOULD TOO!!! really, all i want to do w/ this blog is be a portal for the great art i come across. it's often hard to find the right words w/ out coming over like a polly anna who speaks abbrev.

well, this post isn't any different. i was recently very fortunate to be in touch w/ kevin cyr, a ginormously talented painter in brooklyn. he has a show coming up this friday at PEP gallery and he took a moment to sit down and answer some questions i had for him about the upcoming show, his work and the many vehicles he paints so beautifully. instead of getting all shouty about how incredibley talented he is, i'm going to let his interview do that for you. but just in case it's not clear by the end, i really like kevin's work and you should too!!

can you talk a little about your upcoming show at pink elephant projects? what are your inspirations behind it?

i was lucky enough to travel to india and beijing, china with an artist i worked for last spring. it was my first time in both places and i was really amazed at the cultural differences. i was immediately drawn to the different modes of transportation since i've been painting a lot of vehicles and industrial landscapes for the past couple of years. i took a ton of pictures of Indian rickshaws, because they were everywhere. when i got back to the u.s. i started doing drawings and paintings of them.

you have a lot of motorized vehicles in your work. what's the story w/ that?

i think painting vehicles has a lot to do with the small town i grew up in. i’ve never been interested in fixing cars or even owning one, but i like the way they look and what they can represent. it’s interesting how different vehicles can define not only the owner’s geographic location, but their social status. each vehicle i’ve painted has been found on the street and in some cases documented just before being carted off to the junkyard.

you mention that you took lots of pictures of rickshaws and vehicles in india and beijing. the vehicles you paint are these actual vehicles or are they ideas you have created on your own? for instance, the camperbike, is that an actual vehicle you have encountered?

the rickshaws are actual vehicles that i photographed in mumbai, india. the only changes i made were to add the american junk food logos. the camper bike does not exist in real life. the tricycle does, but adding the camper top is my creation. the tricycles in beijing carry so much stuff i figured why not a camper?

where did you grow up, and do you think that has an influence on your work?

i grew up in a small, industrial town called madawaska, maine. it’s one of the four corners of the U.S. right on the border of canada. when i grew up there, the majority of the town was employed by madawaska’s papermill, so it’s a pretty blue color town where very few people had fancy houses or cars. i grew up riding dirt bikes, playing in the woods with my friends and brothers. i wasn’t necessarily interested in cars, but there was definitely a modest, working-class quality to the town and people that has found it’s way into my work.

i love your chevy van sculpture...can you talk a little bit about that? did you build it completely? it looks did you get it to look so real?

the van was partly inspired by those “art” toys. i bought a plastic model on ebay, built it, then based the paint job on a few chevy vans in brooklyn. it started out more as a prototype than a sculpture. my brother is a toy designer in hong kong, so i asked him to look into making a real prototype, but it’s too expensive.

what are your feelings on graffiti and street art? what do you think about how popular and mainstream graffiti has become? can you name some of your fav artists.

i've always been too chicken to be a graffiti artist, and i don’t have strong feelings about the purity of it. i like how a lot of artists have bridged the gap between the street scene and the more mainstream toy industry or gallery exhibitions—artists like kaws and neckface. i also really like the wheat pastings of the collective faile.

did you go to school for art?

i went to massachusetts college of art in boston for illustration and painting.

you've done some work for some great firms and publications...what has been your favorite work so far?

i have done a couple of illustrations for readymade magazine. they were really easy to work with and i’ve always liked the magazine.

what are you listening to right now?

“this american life” on npr. i'm pretty lazy when it comes to music— either finding new music or changing a cd in my stereo. i usually end up turning on public radio and listening to it all day.

who are some of your favorite artists? who are you watching right now? any shout outs?

i like christian helmich who shows at lehmann maupin, jules de balincourt, anna conway, david hardy, who have all shown at P.S.1’s greater new york show. shout out to ain cocke who does great little paintings and drawings of WWII era soldiers, and also to all my chinese artist friends.

what has been your best experience as an artist so far?

i would say traveling to beijing and being part of a painting project. i have plans to do my own project there--hopefully soon.

what is your favorite piece of art (you can pick a few if narrowing it to one is too much)?

at the moment, it's a piece by david hardy. he built a mini recreational vehicle out of a wheel chair and wood grain contact paper. at first i didn’t like it, but mostly out of jealousy. i’ve had my own mobile home project in the works, but his piece is really good and really funny.

what was your favorite xmas or hanukkah present this yr? why?

an artforum subscription and a recycled bike part bottle opener. i've been using pliers to open beers in my studio.
any big plans for 2008? any collabs or projects you want to share w/ us?

i plan to expand on my camper-bike project. when i was in beijing i bought a motorized tricycle and had it shipped here. this spring i'll buy a camper top, the kind that goes on a pickup and modify it to fit the tricycle. then i’ll develop a series of paintings around it.

you live in nyc now, how is that for you as an artist? is it exciting? inspiring? can you tell us some of your favorite galleries and places you like to go?

new york is great. there is always so much to see and do. i live and work in brooklyn, so i tend to hang out in and around my neighborhood a lot. most of my favorite galleries are in chelsea: david zwirner, lehmann maupin, zack feuer, leo koenig. they all show the work of a lot of great artists. there are a lot of new galleries in the lower east side since the opening of the new museum, but i haven’t visited any of them yet. i’ve been busy working in my studio.

-Meighan O'Toole

David Shillinglaw

I chose David Shillinglaw for his simple yet complex paintings that deal with contemporary human condition and the ever changing social landscapes that effect us individually and universally. He primarily paints directly onto objects, and this use of form is something that really draws me into his work. His abstraction of the ever present human condition through line, shape, color and form also add a minimal and a hard to read nature to his works.

Site specific wall installation. "Sunset is an all day process" / Oil on Wall and blocks? / date?

Simple Paintings of a Complex Nature / oil on canvas / date?

David’s work illustrates ideas rubbing against each other, drawing on references to ancient mythology along side popular culture; creating a dialogue and vocabulary that skips between the historic and the contemporary.

“My work deals with an ongoing quest to control and define the human condition. The work depicts all the devious devices we use to conceal and reveal our true identities as we struggle both to fit in and stand out. I make work that illustrates the shifts between the multitude of fictions we labour under and the reality of who we are.

I often work directly onto objects I find so I can give up full control of what I make. This is very important to me as I am drawn into a dialogue between myself and my ever changing environments. My work shifts and mutates under the influences of external ideas, environments and conditions. I make things that force me to consider what it is to be human.”

David is a freelance artist and his work has been applied to a variety of contexts, including illustration, graphic design and theatre set design. Clients include Chicken Shed Theatre Company and The British Council. David is resident artist and curator of the Nowhere North Gallery, London.

Carter Mull

Although Carter Mull's work may not technically qualify as formalism, i feel that it can be interpreted in a such a way, due to it's simplicity and complexity of color, line, shape, and text. Many of his images seem like they can be related to a Jackson Pollack painting, but rather, are scans of newspapers and other sorts of publications. His work deals with the ideas of process and how the theme of obsolescence and futurity within the realm of photography interact within a paradoxical battle in our culture. He tries to merge the two ideas into a seamless image full of visual intrigue and confusion.

Los Angeles Times Tuesday November 27, 2007, 2007-2008, chromogenic process print, 49"x37"

Set & Logo, 2007, lightjet print mounted to plexiglass, 60 3/8" x 40 1/4"


Carter Mull’s exhibit, Ethics of Everyday Fiction at Rivington Arms Gallery, interrogates the photographic medium both as material construction and social fabrication. Mull presents us with several large, luminously metallic color photographs, abstractions void of specific social reference, with barely there traces of what is actually ‘representable.’ In Subject (“Umbrella,” Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, Billboard Magazine Hot 100 Number 1 for weeks June 9 – July 21, 2007), (2007), saturated colors dance like moving water across the surface of the image, calling attention to the plasticity of the material surface and the plasticity of that precise pop cultural detail Using painting and constructivism as his references, Mull subverts the script, suggesting that paint, reduced to its fundamental gesture, is what can point to reality, while photography, reduced to its elemental materiality, is what can point to fiction. ShutterSet & Logo, (2007) are decidedly gestural, the mark of the artist made apparent through brush strokes, ripped tape, and layered imagery. But even so, the marks remain surface as the collages surrender to the medium: depth becomes flattened and ‘reliable’ social meaning eviscerated. One is left to question both the integrity of material and apparatus – a question that ultimately allows us to examine our own position as cultural consumers.

by Hong-An Truong

Simone Nieweg

I wanted to use Simone Nieweg because of her use of repetition in her work about agricultural fields in Germany where small disruptions in the landscape take place. She centrally places the disruption, much like i do in my work, to put a point of emphasis on the thing that has gone wrong in the scene. Although her work focuses on how nature continues to resist agriculture throughout time.

Apfelbaum, Dillingen / c-print / 40x60in / 2004

Rosenkohl, Grevenbroich / c-print / 40x60in / 2000

Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition of Simone Nieweg’s photographs. In her second solo exhibition at Gallery Luisotti, Nieweg presents an inspiring array of photographs documenting the natural and agrarian landscape. Known for her images of communal gardens and rural farmlands, Nieweg’s recent photographs blur the boundary between natural landscape and cultivated land, leaving the viewer with an enticing image of rural space.

Simone Nieweg was a student of Bernd Becher’s Master class at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in the 1990s. Though her work shares her peers typological method, Simone Nieweg’s photographs are notable for their precise handling of nature’s subtle colors, the purposeful use of scale, and a dexterous treatment of visual perspective. Unlike many of her peers, though, Nieweg does not focus her camera on the most evident forms of cultural expression. Ignoring the certain signs of urban and suburban culture, Nieweg takes us to a landscape of cultivation. In her images of gardens, farmlands, and other arable plots, Nieweg attenuates the balance between culture and nature.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in her recent work. Discovering gardens and farmlands that often have an improvised quality, Nieweg’s recent photographs picture liminal spaces between cultured, arable land, and arcadian sites in nature. Here fruit trees merge with forests, sunflowers mix with meadows, and cultivable flowers grow amongst untamed fields. In other instances, boundaries become more pronounced – a roadway lying against a field of wheat, or a plot of red beets is cut against grassland. In all cases, Nieweg places us (the viewers) in perspectives where these boundaries between the natural and cultural are both reinforced at the same time they are erased. Similarly, the scale of the images and the plants they depict compete for our visual experience, furthering Nieweg’s efforts to exploit the increasingly indefinite line between cultivated and undomesticated places.

Simone Nieweg has been exhibited widely across the United States and Europe. Her work has been published by Schirmer-Mosel, and her photographs collected by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, K21 Contemporary Museum of Art, Dusseldorf, The Victorian and Albert Museum, London, amongst other notable institutions.

Simone Nieweg, Plants, will exhibit from September 3 – October 28, 2008. Please contact the Gallery for any further information. Gallery Luisotti is located in Bergamot Station at 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg. A2, Santa Monica. Contact us at (310) 453 0043 or

Andreas Gursky

First, I have to say that i can't believe that I haven't used him in these blog post yet, but i digress. His work is about form within contemporary culture. He uses a large format camera for maximum clarity and then he will use digital manipulations to create the aesthetic that he is trying to establish. His large scale prints are designed to stop a viewer in their tracks, the object and the presence of these images are astounding. He gives us a mapping of modern life that is ruled by forces that cannot usually be seen in the images, but challenges the viewer to realize its reality.

Hong Kong, Island / c-print / 1994 / 42x57in

Bahrain I / c-print mounted on plexiglass / 119x86.5in / 2005

Andreas Gursky makes photographs gorgeous enough to drop the jaws of philistines and sophisticates alike. Presented under glass in heavy wood frames, floating within milky white borders, these huge, densely detailed, dizzyingly expansive pictures have a knee-buckling cinematic richness. The most powerful images include the God's-eye view of the aftermath of a boxing match, a vertiginous look into a blindingly luminous 99-cent bargain store and the Piranesian vision of a gleaming hotel atrium.

Trained by Hilla and Bernd Becher, those busy German cataloguers of early 20th-century industrialism, Mr. Gursky, 44, also has moral fish to fry. His pictures reflect on life under corporate capitalism, a world in which pervasive organizational structure reduces the individual to one of a zillion antlike drones. The point is made most obviously in an overhead shot of the Chicago Stock Exchange that captures hundreds of frenetic little people in colorful jackets in tiers around a central stack of computers. It is in this conceptual context that otherwise puzzling (and comparatively dull) giant close-ups of brush strokes in paintings by van Gogh and Constable make sense: they invite the viewer to ponder the value assigned to romantic individualism by collectivized society. The picture of a page from Robert Musil's great novel ''The Man Without Qualities,'' with its text meditating on modern life as ''an infinite system of connections, now utterly devoid of independent meanings,'' is also intended to affirm, although not very convincingly, Mr. Gursky's identity as a deep thinker. His most compelling works are those in which he finds the essence of modernity in scenes of spectacular visual plenitude. KEN JOHNSON

Zoe Leonard

What I really enjoy about Zoe Leonard, is that her work, aesthetic, and process are very similar to my own. She seems to walk around her neighborhood and photograph the decline of her city's identity due to the influx of commercial chain stores. The social decay and recession of her neighborhood ties in with capitalism destroying local shops and the culture of her environment.

"Coca-Cola Shack" from the Dye Transfer Portfolio from Analogue, 1998-2007 , 9x9

"Mandel Tobacco" from the Dye Transfer Portfolio from Analogue, 1998-2007, 9x9

A resident of the Lower East Side for more than 20 years, Leonard began taking pictures of the neighborhood in 1998 to record changes occurring as a result of the city’s economic transformation. Although centered on the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, the completed project (an archive of about 500 images) captures the wide-ranging forces of globalization, with specific attention to the route and final destination of New York’s castoff clothing in the contemporary rag trade. As such, Analogue is not only a meditation on the costs of urban redevelopment, but an exploration of the replacement of local markets by a global economy. As its name suggests, Analogue is also an elegy of sorts to a long-standing tradition of documentary photography, from Atget to Walker Evans, which Leonard sees passing with the onset of digital photography.

The images presented here comprise a portfolio of 40 dye transfer prints, an increasingly rare process of color printing that is itself in jeopardy of obsolescence.

Myoung Ho Lee

I chose Myoung Ho Lee for his simple photographs of Trees with a large white backdrop behind them. The way he separates the subject from the landscape adds this sort of commercial twist to the image, although, it is truly about the form and contours of the true juxtaposed with the background. Simplicity, elegance, transcendence, and existentialism seem just as valid a point with this art as the act of photographing it.

Tree #2, from the series Photography-Act, 2007, c-print,

Tree #1, from the series Photography-Act, 2007, c-print


Myoung Ho Lee, a young artist from South Korea, has produced an elaborate series of photographs that pose some unusual questions about representation, reality, art, environment and seeing.

Simple in concept, complex in execution, he makes us look at a tree in its natural surroundings, but separates the tree artificially from nature by presenting it on an immense white ground, as one would see a painting or photograph on a billboard.

The work demands thoughtful analysis.

Sang Yong Shim (Art Critic, and Professor at Dongduk Women's University), has written a long intellectual essay about this work. Translation of these dense ideas is difficult. So, what follows is a shortened and very simplified version of the long essay:

Physical Isolation
and its Visual Confirmation

Myoung Ho Lee separates subjects from their original circumstances to derange the difference between subject and image. His work reveals nature by twists and turns, a little fabrication and optical illusion.

Myoung Ho Lee enacts his works as 'a series of discourse on deconstruction on the photography-act'.

His works are largely composed by following four procedures:

1. Selection of The Subject
2. Separation of The Subject (meta-subject)
3. Photographing
4. Confirmation of The Separation

First of all, Look at the procedure (2), separating the subject from its environmental condition artificially. By setting a big white fabric vertically for playing a square surrounding role behind the chosen subject (with significant physical force), he makes the subject appear neutral from its original context. The object becomes 'separated object', 'ambiguous subject' and 'meta-subject'.

The challenge of 'Photography-Act' is deep. Because 'Photography-Act' is not a real subject but a decontextualized and isolated variant from the subject, and is a real subject and nonsubject simultaneously.

Procedure (4) confirms the creation of identical chaos to the 'Photography-Act' itself by this separation and decontextualization.

Scarlett Hooft Graafland

I really enjoy Scarlett Hooft Graafland's work for its simple and elegant photographs. From her series titled "You Winter - Lest's Get Divorced" where she photographs the desolate nature of the arctic and the remoteness of it all, she investigates the inuit presence in Canada's harsh landscape far far north in the arctic. This work also explores issues of environmental concerns for the North as well, revealing the dwindling beauty of a once much more vast tundra and an integral part of the Earth's ecosystem.

Journey, 2008, C-type print, 100 x 125cm

Wrapped, 2008, C-type print mounted on aluminium in a sprayed white box frame with uv glass, 120 x 150

We are delighted to have had the first UK solo exhibition of work by Dutch artist Scarlett Hooft Graafland. Inhabiting the border between straight photography, performance and sculpture, Hooft Graafland’s photographs are records of her highly choreographed live performances in the salt deserts of Bolivia. Fascinated by the surreal beauty of the harsh natural landscape she utilises this as her canvas. Anthropologically curious, her ideas emerge directly from the local mythology that originates in this otherworldly environment.

Using naïve and childlike colour palettes her photographs draw on the language of the surreal showing familiar objects out of context (a llama wearing balloons, top hats flying through the desert and a pair of naked legs entwined around a cactus). Her humorous and unsettling juxtaposition of these everyday objects with the sparse, unforgiving landscape echoes the aesthetic of surrealists such as René Magritte. Hooft Graafland utilizes the medium of photography, associated with the representation of truth, to represent the fantastic and the irrational.

‘Vanishing Traces’, a homage to land artist, Robert Smithson, is made out of floating balloons at Laguna Colorada in southern Bolivia. Smithson was inspired to make his original piece after reading about this particular red salt lake (Laguna Colorada) in the book Vanishing Traces of Atacama’ by William Rudolph. Due to the remoteness of the location however, Smithson installed his work in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Hooft Graafland has returned to the place of his inspiration, with her team, to build her own transient spiral balloon jetty. The clean simplicity of her finished works offer no indication of the difficulties in accessing and working in such inhospitable terrains. Highly dependant on the collaboration of the local people, her journeys are indebted to the assistance of the local people and artists with which she works.

Born in the Netherlands in 1973, Hooft Graafland is based in both Amsterdam and New York. She has studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague, Bezalel Academy, Jerusalem and Parsons School of Design, New York and has travelled to Iceland, Israel, Canada and the United States for her work. Her work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions all over Europe and as part of group shows at the Metropolitan Museum. New York, and the Musée D’Orsay, Paris amongst others.,show,3,83,173,869,0,0,0,0,scarlett_hooft_graafland_wrapped_.html

Craig Damrauer

Now, I'm not sure if this classifies as art or now... But all i know is that it can definitely fit into my theme of formalism, due to the fact that formalism can refer to math, but also that these images are incredibly minimal and formal. Although, this is typography (or so i think it got classified as such) it really seems to make strong and valid points in modern culture (something in which i explore in my photography).

I can't find much of a review.

Rachel Whiteread

I wanted to use Rachel Whiteread because how she manipulates space with sculpture. Her most impressive work, to me, is Place (Village) where she has arranged a ton of old dollhouse (some antiques and some contemporary) are creates a little town with all of the houses. But, She removes all signs of existence from the houses (furniture, people, etc.) and only leaves the lights on in the homes. Leaving the viewer pondering about a desolate existence of an almost apocolyptic feel to it.

Cabinet VIII, 2007, 1 metal cupboard and 55 plaster units, h: 17.8 x w: 18.5 x d: 17.5 in

Place (Village), Doll houses, crates, boxes, wood, electrical fixtures, and fittings, and electricity. 2006-2008

"Village...simultaneously encourages and thwarts voyeurism, inviting viewers to peer into one empty room after another. Eventually it turns the tables: the illuminated windows become hundreds of Lilliputian eyes."
—The New York Times

Widely known for her public monuments, including Water Tower (1998) in New York (now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art) and Holocaust Memorial (1995/2000) in Vienna, Rachel Whiteread considers the scale and structure of familiar forms through the overlooked spaces essential to their identity. Throughout her twenty-five year career, Whiteread has created a critical body of work that addresses our presence, relationships, and the power of the past. Rich with meaning, her sculpture is also conceptually rigorous and formally evolves from the tenets of minimalism.

This exhibition features the US premiere of her most recent work, Place (Village) (2006-08) and traces the position of domestic objects through sculptures and drawings. Over several years, Whiteread has collected handmade English dollhouses and configured them into a sprawling "community" filled with haunting memories and melancholy. Place (Village), encompassing the left side of the Foster Gallery, appears as if it was discovered at night. In contrast to this installation are individual sculptures from an early floor piece cast in rubber as well as more recent "stacks" cast from the interior of tattered boxes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


1. of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly: mundane affairs.
2. common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.
3. of or pertaining to the world, universe, or earth.

“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” - Bill Moyers

1. Jeff Wall

The first artist i chose is Jeff Wall. He has explored the mundane throughout much of his photography. he created still lives that represent iconic images of which need to be deciphered by the viewer. Questions he raises with his photography often include why the subject is being photographed?, why is this important?, at what point in our lives did a mundane still life hold certain meaning in our lives?. Questions like these are interesting to myself, since i raise those questions in my daily life when staring adrift while walking. My eye hones in on certain areas and facets of life and cause myself to raise questions about my being and how one lives life. I feel that he explores these topics in such a way and talks about them so strongly, that he is now one of those artists that have surpassed contemporary photography and established his own style of image making.

"Flooded Grave" 1998-2000. Transparency in Lightbox. 2285 x 2820mm

"Diagonal Composition" 1993. Transparency in Lightbox. 400 x 460mm.


Merging cinematic mise-en-scene with old-fashioned compositional effects, and fusing indirect social commentary with jazzy advertising-derived display techniques, his early pictures offered an ironic critique of the allegedly soul-deadening effects of capitalism. The Destroyed Room (1978), for example, which depicts a young woman's violently ransacked bedchamber, Wall explictly associates with Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus, painted at an early stage of the current psycho-economic period. Both works, he contends, deal with the turning inward, or domestication, of murderous passion in an era of "modern, bourgeois, neurotic private life."(1) Others, such as The Arrest (1989)--with two police officers holding a handcuffed Middle Eastern male, spotlit from above as in a 17th-century study of Christ among his Roman guards--bespeak clearly liberal views on issues like ethnic discrimination, economic inequality and authoritarian rule.

But recently Wall's more typical approach has been to sublimate social concerns to such a degree that formal elements now dominate the viewer's awareness. Subject matter, meanwhile, tends to be either extremely mundane or so subtly bizarre that its peculiarity does not register at first--or even second--glance.

The current exhibition, with its remarkable variety of image sizes (ranging from about 16 by 18 inches to over 7 1/2 by 13 1/2 feet), includes some of Wall's most austere as well as his most incident-filled scenes. These strangely quiescent works, all dating from 1990-95, culminate the artist's most characteristic procedures--his use of forced stillness, irreal lighting and blatantly artificial composition.

Here the more vacant pictures are, in a sense, the more revealing, for the lay bare the philosophical vision and technical strategies which underlie all the seemingly more complicated tableaux. In the deceptively plain Diagonal Composition (1993), for example, an ordinary domestic scene--nothing more than a close-up view of a bespattered sink--has been transposed from the realm of literalist realism to that of Constructivist-like estheticism through the deployment of standard modernist devices. A cocked Rodchenkoesque angle creates a strong diagonal that flattens the image against the picture plane. Objects and shadows are reduced to geometrical shapes whose muted colors play against each other amid a matrix of sharply intersecting lines. Signs of everyday human activity--a cracked bar of soap, various blotches and stains--are subordinated to the impulse toward formalism.

Wall's outdoor shots also convey an esthetic distancing from the sheer messiness of lived reality, whether natural or cultural. In Park Drive (1994), a bland stretch of forest, neither enchanting nor particularly ominous, is penetrated by a one-way road going nowhere--the apparent meaninglessness of landscape and highway (where distant autos jockey for postion) serving, it seems, as a twofold metaphor for the human estate. Coastal Motifs (1989), striking a balance between sky, land and water, gives equal visual weight to its conventionally beautiful mountains and to its eerily depopulated industrial bay. Even when Wall occasionally tips his emotional hand, he does so with consummate reserve. The Pine on the Corner (1990) centers on a somewhat unhealthy looking tree stranded on a suburban street, far in every sense from the snow-capped mountains in the background. The barren, chopped-off power-line poles standing nearby are a disheartening portent of the instrumentalism, the subjugation to impersonal economic ends, that threatens every component of this blighted world.

2. David Spero

Why I chose David Spero is because I really enjoy how he interacts with the mundane. He creates miniature still lives within the photograph of a mundane scene in time and space. He uses balls and puts them all over the scene to form "celestial planes" within the image. I really like how he absurdisizes the mundane with the use of balls as punctuation marks through out his photographs.

"Abbey Street, Penzance" 2003. 1080 x 1380mm. C-print

"Lafayette Street, New York" 2003. 1080 x 1380mm. C-print.

David Spero - Urban Churches
Friday, March 28th, 2008
Taking one of my regular looks at the ‘Conscientious‘ blog I was interested to see a familiar building from Finsbury Park, London, the former cinema which became the ‘United Church of the Kingdom of God.’

This is one of a series of 15 churches in various odd buildings mainly around London photographed by David Spero, a photographer born in 1963 who studied at the Royal College of Art. Most of the locations in the series were familiar to me, although in one or two cases I’d photographed the same buildings before they were in use as churches.

Spero goes for the clear overall view, and does it well, and like
Jörg Colberg I find this the most impressive of his projects. Part of the reason for this is I think in the very variety of the buildings concerned as in some of his other projects (both when I’ve seen them on gallery walls and on his web site) I find the images too similar. Of course to Spero this was perhaps the point, but I find it a little tedious and long for a little more surprise in the next image in some of his work.

Some of projects in the ‘archive’ section of the site are represented by a very small number of images. ‘Interiors‘, ‘Boardrooms‘, ‘Control Towers‘ look like promising areas, but what he shows us is enough to tantalise but not to satisfy. It seems hardly worth putting only 4 or 5 images from each on the site - it isn’t as if the web was an expensive medium to use.

The churches project is a good example of how concentrating on a small subject and presenting it can work well. Although I’ve shown images of such urban buildings pressed into new use, and particularly images of black-led churches, I’ve never approached it as a discrete subject in this way.

3. Nigel Shafran

What really draws me to Nigel Shafran's work is that he resists the urge to compose a photograph, rather, he lets the everyday allow little nuances that happen in the mundane to come through in his photographs. His process of exploring the everyday possibilities of a scene encourages character and our ways of life to show and be seen. He transforms environments into poetic scenes about the ways we conduct our lives through everyone's unconscious acts of how people organize their lives and living spaces.

"Sewing Kit (on plastic table) Alma Place" 2002. C-print?

"Bookselves" 2004. C-print?

review: (except)

Sometimes, perhaps on a sunny morning, the light falls on an object, or a room, or a person in a way that momentarily reveals its unexpected beauty - unexpected in that it might be a simple thing like a cup, or a tree, or a pile of books. That moment of revelation lifts the spirits as we take pleasure from the arrangement of ordinary things. Photographs, however, despite their inherent ability to isolate and elevate, often fail to provide this spontaneous feeling of discovery and pleasure, overburdened by the photographer's need to make an important picture-statement rather than let the picture speak for itself.

Since the 1980s, reality has been a subject of concern among photographers. Staged photography and the widespread use of digitisation have meant that what was once assumed to be real is now always in question. Even the snapshot, the last repository of spontaneous emotion in photography, has been co-opted by the art world and interrogated as to its theoretical significance.

Navigating these times, certain photographers have maintained a more direct approach. Nigel Shafran is a young British photographer who made his living during the 1990s by working for fashion and architecture magazines while quietly collecting, editing and sequencing photographs he made for himself, including portraits of his partner, Ruth, the places that they lived and the locations he walked or cycled through. Periodically he would put some of these pictures together in a homemade book.

An early one contained pictures of urban trees. They were the sort of desperate trees you see everywhere in London: struggling saplings in pavement beds, old planes pollarded within an inch of their lives, posh shrubs intended to soften the hard lines of a new building, once-majestic trees that had been built around, built over, dug up and dumped in skips. Shafran's photographs said a lot about the impoverishment of urban spaces and the decline of our more natural, generous instincts, as we inhabit them.

In 1993 Shafran made a calendar for 1994. It had a photograph for each month: some of the urban trees were in there, as was a portrait of Ruth. She is sitting in a bedroom that is being redecorated. There is a stepladder, a mug of tea, a black bin-liner filled with rubbish, a stripped bed and stripped walls with patches of old wallpaper showing through. She is in dungarees and a sweatshirt, at right angles to the camera, looking calmly, if slightly sceptically, into the lens. It is a portrait of domestic chaos made meaningful by being part of the process of building a home with someone you love.

4. Anthony Hernandez

What I like about Anthony Hernandez's work is that he shoots most of his work from an architectural stand point in a sense. In his more recent series, "After LA" he photographs low-income housing that is about to, or in the process of being destroyed or when a space is in gradual deterioration. My eye, as well as many other photographers eye's. have been fixated on this idea and aspect of photography, how a space decomposes and crumbles under the weight of time and human expansion. He photographs the overlooked space within the environment. It is described that he photographs the "... decaying fields of emotional emptiness."

"Aliso Village" Cibachrome. 2002?

"Aliso Villiage #16" Cibachrome. 2002

(Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica) The intersection of the natural and the man-made is the subject of Anthony Hernandez's photographs. He has been photographing in the landscape for a number of years, first documenting the places where the homeless resided, later photographing the Idaho landscape, and now focusing his gaze on the city--depicted as abstracted details.

Hernandez is a gifted photographer. He closes in on his subject in order to reveal its intricate details. In the series Landscapes of the Homeless, begun in 1988 and finished in 1991, he carefully documented the out of the way places the homeless retreated to. While photographing these encampments he made sure that no one was about, so as not to disrupt the life of its inhabitants. In these works Hernandez is a voyeur looking in at a community that is obviously other. Yet it is the place, not the people, that interests him.

The resulting large color photographs are aestheticized documents of the homeless' horrible living conditions. These are places built for shelter and survival. Hernandez is not out to artify his subject but rather to point out the inherent contradictions within the urban environment. To make these photographs Hernandez scouted out places where the homeless congregate. The resulting pictures document not only the ingenuity of the homeless but Hernandez' sensitivity to their plight. Viewed at a distance, the images appear to be photographs of the natural landscape. Upon close examination the details of habitation reveal themselves. The contrast between "one's expectation of beauty and the reality of homelessness" is central to the works' impact.

After completing the Landscapes for the Homeless series, Hernandez moved to rural Idaho. Although this landscape is vastly different from the streets of Los Angeles, Hernandez was not inhibited. He turned his camera outwards and photographed the natural landscape looking at what he called "the recurring elements of the Idaho landscape--water, trees, and the earth itself." The resulting series, entitled "In Another World", are large color photographs of expansive spaces. Here the natural world is celebrated for its beauty. Yet it is a beauty that encroaches on the artificial.

In his current series "The City", Hernandez is again looking at the place where aesthetics and destruction merge. In these images, photographed at construction sites, rather than depict the whole environment he focuses his camera on the details. He carefully observes the marks made by the bulldozer, at the treads of the tires, at the scrapes in the concrete. The resulting images are lush abstractions--large compositions that are at once scaleless and endless. The obvious question beyond "What are we looking at?" is "How can something so destructive be so beautiful?"

In these works viewers can make out the discarded branch, the striated dirt, the geometric claw-marks. You at once realize you are looking at a place that was once natural and pure that is now altered by the machine.

Hernandez' works suggest that there is beauty in both the natural and the man-made. The natural landscape is destroyed in order to build. What is built might be beautiful. Although the process of bulldozing trees and trampling nature might be thought of as being ugly, Hernandez points out the beautiful in this now avoidable act of destruction.

In "The City" series a single image taken out of context can be discussed in terms of its formal qualities--its color, the texture, the composition. Yet these marks are found rather than created by the artist. Hernandez uses his camera as a framing device, selecting the most compelling and unusual compositions. When these images are seen together the issues of abstraction fade, making them more a study of place, of change and of man's ability to alter his environment than a study of color and form.

For example in The City #8, two large claw marks from a bulldozer mar the dirt embankment. The surrounding dirt gathers at the bottom of the stripes. Sombre earth tones of gray and brown make up the palette. The image is perfectly balanced. Hernandez gives viewers few clues as to scale, making the resulting image ambiguous. He does not want to tell you why or how, but rather shows you what is.

"The City" series, like the rest of Hernandez's work, is about isolating what is there and finding beauty in it. These works are reminiscent of both Aaron Siskind's black and white compositions of peeling paint and graffitied walls, as well as Frederick Sommer's landscapes in which the natural environment is photographed from above and afar and represented as a small square abstraction that gives no allusions to scale.

Like in Sommers' work, it is difficult to situate one's self in Hernandez' recent photographs. The square format, large scale and heightened color take the works out of the realm of the real into the realm of the hyper-real. But it is the fusion of photographic veracity and photographic abstraction as well as that of the natural with the man-made that is central to Hernandez's work.

5. Sabine Hornig

I chose Sabine Hornig due to her use of sculptural photography of the mundane. She photographs iconic, yet modest, locations, and transforms them into minimalist architectural sculptures that help create a sense of spacial tension in the gallery walls. She takes away the image from the gallery wall and puts them into our space. She takes our familiarity with everyday space and allows us to explore the mundane in ways that we haven't explored or pursued before, triggering our senses in understanding the everyday.

"Invalidenstrabe" 2006. C-print on plexiglass. 125 x 154.4cm

"Landscape" 2006. 67 x 155 x 78in. Steel, Plexiglass, Duraclear Transparency.

A room on a stage is typically missing one side, the virtual "fourth wall" through which the audience peers; the rooms depicted in the photographs Sabine Hornig included in this show are, unexpectedly, absent two sides. In each of the photos on view, the street-facing window of a Berlin storefront (there are two images of one of these storefronts and a third of another) is presented at roughly two-thirds scale, the casement marking the edges of the otherwise unframed image. The second missing division is more unsettling. In two shots, the floor has been demolished; in the third, behind the small rectangular gaps in a metal roll gate, one discovers that the rear wall has been dismantled, giving onto a view of a courtyard.

All three pictures slot neatly into a practice that has seen Hornig exploit the peculiarities of visual perception—in particular the eye's comprehension of reflectiveness and slight changes in scale—to blur the boundaries between architecture, sculpture, and photography. But whereas the quirks of Hornig's earlier images could be accounted for through patient looking, here the interference between what one expects and what one encounters is a result of what was photographed, not how it was captured. Fenster ohne Boden (Window with No Floor) I and II (all works 2006), hung on perpendicular walls in an otherwise empty room, are also an essay in the passage of time. The gray northern daylight illuminating the first image's composition gives way to a darker picture seemingly taken in the evning; likewise, the trees reflected in the window shed their foliage from one photograph to the next.

Two sculptures were situated in the gallery's larger room. BlechhÔtte (Tin Hut) is a narrow steel box, slightly shorter than six feet tall. A rectangular steel armature extends from one open end, framing a truck-windshield-size panel of glass. It evokes, obliquely, a bus stop shelter, a form Hornig used more directly for a 2001 sculpture, Bus Stop, also exhibited at this gallery. Everything about the object is slightly off: The box is too small to enter; the glass panel, on which is printed a thin vertical slice of an image, is too large to function as a door; deep inside the structures lightless interior, a small triangular ledge might imply seating were it not for a similar piece wedged a few inches below the ceiling. Stifling functionality, Blechhütte seems instead to embody the oft-recited claim that "all art is quite useless."

That particular line belongs to Oscar Wilde, who prefaced it by announcing, "The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely." Landscape, a five-panel steel-and-Plexiglas folding screen adorned with a photographic transparency depicting a landfill, is worthy of such admiration. It too repeals utility; the semitransparent image does not obstruct sight. Its ostensible message, reminding viewers of the proximity of luxury (the elegant folding screen) and waste, is banal when expressed didactically. Landscape, however, embodies its lesson in an interestingly literal manner. As one circumnavigates the sculpture, the panels—set at varying angles to one another—are reflected in the Plexiglas like phantom limbs. The object visually proliferates, and so does its image of waste. In this sparsely installed exhibition, more economical than Hornig's previous three Bonakdar shows, one was tempted to view this lesson in relation to today's art market, the many inessential objects it accommodates mere kindling on a pyre. HORNIG/index.html

6. Jean-Marc Bustamante

I chose Jean-Marc Bustamante because his work is all about the mundane. He has been photographing urban architecture for many years now, and tries to reveal little about the scene that he captures within the frame, trying not to give away the certain location, but allowing the viewer to decipher the environment and find out what it really is and what it really means.

"Something is Missing" 40 x 50 cm. 1997. C-print

"Something is Missing" 405 x 50cm. 1997. C-print

ean-Marc Bustamante has described the works in this display as a 'walk through the world', a series of personal encounters with different sites on different continents. The title, Something is Missing, refers to the artist's continuing search for material, indicating the open-ended nature of his approach; it also suggests that his photographs, though highly detailed, must inevitably remain a provisional or incomplete account of the places where they were taken.

These photographs, which were taken in various unnamed cities across the world between 1995 and 1997, extend a series of photographic projects which Bustamante has worked on intermittently since 1977. In that year he exhibited large coloured prints of semi-urban sites around Barcelona, taken in areas which he deliberately selected as having little innate charm or interest, 'where there has been a lot of destruction, where nature is no longer wild'. In more recent years he has used photography in his large site-specific installations, which also incorporate sculptural and relief elements. Bitter Almonds, a book of photographs closely related to the current display, was Bustamante's contribution to Documenta X in 1997.

Because the artist chooses to exhibit his work without any information about specific locations or chronology, it is the photographs alone that must provide all the information, as the viewer examines the minutiae of each printed surface. Often the eye is drawn first to the foreground, which provides a margin and sometimes a barrier between viewer and place, and a reminder that these are selectively framed, composed images. This no man's land may be a strip of curb or scrubland, a row of cars or a band of shadow, trees or wire fencing. All these elements coexist with an equal weight leaving the viewer free to make his or her own private journey through street, playground and parking lot. By bringing these fragments into the gallery and by painting the walls red, the artist has emphasised their separation from the exterior world. Seen together, the photographs are intended to suggest an alternative space beyond narrative or documentary.

Text written by Catherine Kinley

7. Paola Cabal

I chose Paola Cabal because her work deals with the the inactive and inherent space of the everyday. Her installations are site specific and create tension within the space and the viewer. With her installations she creates permanent light on to the floors and walls to "fix" the space. During the reception two people will do a performance in the installation. She creates these environments to permanently fix time and space in a certain area, to evoke a certain mood that the Paola is trying to create.

"Luminaries" installation. 2007.

"Luminaries" installation. 2007


Paola calls her pieces ‘interventions’: The work is created on-site and takes its cues from elements inherent to said space. She ‘intervenes’ into the space in alternately obvious and subtle ways, yet maintaining the unique properties of the site. The play of both sunlight and street-light on, and through, built structures constitutes the focus of many of her interventions as she ‘fixes’ sunlight to the floors and walls of her sites by spray painting the shadow’s cast patterns. The result is what is illuminated when light falls in a built space, and then what remains after that light fades. Cabal says, “…it is static work, work that exists in space and evokes time, which has the power to reveal aspects of our constantly shifting lived experience.”

During the opening reception, Gisela Insuaste and Sumakshi Singh will participate in a one-time performance, interacting with the painted sunlight installation by Paola Cabal. Sitting still or moving within the altered space, Insuaste and Singh will be similarly modified to reflect a particular time and sunlight condition: from alterations to their bodies to modifications to their clothing, Insuaste and Singh will appear to reflect lighting conditions not necessarily present when viewers experience the piece.

Paola Cabal is the 2006 recipient of the Individual Artist Award: Emerging Artist from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Her interventions have been seen locally at Northern Illinois University Chicago gallery, Gallery 312, Polvo and the Ukrainian Museum of Modern Art. In an on-going, multi-site piece “Points of Passage” sponsored by Gallery 400, she preserves sunlight patterns in painted reverse shadows as they are reflected onto public spaces throughout the city of Chicago. Her work has been included in shows in Bogota, Colombia, Pittsburgh, Ft. Lauderdale and South Carolina. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003 and lives and works in Chicago.

8. Michael Wetzel

Michael Wetzel paints relatively mundane imagery, but in all of his paintings there is an underlying tone of political issues dealing with american politics. Much of his work deals with the american class system and the bourgeois interior patterns that the Reagan's and and Kennedy's use to have. He also uses metaphor in his work and shows images of foreign lands that need to be conquered by Americans, but the metaphor is roman.

"Vesuvlus" 2006. 19 x 27in. Oil and egg tempura on canvas.

"The Fly I" 2007. 16 x 13in. Oil and egg tempura on canvas.

John Connelly Presents is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Michael Wetzel. In the past Wetzel has focused his attention on signifiers and icons of the American class system. Previous subjects have included mysterious adolescent cliques, warring country club members and airtight bourgeois interiors. In one recent body of work, Wetzel refashioned the fabric patterns used by first ladies Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan to decorate the White House into metaphors for our current divided (blue state/red state) political landscape. The concept of the "interior" and in particular of the interior of empire is expanded in this new exhibition to include landscape and the conquest, capture and commodification of the foreign or exotic. Rather than oblique references to the White House or the new world Georgian manor house we now have dark turbulent paintings of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the burning of Rome. Vesuvius, 2006, for instance, uses as a reference the concept of the English "Grand Tour" which at the height of Great Britain's period of colonization and imperialism chose Italy (itself a former world dominator) as a pleasure ground for its tourists.

While decrepit cities like Venice and Rome were revived and converted into meccas of tourism by a Victorian appetite for the lost world of the ancients, an entire genre of parlor painting was being created to capture and bring home evidence of the empire's expanded frontiers. A contemporary series of monkey (macaque) paintings by Wetzel find their genesis in a parlor genre of Dutch origin, practiced by Gillis Claesz de Hondecoeter for one, that found its way into the English and French Empires. These works crammed as much exotic flora and fauna as possible into a precursor of the photographic postcard. Here the monkey's look out at us and serve as a sudden and expectant mirror between the civilized and the savage, the origin of Darwinian theory and the attendant religious discomfort of its implications. There is an intricacy in the layered manner that Wetzel molds his forms with pigment and light. The color is almost woven in its application, a reminder of the woven surface of linen and wall hangings, a lesser and more decorative form of parlor art. This challenges the pretensions of ‘painting’ reminding us of the vanity of collectables while simultaneously critiquing the imbedded function of accumulating wealth.

In Quo Vadis II, 2006 we see a nightscape of classical Rome burning. It is important to note that the reference to this image of a burning Roman cityscape is a model of the ancient city (much like the recently renovated one of New York at the Queens Museum) made by Italo Gismondi between 1935 and 1971 located at the Museum of Roman Civilization on Capitoline Hill. We best know the story of Nero burning Rome as the ultimate in misguided governmental stewardship. But Rome was burned and resurrected many times, had many moments of glory and was viewed by several papacies as the center of western culture. There was and always will be many forms of "Rome" as myriad Hollywood movies have tried to capture. Likewise Italian culture has been disseminated and distilled into many forms that barely resemble the original. Cuisine is a perfect example, and Wetzel slyly paints a few pasta dishes into the exhibition to suggest the portrayal of native foods as a reliable arbiter of a culture's essence, is in reality a wan dilution of something that is an endangered cultural species.

9. Dan Colen

I chose Dan Colen because his work is about the mundane of the familiar. He shows in his work a wall that he chose to copy from a friend's wall and painstakingly recreated every part of it. He painted the stickers, posters, and the paint on the wall in which he has become familiar with. he challenges the viewer to find out what it is about the wall that is important, that inspired him to recreate such a thing.

Secrets and Cymbals, Smoke and Scissors (My Friend Dash's Wall in the Future) 2004 Styrofoam, oil paint, paper, metal
269 x 287 x 15 cm

"Life Marijuana" 2006. Mixed media installation comprised of 1 digital print and 3 unique framed Lambda prints (accompanied by CD with digital file of print) 320 x 250 cm Unique Lambda prints 38 x 38 cm each

Born 1979, Leonia, New Jersey; lives in New York, New York
"A brick wall in a school yard, a teenage symphony for god, a friend's black leather couch that I brought many late nights to a close on, America's southern landscape, Brancusi, a Styrofoam wall, a loft above a garage, a vampire's picnic, New Jersey backyards, news, mews, pews, brews, stews, and dues." Such a litany reveals some of the potent inspirations for painter and sculptor Dan Colen's aesthetic of charmed excess. More specifically, this torrent of allusions refers to a sculpture the artist made for the 2005 group exhibition Bridge Freezes Before Road. Derived in part from a detail of Jeff Wall's photograph The Vampire's Picnic (1991), it consisted of a stagelike platform populated by discarded and crafted objects, including a mangled chair with a large sign declaring "DRUGS," a truck tire, and a monstrous B-movie-style cockroach prop; the entire piece was shored up with heavily graffitied wooden planks to create a tableau of degradation. Looking like a piece of scenery from a theatrical production of William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, Colen's mise-en-scène of trash lay somewhere between an evocation of somebody else's squalid reality and an intoxicating fiction.

10. Mudwig Dans