The Best Art Exhibits We Saw During Studio Beat’s NYC Trip
Did you miss us? Last month Studio Beat packed up our bags and went on a weeklong excursion to New York City. We hoofed it around Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan interviewing as many artists as we could without exploding from inspiration overload.
In addition to the exhilarating privilege of seeing behind-the-scenes work in artist studios, we scouted out finished pieces at galleries and museums. We saw as much as we could but definitely didn’t scratch the surface of NYC’s art scene.
That being said, here’s a list of five exhibits we saw during our February NYC trip that left us feeling giddy about art.
Thomas Nozkowski: Recent Work
Feb 22, 2013 – Mar 23, 2013
Thomas Nozkowski’s work was a refreshing step into the world of abstraction. The work was separated into two buildings, one displaying 22 x 28 inch labored canvases and the other only preliminary and immediate works on paper. The canvases present evidence of slowly considered painted decisions.
Layer after layer, a thick skin of oil paint full of formal narrative allowed the viewer to inspect the surface of history present in each piece. Patterns develop, wash away, resurrect, adjust, manipulate and accentuate, as if each form is interacting like a character with a different role.
Each of the paintings relished in an element of game playing. Nozkowski executes delightful trickery of mimesis, and astonishing allowances of material. He nonchalantly nods to figuration that is ultimately disguised in an abstract condition. Each painting communicates a consistent concern for a hover state between the visceral and the illusory. The playful execution of spatial dysfunctions and organic forms allowed each painting to come alive; as if Nozkowski is personifying abstraction itself.
MoMA – December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013
The exhibition “Inventing Abstraction” relates fiercely to works of art produced today by artists such as the aforementioned Nozkowski. This show summarizes the moment of entropy between figuration and formal abstraction primarily in painting. The hybridity present seemed astonishingly contemporaneous.
Regardless of your position on abstraction of this type, there were some gems in the show that every art history junkie would be thrilled to see including Vladimir Tatlin’s model for the Monument to the Third International. It was incredible to see how this paradigm shift mutated across different locations amongst a variety of political concerns.
Across the board from Russian Constructivists to the Der Blaue Reiter each work of art illustrated a feeling of oscillation between two polarities and simultaneously an incredibly powerful tension.
Huma Bhabha’s Unnatural Histories
PS1 MOMA November 18, 2012—April 1, 2013
Huma Bhabha’s work stood at a juncture between aesthetic bricolage, postcolonial themes, raw gestural figuration, and artifact replication. The work was raw, challenging, and moving.
Bhabha uses materials without hesitation; she takes risks to transform synthetic matter like Styrofoam to appear like flesh in decay. The work is a sum of her abiding confidence to make mistakes, redesign, reform and press onward. The sculptures stood as totems of a post-apocalyptic culture destroyed; portraying a future artifact before its time.
Quietness instilled in me as I navigated the spaces between the sculptures, which exuded both energy from the obviously physical manipulation of their forms but also an unfamiliar and complicated spirit, one that doesn’t quite know it place in the world. This inscrutable quality to the sculptures define the essence of a type of diaspora I believe Bhabha has worked hard to capture in her work; an unheard scream, a call out for some sense of home and a warning of our loss of origin.
Christian Vincent’s Ear to the Ground
Mike Weiss Gallery – February 15 – March 16, 2013
Vincent’s last body of work was full of repetition and more predominantly depicted figures than setting. “Ear to the Ground” instead focuses on surrealistic environments, illustrating scenes reminiscent of an adolescent fever dream. Vincent creates tangible light that radiates through the canvases.
From twilight to dawn, the time of day was inextricably linked to the setting and mood of each work. Each narrative was left open-ended, a cool aesthetic prevailed, and a distancing existed between the portrayed characters, their setting and the viewer. Each figure appeared alien in some way, as if they only existed in these mirage worlds perhaps echoing a typical ‘teenage feeling’ of dissociation.
A dissonant and arcane feeling coalesced through colour, illusion and material, evoking similar feelings as some recent figurative superstars such as Michaël Borremans and Neo Rauch. The physicality of the painting was surprising. It became obvious that although Vincent has a delicate and graceful touch he judiciously applies paint expressing an interest in how its body can affect the described space of the painting.
It was refreshing to see painting so brazenly illustrative, without remorse for its lack of participation in the breakdown of material meaning. Vincent unabashedly executes masterful and figurative painting.
Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors
Luhring Augustine – Feb 1 – Mar 16, 2013
As I walked into the space at Luhring Augustine, Ragnar Kjartanson’s exhibition slowly begins to unfold. A haunting melodic music played and I found myself investigating the images presented on nine projected screens lulling me with their handsome musicians and ornate interiors. As I examined and fell into their wonder the music became more complex as each started to overlap.
Each scene housed a musician in an elaborately decorated room in what seemed like an old affluent family farmhouse. The beautifully lit shots of musicians playing a variety of instruments calmly and pensively for the same duration were all shot from a single perspective. There was one exception, a group scene on a beautiful veranda outside.
It became apparent that these musicians were all playing the same song, in the same house at what one could only assume the same time. The song exploratively and melodically meandered, the musicians were relaxed but an element of emotional dissonance prevailed and ultimately the song and the overall artwork seemed to be about a disjointed but powerful collective experience.
Upon reading about the artist’s intentions the piece was supposed to be about romantic disrepair, the house is in upstate New York called Rokeby Farm, and Kjartanson’s ex-wife wrote the lyrics of the song. Despite that information, as helpful as it is, this work is really self-supporting. The attractive settings and people portrayed seemed easy to make alluring, and personally, I felt disturbed by how much pleasure and entertainment I felt by viewing this artwork (why isn’t more video art so generous!) while still finding great depth in the artist’s intentions. A rare experience, this exhibition made it difficult for me to leave.
[Opening photo by Courtney Vokey]