Sarah Charlesworth

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Sarah Charlesworth

Work from her oeuvre.

“Ms. Charlesworth was part of a wave of talented artists, many of them women, who rephotographed existing photographs or dissected the medium’s conventions with staged tableaus. This work was an important step between the cerebral rigors of 1970s Conceptual Art and the more permissive image-play of 1980s Pictures Art.

Her Pictures Generation contemporaries included Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler, Laurie Simmons and Ellen Brooks, as well as Richard Prince, James Casebere and James Welling. and she spoke for many of them when she told Bomb magazine in 1990, “I’ve engaged questions regarding photography’s role in culture for 12 years now, but it is an engagement with a problem rather than a medium.”

Ms. Charlesworth is probably best known for large, exquisite photographic works in which rarefied images — ancient masks, figures lifted from Renaissance paintings, disembodied Hollywood-starlet gowns — are isolated against fields of lush monochrome color. At once seductive and didactic, they compete with painting in visual strength, wink at advertising and slyly raise questions about cultural and sexual stereotypes, personal symbolism and the role of pleasure and beauty — in both art and life — as perhaps particularly female pursuits.” – Roberta Smith, NY Times

Erin O’Keefe

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Erin O’Keefe

Work from The Flatness

“The title of this series of photographs refers to both the material flatness of the photograph itself, as well as the perceptual flattening of the still life space. The images in this series explore the tendency of the camera to flatten pictorial space, and as a result, foster ambiguous spatial readings. The still life arrangements are comprised of painted plywood boards, physical prints of Photoshop gradient patterns, and photographs. I am interested in the tension between the compressed space of the image and the visual clues that allude to the dimensionality of the still life. The camera is the agent of uncertainty that invites seeing as both an intimate and critical exercise.”

Nick Darmstaedter

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Nick Darmstaedter

Work from “Fuddruckers” at Bugada & Cargnel, Paris.

“For his second exhibition at Bugada & Cargnel gallery, Nick Darmstaedter (born in 1988 in Los Angeles, lives and works in New York) takes a look at the ultra-contemporary aspect of electronic spamming through a new series of oil and silkscreen paintings. The exhibition explores the notions of readymade and reappropriation, a thread that weaves through much of the artist’s work, questioning the aesthetic aspect of the most mundane contemporary productions. The title of the exhibition, Fuddruckers, is borrowed from an American fast food chain that tends to compensate for the lack of quality by quantity, just like spams. This reference immediately sets the show in an ambiguous relationship to a form of culture that is both massive and personal, despised and popular, oriented towards efficiency more than aesthetics, while possessing a certain beauty.

Electronic spamming appeared in the early 1980s, and has since burgeoned with the development of the Internet, gradually invading our mailboxes on a global scale. From the very beginning, it takes the name “spam” after the Spam® food product, a salty canned meat widely consumed during World War II, because it was a practical and economical source of protein for the soldiers.

Thanks to a 1970 Monty Python sketch, which mocks this product as unappetizing yet ubiquitous, the name was extended to the spam message. Indeed, the invasion of the world by electronic spam is what most characterizes this phenomenon: the facility with which this scam system spreads to massive amounts of email addresses explains the persistence of these messages until today, even though their efficiency may seem questionable. A range of fantastic promises emerges from the messages, offering simple and immediate solutions to basic desires: sexuality, health , travel, money. Even if they don’t systematically succeed in extorting our bank details, spam messages inevitably occupy a few seconds of our attention, an annoying presence we can’t escape, costing too much to an economic system that can’t afford wasting time.

For this exhibition, Nick Darmstaedter shows four oil paintings that meticulously reproduce the appearance of screenshots, popup messages, and email interfaces, playing with the contrast between the very slow traditional technique of oil and the rapidity with which these elements move from screen to screen. Enhanced and magnified, retrieved from their underground existence, the “spam paintings” reveal a cartography of anonymous and unfulfilled desires. They become the portraits of an era, as portraits of ancestors were kept in other times. In comparison, the plain text of the Scam Mail series,silkscreened directly on raw canvas, proves striking with its speedy execution. Under this new aspect, the spam messages seem to question their own raison d’être. Who still believes in their lies? Who gets caught up in their obvious traps? How has spamming been able to survive to its own saturation?

Paradoxically, while revealing the invalidity of spam’s content, the artist transforms them into images and reveals their formal beauty. Each screenshot is chosen for its aesthetics. In this case, Nick Darmstaedter has chosen simple, rudimentary designs that are already about fifteen years old – a time that the artist calls “the golden age of spam”, when he first encountered them, and perhaps believed they were real on this unique occasion.

Along with this series of spam paintings, Nick Darmstaedter presents sculptures that extend the theme of the trap through assemblages of disparate objects not without a hint of humor. Pickup wheels with chrome rims stuck in brightly colored security boots set on the floor like minimal sculptures. They seem stuck in their tracks, literally and in the search for aesthetic refinement. A giant game trap made out of everyday objects – a hammer, a fishing rod and a wire – embodies the notion of imminent danger and relates to the urban environment as an ecosystem, where someone’s misfortune makes another person’s happiness.” –  Bugada & Cargnel

Valerie Green

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Valerie Green

Work from Look Up at Charlie James Gallery.

“All the world may once have been a stage, but it is certainly now a screen. In her solo gallery debut at Charlie James, L.A. artist Valerie Green gives us a smartphone eye’s view of the sublime: the sky above our heads.

The nine images in the series “Look Up” were taken through the moon roof of the artist’s car, adorned with the phone’s screen protector, a slip of plastic that would be transparent were it not for the marks and scratches of restless fingers.

The skies range from gray and rain-spotted to blissfully blue, but the screen protector creates a ghostly image of the phone itself, something like a self-portrait. What’s more, Green has painted the prints’ frames to extend the edges of the image. We are increasingly aware of how what we see is filtered through multiple frames.

In the back room are three cellphone images of a computer monitor sprayed with screen cleaning solution. Like the raindrops on the moon roof, they are physical, not virtual phenomena, here lighted not by the sun but by the inner glow of pixels. It’s one computer literally “face-to-face” with another.

Then there is a large sheet of neon pink plastic that visitors can touch and “draw” upon. Like the screen protector and cleaner, the piece reminds us that no matter how absorbing our virtual worlds, we are still resolutely earthbound.” – Sharon Mizota for the LA Times.

Matter

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Matter at New Shelter Plan

Featuring work from Caleb Charland, Matthew Gamber,Mary Voorhees Meehan, Johan Rosenmunthe, and Bill Sullivan.

“In cataloging technology’s effects on culture, Marshall McLuhan wrote, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” The five artists adopts this observation as a motive to examine photography’s equal but opposing powers: The photograph aptly informs and misleads our perceptions of information and history.

The installation will be an amalgamation of individual studies. Artists will work, somewhat siloed from one another, not unlike scientists each to his station in the lab, investigating the paradox of the photograph. They will present the resultant videos, prints, and constellations of objects together, as a body of evidence.

Concurrent with the exhibition opening, the artists will release a book – another study – but this one worked on together, simultaneously. They will utilize Matter as a starting point. Published in 1963 as the inaugural title of the Life Science Library Series, and written by Ralph Eugene Lapp, a renowned Manhattan Project physicist, the book was designed to match the popular layout of Life Magazine, with a focus on educating readers on the wonders of physical world. The reconstituted book will echo the original thematic arc, but the new layout will be an augmentation of its default reading. The visual approach will maintain photography’s ability to illustrate ideas, rather than explain them.” – New Shelter Plan

Metahaven

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Metahaven

Work from Black Transparencyat Future Gallery

“Metahaven’s practice entails research, design, and visual journalism engaging in intense relationships with the present. Their presentation at Future Gallery is also the first show at the gallery’s new space at Keithstraße 10, 10787 Berlin.

WikiLeaks scarves and t-shirts
Since mid-2010, Metahaven have undertaken a body of research that revisits the visual identity of the online whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks. With the nominal consent of its founder Julian Assange, this expansive design project has functioned on several fronts, at the heart of which is an investigation into the politics and aesthetics of transparency. Metahaven have sought to map the relations through which WikiLeaks functions, looking not towards the mechanics of its operations but to the media relations and reputational networks that have sprung up around it. The organization is constituted by a necessary sense of opacity—employed in order to offer anonymity to the whistleblower and abstract the leak from its source—while paradoxically asserting the principle of transparency. Within a number of propositions for revisions to the WikiLeaks identity, Metahaven references the image economy circulating around the organization, alongside the notion of “transparent camouflage” as both aesthetic gesture and political strategy.

Applying the visual syntax at work in their identity proposals, they have created a series of scarves and t-shirts, sold by WikiLeaks through both online and offline venues. WikiLeaks has been since a few years under a de facto financial embargo by MasterCard, VISA and PayPal, which prevents the site from receiving direct donations. Metahaven’s project functions as a platform for a polemical mode of commercial transaction.

Black Transparency
The WikiLeaks collaboration has led Metahaven to investigate a phenomenon which it calls “black transparency,” meaning the involuntary transparency invoked on organizations and nation-states by whistleblowers and hackers. Metahaven’s Black Transparency is a nomadic, re-iterating design project as well as a forthcoming book publication with the same title (Sternberg Press, 2014), focusing on the geopolitical aspects of this phenomenon.

The appearance and shape of black transparency is always changing to fit the legal and political loopholes of the states and entities whose legitimacy it opposes. It finds temporary homes in jurisdictional enclaves while forming short-lived informational tax havens. Because its architecture depends on acts of evasion, black transparency is not only transparent, but also black.

Black Transparency collectively explores and proposes potential designs of these evasive acts, and investigates the political mentality of a densely interconnected population whose principle instrument of freedom—the internet—defines at the same time its ubiquitous subjugation to abstract power. Included in the show is a video manifesto for the current generation of digital nomads; the video combines footage from anti-austerity riots in Athens with imagery from popular culture and of deserts—spaces which Metahaven views, metaphorically and literally, as blank canvases for a more distributed and decentralized network.

The project presents a series of Skype recorded video interviews with prominent internet activists, politicians, and academics, such as Smári McCarthy, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Alexa O’Brien, Amelia Andersdotter, and Gabriella Coleman, whose activities with Pirate parties and alternative software practices, lawmaking, and voting models point at both the re-decentralization and re-localization of now abstracted political and technological processes. Black Transparency further comprises of a set of proposals for data hosting in the form of utopian architectural models, one of which is a bedouin tent which will be on display in Future Gallery’s previous venue at Mansteinstraße.

For this show, Metahaven has also teamed up with fashion designer Conny Groenewegen to create a large garment in further pursuit of the connection point between fashion and information.”

Basic Zone

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Basic Zone at Casa Madre, Naples.

“Basic is the forgotten debris of the collective effort towards individualism, the unconscious substratum of daily experience, a banal spontaneous product of economical and cultural forces, changing radically with every generation. Basic is not simple, and is not obtained through reduction, it is more a universal grey, a state of mind which most people try to escape. But this greyness is actually a precious existential experience, a joyful misery that allows us to be united in difference, to abandon the tiring quest for uniqueness in favour of a relaxed banality. Basic Zone is a safe haven to explore various aspects of this subversive banality, which is reflected in the experience of moving through a city, in managing our domestic space, and in social dynamics at large. The city has become a basic canvas, retaining only a disembodied sense of the “urban” as codified roughness, countered by the ever-slicker interface of the devices that allow us to navigate through it. Street tags are the desperate attempt to establish continuity between the universe of sprawling feelings and opinions, which constitutes our existence online, and the collective urban space which has become purely infrastructural and utilitarian or falsely romantic. Since the exceptional is the food for real estate speculation, the basis of successful branding and what constitute the tyranny of the popular, a Basic Zone is a place of resistance, a way out from the slavery of creativity, a place for happy mediocrity” – Allesandro Bava, Casa Madre

Amanda Ross-Ho

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Amanda Ross-Ho

Work from The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things

Los Angeles-based artist Amanda Ross-Ho’s first outdoor public art project,THE CHARACTER AND SHAPE OF ILLUMINATED THINGS, explores how photography is similar to the act of seeing.

The title of the exhibition is adapted from the 1980 photography handbook How to Control and Use Photographic Lighting, which demonstrates how different lighting drastically affects how details appear in an image. Illustrating this section of the manual is a still life of three objects: a cube, a sphere, and a mannequin’s head. For her iteration of the MCA Chicago Plaza Project, Ross-Ho re-creates this trio at a monolithic scale with faithful allegiance to the original image. Completing the installation is a large-scale rendering of a color calibration card—the color grid that is used to maintain accuracy in the printing or post-production of color photography because it remains consistent in various lighting conditions. By including this card—which is usually discarded or cropped out of finished photographs—Ross Ho presents an image that is self-consciously “contaminated,” as the color calibration card disrupts the composition. At the same time, its inclusion points to it as an artifact of a bygone era in which “accuracy” or “truth” in photography was a given.

Acknowledging how most public art is experienced through the lens of a camera, Ross-Ho deliberately treats her sculptures as photographic subjects and actively seeks to make viewers aware of their role as photographers. In Ross-Ho’s hands, the plaza is transformed into an enormous photo studio, with objects on display for the purpose of being photographed by the public, while the sun provides a shifting source of light, affecting both our perception of how the objects look in real life and how they appear in our photographs. The artist hopes to collect and share images taken by viewers to consider the circulation and recycling of public information and how it affects the production of aesthetic objects.

Renaud Jerez and David Douard

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Renaud Jerez and David Douard

Work from Popular Mechanics at Valentin, Paris.

“Responding to an invitation from the Galerie Chez Valentin, the young French artist Renaud Jerez offers an exhibition of his recent works he chooses to confront the parts of another young artist, David Douard . ”Popular Mechanics” is an opportunity for a third collaboration between the two artists. While evolving in parallel and individually, their respective universes remain intertwined. Sharing a common imaginary base that must in part to a long friendship, these two practices feed the same cultural and historical referents. So naturally, through formal and conceptual similarities, the two eyes meet, feeding each other, building a language that updates a common origin.

Taking roots from a collective mental geography, the works proposed by Renaud Jerez and David Douard build and agencent objects of doubt, cultivate and increase spreads references, drawing the eye in the direction of winding paths. Drawing its source in the latencies of the real practice is part of a form of mental and intuitive mesh that is embodied within hybrid devices and replaying codes display, painting, sculpture or the collage and video. Elaborated from a profusion of materials, objects or fragments of manufactured objects, texts, images, advertising posters, and organic raw materials, these works the register slip the most trivial low culture to the history of art and ideas, building a multifaceted language that strikes reality through different levels of representation. Not maintaining zero complex vis-à-vis benchmarks and codes they handle with a form of irreverence that often holds humor or irony, artistic gesture, and free radical, is akin to a form of ownership, extraction or possession of real as raw material, such as tank pure forms. Refusing the comfort of an attachment point of view, the work fled cumbersome theoretical foundations, opposing to a “mechanical” intuitive that cultivates doubt and ambiguity. This appears simple gesture that draws spontaneously in organs the most ordinary reality asserts its affiliation with Fluxus. Thus, in Jerez and David Renaud Douard work most often takes the assembly, arrangement of an abstract partition dread perfect agreement, preferring the relief of its dissonance. Proceeding by accumulation, assemblage, or otherwise extracted or simplification, the work is to be seen as a pure construct the matrix, the organizing principle, remain partially concealed, secret, see totally hidden. Promoting silences, ellipses or playing detours, the image is never direct, maintaining wandering and the rout of the beholder. Thus, if the sentence read mental trajectory of the artist, to break the “hidden meaning” of these works is that this arrangement is variable geometry, this grid of signs that can be turned freely. Malleable work in deployment reflects this interest both artists maintain for “liquid state” of thought, flow direction and passages that connect and reconcile apparently incompatible realities. This is when the resistance of the weld, which thus link “between” elements who order our visible world, the two artists are working here in question. To upset the seemingly inflexible reality, and to make this readable poetic arrangement, then the work involves the viewer a flexible look.” – Clara Guislain, Valentin

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance

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Strauss Bourque-LaFrance

Work from his oeuvre.

“Strauss Bourque-LaFrance’s work is often driven by formal decisions, though each gesture is latent with subversive qualities. This mechanism predates his 2010 MFA thesis show, “Rotten Sun,” but these moves can be seen here—perhaps most explicitly. Thesis exhibitions that year at Tower Projects, a factory warehouse-turned-gallery in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, used the size and character of the space to their advantage, of which Strauss’s work was a prime example. In a piece titled Black Rainbow Gets a Free Ride, three tropes (a Carl Andre-like wooden sculpture, being straddled by a black/fecal rainbow, and a 1970s gay biker hat placed conspicuously on top of the wooden sculpture) bring sobering straightforward art-historical (evoking Minimalism)/historical (evoking Stonewall) presence to a room that looks like the aftermath of a late ’80s coke-driven SoCal occult gay party gone awry.” – Em Rooney