Monday, July 28, 2008

Marked by Irony

If you happen to be in the neighborhood of the Philagrafika offices, we want to let you know that you are also welcome to come pick up a free copy of Pointe d’Ironie during your visit. This colorful 8-page spread is a French artist publication that periodically (somewhere between two and six times a year) gives free reign to an artist to fill tabloid-sized pages that will be printed en masse and distributed without charge all around the world. We get 25 copies here at the office every time it comes out, but we also suggest you take a good look at what they are doing more generally – they have a compelling approach to the art object, and to the value of the artist's name.

In brief, the publication is co-edited by French fashion designer Agnes B. and Swiss curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist. The paper can be used or enjoyed at the viewer’s discretion: according to an interview with contributor Christian Boltanski, some have used it as wallpaper, others have used it as wrapping paper during the Christmas season, and still others have just thrown it away when they were done. The name of the artist is in small print, as is that of the publication, so the average viewer is likely to pick it up because they find it aesthetically intriguing and not because they know it is a Yoko Ono or Damien Hirst (both contributing artists). There is also quite a bit of information on the concept of the Pointe d’Ironie itself: it’s a reversed question mark symbol that the French poet Alcanter de Braham invented at the end of the 19th century to indicate sentences that should be read on more than one level of signification. So, the publication is surrounded by interesting people and ideas, and now it is also available at Philagrafika!

Since this blog is already about self-promotion, we thought we would also let you know about the new installation that is going up in Space 1026, One Long Funeral Song, opening to the public starting this Friday. The artist is Monica Canilao, whose work was also featured in the Justseeds show we blogged about last week. And, while you are in that neighborhood, before that opens at 7 pm at the Fabric Workshop, Ed Ruscha: Industrial Strength and the reopening of the AIA Bookstore 1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia. Check out artblog's What We Want to See Friday article here for other exhibitions in that area.

Another show people are talking about is the Extreme Animals (paperrad) along with Buffalo Stance, Mincemeat or Tenspeed, Fortress of Amplitude (David from paperrad) along with poetry by Joe Pereira & DJ Dan Murphy (megawords) all at Pageant Gallery at 6th & Bainbridge at 8:30pm.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Justseeds Grow All Over 1026

A week or so ago I quickly blogged about a show by the print collective Justseeds that was being held in Philadelphia's Space 1026. Well, the show just closed, and we wanted to let you know a few things about what you missed (or, hopefully, what you saw), so you can make sure to follow Justseeds to their next event.

What Justseeds did at Space 1026 was unique, not only in terms of the artwork it presented, but also in terms of how it came to be: this was the first installation that the whole collective gathered to work on together. Usually linked only by a website, Justseeds is a self-proclaimed “decentralized community of artists” that believe in “the power of personal expression in concert with collective action to transform society.”

This belief certainly resonated with full-force in the collective act of personal expression that was just up at Space 1026. The overarching theme played with the idea of defeating individual suffering through a collective uprising. In one corner of the room, cardboard boxes and rough pieces of wood suggested the shanty houses of the homeless, with a cardboard cut-out industrial landscape towering above it. The grimy and extremely desolate feel of this area hit close to home in a metropolis such as Philadelphia. The clouds produced by the smokestacks puffed away happily, bringing the viewer’s eyes to flying pillowcases fashioned in such a way as to look like flying houses. These, in turn, lead your eyes to the next little environment in the room. It was hard not to run from one place to another – each detail pushing you forward rather than allowing you to linger. But, lingerers were rewarded for their patience: in the cracks and folds of the installation, small notes were scrawled messily with a Sharpie.

All around the room, banners and signs command the viewer to “Give Love, Buy Nothing,” to “Manifest your Dreams,” or just “Dream Wildly.” Some of the wittier slogans appeared on fake road-signs: a black arrow pointing upwards with another one peeling off from it to bend leftwards declared “POWER / FROM BELOW AND TO THE LEFT.”

Only one section of the room was dedicated “just” to the display of prints, but even that part of the room was contextualized by a playfully declarative pastiche of fabrics, sculptures, cutouts, banners… you name it. In addition, the prints that were displayed here also appeared in fragmentary form everywhere else in the room. Whether because reprinted on a sticker or simply cut and pasted, small echoes and visual reminders composed entire walls. This central wall with the “complete” artwork, then, was not only the display are of art bound by its own frame, but also the networking point that tied the whole show together. The smokestacks you had seen on another wall, for example, reappeared in a print here, but exhaling human spirits instead of jolly clouds. It was a “Where’s Waldo?” of the small, charming and powerful details you had discovered elsewhere in the room.

Perhaps the most conceptually powerful area of the exhibit was one that depicted a green and happy landscape populated by flying, multicolored squirrels and people working and playing together. Everyone and everything was bright and animated with the exception of an approaching soldier, his back to the viewer, approaching in his oppressive black & white starkness, donning a helmet with a TEXACO sticker on it.

Justseeds’ work at Space 1026 was compelling, humorous, playful, and dreadfully serious all at once. The exploration of this space was both exhilarating and exhausting. The declarative nature of their banners and posters could occasionally annoy with their explicit commands and declared ideologies, which often overshadowed the quality of the work as a whole. That said, Justseeds demands from us a collective and immediate change, and their work executes their belief to the letter.

Check out more pictures of the installation here or here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Triple Candie and the Advent of Photocopy Art

Triple Candie – an exhibition space respected for its status as the only art gallery in Harlem – concluded its seven year-long run this past April with an exhibit entitled Thank You for Coming: Triple Candie 2001-08. This farewell opening highlighted the gallery’s best moments over the course of the past few years… most of which did not actually feature ANY original artwork. Triple Candie, curated by Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, in fact, exhibited photocopies, reproductions, and facsimiles of popular artworks in an effort to question its own status as an alternative exhibition space. Exhibits like David Hammons: The Unauthorized Retrospective, Jacob Lawrence: Undoing the Ongoing Bastardization of the Migration of the Negro, Cady Noland Approximately, and (perhaps most obviously) the Museo de Reproducciones Fotográficas – which featured scaled reproductions and print-outs of museum masterpieces seemingly haphazardly all taped to a wall – called the art-world’s attention once again to issues of authorship, originality, appropriation, and reproduction.

At this stage, these questions have begun to both frustrate and annoy the artworld. The unauthorized David Hammons exhibit, in fact, stirred up a surprising amount of discussion: it was the first comprehensive exhibit of the artist’s work (representing close to one hundred of his pieces), but only thanks to images that had been downloaded from the internet or photocopied and cut from catalogues. Responses varied (see below for an article and forum concerning the exhibit), some even speculating that David Hammons, a Harlem-based artist known to be a “trickster”, had in fact been involved with the exhibit’s conceptualization.

Regardless of the truth behind these postulations, the public reaction (which concentrated exclusively on the concept behind the opening and not on the works themselves) indicates a necessity to attribute artwork to an artist, often eliding the works and exhibition spaces themselves. Whether Triple Candie executed a successful and telling experiment that played on the artworld’s arbitrary priorities or whether it simply assembled a large David Hammons exhibit is no longer the issue – the issue is that the opening had a strong and significant effect, even though we've been dealing with these questions for some time. Triple Candie's seven years of successful activity have proved that galleries can now use the extensive availability of images (thanks to the internet and the rise of the age of digital media) to their advantage, using it to consider the new ways in which we are encountering images (with different pixel sizes and colors) as well as the corruption – or propagation? – of the artist’s work through those same venues. Is a poorly reproduced image in any way related to the original? If we take a Van Gogh and decorate an umbrella with it, who do we credit?

Several artists have worked specifically with these concepts (in fact, we could be asking: are Bancroft and Nesbett artists, and not curators?) and some have even worked with the same kind of media. Considering these questions of authorship, Richard Pettibone, Elaine Sturtevant, and Sherrie Levine, for example, made their names in the art-world by carefully reproducing and reconstructing works by artists like Duchamps, Roy Lichtenstein or Jasper Johns. Although surrounded by similar controversy, these artists have also been met with relative success through the appropriationist movement of the 1980s. But it seems as if Triple Candie - alongside the rest of the art world - has moved beyond that movement to something more complex and troubling.

More along the same lines as the Triple Candie exhibits, for example, Esteban Pena’s artwork is based off the shabby photocopies he received as an art history student in South America. Lacking access to the original textbooks, students in his program learned about the canonical masterpieces by studying poor-quality black and white reproductions. Grainy and sometimes indiscernible, everyone from Albrecht Durer to Andy Warhol has become part of Pena’s photocopy-esque visual idiom. His works, like Triple Candie's exhibitions, demand a re-evaluation of the ways in which images and art enter our visual consciousness now that we are able to do so through so many indirect venues.

Although these questions were familiar to us since Walter Benjamin wrote “Art in the Age of Mechanincal Reproduction”, Triple Candie’s innovative gesture was to challenge the art-world with the advent of an art gallery – and not just an artist or an artwork – that was encouraging these inquiries. Triple Candie thus made possible the “copy museums”: spaces that promote reproductions and deconstruct notions of image copyrights, making us question, instead, whether art can really be studied, seen, created and re-created on the internet. Simultaneously, by calling our attention to objects and catalogues sold in museum shops, Triple Candie subverted the definition of galleries as mere loci for artist promotion.

Edward Winkelman blog article on Triple Candie exhibition

New York Times article on Triple Candie exhibition

By Jacob Carroll, Philagrafika Intern

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ready, Squeegee, Go

So here’s yet another Youtube-based entry for all of you out there that have been avidly following Caitlin’s sporadic use of that oh-so-entertaining website!

Aesthetic Apparatus - the guys that brought us the latest Burger King crown design as well as countless Modest Mouse, The Black Keys, and Mountain Goats concert posters (not to mention the Walk the Line movie poster!) - have created a humorous and semi-educational video about their screenprinting practice:

Although it’s hard to imagine them being prolific and still having that much fun, you can also check out their huge website of products here.

If you’re interested in starting up your own screenprinting studio, the Philly-based Print Liberation collectivejust released a beautiful and playful-looking “primer” on how to get that going. While you’re on their website, you should also check out some of the really neat artwork they’ve been doing around the city.

But Aesthetic Apparatus and Print Liberation aren’t the only ones keeping busy with screenprinting these days.

In fact, Philadelphia is currently hosting a couple noteworthy exhibits that feature screenprint artists:

Taller Puertorriqueño
Miguel Luciano
May 9 - July 19, 2008

Miguel Luciano's work addresses playful and painful exchanges between Puerto Rico and the United States, questioning a colonial
relationship that exists to the present and problematizing the space between both cultures. His work organizes popular, historic, and consumer iconography into fluctuating new hierarchies to describe the complexity of contemporary belief systems.

Galería Lorenzo Homar
2721 N 5th Street, 2nd floor
Philadelphia, PA 19133
Taller Puertorriqueño website

Space 1026

Out of the Shell of the Old
Opening: July 4, 2008 at 6 pm

Running throughout July 2008 at Space 1026, will be a unique collaborative installation/exhibition from members of the radical artists' cooperative Justseeds. Based on the theme of "a new world rising out of the shell of the old", this show will incorporate built environments, video installation, and printed work to explore both the dark and troubling times we now live in, as well as our hopes for a better, brighter world. Members of Justseeds will be traveling to Philadelphia from across the country to collaboratively create a unique and exciting body of work.

Justseeds website
Space 1026 website

- Jacob Carroll

Imagined Worlds: Working States and Philagrafika 2010

“Something real but not present could be made comprehensible to the imagination of viewers solely through the use of a plausible, clear figurativeness, and that the strongest possible emotional effect could then unfold in the viewers’ fantasies.” (Nils Büttner, 54)

As we get around to finally posting our now lengthy Working States Bibliography, I wanted to call attention to one particular book from our list and in-house book collection, Imagined Worlds: Willful Invention and the Printed Image 1470-2005. This book, published in conjunction with an exhibit at the AXA Gallery of New York, is more than just a run-of-the-mill catalogue and presentation of core concepts behind an exhibit's curatorial decisions. Instead, the academic essays by Amy Baker Sandback, Nils Büttner, and Sarah Richards that this book contains are focused and intriguing studies on a select few of the works that were on display, making this not only a publication about the exhibit, but also a valuable text for further print-related research and thought.

Sandback, for starters, considers the way in which prints shaped and continue to shape public consciousness and, specifically, public perceptions of reality. Her argument proves that it is for this very reason – the power of the image to transform understandings of the Real – that Albrecht Dürer’s print of the rhinoceros (which the artist legendarily executed not from observation, but rather according to whatever hearsay he could gather about this exotic beast) was quickly circulated and unequivocally accepted as an accurate and "scientific" representation of the animal. So, just like (the description of) the rhinocerous' reality inspired Dürer’s image, so did that same image inspire the viewing public's opinion of the rhinocerous' reality.

In the second essay contained in this collection, Büttner looks at depictions of Heaven and Hell and the constant struggle that artists underwent in the effort to image the invisible. Here too, discussions of reality and beliefs necessarily come into play, with the image acting as a conjoiner between the two.

Richards, alternatively, deals with prints that explicitly shaped or transformed knowledge through their didactic content. All three essays, though diverse in subject matter, are linked by the common recognition of the pervasiveness of prints in an international visual culture – a pervasiveness that has been influential since the early 15th century (when Dürer first printed his famous rhinoceros) and continues to exist through the age of comics, advertisement, and contemporary art.

Just take a look, for example, at the aesthetic echoes between the classic Breugel and Yoshitoshi prints (both in the Imagined Worlds exhibit) and the contemporary Philadelphia-based artist Bill McRight! Although treating different subjects and playing into different faiths and cultures, each artist has explored a common visual language that communicates a certain perspective on reality (or lack thereof), or elicits a certain reaction of wonder and fear in the viewer.

The Philagrafika’s 2010 project which you’ve been hearing so much about, though focused more on contemporary prints than the Imagined Worlds exhibit was, is to spread this very recognition of print-pervasiveness and to inspire similar kinds of discussions as those presented within this catalogue.

Check out these relevant websites:

Imagined Worlds Exhibit website
Bill McRight website
Bill McRight at Space 1026

- Jacob Carroll

Monday, July 07, 2008

More Than Meets The Eye

Continuing on my fascination with robot printers - I came across this amazing DIY tinkerer, Pindar, who built a robot that paints in the fashion of an old school dot matrix printer. While the artist questions whether it is a print or a painting - the working states show of the work imply multiple to me. Whether or not the artist is aware of it - he is proofing. But, rather than inking a plate differently - he is adjusting the algorithms which program and run the robot he's named Zanelle.

At first the imagery the artist chose is so campy - but the more I've looked at it and the process in order to achieve it, the sweet irony of the image along with some heavy implied metaphorical content- robot printing/painting a commemorative image of the ultimate robot warrior - Optimus Prime.

Zanelle, the robot has quite a personality and even she questions her artistic practice, since she responds to posters on the blog/website that the artist maintains - see link below

Art and Robots:

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Snap, Click and Yodel

"Photography has meaning only if it exhausts all possible images."

The March/April issue of Art on Paper contained a wonderful treasure, a fictional story called The Adventure of a Photographer by Italo Calvino.* The editors chose to reprint this fictional story on its 50th anniversary. It is a cleverly insightful text on photography within a fictional story.

The main character, a skeptic Antonino Paraggi--attempts to capture and create the perfect photograph. He questions the pursuit of the perfect photograph by his friends and family, that snapshot capturing the perfect moments, rather than the often sticky, dirty unflattering moments of daily life.

Calvino reflects that "Photographed reality immediately takes on a nostalgic character, of joy fled on the wings of time, a commemorative quality, even if the picture was taken the day before yesterday. And the life that you live in order to photograph it is already, at the outset, a commemoration of itself."

Last week, I was amused to read an article by Michelle Slatalla in the New York Times, Lights, Camera, Inaction - which shows that human nature's need to capture images hasn't changed, while the technology with which to do so has. The new Flip video camera - allows seamlessly simple video capture, which truly is just about idiot proof. Take out of box, push record button, plug into computer - voila, you're you-tubing down the video stream.

I find myself wondering, while family videos of Slatalla's article seem to have the same nostalgic quality as Calvino's snapshots, does the new and constant stream of public voyeurism wash it away? The DIY look from the quality to the abrupt editing of this endless supply of video doesn't feel nostalgic to me. I love to feed my gluttonous appetite--spending hours clicking from images of hula-hooping to yodeling french bulldog puppies to screen print demonstrations. (This also contributes to my ever-increasing attention deficit disorder.)

Taken one step further, my studiomates at Space 1026 have started communicating in emails with YouTube links - video streams are becoming a vernacular. It can feel quite peculiar, but also brilliant if you have patience. Whole jokes are told through an email message thread simply through video links. I wonder, could we develop a new way language for communicating based on a constant metaphorical form video stream?

Phew, forgive me for the digression into a metaphysical utopia of technology. I need to look at more puppies.

Goodbye for now,

*I encourage you to support Art on Paper magazine, but the story is also readily available on the internet through google searches.

PS: I'm starting to feel like this puppy...