Anne Imhof at MoMA PS1 (a fluffy revolt)

By Ekaterina Savelieva

A few weeks ago, I visited MoMA PS1 and was particularly captivated by the Anne Imhof exhibit DEAL and its various obvious and subtle relations to our theme of revolt. By addressing the question “What constitutes a deal?” Imhof delves into issues of human interaction and the power structures, codes, and rules that govern it.

DEAL consists of two parts: a durational performance and a gallery exhibition. In the former, nine performers enacted movements that traced formal, informal, legal, and illegal deals. This performance spanned two days and occurred simultaneously in two locations. The gallery installation contains etched aluminum panels that mirror the horizontal motion of the performers. In the center of the room is a concrete basin with a tongue emerging from a vat of buttermilk, which served as currency during the performance. The exhibit also has three fluffy bunnies, hopping around the gallery. This was the most peculiar aspect of DEAL, as well as the part that captivated a majority of visitors.

While many media are no longer seen as a revolt when exhibited in galleries or museums, I think that live animals are still a rebellion against the conventions of the exhibition space. Furthermore, the bunnies create an internal revolt for visitors, as they are so tempted to touch and photograph them, but are reprimanded by guards when they do. Viewers then become part of the exhibition as they engage in deals with themselves and with the guards, and through their choices exhibit the rules behind human interaction.

Imhof’s DEAL also revolts against the conventions of exhibiting performance-based work. Her exhibition does not serve as documentation of the performance; rather, all parts of the show contribute to a work that is constantly developing, with no hierarchy of importance. Every component of DEAL, from the performance to the bunnies, develops an investigation into human interaction and the invisible structures that govern it.

You can read more about DEAL and Imhof’s own words on the performance here:


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Art Young’s Reward, Jesus Christ (ca. 1938)

By Oscar Rieveling

Art Young was a recognized artist best known for his political cartoons which could be found in many early 20th century socialist publications. However, he did not always identify with left-wing ideals, originally considering himself a Republican with little political involvement. Through his association with individuals such as Piet Vlag and John Sloan, he would begin to embrace the radical ideas burgeoning in Greenwich Village during this time and advocate for issues such as labor issues, women’s rights, and sexual equality.

Born in Stephenson County on January 14, 1886, Art Young was a recognized artist best known for his political cartoons which could be found in many early 20th century socialist publications.Young continued to work until his death in the year 1943 at the Hotel Irving in New York City. His artistic training was extensive, attending the Chicago Academy of Design, Art Students League of New York, and the Académie Julian in Paris before participating in the creation of the socialist magazine The Masses. It was in this publication that the first version of Reward, Jesus Christ appeared as the cover for a special holiday edition. Still, the work that will be on display at the Johnson Museum will be a later example that appears to have been made by the artist independently from the magazine, indicated by the alternate color and text utilized.

Young offers a startling representation of Jesus Christ’s historical personage in the sense that it is not an idealized or devotional image. Instead, the poster emphasizes Christ’s revolutionary and agitative role that openly challenged the government of his time. The work also expands upon the fraught relationship between religion and politics, while underscoring the human nature of this iconic figure.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Zero Tolerance

By Daniela Pimentel

MoMA PS1 has on display what could easily be called the most revolt-centric exhibition of the year. Zero Tolerance is a show focused on the documentation, interpretation, mechanics, and aesthetics of protest. From static pieces like Joseph Beuys’ Democracy is Merry print of the 70s here in the US to video footage of Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer” of 2013 on loop, the exhibition spans a wide geography and a variety of issues under the engaging and enraging umbrella of revolution. A room of 20 screens by the artist Artur Zmijewski depicts various assemblies, formal political and religious statements by different leaders, and general protest from Palestine to Poland. Though headphones are hung for separate monitors, there exists a cacophony of resistance and revolt audible even when listening to an individual channel. The best piece (and one of the most critically acclaimed) is East Side Story (2006-2008) by Igor Gubric. Two projected channels come together in a corner of an empty gallery. On the left, gay-pride parades in Serbia and Croatia reveal a ferocious backlash of anti-gay and neo-Nazi groups attacking parade participants both verbally and physically in television footage so vicious that it’s hard to tear your eyes away. The documentation is paired with four dance performances in the same locations as the parades by dancers responding to the first channel footage. A stunning pairing of the documentary and the interpretive, Zero Tolerance is up at PS1 through April 13.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Trip to India – How it influenced my perception of art

By Alanna Klein  

“Art”: a single word that can be construed in hundreds of different ways. Of course, most people consider art to be anything located within the walls of a museum or gallery – a painting, a sculpture, an artistic film. As an art history major, I typically search for art in these traditional museums, galleries, exhibitions etc. – places that are recognized for their reputable and prestigious art. I spend hours in museums aimlessly wandering the halls of a multi-acre museum, if visiting a new city I will ensure I see every esteemed gallery, and throughout my studies, I search through textbooks and preserved prints to analyze work.

However, my appreciation for art evolved this past winter break when I traveled to India. Embracing my prior predilection of museums, I scoured books and websites for the best museums in Jaipur and Udaipur. However, I was left nearly empty handed and was instead urged to wander the streets, temples, palaces, markets, work factories, and parks. Of course I was disappointed, as for me, art is a lens into a culture’s history. I can learn more from viewing a painting than reading a textbook – art exposes habits, societal norms, family traditions, activities, events, clothing, food, etc., facets that create the essence of any culture. However, I adhered to my guide’s words and followed his recommendations, and, what I found was far more powerful than anything I could find behind the pristine walls of a famous museum or popular gallery. I was immersed in a sea of vibrant colors, potent smells, endless smiles, captivating people, and unique activities. I felt as if I was living in a painting instead of studying one. I was present and I could feel the culture and passion of the people surrounding me. From this experience, I have changed what the word “art” means to me.

I realize now that art is anything that can touch someone. Art instills a feeling inside the viewer. Art transports the viewer to a time or place or emotion. Art creates a memory. For me, I am fortunate in that I now know that I can find art in any corner of any city, park, or room, and that all it takes to garner an internal feeling is for to open our eyes and our senses and be present in the world in which we live, for art and beauty surrounds us at every moment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Artist Speaker: Yuken Teruya

By Virginia Girard

HAMS is excited to announce Yuken Teruya will be speaking at the Johnson on April 30th. Born in 1973 in Okinawa, Teruya’s work speaks to his life experiences and the history of his homeland. His ability to create exquisite pieces of art from ordinary objects and materials reflects his appreciation for subtle beauty. The incredibly diversity of Teruya’s projects reflect his ability to constantly innovate and propel his vision forward, while maintaining a core set of values that runs through every series. A prominent theme in his work is the juxtaposition of contemporary consumer culture alongside traditional craft techniques. Notice—Breakfast Street is an example of the works Teruya is best known for, as the intricate tree shapes cut into disposable paper bags addressed the beauty of the resources we tend to take for granted. The series Notice—Forest encouraged viewers to see unique natural beauty in mass produced objects.

Many of Teruya’s more recent projects address Okinawa’s past and present more overtly, including a current exhibition in Berlin, “2014-2015 on Okinawa.” The show combines Teruya’s current works with artifacts from WWII and objects from Okinawa. The narrative is intended to link Okinawa’s history with a tangible present, and the works are displayed as suspended, or floating in their cases to further engage the viewer.

The beauty in Teruya’s projects lies in their combination of aesthetic charm and accessibility. Regardless of background, any viewer may identify with the strength one finds in reaching into the past and maintaining tradition. One of Teruya’s current video installations, “Features,” is part of the touring group exhibition “Go Betweens: The World Seen through Children.” Two separate video projections combined with sounds speak to a current crisis in Okinawa between the development of American military facilities and villagers’ attempts to protect a forest home to an immense biodiversity. True to Teruya’s work, the artist does not shy away from contemporary issues with a complicated past.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Pei Jing’s Bared at Tiananmen

By Yuanyuan Tang

Many people might think of Chinese art as not aging. However, as the times of stability were abruptly interrupted by violent political or social revolts in Chinese history, those revolts inevitably resulted in cultural changes, thus reflected in the arts. Therefore, evolved as artists’ innovative attitudes toward the established foundations of traditional Chinese art, postmodern Chinese art has gone through lots of transformation in the past thirty years.

Pei Jing’s Bared at Tiananmen is a powerful and dynamic postmodern paradigm featuring the artist’s mixture of iconic imagery and ideas. The painting depicts two nude figures standing in Tiananmen Square, where Chinese citizens used to demand more freedom against the policies of the Communist government. These two figures are wearing Red Army caps, surrounded by sunflowers – a signifier of loyalty to President Mao – and other suggestive symbols like butterflies. The vibrant colors that Pei Jin applied in the painting are also eye-catching and powerful: the gradual changing blues on both the sky and the ground adds layers of mystery, yet the bloody red Tiananmen illuminates the story behind.

The government’s violent crackdown of Tiananmen Square in 1989 was a politically significant event on a global scale. Members of the Communist Party who had sided with the protesters were violently purged, which was not allowed to be publicized in China. Even though nowadays, this painting would be prohibited from display. By portraying the tension between desiring the freedom of expression and remaining loyal to the Communist Party, the artist shows his ways of questioning contemporary cultural standards, as well as challenging authority and history.

On Bared at Tiananmen, the humiliated yet freakish postures of the two figures uncover the fragility of freedom in modern China. While they cover up the body, these two figures introduce us to take an in-depth look and contemplate their sophisticated natures. Besides, they are also staring into our eyes, sharply returning the gaze of repressive hierarchical authority. When we recall masses parading through streets, students occupying the Square and army tanks grinding down boulevards in 1989, Tiananmen Square on Pei Jin’s painting has become a global iconography of regime violence as much as a tragedy in the history of revolt.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.52.46 PM

Bared at Tiananmen

Pei Jing

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Laylah Ali’s Greenheads at the Johnson Museum

By Daniela Pimentel

Last fall, the Johnson Museum held an exhibition of more than forty paintings from Laylah Ali’s series titled Greenheads. The precisely delineated gouache works on paper are best interpreted as a group, as each work presents different tableaux of interaction between Ali’s pared down figures of power that seem to inhabit a peculiar political universe. Cartoonish figures sport a range of costumes and signifiers, from white pope-like headpieces to black ski masks on the head or just the eyes. All are depicted with green heads (as the title would suggest) that confuse the viewer seeking to identify race, and gender or age distinctions are just as difficult to pin down. Their actions are less ambiguous than the figures’ appearance – the Greenheads engage in torture, murder, beheadings, salutes, and the mutilation of various limbs. Their bodies and faces are rendered as simply and cleanly as possible, and impart more about relationships, identities, and structures of power because they are boiled down to simple bodily and facial signifiers of conflict, war, and violence. The visage of each Greenhead features a crude expression of grief, anger, pain, or fear that grips the viewer through its fundamental rendering of the surface-face, flat and full of holes.

Upon first viewing the Greenheads, I immediately attempted to parse the circumstances and groups responsible for the obvious conflict in front of me. There was clearly some sort of revolt, though never clear for what purpose or from which set of figures to another. It soon became clear that the point of navigating through these signs and signifiers was to become aware of what we look at and look for when we see images of revolt. And because of the engrossing seriality of the Greenheads, we witness the circularity, manifestation, networking and variation of signifiers and faciality. We see expression and costume change, and with it the actions of the figures re-territorialized and redefined. It is a body of work in which power structures and the regimes of signs are laid bare for the viewer to explore which signs and signifiers we respond to in different visualizations of power and revolt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized