Skip to content

www.mariomuller.com

Almonds and Richard Long – Life Imitates Art

Once again, occurrences in my everyday world make me recall art I have witnessed. As many of you know by now, I am pleasantly haunted by images and emotions of the great works of art that I have seen in person over a 30 year span of aesthetic curiosity. This journal of synaptic leaps has become a sub-category of TruffleHunting called Life Imitates Art.

My Toasting Almonds

My Toasting Almonds

The kitchen seems to be an interesting place for these moments to happen. I was toasting almond slivers in a pan on the stove and a wave of aesthetic ennui crashed over me. I had been here before. Without the cheesy special effects of Quantum Leap, I was transported back to 1982 in a town in Germany called Möchengladbach. This is where I first saw the sculpture of Richard Long and my relationship to the land and art was never to be the same. The installation that I walked into there was truly a thing of lasting beauty: A Large square room with eight Gray Paintings by Gerhard Richter, two deep gray squares on each wall, and a round slate circle in the center of the room by Richard Long.

Richard Long, WHITECHAPEL SLATE CIRCLE, WHITECHAPEL ART GALLERY  London 1981

Richard Long, WHITECHAPEL SLATE CIRCLE, WHITECHAPEL ART GALLERY London 1981

The exhibition was at the, then, newly opened Museum Abteiberg. The building sits on a hill in the city. The architect for the building was Hans Hollein who sadly passed away earlier this year. He created a remarkable labyrinth of spaces on different levels. Every time I’ve gone, and I’ve been over a dozen times almost like a pilgrimage, I’ve discovered new artists and new perspectives on artists I had already known. A tribute to the curatorial sophistication and the architectural bravado respectively.

Museum Abteiberg in Möchengladbach

Museum Abteiberg in Möchengladbach

To this day that room in Museum Abteiberg in Möchengladbach remains the most spiritual installation of art I have ever seen. I’ve been to the Rothko Chapel; I’ve seen the complete installation of Barnett Newman’s Stations of the Cross. Christian Boltanski and Antony Gormley may have come close on occasion, but the one two punch of Richter and Long sends me swooning every time. I must admit that I do not know if the room is permanent since the Museum did a major renovation in 2007.

So there I was, knocked back on my heels by toasting almonds. The Macro/Micro shift between the almonds and stones made me giggle. Once again Life Imitates Art.

I recommend Richard Long’s Website and Gerhard Richter’s website as fantastic resources for discovering the breadth of their artistic grace.

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, June 25th, 2014

 

Pink and Francis Bacon-Life Imitates Art

double teeth

I am first and foremost a fan of looking, a fan of art, a life long student of visual expression and insatiably curious about how people see. Which brings me to an intriguing inversion of experience in my daily life. There have been many times in the last ten years that life has reminded me of art rather than the other way around. Such is my encyclopedic retention of visual art experience that often my primary source material for recognition of a world around me has been interpretive and not factual. Thus Life imitates Art.

pink

Driving down Fairfax on one of these crystal clear LA days I stopped at an intersection only to look up at a billboard for Pink’s new album or tour. I’m a fan. She’s an intrinsically good pop music artist. But Whoa! The shape of that mouth, a scream or high note, sent me immediately to Francis Bacon.
Here then three examples of Francis Bacon portraits, each of which exude more terror than sustained crescendo.

Francis Bacon 1909-1992 Left: Study for a portrait, 1952 Tate, London Center: Study after Veláquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953) Right: Three Studies of George Dyer'(detail)| Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

Francis Bacon 1909-1992
Left: Study for a portrait, 1952
Tate, London
Center: Study after Veláquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)
Right: Three Studies of George Dyer'(detail)| Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

Life continues to imitate Art.

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, June 5th, 2014

 

 

Artwork from Israel with Soul and Spirit

Moran Fisher 
Body and Clothes, 2014
Watercolor on paper 
35 x 45 cm (13.78 x 17.72 in) 
Courtesy of The Artist

The world of art-making is so vast. After I lived in Europe in the mid 80’s, I was floored by the ignorance in America of what I considered monsters of creativity that were household names on the European continent.

So it was not surprising that I should stumble across a treasure trove of excellent, engaging and rigorous work of Israeli artists currently featured on a benefit auction on Paddle8. The selection was curated with non-dogmatic vision by Sharon Zoldan an astute art advisor who specializes in artwork from Israel. The sale benefits the Stephen S Wise Temple here in Los Angeles.

In an effort to embrace good work, especially good art that might fly under the radar, I’m going to highlight nine artists’ work, all of whose art appears in the BENEFIT Auction. The work and the artists are all new to me. It is both the appreciation of evocative fine art and the sense of discovery that has motivated me to broadcast this post. Furthermore for those of you in the Greater Los Angeles Area I would urge you to visit the works in person on Sunday May 4th, 2014 from 10am to 3pm and again the following day May 5th, 2014 from 7:30am to Noon. RSVP with Melanie Fisher (mfisher2@WiseLA.org) at the Stephen S. Wise Temple.

 *****

Tirtzah Bassel  The Gallerists, 2013 Duct tape on Plexiglas  48 x 36 x 3 cm (18.9 x 14.17 x 1.18 in)  Courtesy of Slag Gallery, Gitler &____ Gallery and the Artist  Signed on verso

Tirtzah Bassel
The Gallerists, 2013
Duct tape on Plexiglas
48 x 36 x 3 cm (18.9 x 14.17 x 1.18 in), Courtesy of Slag Gallery, Gitler Gallery and the Artist

The graphic line is most often associated with graphite or crayon or charcoal but there is nothing that says other media cannot be engaged. Tirtzah Bassel takes up just this challenge by drawing with Duct Tape. She has made large-scale installations of populated scenes in this medium. She is represented in this auction by a piece on Plexiglas titled The Gallerists. The figures have character and body language. The space in which they sit is economically delineated by perspective lines in yellow tape and a pedestal executed in the same color. The uncommon medium that so transfixes the viewer is merely an on-ramp to a remarkable tableau.

Click here for more Images by Tirtzah Bassel. Bassel’s Page in the Paddle8 Auction.

*****

Sivan Reuven  Untitled (White Series), 2011 Archival inkjet print  80 x 118 x 0.5 cm (31.5 x 46.46 x 0.2 in)  Edition of 5 Courtesy of The Artist  Signed on verso

Sivan Reuven
Untitled (White Series), 2011
Archival inkjet print
80 x 118 x 0.5 cm (31.5 x 46.46 x 0.2 in)
Edition of 5, Courtesy of The Artist

Black and White Photography can often seem so laced with nostalgia or preciousness. Sivan Reuven wrestles the medium from its quaint trappings. Her work is featured by several examples of her White Series. Reuven composes her shots as a modernist, stark lines and divisions observed in everyday settings. What is not shown is every bit the subject as what is. The Ping Pong Table is easily initially read as a landscape, horizon line with Moon. The table and net are registered and the perspective changes. Under further scrutiny, the player is playing by himself with the opposing side laid perpendicular to the surface. Each of these adjustments affects a parallel shift in metaphor. And in the hands of this remarkably gifted artist, the ordinary becomes sublime.

 Reuven’s page in the Paddle8 Auction.

*****

Orly Maiberg  Kinneret Crossing, 2013 Oil on canvas  140 x 180 x 3 cm (55.12 x 70.87 x 1.18 in)  Courtesy of The Artist

Orly Maiberg
Kinneret Crossing, 2013
Oil on canvas, 140 x 180 x 3 cm (55.12 x 70.87 x 1.18 in), Courtesy of The Artist

Orly Maiberg applies paint with an authoritative touch to evoke swimmers and a churning sea. Vacation and leisure time might be one’s first read. And one wouldn’t be wrong. But Maiberg’s subject is known in Hebrew as ha’tzlicha, the crossing of the Kinneret Lake, an annual sporting event. With this knowledge it’s not far to imagine the seeking of refuge, exile and escape. The Sea of Galilee is a site that holds great religious, cultural and national importance. Maiberg taps these allusions while never being illustrative. The metaphors are multiple and the tactile experience mellifluous.

 Click here for more Information on Orly Maiberg.  Maiberg’s page in the Paddle8 Auction.

*****

Ofir Dor  Woman With Big Head, 2013 Oil on canvas  33 x 28 x 2 cm (12.99 x 11.02 x 0.79 in)  Courtesy of The Artist

Ofir Dor
Woman With Big Head, 2013
Oil on canvas, 33 x 28 x 2 cm (12.99 x 11.02 x 0.79 in), Courtesy of The Artist

Ofir Dor’s brushstrokes have velocity. Colors accelerate across the canvas and careen in twists and turns that offer the viewer’s eye a racing track of immense pleasure. That these brushstrokes congeal into expressive figure portraits of women can almost seem secondary but they do. The women, sometimes sensual often suggestive, are strangely anonymous. They are form and movement rather than feature or identity. But herein lies the electricity they exude. Dor, needless to say, battles masters like deKooning but he carves out a relevance all his own.

More infomation on Ofir Dor. Dor’s page in the Paddle8 Auction.

*****

Ofer Lellouche  Geraniums, 1995 Etching on paper  110 x 150 cm (43.31 x 59.06 in)  Edition of 19 Courtesy of The Artist  Signed

Ofer Lellouche
Geraniums, 1995
Etching on paper, 110 x 150 cm (43.31 x 59.06 in)
Edition of 19, Courtesy of The Artist

Ofer Lellouche by all accounts is considered a master and elder statesman of Fine Art in Israel. Having been introduced only recently, I can only agree with the moniker and the respect it evokes. Lellouche is represented in the auction by a tactile etching of Geraniums in black and white. The scale of the print is large placing the viewer deep in a flowerbed and at eye level with the plants. More leaves are drawn than flowers, which gives the pieces either the anticipation of pre-blossom or the ennui of post-blossom. The artist is obviously a classicist, which is refreshing indeed. Lellouche is also ample proof that the gold to be mined from the classic still life, portrait or landscape genres has yet to be depleted.

More Information on Ofer Lellouche. Lellouche’s page in the Paddle8 Auction.

*****

Neta Harari  Now they're all coal, 2011 Oil on plywood  160 x 120 x 3 cm (62.99 x 47.24 x 1.18 in)  Courtesy of Inga Gallery and the Artist

Neta Harari
Now they’re all coal, 2011
Oil on plywood, 160 x 120 x 3 cm (62.99 x 47.24 x 1.18 in), Courtesy of Inga Gallery and the Artist

Neta Harari’s paintings hover between illustration, fantasy and nightmare. The depiction of violence is damn near impossible to pull off without pathos but Harari achieves it handsomely. Chaos and cacophony are present too. And those horses place the event either outside of history or in an out-take of Game of Thrones. One thing is for sure, impact is intended and achieved. An effective implementation of terror is the idea that the aggressors are visible but the victims not. This paradigm immediately puts the viewer into the roll of the victim. By not seeing, the heart is galvanized into empathy.

Click here for more information on Neta Harari. Harari’s page in the Paddle8 Auction.

*****

Moran Fisher  Body and Clothes, 2014 Watercolor on paper  35 x 45 cm (13.78 x 17.72 in)  Courtesy of The Artist

Moran Fisher
Body and Clothes, 2014
Watercolor on paper, 35 x 45 cm (13.78 x 17.72 in), Courtesy of The Artist

Moran Fisher may just be my personal favorite of this selection. It quite obvious that Ms. Fisher is a painter of remarkable talent, instinct and skill. Her recent work has involved what only appears to be effortless depictions of fabric, folds and drapes. But the subject is the human body underneath these fabrics. The watercolor here is liquid and assured. The translucence suggests silk or rayon. Pattern remains pattern. But the compositions electrify the eye and transcend the possible banality of subject matter. There’s so much sensuality to Fisher’s painting that it could make you blush. By my take, Fisher may be the freshest artist in this exhibit, but to my eye her touch holds the most fascination. I literally can’t wait to see more of her work.

Click here for Moran Fisher’s Facebook Page.  Fisher’s page in Paddle8 Auction.

*****

Maya Gold  Untitled, 2013 Oil on canvas  127 x 150 x 3.5 cm (50 x 59.06 x 1.38 in)  Courtesy of The Artist  Signed on verso

Maya Gold
Untitled, 2013
Oil on canvas, 127 x 150 x 3.5 cm (50 x 59.06 x 1.38 in), Courtesy of The Artist

I must admit to having an extreme fondness for any work of work that coaxes from me a macro/micro perspectival shift. Maya Gold’s painting does this in spades. The honeycomb-like grid pattern initially reads like a tile of a bathroom floor. Of course this same shape is also used in paving stones so it’s natural that one’s read changes when seeing the reclining figure placed in the center. But is this figure injured or relaxing? And the figure does not entirely lock the perspective as landscape either. The bird’s eye view is unusual for landscape anyway. And even though the hues are rather grisaille, the allusion to honey comb never completely fades away. Gold’s image and technique resonate like a passage of music by Mozart that you find yourself inadvertently humming.

 Gold’s page in the Paddle8 Auction.

 *****

Eran Shakine  Pool, 1996 Oil on cardboard mounted on canvas  56 x 57 x 4 cm (22.05 x 22.44 x 1.57 in)  Courtesy of The Artist

Eran Shakine
Pool, 1996
Oil on cardboard mounted on canvas, 56 x 57 x 4 cm (22.05 x 22.44 x 1.57 in)
Courtesy of The Artist

Eran Shakine is the one artist whose work I was familiar. His line drawings, more like line paintings are narratively evocative. Some contain text that is often both witty and disturbing. The economy of touch could recall Julian Opie at times but in a more organic/analogue way. Shakine’s piece in the auction is from an older Pool series. Here he favored architectural depictions of Roman Baths. The execution also makes a strong turn away from the economical line drawing/painting of his recent work. Texture, saturated hues, drips and splashes match the moisture and liquid subject matter. The feel is a little less contemporary and delves into the timeless allusions of history and containment.

Shakine’s earlier work. Shakine’s page in the Paddle8 Auction.

The entire auction can be viewed here. I have included links to the artist’s own websites when available. And click on the individual images to view larger/higher quality images of the works.

Please join the conversation in the comments section.

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, April 21st, 2014

So Sublime, my head hurts a bit.

Two Days! Today and Tomorrow! That’s all that’s left.

The Exhibition, which closes this Saturday, April 12th, 2014, is a massive installation by the Swiss Artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss and is succinctly titled Polyurethane Objects. The gallery is Matthew Marks, here in Los Angeles on North Orange Grove.

Peter Fischli David Weiss: Polyurethane Objects Installatiuon Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles

Peter Fischli David Weiss: Polyurethane Objects
Installatiuon Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles

Entering the gallery one might easily mistake the greater tableau as an installation day at the gallery. Pedestals, buckets of paint, cigarette butts, power tools, coffee cups, a boom box, tires, moving palettes and box cutters lie around in varying concentrations of clutter. The detritus of a studio. The milieu of a work-in-progress workshop. But everything on display is placed with purpose. And everything, I mean everything is hand carved and painted. Trying to describe the sensation and the synaptic firestorm is perhaps futile. However, awe would not be a overstatement.

Peter Fischli & David Weiss: Polyurethane Objects Installation Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles

Peter Fischli & David Weiss: Polyurethane Objects
Installation Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles

Just go and see for yourself. This is one of those rare opportunities to witness something in person that defies the imagination. And even when you’re there, it defies comprehension. An heroic endeavor that elicits wonder, laughter and ennui.

Matthew Marks Gallery, 1062 North Orange Grove, Los Angeles  Through April 12th, 2014

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, April 2014

 

 

Hotel Texas

About fifteen years ago my dear friend Amy Weingartner introduced me to a particularly interesting term she coined. The descriptive phrase, as I remembered, was simply “Kennedy’s Children.” After a quick phone call, I was corrected. Her alliterative turn of phrase was “Camelot Kids.” Regardless, both descriptive monikers refer to those of us who were born during John F. Kennedy’s brief presidential administration. It places us squarely at the tail end of the Baby Boom generation, which is mostly defined as the post war surge in births from 1946 to 1964. I am a Camelot Kid.

President Kennedy speaks to the crowd outside the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, Texas, November 22, 1963. William Allen, photographer/Dallas Times Herald Collection Courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

President Kennedy speaks to the crowd outside the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, Texas, November 22, 1963. William Allen, photographer/Dallas Times Herald Collection Courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

It’s November and I just turned 51, one year shy of a full deck I’m fond of saying. I was one year and one week old when President Kennedy was assassinated. And I’ve been thinking a great deal about those fateful 34 months of his presidency. The intersection of personal and American history has always been of some intense interest to me. The intersection of art and political history is even more eclectic.

Jasper Johns. Diver. 1962-63. Charcoal, pastel, and watercolor on paper mounted on canvas, two panels, 7' 2 1/2" x 71 3/4" (219.7 x 182.2 cm). Partial gift of Kate Ganz and Tony Ganz in memory of their parents, Victor and Sally Ganz, and in memory of Kirk Varnedoe

Jasper Johns. Diver. 1962-63. Charcoal, pastel, and watercolor on paper mounted on canvas, two panels, 7′ 2 1/2″ x 71 3/4″ (219.7 x 182.2 cm). Partial gift of Kate Ganz and Tony Ganz in memory of their parents, Victor and Sally Ganz, and in memory of Kirk Varnedoe

Take 1962 alone. Jasper Johns executed Diver, one of my favorite drawings ever. Andy Warhol had his first one-man exhibition here in Los Angeles in July of that year. Yves Klein died of a heart attack five weeks earlier at the inconceivably young age of 34. Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me were both published in 1962. Lawrence of Arabia was the top grossing film that year but Lolita, Days of Wine and Roses and The Manchurian Candidate were also in the top twenty. On October 13th Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf opened on Broadway. Nine days later my father whisked my mother, then eight months pregnant, off on a four-hour drive away from Manhattan, to upstate New York, Bolton Landing to be precise. The reason: the Cuban Missile Crisis.

To dip one’s toe in this simultaneity makes for a richer understanding of an era. Art history is almost always taught without popular or political context. Conversely, history is too often taught without the richly accompanied texture of (high and pop)culture’s offerings.

On Friday, November 22nd we mark the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas. What few people know however is that President Kennedy travelled to Texas a full 30 hours before his ride in the open-air limousine at Dealey plaza. He and Jackie didn’t overnight in Dallas but rather 34 miles to the west at Hotel Texas in downtown Fort Worth. The reason for his trip was political. The upcoming year’s reelection campaign was already starting and his goal was to mend rifts between the liberal and conservative factions of the Texas Democratic Party.

Living Area, Suite 850, Hotel Texas  Living Area, Suite 850, Hotel Texas, Fort Worth, Thursday, November 21, 1963 Pictured: Lyonel Feininger, "Manhattan II," Franz Kline, "Study for Accent Grave," Morris Graves, "Spirit Bird"

Living Area, Suite 850, Hotel Texas
Living Area, Suite 850, Hotel Texas, Fort Worth, Thursday, November 21, 1963 Pictured: Lyonel Feininger, “Manhattan II,” Franz Kline, “Study for Accent Grave,” Morris Graves, “Spirit Bird”

Less than a week before his arrival, descriptions of Suite 850 at Hotel Texas were released to the public. Fort Worth Press art critic Owen Day thought the accommodations lacking and came up with the idea of decorating the three primary rooms with significant art that would properly convey to the President and First Lady the cultural sophistication of Fort Worth. He recruited prominent collectors and civic leaders, including Samuel Benton Cantey III, Ruth Carter Stevenson, Ted Weiner and Amon Carter Museum Director Mitchell Wilder. This ad hoc curatorial bravado included paintings by Claude Monet and Lyonel Feininger, an oil on paper study by Franz Klein and bronze sculptures by Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso. And this was just the parlor. Jacqueline Kennedy’s bedroom had a distinctly impressionist feel with works by Pendergast, Van Gogh, Marin and Dufy. And the President’s bedroom carried a more manly sartorial flair including Thomas Eakins, Marsden Hartley and Charles M. Russell.

Ruth Carter Johnson and Lucile Weiner with "Angry Owl" by Pablo Picasso, 1963  Courtesy of the University of Texas at Arlington Library, Arlington, Texas, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, Special Collections

Ruth Carter Johnson and Lucile Weiner with “Angry Owl” by Pablo Picasso, 1963
Courtesy of the University of Texas at Arlington Library, Arlington, Texas, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, Special Collections

This story has moved me tremendously ever since I heard it about a year ago. It speaks to me as a heroic act of generosity on the part of the inspired and ambitious civic leaders who pulled it together. It moves me as a grace note to the events of the following day and the tremendous scar that it left on a nation. It also, with great significance, is a reflection of the leadership role that the President and the First Lady played in championing the arts. It can be argued that no President before or after paid the respect to arts that John F. Kennedy did in his lifetime. The proof of this might be best witnessed in the linguistic fireworks of his speeches. Kennedy wielded metaphor and images at the service of inspiration, hope and aspiration. This attitudinal shift from the bully pulpit of the White House happened right at a time when the capital of the fine art world had immigrated from Paris to New York; from the old school of European tradition to the wild west of American Avant Garde.

Franz Kline (1910–1962)  Study for Accent Grave, 1954  Oil wash on paper © 2012 The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Franz Kline (1910–1962)
Study for Accent Grave, 1954
Oil wash on paper
© 2012 The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

I have, over the last several months, gone through what some might call a crisis of confidence. No feeling artist is immune to these occasional bouts of ennui. Some of this existentialism was based on the transposition of the financial inequities of the American economy versus the role that Fine Art plays in society in general. In a nut shell: if there is a 99%-1% split in the American economic landscape then perhaps, just perhaps, there is a 99.9%-.1% split in the American Societal landscape for those who consider that Fine Art is essential. Crunch the numbers and this comes out to around 313,000 people for whom Fine Art might matter. Glass Half Full? Or Half Empty?

But the lessons of Hotel Texas hold firm. Fine Art, and culture in general for purposes of this argument, is not only cause, it is effect. It is not only the light which illuminates our soul but also the mirror with which to judge the human condition. It is also both symptom and disease. In the end it is a catalytic converter of empathy. Most people may be intimidated by art, but the transformative potential never wavers.

For me, Art matters.

The Beatles in 1963.

The Beatles in 1963.

By mid December 1963 a Washington D.C. DJ named Carroll James started playing the Beatles on WWDC Radio. In today’s lingua franca, it went viral. On December 26th, a few days more than a month after those shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, the Beatle’s first album I Wanna Hold Your Hand was released in America, administrating, many could say, a most fortuitous pop culture salve of optimism, hope and tuneful distraction.

Art Matters! Culture Matters! Pop Culture Matters! Pop Art Matters!

Art, Music, Film, Dance, Books, Poetry are not luxuries, they are essential to the fiber of human spirit. They create the weave of experience. They afford us insight that allows us to move forward.

-Mario M. Muller, November 2013, Los Angeles

Postscript #1:
The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth currently has an exhibition reuniting all the works that were displayed in the Presidential Suite #850. The Exhibition, Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy continues through January 12th, 2014

Postscipt #2
Click here to hear a three minute interview with actor Bill Paxton as he remembers hearing John F. Kennedy on the morning of November 22nd, 1963 in front of Hotel Texas.

Postscript #3

One significant catalyst for my near obsession with the interdependance of art and political history is a fantastic book called The Judgement of Paris. In it Ross King traces the trajectory of Manet’s career in Paris from 1850’s through 1890’s. But far from a standard monograph, he weaves societal, economic, political and art history in a way that makes one wonder how any area of expertise can be appreciated without this wide angle lens. NY Times Review and Amazon page.

Candice Breitz at Perry Rubenstein

Video as an art medium defies conventional expectations and desires. It is often for this reason alone that so much of “video art” falls so miserably flat.

It was with an arched eyebrow of mistrust and doubt that I entered the Perry Rubenstein Gallery about ten days ago to sample the art of Candice Breitz. Let me state on the record, it is a winning state of affairs for an artist to completely delight a viewer with such subterranean expectations. Ms. Breitz is not only a gifted artist but also an astute analyst of fame, desire and pop culture. Intellect and ambition are wedded to wit and a musical sense of rhythm and editing. The effect is hypnotic.

There are three installations on exhibit. Each has its own particular charm but the winner for me was The Rehearsal in the far west gallery of the Rubenstein complex. Six vertical video monitors deliver interviews with different characters. And this is as far as I’m willing to go on descriptive detail. Let me take a moment to explain.

Imagine for a second that before you sat down to see Citizen Kane for the first time, you were handed a press release or a review that said “What you’re about to watch is an examination of a man’s rise to power, the costs that power extracts on the human soul and the loss of innocence and youth as exemplified by a sled named Rosebud.” What I’m getting here is that press releases are spoilers, plain and simple. But press releases, and for that matter even non-partisan descriptive criticism are only spoilers for great art which delivers the impact of the artist’s intention through their work regardless of chosen medium. Press releases are apologies for failed art that needs the crutch of verbalized intention.

This exhibition needs no crutch. The work delivers its content. And furthermore, were I to describe the mise en scene in greater detail, it would only limit the interpretative range of the art. This is one of the rare examples of video art that has emotional range and possibility.

It is with this in mind that I refuse to articulate some of the back-stories on display here. I will however address the ingredients of brilliance, strategies of narrative engagement and technical prowess. Experience the installations for yourself. Then, and only then feel free to read the explanations offered at the front desk. To do otherwise is to rob yourself of the pleasures of discovery, the magic of epiphany delivered in the dark galleries of video monitors.

The Rehearsal, 2012 / From the trilogy The Woods Shot at Oakwood Premier, Mumbai, India: May 2011 Excerpt, Six-channel Installation Commissioned by ACMI (Melbourne) + PEM (Salem)

Candice Breitz, The Rehearsal, 2012 / From the trilogy The Woods
Shot at Oakwood Premier, Mumbai, India: May 2011
Excerpt, Six-channel Installation
Commissioned by ACMI (Melbourne) + PEM (Salem)

Ms. Breitz uses actors in conventional ways to solicit empathy and narrative identification. Her technical skills as a filmmaker are without question, which is a blessing. Too much video art is just sloppy and unlike a fingerprint smudged charcoal drawing, much video art comes off as amateurish rather than authentic. It’s a matter of the tactile reality of the video medium versus the rough feel of a cold pressed piece of paper. Breitz defies convention with multiple screens and disjunctive editing that draws you in rather than alienates. Her editing is symphonic. The rhythms are jazzy and syncopated but she establishes a beat first only to under cut it with flash edits and staccato sequences that exhilarate. Tight close ups are used as punctuation rather than verbs or nouns.

I’ve stated on several occasions that I believe filmmaking to be the singular medium of the 20-century. When compared with painting or drawing, film is still in its infancy, much like Los Angeles is a pre-teen compared with the likes of New York, Paris or London. And unlike oil painting or India ink, film became an industry, thus delaying its mature use as a fine art medium. And because of this, I believe film to hold potential that far outweighs what we’ve witnessed thus far. Breitz realizes some of this potential in this exemplary exhibition.

Candice Breitz at Perry Rubenstein Gallery continues through December 14th, 2013

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, October 28th, 2013

Candice Breitz at Perry Rubenstein

citizen_kane

Video as an art medium defies conventional expectations and desires. It is often for this reason alone that so much of “video art” falls so miserably flat.

It was with an arched eyebrow of mistrust and doubt that I entered the Perry Rubenstein Gallery about ten days ago to sample the art of Candice Breitz. Let me state on the record, it is a winning state of affairs for an artist to completely delight a viewer with such subterranean expectations. Ms. Breitz is not only a gifted artist but also an astute analyst of fame, desire and pop culture. Intellect and ambition are wedded to wit and a musical sense of rhythm and editing. The effect is hypnotic.

There are three installations on exhibit. Each has its own particular charm but the winner for me was The Rehearsal in the far west gallery of the Rubenstein complex. Six vertical video monitors deliver interviews with different characters. And this is as far as I’m willing to go on descriptive detail. Let me take a moment to explain.

Imagine for a second that before you sat down to see Citizen Kane for the first time, you were handed a press release or a review that said “What you’re about to watch is an examination of a man’s rise to power, the costs that power extracts on the human soul and the loss of innocence and youth as exemplified by a sled named Rosebud.” What I’m getting here is that press releases are spoilers, plain and simple. But press releases, and for that matter even non-partisan descriptive criticism are only spoilers for great art which delivers the impact of the artist’s intention through their work regardless of chosen medium. Press releases are apologies for failed art that needs the crutch of verbalized intention.

This exhibition needs no crutch. The work delivers its content. And furthermore, were I to describe the mise en scene in greater detail, it would only limit the interpretative range of the art. This is one of the rare examples of video art that has emotional range and possibility.

It is with this in mind that I refuse to articulate some of the back-stories on display here. I will however address the ingredients of brilliance, strategies of narrative engagement and technical prowess. Experience the installations for yourself. Then, and only then feel free to read the explanations offered at the front desk. To do otherwise is to rob yourself of the pleasures of discovery, the magic of epiphany delivered in the dark galleries of video monitors.

The Rehearsal, 2012 / From the trilogy The Woods Shot at Oakwood Premier, Mumbai, India: May 2011 Excerpt, Six-channel Installation Commissioned by ACMI (Melbourne) + PEM (Salem)

Candice Breitz, The Rehearsal, 2012 / From the trilogy The Woods
Shot at Oakwood Premier, Mumbai, India: May 2011
Excerpt, Six-channel Installation
Commissioned by ACMI (Melbourne) + PEM (Salem)

Ms. Breitz uses actors in conventional ways to solicit empathy and narrative identification. Her technical skills as a filmmaker are without question, which is a blessing. Too much video art is just sloppy and unlike a fingerprint smudged charcoal drawing, much video art comes off as amateurish rather than authentic. It’s a matter of the tactile reality of the video medium versus the rough feel of a cold pressed piece of paper. Breitz defies convention with multiple screens and disjunctive editing that draws you in rather than alienates. Her editing is symphonic. The rhythms are jazzy and syncopated but she establishes a beat first only to under cut it with flash edits and staccato sequences that exhilarate. Tight close ups are used as punctuation rather than verbs or nouns.

I’ve stated on several occasions that I believe filmmaking to be the singular medium of the 20-century. When compared with painting or drawing, film is still in its infancy, much like Los Angeles is a pre-teen compared with the likes of New York, Paris or London. And unlike oil painting or India ink, film became an industry, thus delaying its mature use as a fine art medium. And because of this, I believe film to hold potential that far outweighs what we’ve witnessed thus far. Breitz realizes some of this potential in this exemplary exhibition.

Candice Breitz at Perry Rubenstein Gallery continues through December 14th, 2013

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, October 28th, 2013

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers