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Walead Beshty at the Barbican Center in London, UK

2 Oct 2014

Walead Beshty
© Photo by Alexei Tylevich

For our friends in London: On October 9th, Comic Future alum Walead Beshty’s new exhibition will open at the The Curve in the Barbican Centre. Entitled A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench, the show features over 12,000 cyanotype prints made by Beshty that will cover the wall of The Curve gallery from floor to ceiling.

More from the Barbican Center:

“The installation is presented in chronological order, allowing the work to be read as a visual timeline, shifting in appearance along with the artist’s physical and temporal location. A central platform specially designed by London-based David Kohn Architects and constructed using recycled materials from a previous Barbican exhibition, enables the visitor to view the installation from alternative perspectives…Walead Beshty’s artwork explores photography’s ability to capture contemporary social and political conditions, often making the viewer question the possibilities of photography and its relationship to the world we live in.”

In a related event: Beshty and writer/critic Brian Dillon will have an in-depth discussion of the artist’s practice on November 26 at the Barbican Center.

Liz Craft in “Artforum”

17 Sep 2014

Liz Craft, Candy Colored Clown 1,2,& 3, 2010,  Photography © Fredrik Nilsen Liz Craft’s Candy Colored Clowns in Comic Future. Photography © Fredrik Nilsen

 

LA artist and Comic Future alum, Liz Craft, was recently interviewed for the “Top Ten” feature in Artforum, where she gives a shout out to Ballroom and recounts her time in Marfa:

Good curating doesn’t just bring together interesting combinations of art; it also brings together artists. Last fall, Ballroom Marfa invited me to participate in a show called “Comic Future,” and as it happened, the majority of people included in the exhibition came out for the opening. For three days we hung out in this small Texas town.

I liked everyone involved, but had a particularly good time with Sue Williams. The experience made me remember how much I like artists.

 

Check out the rest of Craft’s “Top Ten” at Artforum.

Aaron Curry at Michael Werner, London

14 May 2014

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From the artist’s studio, 2014. Image courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery.

Opening June 6th, Two Face and Comic Future artist Aaron Curry will unveil an exhibition of his new paintings at Michael Werner, London. Aptly titled Aaron Curry: Paintings, the show is the artist’s “first exhibition devoted to paintings, representing a new direction in his work.”

From Michael Werner Gallery:

Curry’s new, large-scale paintings on canvas… are a departure from the artist’s sculptural practice and represent an entirely new direction in his work. Strikingly illusionistic renderings of grotesque figures and heads, painted in savagely intense hues, call upon a rich array of visual associations high and low: Yves Tanguy and Robert Williams, Japanese ‘ghost heads’, Roberto Matta and the checked-out illustrations of Juxtapoz, Juan Gris and Garbage Pail Kids. Curry’s new paintings further complicate the visual and metaphoric potential of the artist’s pop-infused abstraction, blurring the line between contemporary psychedelia and classic surrealism.

Aaron Curry: Paintings will be on view from June 6- August 9,

Peter Saul Curates “If You’re Accidentally Not Included, Don’t Worry About It”

1 May 2014

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Invitation image by Peter Saul, courtesy of Zürcher Studio, New York.

Comic Future artist, Peter Saul recently tried his hand at curating, resulting in If You’re Accidentally Not Included, Don’t Worry About It at Zürcher Studio in New York. As Saul explains in a statement on the gallery website, the exhibition primarily includes “friends” of the artist and that his selection process was entirely subjective, stating:

I’ve got definite criteria for good looking, long lasting, important art, but nobody I know agrees with it. For this show, if I had to choose between 2 images, I chose the one that was more pictorial, sensational, illusionistic, glamorous, humanistic, funny, sexual, quarrelsome, violent, ugly, etc. etc. In case none of these applied, I chose the one I thought was more unusual to look at. The only absolute was to choose small works, so that more and more could fit in.

The exhibition includes works by 21 artists, including: Gina Beavers, Brian Belott, Chuck Close, Steve DiBenedetto, Austin Lee, Judith Linhares, Taylor McKimens, Sally Saul, and Karl Wirsum. As well as pieces by past Ballroom artists Polly Apfelbaum, Erik Parker, and a work by Saul himself.

In a review of the show, Hyperallergic notes that:

As a curator, Saul may have a set of criteria nobody agrees with, but his rapid-fire choices based on the “pictorial, sensational, illusionistic, glamorous, humanistic, funny, sexual, quarrelsome, violent, ugly, etc. etc.” have presented us with a group of artists who display emotional truth in all its spattered, greasy, savage, hyperbolic glory.

(Very) Young Artists Visit Erik Parker’s Brooklyn Studio

10 Apr 2014

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All images courtesy of SCO.

Comic Future artist Erik Parker recently opened up his studio to a group of students from the Family Dynamics after-school art program, where he invited them to ask questions and take a closer look at his work. Parker, who is 2014’s Honorary Chair for the 4th Annual SCO/Family Dynamics Art Auction & Cocktail Party, has donated his piece New Knowledge to the live auction in order to support art instruction in the high-need Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

From the SCO website:

Parker encouraged the students to get a close look at his works in progress on the walls of his Williamsburg studio, ask questions about his methods and style (“Contemporary, because I’m still alive!”) The students carefully studied the canvasses and even sketched a bit of what they were seeing. “I love the colors he uses,” said Shaunessy Dungee.

He discussed where he gets his inspiration (old magazines, cartoons like “The Simpsons,” the internet.) “Actually, I’m afraid to talk about where the ideas come from – I’m afraid they’ll go away,” Parker said. He also took time to look over the sketchpads that the students brought to show him their own works in progress.

To learn more and buy tickets to the Art Auction and Cocktail Party, which takes place on April 28th, visit SCO.org.

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But we not going in saying we (definitely) have to make changesNJ Republicans seek gains in Legislature but can Chris Christie help EST February 2, 2015 The top Republican in the Assembly and organizer of the event, Jon Bramnick of Union County, said he is confident Christie will “100 percent” work for state GOP candidates this fall. Smaller sizes are available for toddlers, pre schoolers and grade school pupils. Lorsque Dieu programmera la leur, un simple SMS pr la famille. And that would only come about if every team chipped in $2 million or $3 million because that how much it would mean. Report number 54, 2005, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham. Unless and until the ‘ruling political elite’, elected to govern this country, understands the true nature and character of the Islamic threat, we will never defeat it. Open plan kitchen/dining and family room. Pringle of Preston,

Adam Helms on Comic Future

30 Jan 2014

Philip Guston Philip Guston, San Clemente, 1975. To commemorate its closing on February 2nd, we’re presenting this series of essays about the artists featured in Comic Future. Previously we looked at Walead Beshty and Arturo Herrera. In this final essay, Adam Helms offers an overview of the exhibition as a whole. Helms is a New York-based artist whose work was part of the Ballroom Marfa exhibitions You Are Here (2005) and Every Revolution is a Roll of the Dice (2007). Comic Future will travel to the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio where it will be on view from May 17 through August 3, 2014. ——————————————– The Comic Presence After walking through the exhibition Comic Future, one work of art kept surfacing in my mind: Philip Guston’s San Clemente (1975), the grotesque lumbering caricature of Richard Nixon (fig. 1). In Guston’s later years, this single work (which metastasized into a painting from his drawing series From The Phlebitis Series (1975)) served as Guston’s vehicle for a gesture towards political satire, yet remained in keeping with his quasi-figurative language as a painter. Guston moved from his early years in the ’30s as a social realist into Abstract Expressionism; then finally to a mode of painting and draughtsmanship that incorporated personal narratives and symbols from within a cartoon or ‘comic’ figuration. The only painting of its kind in Guston’s oeuvre, San Clemente suggests that perhaps Guston had doubts about this particular piece. (1) Rather than the ambiguous identities of his Klansmen­ — or the heads, eyes and feet of his reoccurring figure subjects — this particular piece dealt with direct representation, Guston’s own anger and the politics of the time in which it was painted. San Clemente serves as Guston’s attempt to balance a work as both a history painting and a statement of political satire. In many ways, this Nixon cartoon caricature bridges the gap between Guston’s early social realist concerns — and politics — and the freedom he strove for as a painter breaking new ground rebelling in his departure from abstraction. For Guston’s intentions it straddles the issues of painting as much as it does political cartooning. Guston elevates the political and a mass cultural icon to the level of the sublime. It would be perhaps a form of alliteration to suggest that all of the artists in Comic Future directly reflect the bifurcation of Guston’s piece or intentions, but the spirit of San Clemente echoes throughout the exhibition. Beyond simply a selection of artists that deal with themes of ‘comic abstraction’ or even particular cultural references, Comic Future posits a multitude of questions surrounding political representation, archetypes and visual language, beauty and the grotesque and ultimately: painting and the materiality of objects through the prism of a ‘comical’ gesture. All of the artists represented here look to an appropriated and symbolic language to speak to the time and culture in which they find themselves and in which the works become a reflection or response. Though the intentions of individual artists may vary, the allure and levity of a visual comic language becomes a satirical and subversive conceptual strategy. Works on paper by Sigmar Polke, created between 1964-1969, All works courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London, Photography © Fredrik Nilsen Works on paper by Sigmar Polke, created between 1964-1969, All works courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London, Photography © Fredrik Nilsen The grouping of Sigmar Polke’s 13 works on paper (1964-69), involves an abject and almost proletariat language of comic-like capitalist imagery. This period of Polke’s work was generated during the postwar years of reconstruction in Germany and “apart from their self-critical questionings of Polke’s identity, parodied a taste for the trivial fueled by the banalities of everyday German life in postwar years and ensuing “economic miracle” (2). Polke together with Gerhard Richter saw their work at this time as “Capitalist Realism”. Influenced as a reaction to American Pop, Polke’s works indicate an almost investigative approach towards what he and his colleagues at the time saw as the “authentic cultural phenomenon” of Pop in the imagery of both the mass media and economic system of the West towards an art making moving from the structures of the conventional art of the time (3). In these works Polke remains ensconced between the camp of a Dadaist-like subversion of consumerist imagery and an embracing the visual apparatus of a mass culture that he would help to elevate to ‘high art’.

The Los Angeles Free Music Society At The Opening of Printed Matter’s L.A. Art Book Fair

29 Jan 2014

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Above: Extended Organ at Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, November 2013. L to R: Paul McCarthy, Joe Potts, Tom Recchion, Fredrik Nilsen, Alex Stevens. Photo: Danny Gromfin, courtesy of East of Borneo.

If you were looking for a reason to attend Printed Matter’s L.A. Art Book Fair (other than the thousands of amazing printed material), look no further. Presented by East of Borneo and The Box, The Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS), “the seminal West Coast experimental music collective”, will be performing at the book fair’s opening on Thursday, January 30.

The night begins at 6pm with improvised music by John Wiese and Ted Byrnes. At 7pm, Extended Organ, a band composed of long-time Ballroom photographer Fredrik Nilsen and Comic Future artist Paul McCarthy will take the stage. Extended Organ also contains sound recordings by another Comic Future artist, Mike Kelley, who was a long-time member of the band before his death in 2012.

Finally, Airway, a noise orchestra created by Joe Potts in 1977 will perform at 8. For this special event, Airway will be composed of 16 on-stage musicians (including Nilsen and friend of Ballroom and Mike-Kelley-installation-expert, Dani Tull) and will also be joined by “Team Airway Japan”,

Comic Future Wrap-Up: Arturo Herrera

27 Jan 2014

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Arturo Herrera’s 88 DIA (1998), photo by Lesley Brown.

To commemorate the closing of Comic Future on February 2nd, we are presenting a series of essays and readings about some of the artists and their work represented in the show. Previously, we featured Walead Beshty, and his 2012 work, Unmasking. In this post, Ballroom’s Gallery Manager, Rebecca McGivney, discusses Arturo Herrera’s works in the show, including 88 DIA, which was commissioned specifically for Ballroom Marfa.

Comic Future will travel to the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio where it will be on view from May 17 through August 3, 2014.

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On the surface, Arturo Herrera’s two works in Comic Future, 88 DIA (1998) and Untitled (2001), look quite different. 88 DIA is a large colorful mural composed of a number of images. Though they at first appear somewhat abstract, the images quickly come into focus. A large potted plant topped by a red, spiky flower sits against a bright blue background. In the foreground, three cartoon birds fly above the figure of a girl. Although her head is hidden (or has been removed), she seems familiar.

Untitled also transforms the longer one focuses on it. At first it appears to be a large, black and white squiggle, somewhat reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock drip painting. It quickly becomes apparent that the entire drawing is composed of various recognizable shapes — namely some of the same shapes seen in 88 DIA. This is because both works use the same source material: Walt Disney’s 1937 classic, Snow White.

It is impressive that Herrera is able to disguise, even momentarily, such iconic images; but what is even more interesting is why he uses them at all. It is nothing new for an artist to take a familiar image and place it in a work of art; often, when one does so it is to critique and criticize what that image represents. As Roland Barthes notes in Mythologies: “the idols of consumer culture, car, refrigerator or screen goddess, have a totemic power in the modern age.” (Translated in S. Greeves, “The Language of the Wall”(MA Diss., the Courtauld Institute of Art, 1995), 29.) The most direct and effective way to break that power is by changing and subverting it. (see Sergei Chakhotin’s The Rape of the Masses: The Psychology of Totalitarian Political Propaganda, 1940)

Herrera, however, does not use these images expressly for the purpose of negation. Rather, they relate to his interest in modernism and its ideal of universality. In addition to Herrera’s various aesthetic references to modernism (his use of collage techniques and found material, as well as allusions to various artistic movements including surrealism, cubism, abstract expressionism, pop-art, and the affichistes, to name a few), the artist confirms that he is strongly attracted to the conceptual ideas behind modernism, particularly the belief that art is universal. As he explains in an interview: “Modernism’s boundless optimism and idealism created exciting visual realities. Some of these propositions failed or are no longer valid…. The key is to have a critical dialogue with this legacy.” Thus, while Herrera is attracted to these ideals, he differs in how he accomplishes them. While the modern artist hoped to create a work that could instantaneously convey its meaning through abstraction, Herrera uses the figurative and familiar to establish a “connection” and give the viewer something of which to grab hold: Snow White.

It is important to note that when Disney was first founded, the company’s work was seen as extremely modern. So much so that Sergei Eisenstein once declared Disney’s animations to be “the greatest contribution of the American people to art.” Walt Disney also shared in the modernist’s ideal of creating a universal art by appealing to our shared childhood. As he explained while defending his fantastical stories and imagery: “Everybody in the world was once a child. We grow up. Our personalities change, but in every one of us something remains of our childhood…. It just seems that if your picture hits that spot with one person, it’s going to hit that spot in almost everybody.” Herrera uses the same technique to entice the viewer into his work, the difference is that once one enters, Herrera, unlike Disney, no longer guides you. As he notes: “My work actually tries to discourage a specific message. It tries to free a place up, to clarify through ambiguity….You read the image very easily, but in the end, you are on your own.”

For more information on Herrera and his process, be sure to read his terrific conversation with Josiah McElheny from 2005 in Bomb. An excerpt:

The challenge is, how can an image so recognizable, like a dwarf, or a cartoon character’s foot or nose, or the red and blue specific to Snow White’s dress, have another meaning that I impose onto it? Is it possible? Can I make something so clear ambiguous? Can I uproot it? In which ways is the baggage that we bring to the new image relevant to the vivid recollections within our cultural context? I am attracted to juxtaposing invented images and readymade images without establishing explicit relations between elements.

From Herrera’s interview with Tom Friel of Bad At Sports:

Using everyday printed materials which are instantly recognizable leads the viewer directly into the image and at once a connection is established. Crashing our invented, private meanings onto a newly constructed image only adds to the impact of the original source. This undoing of linearity is attractive to me.

Finally, to see what Herrera is up to now, be sure to check out the images from his newest show, Books, at Corbett vs. Dempsey in Chicago. From a review at The Seen by Shreya Sethi:

These works come across as strong interventions into the act of reading. Using the help of stencils, Herrera haphazardly covers up the content of every page to the point of illegibility. We are forced to consider the nonrepresentational shapes foregrounded by the contents of the book, as a kind of linguistic information whose meaning we are left to determine.