In my opinion, an extremely underrated artist. Not only are the works visually stunning and eloquently composed, but the research involved is mind blowing. I was first introduced to Mark Lombardi’s work in graduate school and immediately responded to what seemed like “simple” pencil diagrams of celestial objects or molecules. The understated complexity of the images and the connections being made between real people and events reveal not only layers of research and planning, but a glimpse into the shady underworld of globalization. These works are conceptually rigorous without losing a quiet visual beauty, rendered with the order of a scientist and the ease of a draftsman.
A companion link to “Multi-Channel: An Exhibition in Flux.”
January 20 – March 3, 2012
Intermediate opening: Friday, February 17th; 6-9pm
As a young artist I was obsessed with Picasso, especially the way he drew figures. His later works in particular are filled with a crude energy conveyed through his loose but confident handling. I was consumed in particular by the figure in the lower right in one of Picasso’s many examinations of Velázquez’s Las Meninas. In his later years Picasso systematically tackled the greats who preceded him. Particularly fellow Spaniards Goya, and his Maja, and Velázquez. In 1957 Picasso made numerous paintings and drawings dissecting the composition, it’s major players, focusing in on specific characters and re-inventing the overall picture inside and out. It culminated in the one pictured below.
The whole painting breaks down and becomes a field of blank white canvas occupied by this large spare figure. Offsetting this is the figure of Velazquez himself on the left, fragmented and sliced into panes, merging with the massive ramshackle canvas on which he paints. I was consumed with that casual, simplistic contour rendering. People are always saying “breaking the frame”, but that figure, like a diagrammatic symbol, steps into the world of the painting from some unseen zone, disrupting and confounding the picture plane in a way I have never seen anywhere else. It embodies everything about Picasso’s genius for abstracting and discombobulating the world around him. He sums it up in one of his oft-cited quotes: “I used to draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child.” In Picasso we see the way Ellsworth Kelly has created an oeuvre of abstract shapes from the observed world or Cy Twombly and his frenetic scribbling.
Apropos of our subject: “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.” -Picasso
Another painter who captivated me in my youth was also ceaselessly consumed by a Velázquez painting. Of course I speak of Francis Bacon and his screaming popes imprisoned in hell, derived from Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. Pope Innocent combined with the still of a bloodied woman’s face from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin became one of the strongest images of 20th century art and a motif Bacon returned to throughout his career. The iteration in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago is my favorite. It is dark and gloomy, like all of Bacon’s paintings. But Figure with Meat is even darker and creepier. This painting is almost evil. It’s disturbing and really fucking weird. It’s also a little bit humorously absurd. The pope, his teeth rotting out of his face, is framed by two sides of beef in some sort of black room or cage. Never has having logic and hope leeched from your soul looked so cool. It’s like the Picture of Dorian Gray somehow.
Damn it. And then there’s this. Another re-visitor, perhaps the king:
Sometimes engaging the work of a predecessor is less homage than an act of antagonism. Goya is Jake & Dinos Chapman’s main source of inspiration as well as source material and subject of ridicule.
You have the precedent of Robert Rauschenberg erasing a de Kooning drawing, of course, but with Willem’s permission. The Chapman Brothers, however, purchased a complete set of Goya’s “Disasters of War” printed in 1937 from the original plates. It set them back £25,000. They meticulously worked into each etching “improving” as they call it, by adding incredibly detailed grotesque and cartoony faces. This level of commitment and systematic execution is hard to dismiss as a cheeky bad boy prank.
Going along with the Plug exhibition “Remasters,” I submit artist, Sreshta Rit Premnath, for your consideration. Premnath works conceptually and semi-narratively through the modality of multiple mediums, favoring whatever form or vessel best fits the idea.
“Minimalism, Pop, and Conceptual Art offer Premnath an art historical language game, like so many of his generation who have returned to the “scene of the crime” of their parent and grandparent generations. But this game cum crime story also takes place between multiple media, which include photography, sculpture (the partial reconstruction of a kite designed by Wittgenstein in 1909), and painting.
Visual puns occur between objects, such as the five inkjet prints of detective fiction writer Norbert Davis firing a gun at a target out-of-frame (Toners, Dyes). The bullet hole seems to appear on an adjacent wall, as a hole cut-out of canvas (Eclipse). Similarly, the titles of many of the works play on the relationship between death and narrative (Storeys End; Toners, Dyes; Doyen’s Rest), a relationship defining of modern philosophy, art, and literature (think of Gertrude Stein’s comments about the structural importance of the corpse in her Everybody’s Autobiography; think also of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up and L’Aventura, in which the plots revolve around a corpse or missing person). The corpse of Storeys End, as in the detective novel, provides a pivot or absent center around which individual works interact, becoming visually and linguistically slippery—polysemous and indeterminate.”
-Text by Tom Donovoan
“Thinking about how political and economic power produces this unequal distribution of knowledge has remained important to me.
My work examines how paradigms of power produce and constitute our relationship to objects and events in the world. Consequently I tend to use media that I feel are most appropriate for the subject matter that each project sets out to investigate. In setting out to investigate how meaning is bracketed and produced by regimes of power I cannot but ask those questions of each medium I use as well.
Having said this, there is a particular medium that I find especially challenging and that I am always drawn back to: the photograph. I often find myself torn between the apparent transparency and non-materiality of the photographic image and the skin-like assertion of the surface of painting. I try to use one against the other and to interrupt the surface of the photograph with painterly procedures.
I find myself returning again and again to certain writers for insight and inspiration. They include Jorge Luis Borges, Vilém Flusser and Ludwig Wittgenstein (his late work).
I have always been drawn to the questions raised by artists like Kosuth and Nauman in the late 60’s and 70’s, and have been attempting to use the methodologies of conceptualism to make socio-political investigations. I was recently introduced to the artwork of Edward Krasinski and have been interested in his ability to reconcile a complex analytical framework with formalist strategies and an understated narrative tendency.”
Sreshta Rit Premnath (1979, Bangalore) is an interdisciplinary artist based in New York, as well as the founder and editor of the magazine Shifter.
He completed his BFA at The Cleveland Institute of Art in 2003, his MFA at Bard College in 2006, and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2008. In 2011 he received the Art Matters Foundation Grant and the Civetella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship. Premnath’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions, including Storeys End, Galerie Nordenhake, Berlin, 2011; Rhizome, Wave Hill, New York, 2011 ; Leo (procedures in search of an original index), Gallery SKE, Bangalore, 2010; Zero Knot, Art Statements, Art|41|Basel, 2010; as well as numerous group exhibitions, including The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India, YBCA, San Francisco; Before and After, Galerie Balice Hertling, Paris, 2010; Spectral Evidence, 1A Space, Hong Kong, 2010; Other than Beauty, Friedman Benda Gallery, New York, 2010. Premnath has also curated On Certainty, Bose Pacia, New York, 2009, and the ongoing Project for an Archive of the Future Anterior.
I first came across Leslie Vance’s paintings at the David Kordansky’s booth at Miami Basel in 2010. Vance’s work was also featured in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. The paintings have a huge presence and have endless depth but are actually quite small, approximately 16 x 12in. The way Vance uses painting history as a depature point but filters that tradition through a language of abstraction actually brings the viewer’s relationship to painting, and all questions therein, into sharp focus.
We begin the Revisitors collection with Paul Cézanne and “A Modern Olympia.” Cézanne was compelled to tackle and “update” Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863) for years. I find it quite interesting that such a short period of time had passed between Manet’s, which was created in 1863 but not shown at the Paris Salon until 1865, and Cézanne’s first update, painted between 1869 and 1870.
This work is good to start with since as an image it has a long lineage of re-interpretation. Manet’s Olympia was itself based on Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) which in turn was based on Giorgoine’s Sleeping Venus (c. 1510) and so on. The reclining nude is a classic arty subject and one could go wild citing examples. With these iterations we have concrete instantiations that also have served to popularize and canonize the genre.
Manet dramatically modernized the female nude in Olympia. Rather than use the character of a goddess as an excuse to depict the female body, Manet embraced the Modern, i.e. contemporary people in contemporary situations. Which for Manet and the men of his era was a high-class prostitute. This is a frank depiction of bourgeois Paris sexuality told through historical symbolism, such as the pose, the cat, the ribbon round her neck and other details. And while this could be dismissed as another example of male sexism, it is important to note Olympia returns the gaze and sits proudly, unashamed of her body or her sexuality.
An additional tenant of modernism, as cited by early modernism’s main apologist Emil Zola, is the way Manet’s paintings look like paint. Rather than handled in such a way as to appear like fabric or skin or whatever, Manet’s paintings show their brushstrokes with pride. This was an earlier work by Manet, so it wasn’t nearly as messy as what he and the Impressionists got into later.
Now that the temps finally dropped, we will all be spending more time inside the gallery and studios. So I thought I’d start compiling a list to keep minds sharp and winter blahs away.
Currently reading “The Artist-Run Space of the Future” by Chris Kennedy. “A research brief and some incomplete thoughts about the artist-run space of the future from the Institute for Applied Aesthetics, Office of Research Experiment Stations.” I will be bringing a copy to Plug to share and distribute. Stop by on Saturdays (10a-5p) to weigh in on the text/topic. More resources can be found at Applied Aesthetics.
A recent arrival to Plug Projects is Cory Imig’s copy of Golden Age’s recently published, Reference Work. Reference Work is a conceptual business textbook written by Martine Syms and Marco Kane Braunschweiler.“It is difficult trying to enter the business world as a right brain thinker, not because those skills aren’t essential, but because that world is structured around hard metrics and art is difficult to quantify. Reference Work is intended to demystify some of the day-to-day operations of a cultural business and expand the definition of commercial success.”
And I’m still missing this terrific compendium of art writing, John Kelsey’s “Rich Texts: Selected Writing for Art.” It was stolen from my car outside of The Whistler Bar in Chicago. If you see it, call me. I need to get another copy. I love the design of the book a la Sternberg Press. Photographs of top female tennis players in action poses act as pauses between each essay and remain unexplained. Kelsey talks about art from the hip, from the gut. I particularly like the way he outlines Charline von Heyl’s paintings in his essay, Big Joy Time.
On deck in my reading list: “The System of Objects (Radical Thinkers)” by Jean Baudrillard.
I’ve been invited to be the guest curator for Plug Blog and will be posting a series of images of selected throughout the run of the exhibition “Remasters” at Plug Projects.
Consider these catalogue entries for an exhibition that does not exist. The title of this collection of images is Revisitors. And that would be the show’s title, if it existed. Perhaps someday.
This selection of works is concerned with artists who’ve taken on a specific piece by a predecessor and remade it or re-envisioned it in some way. This includes re-working, re-intrepreting and perhaps even improving. Revisitors tries to walk a fine line excluding obvious historical precedents, such as Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., a reproduction of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa on which he drew a moustache and termed a “rectified readymade.” Additionally, Revisitors is not concerned with parody kitsch, nor treating the preceding work of art as mere source material to sample or sacred cow to deface. This works in Revisitors display a committed and focused engagement with their subject, whether motivated by homage or plagued by animosity.
– Erik Wenzel
Plug Projects is pleased to introduce our second Guest Blog Curator and Contributor, Erik Wenzel. He will be blogging from Berlin, in response to the Remasters exhibition on view at Plug Projects through January 6, 2012.
Erik Wenzel is presently based in Berlin. He is an artist and writer. This past October Wenzel presented If travel is searching & home what’s been found at the WerkStadt Kulturverein in Berlin, DE. Other Recent solo exhibitions include Live A Little, Live Ennui at the Harold Washington College President’s Gallery, and New ‘N’ Lonelier Laze at DOVA temporary, Chicago, 2010. And Belief in Doubt in Painting at 65GRAND, Chicago, 2009. He is co-editor and contributor to “Internal Necessity: a reader tracing the inner logics of the contemporary art field” published by the Sommerakademie at the Zentrum Paul Klee and Sternberg Press. His recent writing on art can be found at ArtSlant Berlin. Ongoing online projects include Kunst oder Dumheit? Cats From Art History and Art or Idiocy?