Marcus H. Mitchell - I Feel You (Piano Version)
In mid-1977, Mitchell began work on new recordings that became her first double studio album. Close to completing her contract with Asylum Records, Mitchell felt that this album could be looser in feel than any album she had done in the past. She invited Pastorius back, and he brought with him fellow members of jazz fusion pioneers Weather Report, including drummer Don Alias and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Layered, atmospheric compositions such as "Overture/Cotton Avenue" featured more improvisatory collaboration, while "Paprika Plains" was a 16-minute epic that stretched the boundaries of pop, owing more to Mitchell's memories of childhood in Canada and her study of classical music. "Dreamland" and "The Tenth World", featuring Chaka Khan on backing vocals, were percussion-dominated tracks. Other songs continued the jazz-rock-folk collisions of Hejira. Mitchell also revived "Jericho", written years earlier (a version is found on her 1974 live album) but never recorded in a studio setting.
Marcus H. Mitchell - I Feel You (Piano Version)
Tao Lin - Mandalas - Ka-Vá Kava Bar - ***.5Not what one expects when you hear the word "mandala," these are like an inversion of the Johnson in that they're extremely intricate but not particularly concerned with symmetry. As a result they're not hypnotic (I imagine they are for Tao when he's making them) but they make up for it with a rigorous detailing that encourages focused inspection, yet another form of classic trippy eye engagement. In terms of content they're rather consistent; the lines are executed with a steady attentiveness and the imagery rotate through the predictable fare of spirals, circles, diamonds, checkerboards, dogs, slightly cutesy faces, etc., without feeling forced or tiresome because the images aren't the point, it's the meditation of doing it. That placidity comes through in spite of the borderline-frenetic crowding of the page. I don't know what to make of all the optical/psychedelic art I saw this week, they're usually a welcome break from everything else because they're directly enjoyable in a way that art usually isn't, but that also means that they don't deliver in the same way because the easiness of their effect often makes them a bit "unserious" in an art historical sense. These work perfectly in a kava bar.
Andrei Koschmieder - On Broadway - 80WSE - ****This is oblique, which I like. It takes a particular kind of delicacy to end up with work that's willfully inarticulate, obscure by design rather than incompetence. The show, in a set of windows on Broadway, consists of a series of handmade, slightly clumsy imitations of neon signs hanging in the front of the window, backgrounded by a pattern of inkblot-type shapes. The signs read "CLUB" above "ESPRESSO," "COME" above "HERE," "LIQUOR," "COME" and "HERE" on top of each other, "LANDLORD" above "RENT AGAIN," and "SALAD" above "SALAD" above "SALAD." The press release is a short poem by the artist about a fender bender in the intersection the windows look out on. It's all about life in the city, then, but what does that mean? Obviously Koschmieder works downstream from Fischli and Weiss, but where their artist's studio objects aspired to a trompe-l'oeil confusion, his are self-evidently handmade and unconvincing. The neon lights don't even turn on! The second half of the show at the Washington windows (which feels a bit like an afterthought) is an imitation of the Nauman piece Neon Templates of the Left Half of My Body Taken at Ten Inch Intervals, which gives the joke a clear point: reference as travesty, an inverse Sturtevant. The imitation/invented store signage isn't so clear. It reminds me of nothing so much as the Fanelli Cafe sign, a vague nostalgia for our hazy conception of the old New York, but that couldn't be his point. If anything, the point is its pointlessness, an appropriation of mundane advertising without the weight of critique or commentary, making use of a form that has no content on its own and not imposing any content on it, letting its nothingness ring. Like a bell made of stone, the ring isn't satisfying. But unlike most art that tries to chime, Andrei makes objects that fail on purpose so their failure becomes a success. As a non-referential false appropriation it subverts expression, reference, even subversion itself, like a thud so dull that you notice it. It's weird.
John Currin - Memorial - Gagosian - ****.5I like this a lot more than Yuskavage, but why? There's a Balthusian shameless extremity to it, a precision of the explicit that still manages to feel transgressive in the present day against all odds, like The Guitar Lesson. Where Yuskavage transgresses like an old sexed-up Abercrombie & Fitch ad, there's a primal sexual discomfort in these paintings. The poses are obviously pornographic, and while the bodies are caricatured through exaggeration of breasts and legs and the conscious simplification of the genitalia, the distortion of the idealized woman-as-sex-object doesn't quite have a clear goal, which is why it's so uncomfortable. He's toying with the image functions of the pornographic presentation of the female form, retaining its conventions and pushing their limits without descending into the intentionally repulsive or parodic, so we're left in a space of the sexually uncanny. His technical mastery works perfectly to this end, the half-art historical half-sexual bodies, like the masturbating woman with her head framed by a medieval disc halo, and the simultaneously idealizing (with a bygone beauty standard) and inhuman ivory grisaille of the skin. Technique in the Renaissance worked towards an idea of the sublime in the portrayal of the bodily, and no matter how much we lament our loss of it, that spirit is no longer our own. Currin's subversion of the sublime beauty he could very easily paint if he only wanted to is in fact a truer use of his skill than a nostalgic classicism, because if he wanted to make a Titian it would read not only as hubris but out of step with the spirit of our time. Our imaginations are distended and excessive, not balanced and harmonious, and by showing this he comes as near as we possibly can to a contemporary classical painting, which, to be sure, isn't very close, but it is an achievement.
Louise Lawler - One Show on Top of the Other - Metro Pictures - ***.5Like I always say, conceptualism is a means to an end, that end being art worth looking at. Lawler's practice manages that admirably, her approach to processing/distorting/repeating images ends up consistently appealing in spite of what could very easily end up in insufferably corny net art territory were it not for her clear-eyed sensibility for what her processes actually do. Good example: the photo of the cat on a dog's back (beautiful) blown up and repeated in the back room is a "reveal" that becomes both funny and disorienting by forcing the viewer into her system of artifice through a contrast of the memory of the normal image with the blown-up version in the next room. The system itself is somewhat austere and rigid, like she's almost written herself out of her work, but it still delivers and "feels contemporary" which is I guess what I always think about good photography.
Ray Johnson - WHAT A DUMP - David Zwirner - ****An interesting question, who has a better sense of humor, Dan or Ray? Both are funny artists even if their work is seldom so explicitly. Ray is more clever, perhaps even a prodigy of puns and wordplay, but Dan seems like a naturally funnier person where it just comes out of him. I don't personally have much affection for mail art because I think its "random" nature is inherently lacking in intention and therefore not particularly generative, but you have to give him credit for being the proto-pop art proto-zine guy. In other words he's the king of a style I'm not quite sold on, though I'd much prefer contemporary artists with a professed interest in Zen to take up this sort of work than the gallery version of a massage therapist's kitsch new age decorations. It reminds me of psychedelia in a way, in the sense that the media accumulates density without necessarily accruing meaning, even in a "non-meaning as meaning" sense. I don't think his work flourishes in a gallery setting, its true life was in the process of its making, which is both its conceptual virtue and the weakness of this staging. I respect Johnson even if I don't particularly idolize him, which is roughly the way as I feel about someone like Warhol, who makes more than a couple appearances here. At any rate, what art needs now more than anything is this kind of lust for the act of making. 041b061a72