Tau Lewis Featured on Art Basel

October 18, 2019
Tags: News, Tau Lewis

Tau Lewis’ forthcoming solo presentation at Art Basel Miami Beach is featured on Art Basel.

A conversation with Tau Lewis is an exercise in looking back as much as in looking forward. In discussing her figurative sculptures, she circles her art ancestry as frequently as she projects fresh narrative threads onto the work. Running this temporal gamut, she typically pivots around three themes: the potential for emotive transference in found materials, the imagining of new geographies for black existence, and the production of something generative, even as she incorporates the painful legacy of the Black Diaspora. As such, Lewis’ practice – which has become increasingly recognized internationally during its brief six years – feels at once melancholic and hopeful, and somewhere in between, tenacious and inventive.

Over the course of a studio visit with Lewis on a hot September day, I observe her sit almost intimately near a sculpture central to her upcoming presentation in Art Basel Miami Beach’s Positions sector (with Toronto gallery Cooper Cole). Harmony (2019) is long-limbed, spindly, and roughly sewn together – a spidery black figure in a posture of meditation, holding a threadbare, emptied-out globe. Her toenails are made of seashells that look like pale moons, as are her breasts. Her face carries several sets of eyes, and the darning of her black body suggests empathy and intensity, her stitching worked-over and hard-won. Harmony looks as if it has lived a very storied life.

Invested in what she calls the ‘material DNA’ of her fabrics, Lewis takes donations and scours the Salvation Army shops in whichever place she’s visiting to source her textiles. She works while on the road, between fairs and exhibitions, finding new swathes and quilting from her suitcase. The artist has long favored found objects (chains, paint cans, pipes, toys, hair, stones, copper, fabric, wires, acrylic paint, plaster), but recently she’s been particularly involved with fabric. In reviving discarded commodities, Lewis tells me, she transmutes their received histories and energies, and reveals the material’s provisional, labor-intensive nature as well as its evocations of the itinerant realities of the Black Diaspora. ‘So many of our cultural tools, especially against oppression, have to do with physical or situational upcycling,’ she says, ‘[whether] of a circumstance or an idea or an object.’

Born in 1993 to a Jamaican-Canadian family in Toronto, Lewis has quickly established herself among a wave of young figurative sculptors. Taking what has been described in Flash Art as a ‘wayward approach to figuration’, ‘Lewis’s […] practice orbits rather than settles on portraiture,’ writes Tiana Reid. With her family of sculptures, ‘the figural is where representation breaks down.’ Self-taught (Lewis started school twice – for design and journalism, respectively – but says it was a bad fit), Lewis produces work that exemplifies an ‘outsider’ aesthetic that has received much attention in recent years – if for its articulation of a particular kind of margin.

An undeniable marker of Lewis’ precocious achievements is a slew of recent solo and group exhibitions at galleries including Chapter NY, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and The Hepworth Wakefield, UK. Reflecting on this rapid rise to critical and commercial success, Lewis weighs her options. ‘I do think about this restriction of access that we can exercise as artists. How do I reserve myself and not feel like I’m giving everything away when I’m giving so much away?’ she asks. In response, at least partially, Lewis focuses on the labor of her practice and embeds secrets in the works – small talismans, texts – to mark them as her own.

A recent piece establishes a hand-sewn ‘map’ or family tree for one of her figures, and indeed, the figure and map come as a set, like a new friend who arrives with their stories and traumas. Titled Sparkles and Sparkles’s Map Home (2018), a stuffed, doll-like character sits on a chair, appearing relaxed, its legs crossed and head tilted to the side contemplatively. Hanging behind Sparkles is a visual shorthand of her personal history, the ‘map.’ It’s a patchwork of worn and loved materials riven with amulets, replete with memory and narrative gesture. This is the piece that began Lewis’ most recent series – the one where she began a new story.

Arguably part of Lewis’ desirability as an artist, but also part of her ability to mitigate its attendant scrutiny, is her sculptures’ sense of otherworldliness. This incorporeality can be traced to her aspiration to tell stories that feel future-oriented. She imagines her figures acting out narratives in space, or beneath the sea; she refers to recent works as mermaids, or as something unnamable, or spectral. In this way, Lewis grasps for something more generative or self-determined than the stories of loss and hardship that are threaded through her media. She gestures towards a new mythology, she says. Curtis Santiago, a peer Canadian figurative sculptor based in Brooklyn, New York, articulated a similar sentiment for his two-person show with Lewis at Cooper Cole in 2017. ‘I don’t want to talk about diaspora anymore,’ he wrote in the exhibition text. ‘I want to create spaces to think about it.’

The celebrated Pakistani-American sculptor Huma Bhabha could be a kind of godmother to Lewis and her peers – a notable generation of emerging figurative sculptors that includes Santiago, Diamond Stingily, and Kevin Beasley. Bhabha has asserted that her work benefits from the influence of science fiction and horror films. ‘Viewers won’t necessarily make the same connections, but I want them to have the pleasure of looking at something that calls other things to mind,’ she said in a 2010 Art in America interview with Steel Stillman. Stillman likens Bhabha’s work to ruins and notes how she exercises the ‘figurative idiom’ through found materials and recognizable postures. She then applies it ‘as the metaphoric basis for an art that, like science fiction, reports and warns at the same time.’ This simultaneous reporting and warning feels particularly relevant to Lewis’ practice, discernible in her use of found material that carries its history into new forms, for instance, or in the way she reaches backwards for ancestral citations, even as she crafts stories for the future.

What are also central to Lewis’ practice are the mobility, legibility, and protection that can be afforded by collaboration and collectivism. She landed her first studio in the Coffin Factory, an artist-run building that was recently shuttered in Toronto, where she shared a space with seven other women. From there, Lewis joined the RAGGA NYC collective, which comprises queer Caribbean artists including Oreka James, Aaron Jones, Michèle Pearson Clarke, Camille Turner, and Syrus Marcus Ware. Within this context, Lewis has had the opportunity to show at MoMA PS1, New York, and Mercer Union, Toronto, among other institutions, and to align her work with particular conversations around figuration in black Canada, visibility, and what she calls ‘the wandering.’ Lewis reflects on this as she puts together her presentation for Art Basel. ‘What does it mean for folks in the diaspora to wander? Not for the purpose of finding answers, but for the purpose of wandering. What does this tendency to mythmaking represent in us? Why do we recycle?’ she asks.

Lewis extends this wandering and upcycling to her own education, regularly traveling to seek out the artists who affect her the most. ‘I figured out that if I really adored someone and their art, and they’re alive, I should try to find them and see their work in person.’ This has led her to meet with Lonnie Holley, an Atlanta-based icon among Southern folk art, the sculptors and painters represented by Souls Grown Deep Foundation, a community dedicated to promoting African-American art from the South, and the Gee’s Bend quilting association. ‘I think there’s a lineage,’ she says, gesturing to her own work, ‘though I do think there’s a cut-off of access at a certain point.’ I ask her what she means by this, and she explains by way of process, citing her tendency to embed objects in her sculptures. Acknowledging what’s unknowable about her art ancestry is similarly about preserving autonomy, she says, ‘There will always be things about blackness and experience that are simply not knowable, or to be captured or bought.’ And so Lewis turns to the imaginary.

Sky Goodden is the founding publisher and editor of the international art publication and podcast Momus.

 

To view the full article please visit Art Basel.

For more information about Tau Lewis please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Kate Newby featured in Mousse Magazine

October 17, 2019

Kate Newby’s current solo exhibition Nothing in my life feels big enough has been featured in Mousse Magazine.

To view the full article please visit Mousse Magazine.

For more information about Kate Newby please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Kate Newby featured on Contemporary Art Daily

October 17, 2019

Kate Newby’s solo exhibition Nothing in my life feels big enough is featured on Contemporary Art Daily. 

To view the full article please visit Contemporary Art Daily. 

For more information about Kate Newby please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Kara Hamilton featured in tzvetnik

October 12, 2019

Kara Hamilton’s current solo show Nothing is wild is featured in tzvetnik.

To view the full article please visit tzvetnik.

For more information about Kara Hamilton please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Curtist Talwst Santiago is ‘In the Studio’ for Canadian Art

October 3, 2019

In advance of the inaugural Toronto Biennial this fall, Canadian Art is publishing a weekly series of behind-the-scenes features from artists, curators and participants in which they discuss the research and processes that inform their practices.

Curtis Talwst Santiago was a musician before he decided to devote himself solely to visual art. As a multidisciplinary artist, he first gained attention with his miniature dioramas; he’s now presenting performance, sculpture and painting projects in Canada, the United States, and abroad. He’s shown at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), Perez Art Museum (Miami), as well as the 2018 SITELines Biennial in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the 2018 Biennale de Dakar, Senegal. This fall, he’s participating in the inaugural Toronto Biennial. Here, he talks about some of the themes that inform his practice.

To view the video please visit Canadian Art.

For more information about Curtis Talwst Santiago please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

 

Vikky Alexander is Reviewed in Canadian Art

September 26, 2019

Vikky Alexander’s solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery is reviewed by Jayne Wilkinson in Canadian Art.

One of few Canadian artists associated with the Pictures Generation in 1980s New York, Alexander is known for her use of appropriation to critique the conventions of the advertising industry. That’s where “Extreme Beauty,” her first career-spanning retrospective, begins, with a series depicting ’80s supermodel Christie Brinkley in cropped and enlarged images framed under yellow glass. Obsessive and voyeuristic, their overt manipulation still startles, raising questions around authorship and image ownership anew. Her use of highly reflective coloured glass (elsewhere it’s black for full mirrored effect) implicates viewers too, such that one’s own gaze becomes simultaneous with the model’s, two sets of eyes staring back from within the frame.

Consumerism is a clear reference point but conceptually the works demonstrate how surface reflections produce images with no depth. That’s critical. By expanding the boundaries of what constitutes a photograph— through sculpture, collage, Plexiglas, mirrors and murals—Alexander points out how advertising is vacant, even objectless. In our era of Instagram consumption, this continues to ring true: it’s about selling the idea of the image and the desire of looking, not the product itself.

Surprising, to me, was how much of the work manipulated surface effects to confront the artificiality of nature, and reveal our desire for smooth images of “natural beauty.” Forests and lakes get the same treatment as the supermodel or the showroom: reflective glass, high-gloss finish, lifestyle-marketing and product placement. Wall-size murals read like ads for national parks, reproductions of model condo suites look not-quite-right, modern interiors are furnished with fake wood panelling and boutique pets—all of it suggests that nature is something constructed, to be looked at from safe distance.

It’s a body of work perfectly suited for Vancouver, whose flowering trees and snow-topped mountains and sunset beaches are impossible not to see, reflected as they are in the abundant blue-green glass of the city’s mirrored modernism. Drawn to extremes of beauty, in nature or otherwise, we rarely seek truly unmediated experiences; Alexander pointed that out decades ago, and it’s a lesson that’s aged well.

— Jayne Wilkinson

To view the full article please visit Canadian Art.

For more information about Vikky Alexander please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

 

Geoff McFetridge is reviewed in Canadian Art

September 26, 2019

Geoff McFetridge’s solo exhibition at Cooper Cole is reviewed by Kelsey Adams in Canadian Art.

Geoff McFetridge’s solo show was a utopian dream. His subjects are all configured in balanced symmetry: people free from hegemonic hierarchy. A functional collectivity emerges through McFetridge’s trademark symbolic language of clean lines and rounded shapes. There’s little detail to these ambiguous characters, and the simplicity of the artist’s linework points to his graphic-design tendencies. Everything is reduced to its purest form.

McFetridge’s depictions of colourful figures set against muted tones that hold, lean on and create congruence, feed into my naive wish for human solidarity. This motif of everyone being united could easily be dismissed as shallow kumbaya-togetherness. But at a time when humanity seems irreparably stratified and disconnected, collective understanding is a crucial artistic and philosophical endeavour. Rather than overtly critiquing the world as it is, McFetridge attempts to rebuild it in a more optimistic image. In A Positive Future Built of Incremental Change (2019), dozens of figures lean in, their heads forming a circle. In Another Kind of Agreeing (2019), floating heads form an oval and bodies seem to melt into each other. Both paintings suggest caretaking with simple gestures like a hand on a shoulder. There’s a closeness to the bodies that suggests they’re equal parts of a whole: if one is missing, the entire form falls apart.

McFetridge has worked at the intersection of painting and design for much of his career. He lays out his figures in hexagonal, square and circular shapes emblematic of logos. Some of the titles allude to design, such as Us as Kerning Not the Font (2019) and A Logo For Parenting (2019). None of the figures have faces, imbuing them with a universality that makes them relatable. These are blank slates for viewers to project upon, and they work as a form of advertising—McFetridge is selling us a dream.

Some of the paintings resist easy ideas of togetherness. An Escalator for Understanding (2019) depicts three people walking on others’ heads, and could signify an oppressor being bolstered by the exploitation of the less powerful. However, these characters could, as the title indicates, merely be benefiting from shared knowledge. There’s a cheeky playfulness about these works that reminds us to not treat them too earnestly.

Our lives have been individual-focused for such a long time—some might say since the onset of Western capitalism—that McFetridge’s vision of collectivity seems far from attainable. But by creating works that are both accessible and comforting, his offering is a sliver of hope.

— Kelsey Adams

To view the full article please visit Canadian Art.

For more information about Geoff McFetridge please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

 

Kate Newby Featured in Artforum

September 25, 2019

Kate Newby announced as a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant recipient in Artforum.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation announced today the twenty-five recipients of this year’s Painters and Sculptors Grants, which provide $625,000 in unrestricted funds to artists annually. In addition to receiving $25,000 in financial support, each grant recipient is eligible to apply for residencies at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. Among the 2019 grantees are Lauren Halsey, Baseera Khan, Daniel Lind-Ramos, Kate Newby, and Young Min Moon.

“The Painters & Sculptors Grants are a cornerstone of our work at the foundation,” said Christa Blatchford, the foundation’s CEO. “The program fills what we see as an ongoing gap in arts philanthropy—the scarcity of direct support to artists for them to continue their practices, to try new things, and to take risks. While the art market is strong, and public sentiment about ‘art’ remains enthusiastic, the opportunities for financial support for artists themselves continue to be limited. We know, from talking to and working with artists for more than two decades, that providing unrestricted funding is necessary and essential.”

Since the grant program launched over twenty-six years ago, the foundation has supported more than five hundred artists at varying stages of their careers. To be eligible for a grant, artists must be nominated by fellow artists and arts professionals selected from throughout the United States. The nominated artists are then invited to submit applications. Grant recipients are chosen through a multiphase jurying process and are typically individuals who have contributed to important artistic and cultural discourse and who deserve greater recognition on a national level.

The 2019 grant recipients are:

Anila Quayyum Agha, Indianapolis, Indiana

Morehshin Allahyari, Brooklyn, New York

Candida Alvarez, Chicago, Illinois

Frida Baranek, Coral Gables, Florida

Debra Baxter, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Keren Benbenisty, New York, New York

Paul Stephen Benjamin, Atlanta, Georgia

Juan William Chávez, Saint Louis, Missouri

Jamal Cyrus, Houston, Texas

Patricia Fernández Carcedo, Los Angeles, California

Lauren Halsey, Los Angeles, California

Andrea Heimer, Ferndale, Washington

Suzanne Jackson, Savannah, Georgia

Baseera Khan, Brooklyn, New York

Arghavan Khosravi, Natick, Massachusetts

Candice Lin, Altadena, California

Daniel Lind-Ramos, Loíza, Puerto Rico

Cannupa Hanska Luger, Glorieta, New Mexico

Gabriel Martinez, Houston, Texas

Wardell Milan, New York, New York

Young Min Moon, Amherst, Massachusetts

Kate Newby, Brooklyn, New York

Shikeith, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Salman Toor, New York, New York

Lien Truong, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

 

To view the full post please visit Artforum.

For more information about Kate Newby please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Georgia Dickie Featured on Canadian Art

September 21, 2019

Georgia Dickie’s upcoming solo exhibition Agouti Sky at Oakville Galleries is featured on Canadian Art.

For Agouti Sky, artist Georgia Dickie has brought a host of objects off the street and into the gallery. Staging, grouping, balancing, and placing are a primary focus of this artist’s practice, activities that makes her presence integral to the presentation of the work.

The installations of Toronto-based artist Georgia Dickie are composed from an ever-growing collection of found objects that she accrues in her studio. She selects and positions these according to an ulterior logic that eschews the values and meanings we usually assign to things. Staging, grouping, balancing, and placing are a primary focus of this artist’s practice, activities that makes her presence integral to the presentation of the work.

Agouti Sky is a solo exhibition of new work by Dickie that transforms Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square into a landscape of sorts, made up of the bric-a-brac refuse of a society built to consume and discard. Dickie plucks objects—a lampshade, a satellite, boxing gloves, metal stands, baseball caps, tills, a pair of shoes, two carved wooden birds—out of this circuit, and sets them into new constellations. She rarely alters them, choosing instead to present them as they are, either singled out for individual attention or swept into a larger ecology of forms.

Dickie’s objects are often dismantled at the end of an exhibition and then repurposed at a later date. This lends her installations a sense of material transformation that raises questions about a work’s beginning and end. With Agouti Sky, as with each of Dickie’s exhibitions, a new set of relations comes into view—the work coheres momentarily and then passes into other forms.

To view the full article please visit Canadian Art.

For more information about Georgia Dickie please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

 

Sara Cwynar featured on Flash Art

September 20, 2019

Sara Cwynar’s exhibition at Blitz in Valletta, Malta is featured on Flash Art.

 

 

“My mission is to spark joy in the world through tidying,” says a smiling Marie Kondo — the pop-culture tidying guru whose mission is to get rid of all negative things — in the trailer for the show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Her method of decluttering involves asking whether a given object sparks joy; if not, it should be discarded. Out of sight, out of mind. Landfills around the world are overflowing with things that don’t spark enough joy and don’t fulfill our expectations for a “good life,” to put it in the words of Lauren Berlant. Indeed, in her pivotal essay Cruel Optimism (Duke University Press, North Carolina 2011), Berlant reveals the injurious attachments we have formed to fantasies of the good life that are no longer sustainable in the present.

Titled “Good Life,” Sara Cwynar’s exhibition at Blitz in Valletta, Malta, unpacks this ideal, dismantling stereotypes under the hegemonic nature of images. The exhibition surveys her practice since 2013, showing Cwynar’s multifaceted approach to the languages of photography, collage, and filmmaking. Found objects and images play a vital role in her compositions, which suggest modern trompe-l’oeils. Her prints, from Toucan in Nature (post it notes) (2013) to A Rococo Base (2018), are a result of a process of re-photographing printed images, on which found objects, transparencies, and archival images are superimposed. The tension between two and three dimensions is tangible. These multilayered pictures, which combine elements of photography, sculpture, and collage, reveal their fictional status to the viewer and “tackle the critical concept of visual truth” (to quote Dolfi Agostini in her curatorial essay).

But it is in video that Cwynar perfectly reflects the iconic bombardment to which we are subjected every day. Exploring the notion of standardization, she shows what it means and how it influences our user experience. In Cover Girl (2018) she examines how standards of beauty are imposed on women, intertwining images of Tracy (a model and friend of the artist) with footage of a make-up company. Her first video work, Soft Film (2016), addresses the “soft misogyny” that dominated the news at the time she was making it. Here, an overlapping voice-over presents a taxonomy of personal objects.

Cleanfluencers, lifestyle masters, and fitness gurus are retooling our cognitive biases, stuffing our Instagram feeds with yoga exercises, healthy food, and clever ways of cleaning the closet. This unending display of living life to its fullest is meanwhile tainting our notion of reality. In this sense, Cwynar’s exhibition offers itself as a keen inquiry on the economy of images and their circulatory power. Red Rose (2017), Magenta Rose (2017), and Pink Rose (2017) are three macro photographs of roses with perfect colors — so perfect they seem artificial. Today, as Steven Shaviro has observed, “the opposition between reality-based and image-based modes of presentation breaks down, and the most intense and vivid reality is precisely the reality of images” (Post-Cinematic Affect, O Books, 2010). Are Cwynar’s roses real or synthetic? The answer is that it doesn’t matter in an era of simulation.

 

To view the full article please visit Flash Art.

For more information about Sara Cwynar please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

ektor garcia featured in Artforum

September 18, 2019

ektor garcia is featured on Artforum.

ektor garcia’s work traverses the psychological and the political, quietly contending with the ways in which power structures invade the most intimate spaces of the self. Incorporating ancient craft techniques, found artifacts of personal significance, and allusions to Mesoamerican myths, his sculptures and installations might appear to retreat into the past or emerge from a solipsistic inner world. But through gestures that summon ancestral memory and systems of belief, he materializes a search for belonging in the present and in the liminal spaces between different cultural identities. Even centuries after the first points of contact, colonial forces and hegemonic frameworks of thought continue to inscribe lived reality, and garcia’s practice probes the internalization of this violence. In his hands—wielding needles that can pierce or mend with care and turn bound fibers into diaphanous woven cloth—personal narratives of survival and healing never resolve, but instead transform implements of pain and repair into sources of pleasure and the means by which to conceive new, itinerant futures.

Like the lowercasing of his name, garcia’s art possesses a transgressive humility and embraces improvised play and mutability, largely in response to his past and in accordance with the way he exists in the world. The artist grew up moving between Northern Mexico and California, where his parents worked as migrant farmers; he identifies as an individual with an unfixed sensibility. In his words, “If I must identify myself, I am a queer Chicanx world citizen, belonging somewhere else.” In bozales (muzzles), 2015—an assemblage of plastic, steel, and leather dog muzzles—garcia draws on his haunting memories of crossing the border as a child, but as in many of his works, the reconfiguration of materials and references suggests displacement, constraint, and yet a sense of agency. Like his nomadic practicebased for now in New York and central Mexico, but frequently moving from place to place when he is offered employment—the elements garcia uses to create his sculpturescan migrate endlessly to become parts of new pieces. He conceives his art to remain unfinished; when a work is acquired, he considers it “on pause.” A sculpture might in one installation be scattered across the floor and in another aggregate through impromptu vignettes with added objects, based on a particular space and the artist’s intuitive “internal matrix.”

Following an improvised set of conditions, garcia constructs environments in which something uncontrolled might develop. These installations are inhabited by materials that behave in ways they aren’t meant to, and objects that accumulate new and multiple meanings. Delicate ceramic links are pieced together to resemble rugged metal chains in works like cadena perpetua II (life imprisonment II), 2018. For matanza (slaughter), 2012, skeins of flayed animal hides are tenderly hand-sewn into a leather wall hanging that evokes an empty body bag and references the Aztec god of both war and agriculture, Xipe Totec. garcia transforms raw goatskin into patchwork rugs like luna llena (full moon), 2016, which recall antiques stores and street markets he visits in Mexico, “‘ranch homes’ as an aesthetic,” and “rustic country whitewashed cowboy paraphernalia.” Meat hooks both threaten and connect (as in más o menos [more or less]), 2016; spools of copper wire are perpetually crocheted into lace. His formal collisions suggest the seemingly contradictory qualities of fragility and strength, of bondage and machismo as expressed through “feminine craft.” He reframes now-ubiquitous decorative objects as symbols of class, the appropriation of vernacular culture, and violence against nature, discreetly relaying a critique of a binary, hierarchical worldview that intersects with his own family history.

Refraining from what artist Aria Dean has aptly called “cannibalizing biography,” garcia evokes the personal by leaving almost imperceptible imprints of a body, often his own, on the work and by incorporating symbolic threads that resist the legibility of narrative. The sense of an unseen hand propels his rigorous labors of sewing, weaving, and welding, all possessed of the vitality of the indigenous traditions that endure in Michoacán and Zacatecas, Mexico, where his family lived for generations. The hand-mottled figurine in mitla, 2018; the crocheted workman’s glove in manos a la obra (let’s do it), 2016: Such works give shape to unseen bodies—often erased from historical narratives—and their obscured subjectivities. In mitla, titled after the important spiritual site in Oaxaca (and also the Zapotec word for “underworld”), the pinched ceramic statuette abstracts human form to mere signifier, while a shimmering glaze of metallic palladium renders it an object of devotion. In manos a la obra, garcia’s meticulous threadwork foregrounds the manual labor that produced the empty glove, its wearer unknown. Such motifs of resolute absence and presence recur, pointing to the invisibility of systems that render individuals as well as entire cultures as such.

Although garcia gleaned many of his material processes from watching members of his family and community perform them, he gained his knowledge of the work of the Zapotec, Aztec, Olmec, Maya, and other indigenous Mesoamerican civilizations through research, exploring his relationship to histories that remain only partially intact, and art that is popularly presented as archaeological remains. Wrestling with how these histories (largely fragmented due to colonization) and the related systemic issues manifest in his private and psychic life, the artist turns to tactility, surface, and structure to register not only the feeling of what is missing or has been undone, but also that of what can be reclaimed. This might seem to imbue his sculptures with a sense of loss, but it reveals too how disappearance—as an artistic strategy—can disrupt; this affect is captured in the title of his 2018 show at Mary Mary in Glasgow, “deshacer, or: to undo.”

Like the lowercasing of his name, garcia’s art possesses a transgressive humility and embraces improvised play and mutability, largely in response to his past and in accordance with the way he exists in the world.
Take desmadre, 2016, the title of which translates as “chaos” or “mess,” and which comprises an array of found and made objects including a round crocheted rug of wool and horsehair; a bespoke copper wheel; pieces of glass; a roughly carved totemic pipe with air punctures suggesting eyes; and various smaller pipes, bracelets, and other items. All are dispersed along the perimeter of the gallery space, calling to mind a street merchant sale or roadside memorial and giving the installation a sense of vulnerability. While works like this one offer oblique connections to garcia’s childhood memories of economic instability, they also summon intimate images of familial love and community: his grandmother making clothes and doilies in her Tabasco home, either to sell or for her children to wear; vendors hawking vessels made of palm, ceramic, and natural fibers, crafted using techniques that have been passed down through generations. garcia reasserts these modes of making as noble and valid forms of nonhierarchical production and economic exchange.
In another body of work, “portales” (portals), which he began making in 2017, the artist faithfully re-creates centuries-old stitch patterns—frequently used in Mexico, if not entirely indigenous to it—to build a series of woven-fiber and copper screens that conjure other temporal registers_. _These thresholds form a permeable architecture, occasionally adorned with relics of control and pain that double as ancestral apparitions: a metal spur found on the small Zacatecas ranch where his family lived; a self-flagellation rope, studded with small nails, of a kind frequently sold outside Catholic churches in rural Mexico. garcia’s allusions to pain are sometimes read alongside his use of leather and latex as formal nods to s/m sexual practices. “I often use materials which reference violence, sensuality, and the body,” he explains. “Intriguingly, white art audiences and viewers have often mistakenly taken the presence of these signifiers as literal, or to reflect a certain ‘kinky’ sensibility.” While noting the importance of sexual subcultures in society at large, garcia is more interested in addressing how inversions of power can devolve into pastiche or fashion. In his sculpture yes, yes, yes, thank you, thank you, thank you, 2018, chains coil into holes for arms and a head, echoing a stylized replica of colonial American stockades that garcia once saw at the Laird, a gay bar in Melbourne.

His use of organic latex in works such as figura (figure), 2019, pays homage to the sculptures of Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois in their associations with the natural world and particularly as visceral indexes of grief. “The subject of pain is the business I am in,” Bourgeois wrote in 1991 in the catalogue for the Carnegie International in which she debuted “Cells,” a series of architectural installations she produced until 2010. “When does the emotional become physical? When does the physical become emotional: It’s a circle going around and around.” garcia’s work offers a similarly complex psychological landscape, reflecting a belief that one’s inner life is not an imaginary realm, something apart from the rest of the world, but is a kind of material. He views weaving as a meditative practice that allows him to process emotional injuries that are intimately entangled with broader power dynamics. “Emotionality is political,” says garcia, based on the fact that some are granted the right to live and love as they want, to know and understand their own history, and others aren’t. In corpus, 2018, eroded half orbs of glazed ceramic and vegetable fiber are varyingly stitched together with fine copper wire, with needles haphazardly abandoned mid-stitch and holes gaping around the filament; these details of the work bring to mind the sutured peels of Zoe Leonard’s Strange Fruit, 1992–97, and the notorious image of David Wojnarowicz’s lips sewn shut, as well as his Untitled (Bread Sculpture), 1988–89, for which he reconnected two halves of a loaf of bread with loose red thread. How does one repair what is broken, what has been taken, what is now gone? Although garcia’s work does not address the hiv/aids crisis of the ’80s and ’90s, or what it means to grieve and move forward during an epidemic, there is a crucial kinship in his understanding that life is fragile and must be protected, must find resilience, by being given dignity and care.

He conceives his art to remain unfinished; when a work is acquired, he considers it “on pause.”
In la mano del Xipe Totec (the hand of Xipe Totec), 2016, garcia again cites the deity of death and rebirth, as well as of liberation, disease, and spring, often depicted in codices with his right arm raised and wearing a flayed human skin. garcia’s sculpture presents a large ceramic arm extended upward; its hand has been given a bronze-like patina but is glazed from the wrist down in white as if wrapped in a second skin. It sits atop a shoeshine stool, an antique purchased from a vendor at the Lagunilla market in Mexico City, which points to the often unseen and underappreciated labor performed on the streets. A scrap of leather in the shape of an arm rests at the stool’s feet—a reference to the ersatz skin of a sacrificial victim that was worn as a costume by participants in ceremonies held to honor the deity and bring a good harvest. If not directly spiritual or linked to mysticism, garcia’s practice, throughout all of his work, engages in the forms of ritual to render visible the largely forgotten or undervalued belief systems and stores of knowledge that have impressed themselves upon him regardless, both viscerally and intellectually. With his invocation of mythologies, garcia reminds us of the impossibility of fully understanding our paradoxical universe—one that is at once menacing and nurturing—and of the imperative to locate ourselves in it nonetheless.

To view the full article please visit Artforum.

For more information about ektor garcia please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Sara Cwynar featured in Architectural Digest

September 18, 2019

Sara Cwynar acquired by Charli XCX and featured in Architectural Digest celebrity homes.

The U.K.-born music sensation filled her 1927 Tudor-inspired home with “pop-tastic” personal flair.

Charli XCX reclines in the reading nook in one of the kitchen windows, which is decorated with candles and multipatterned cushions. Two of her three housemates (both childhood chums from the U.K.) have stopped into the sun-soaked room to see the singer—whose third studio album, Charli, was released this month.

The English-born music sensation has inhabited this charactered manse since she relocated from London to L.A. in 2015. She has since decorated its three floors (and four bedrooms) with bold-colored furnishings—and close friends. “I feel like it’s the people in your home that make it a home,” she says. “The house feels very full and lively, so we get to meet a lot of other creative people just through the house. I really enjoy that, and I think that’s part of the reason why the house is what it is.”

The retro residence is Tudor-influenced, featuring details like dark-wood beams and diamond-shaped windows—a warm and welcome sense of the U.K. on the West Coast. “It’s funny that I moved across the world and still ended up in an archetype of a British house,” she comments. “I liked that this was an old place and immediately loved it. I love the dark wood. I love that it’s a little creepy and weird. It just felt really right for me.”

The house is located in the city’s Beachwood area, which is just south of the Hollywood sign, once, the “Hollywoodland” sign). This historic stretch is home to the gated communities that started construction in 1923—the former Hollywoodland. “This house is pretty old for L.A.,” she says. “It was built in 1927, and I think it was one of the original Hollywoodland houses.”

The interiors are bohemian and multicolored, and the bulk of the furniture has been collected from secondhand sources (including Chairish and stores like Nick Metropolis and This Is Not Ikea). This has resulted in a charmingly mismatched selection of fabrics and materials. “It’s quite jumbly, where I got the stuff from—I do love antiques stores,” she says.” There have been estate sales that I’ve gone to in Palm Springs, which are particularly good. Palm Springs is where all the amazing older gay men with great taste move to—and I just want everything they have!”

Charli XCX is currently focused on her art collection (her first piece was a photograph by Heji Shin). “I watched this documentary about Daniel Johnston and got two drawings from his website,” she recalls. “I just bought this piece by Sara Cwynar, who’s a collage artist. The other day, I bought two sculptures by this artist called Seth Bogart. He made a collection of 100 ceramic toothbrushes and they’re really fun. I bought one that’s a cigarette and a toothbrush.”

The house is also scattered with candles—“Some of them I get from the dollar store, but there are some bougie ones upstairs”—and with memories. Charli XCX has lived (and lived it up) here: “I use my house for everything. We work here and we do shoots,” she says, looking around the space. “We throw a lot of parties here—well, we used to throw more parties. I just like the house to feel busy; I like that this house has just seen a lot of stories and fun things happen.”

To view the full article please visit Architecture Digest. 

For more information about Sara Cwynar please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Shawn Kuruneru Featured on Highsnobiety

September 13, 2019

Shawn Kuruneru’s recent collaboration with CELINE is featured on Highsnobiety.

 

After releasing the first round of its Fall/Winter 2019 artist collaborations back in July, pieces from Celine’s Shawn Kuruneru collaboration have started to make their way online.

For his first official collaboration with the French House, the Canadian artist lends work from his ongoing series of shape paintings. Inspired by Chinese calligraphy, Western comics, and geometric abstraction, Kuruneru creates a series of abstract paintings that adorn sneakers, a denim jacket, a T-shirt and matching crewneck. His designs also feature on a series of leather accessories and a phone case.

“I want the paintings to read from a distance as bold and graphic, but reveal subtle details the closer you get,” Kuruneru explains. “The longer you spend in front of the works the more the nuances of the material and brush marks show the intrinsic history of the painting.”

Though he’s best-known as a painter, for Kuruneru, drawing is the center of his art practice. “Everything I paint comes from my desire to draw,” he says.

When he begins painting, Kuruneru describes his working process as intuitive. “It starts with quick loose gestures that develop into slow precise marks. I give a lot of attention to the spaces in-between the shapes,” he explains. “There is a sense of tension and release when the shapes almost overlap but don’t, like two bodies about to hit each other but stop on impact. In the most recent works, I consider the black shapes as shadows for invisible shapes that form and dissolve at the same time.”

To view the full article please visit Highsnobiety.

For more information about Shawn Kuruneru please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

ektor garcia featured in Artlyst

September 11, 2019

ektor garcia is featured in Virginie Puerlotas-Syn’s summer art chronicles on Artlyst.

 

Later in July, in another beautiful part of Europe, I attended the opening of Progetto, a newly-opened Artspace in the Baroque city of Lecce, Italy. The New York artist Jamie Sneider raised over US$16,000 on Kickstarter and decided to open a 2,300 square feet residency/ exhibition space in a historical building from the 16th century in an ancient Jewish palazzo. Ektor Garcia from Mexico and New York was the first artist-in-residence. Garcia spent a month’s residency in Puglia and put together a stunning yet delicate show “ Fortaleza”. He bridges the Mexican and Pugliese tradition of ceramics and textiles. Garcia’s copper crocheted sculptures seem to reflect the labyrinth of his thoughts and meditations, following him from one city (he started making them in New York) to another, Lecce. He explored different materials such as the clay from Grottaglie, a ceramic village, to make fragile and metaphorical terracotta sculptures like his piece, Cadena Perpetua II: clay chains, an oxymoron, fragile yet full of strength.

To view the full article please visit Artlyst.

For more information about ektor garcia please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Sara Cwynar Featured on Ssense

September 11, 2019

Six Portraits by the Artist Featuring Tracy Ma and Miu Miu’s FW19 Collection on Ssense

In a gorgeously musing and meandering essay published last year, titled
“Should Artists Shop or Stop Shopping?” the writer Sheila Heti considers the work of artist Sara Cwynar, whose photography and films examine themes surrounding—among other things—beauty, advertising, the recent past, visual bias, desuetude. Heti holds, while accounting for and scrutinizing her own consumer habits, that shopping and writing are mutually related. Both require the act of selection. Both are expressions of the self. Both are creative, though shopping liquidates Heti’s creative energy, leaving her anxious, excitable yet prone to dread. Both play into desire as a state which is achieved so long as it isn’t exactly served. Both involve deciding on the best thing: “Shopping is choosing the best thing. Writing is choosing the best thing (the thing to write about, and the best way of writing it).”

Heti inquires: does Cwynar experience shopping as a writer might experience writing, or does she experience shopping as a writer might experience shopping? Or is there, Heti wonders, some other third thing? “What would it feel like to be like Sara Cwynar; to every day buy a postcard of the Twin Towers on eBay?” She continues: “Sara Cwynar looks for what there is to buy, but the meanings of the objects for sale—their meanings are entirely hers.”

Value comes from how Cwynar sees and systemizes, and sticks tape on the corners of large scale print-outs. Bouquets of objects in full bloom. Clocks and ring boxes. Dish gloves, dice. A rose carefully propped against a green background. A hand carefully adjusting a phone case or placing a sea shell beside a pink razor, knitting needles, and other shapes. A red boot, Nefertiti’s bust, promotional pencils, plastic grapes, paperclips, expired pills. Altar-like color-stories erected with faded Melamine and homewares, or even, how a simple bar of soap bargains with and implicates the worth of a particular shade of blue—all of these choices create the phenomenon of attraction. They petition from the viewer a little game of longing. Of wanting just one taste. “Delicious” is how Heti describes Cwynar’s films.

It’s worth noting the parallels between this feeling and what we, as consumers, derive from shopping online. How we scroll past a purple sweater and now, suddenly, we are stricken by the need to own that purple sweater. How we fill our cart with the purple sweater and the pink Nikes, and the pair of freshwater pearl earrings, and then we get carried away and add the handsome loafers and deliberate on the bag that’s shaped like a ball. And yet, we rarely proceed to checkout.

This e-comm universe of mass reluctance similarly absorbs Cwynar. In a triptych titled, 141 Pictures of Sophie, 1, 2, and 3(2019), Cwynar photographs a model named Sophie, (who regularly models for SSENSE), in various configurations, mimicking the e-comm studio’s “views.” Different angles, same girl. Cwynar then collages her photograph of Sophie with stratified images of Sophie taken from the SSENSE site. The juxtaposition is surreal and somehow sincere in its unaffected redundancy. The staid quality of the e-commerce model, styled in luxury products, becomes all at once flattened and dynamic.

“The photographs force us to confront ostensibly ordinary images, highlighting the disjuncture between Sophie depicted in the studio and her sleeker digital twin,” notes a review in The Nation of Cwynar’s first East Coast solo exhibit currently showing at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. “A homage to the Photoshop proletariat, the piece hints at the labor that goes into making SSENSE Sophie, who has far dewier skin and much brighter crimson hair than the real, nondigitized Sophie.”

Comparison is, after all, essential to Cwynar’s project—a sort of holy mess is at play. Collapse as a tool for linking what is considered obsolete (over time) with what disappears (in a flash): trend cycles, chromatic design, beauty standards, optimism. Appraisal, accrual, and how value can be reframed; these are the topics that focus Cwynar’s work. Be it a compilation-wallpaper titled 72 Pictures of Modern Paintings, where fragmented Picasso paintings (and Modigliani, Pollock, and Lichtenstein) become decorative art. Or her current work for the MoMA, wherein Cwynar was invited by the museum as it prepares for its opening in October, to create a series of videos. She describes her project as loosely inspired by John Berger’s seminal 1970s video series Ways of Seeing, though updated to feature social media, contemporary feminism, the #MeToo movement, and technology.

Here, in an exclusive editorial and interview for SSENSE, Cwynar photographs Miu Miu’s FW19 collection with her friend and muse, Tracy Ma. We talk to Cwynar about shopping habits, self-portraiture, and applying logic to beauty.

Durga Chew-Bose

Sara Cwynar

Growing up, what did your house look like?

I was born in Vancouver but I only lived there until I was 5. Then we moved to Ottawa. In Vancouver, we lived in this big, classic suburban house. I remember thick rugs. Like gross carpeting from the 80s. I lived in a room with a sloping ceiling that felt claustrophobic and I shared a hallway with my twin sister. It was a strange house—the living room was triangular-shaped. I remember a lot of dark wood—it was kind of scary. I would have these crazy dreams where I’d see an alligator standing in the corner of rooms. The most notable thing about our Ottawa house was that I painted my bedroom purple and mint green.

Have you always been drawn to colors, contrasting colors, colors as they collide with memory?

I had an orange puffy coat when I was 10 that I always wore. I was also a figure skater, so I had a lot of crazy-colorful costumes and make-up.

Did you make your own costumes?

My mom mostly did. She’s really amazing at sewing and would make her own clothes in the 70s. Making figure skating costumes is really difficult—it requires a lot of minute handwork, like sewing individual rhinestones.

What was your favorite skating routine?

I had a pretty sweet Phantom of the Opera one. I wore a black and white costume which I thought was very sophisticated at the time. I started with my hand over my face, and then I revealed my face—that was the first move in the program.

There’s an element of your art that could easily be characterized as nostalgic, especially because of all the cultural iconography in your work. I’m curious about the images from your childhood, be it food labels in your kitchen pantry or the opening credits to your favorite TV show.

It’s funny, because in a lot of my work, I’m thinking about a history I wasn’t really present for, or one that just preceded me, or was happening when I was too young to be really cognizant of it. There’s something about looking back at what you weren’t a part of, that makes you feel like you can see it more clearly. I really remember the definitive media moments, like Tonya Harding or Saved by the Bell getting interrupted for O.J. Simpson in the white Bronco. These moments when scandalous celebrity misadventures were so spectacular that everything had to get interrupted.

Reminds me a lot of Gus Van Sant’s To Die For.

Yeah! Yeah! It was also the last era where everything came from one place. Everyone was watching the same TV, at least in a North American context. Everyone had the same references. Now, things have exploded—it’s no longer possible.

Because I was just revisiting Sheila Heti’s piece about your work, I was hoping we might talk about your shopping habits. What was your last eBay purchase?

It was a Benetton, big blue t-shirt from the 80s. I really like Benetton because they teamed up with lots of companies in that era: the Olympics, and Euro-Disney merch, and they made weird golf clothing. I find it charming.

Did you buy it for yourself? Or for a piece of your work?

For myself. For my work, I’ve been buying these pictures of women wrestling. But someone started outbidding me! I think the buyer has someone else bidding against me, so that the prices go up hundreds of dollars for these snapshots of women in a wrestling league in the 80s. I really love them, and I really need them for my art, but it’s getting to the point where they’re too expensive! The last one I got has really amazing colors, but now I’ve cut myself off.

What was the last souvenir you bought when travelling?

I went to this town in Puglia called Grottaglie. It’s kind of like the ceramics capital of Southern Italy. And I bought this ceramic doll with a mustache called “The Bearded Bride of Grottaglie.” The fable associated with it is kind of gruesome but triumphant.

What was the last thing you bought at the grocery store?

A 12-pack of Bud Lite.

Last bag of chips that you bought?

Sour cream and onion Lay’s. That’s my favorite.

What was the last thing you bought at the pharmacy?

Pantene Pro-V conditioner.

And what about something from the pharmacy that was meant for your art?

I bought some gold thumbtacks the other day.

The last book that you bought?

Jia Tolentino’s book. I read the whole thing in one day because I loved it so much.

What was the last thing you stole?

A yellow-and-white plastic shopping bag that says “Cintra Centre” on it in a kind of circular ‘70s lettering. It’s now stuck on my fridge. I also stole a lot of pens from the Banff Centre.

What other photos or objects are you collecting for your work?

I’ve actually been looking a lot at SSENSE’s styling and seeing how the clothes are photographed in a very structured way. I really like looking for variations. I’m also looking through all of MoMA’s archives—what has been shown over and over again and what hasn’t been shown. And then how MoMA tells us who we think we are or what our history is, in ways that are heavily biased but also totally arbitrary. Why was some art shown and some other art never shown? There are many reasons, but often it’s because the artist was a woman—you know, the very white male history of art. It’s been a real education for me. I have a graphic design degree, I don’t have an art history degree.

What materials or objects are you working with these days?

I’m trying to use fewer things as a challenge to myself.

How’s that going?

It’s not going so well. I’m trying to not rely on how cool or satisfying or surprising objects from a recent past can look, and figure out a way to work with contemporary materials. It’s hard. For example, I just filmed in a pantyhose factory in Italy. I’ve been collecting and photographing a lot of pantyhose, which are such amazing-looking objects. They are infinitely satisfying to photograph. I’m also still photographing roses.

Do the still life components of your work feel like a form of self-portraiture?

Totally. It’s a way of taking everything I want and putting it one place. There’s also a lot of retouching and manipulation, and using different cameras to make things look how I wished they looked—there’s definitely something biographical and personal happening there.

In what ways is your art a documentation of trends?

I’m so obsessed with recent histories because they show how everything that we think is new is actually just things repeating. Novelty isn’t really novelty at all, it’s just something old that we’re excited to accept. The first person who does something is never the person who gets somewhere with it. That’s kind of how fashion works, too. It’s comforting and infinitely satisfying to watch things come back again and again. But there are some things I can never figure out. One of them is: why do I like old things? Trying to answer that question has been really motivating and generative. Or why some things return, and look good again. I’m always trying to figure that out by re-showing them or combining them, staring at them, photographing them. It’s really important for the way that we experience the world now, because we’re inundated with trends and new things to look at, to choose from, to decide about. It really has a psychological effect. Nobody can really explain, in a good way, why we like what we do.

But fully knowing why we like what we like…would kind of kill why we like it.

Totally. It’s the same thing as, if you actually get the thing, it’s ruined.

Desire!

Yeah!

Your fascination with e-comm photography. Let’s talk about that.

I find it so delightful to look at SSENSE when a bunch of new stuff has just rolled out. I like looking at the way actual human women are used as mannequins on e-comm. It makes you realize how much you project onto people when you know nothing about them. It’s a great illustration for how people use clothes to communicate, or as armor, or as identity. Looking at the same person in dramatically different outfits over and over again, there’s an element of the uncanny.

Speaking of models, Tracy Ma has now modeled for you numerous times, including this Miu Miu editorial. Would you call her your muse?

I find that word really funny but it’s accurate. It’s rare to find a true muse and that’s what Tracy is—I think about how things will look on her, and everything she does is exactly what I want.

It’s intuitive.

We both come from Canada, we’re both graphic designers, we both worked for magazines when we were pretty young, we both have an intimate knowledge of how pictures get made and how women get pictured, and how people see us as women in the world. She has this irony to the way she poses but also a vulnerability that is exactly how I feel about getting looked at and having my picture taken. She really understands what it means to have her picture in the world.

In terms of trends, there’s a whole industry now for color forecasting. Do you believe in it? Do you think we’re overthinking it?

The second one. I kind of think it’s bullshit. Like many things it feels like a logic being applied later. I think it’s part of how color is being used to sell you something you already have, but in another version.

It’s true. Everything I have in black, I want it in purple.

You need everything in a more regal color!

Is there a color that when you wear it, people say it really suits you?

Cerulean blue. I have a bunch of really bright blue suits that I wear all the time.

In your photography, is there any color you’re completely averse to?

Well…actually…I really don’t like purple.

[Laughs]

If I see someone wearing purple, that’s totally different than trying to photograph purple.

Why is purple tough to photograph?

I don’t think it reproduces well. It absorbs a lot of light and it would always be more satisfying if it was blue. That’s totally subjective of course! But I’m looking at a lot of prints I have on my walls right now and there’s not a single bit of purple in any of them.

Do you think there’s an element of misunderstanding or dismissal when your photographs are described as beautiful?

If you’re an artist, you have to be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to be able to know how much thought and energy, and research has been poured into [your work]. It can be a weird process of letting go of a certain amount of pride. When you put something out in the world, people might read it in a much simpler way than you intended. Often, people receive the work in much more complex ways than I intended. I definitely know that people write off my work because it’s so aesthetically pleasing, but I think that’s part of the content. It’s always been important for me to make things that are accessible, that have values other than didactic art theory values, and can be pleasurable on other terms. I’m still committed to making things as aesthetically pleasing as possible for that reason. That’s why I started making videos because I think it’s a medium that can speak to wider audiences. Using beauty has a real function—I think things have a logic when they’re beautiful. They sort of justify themselves.

To view the full article please visit Ssense.

For more information about Sara Cwynar please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Vikky Alexander is Reviewed in Critics At Large

September 7, 2019

Vikky Alexander’s solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery is reviewed by Donald Brackett in Critic At Large.

Vikky Alexander: Extreme Beauty runs July 6 – January 26, 2020 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The catalogue/book of this show is well worth ordering from the VAG.

Coming of age in the heady photo-conceptualist decade of the 1980s, Vikky Alexander quickly ascended to the upper ranks of the most visually challenging and thought-provoking Canadian contemporary artists. Becoming well known for her insightful investigations of the found and appropriated image, the artificial representation of enclosed nature and the cultural seduction of both space and place, it was almost as if she was holding up a dark mirror to our beauty-obsessed era and showing us who we were really were beneath the surface of all that bright and shiny glitter.

Irony literally drips off the smooth textures of her multi-panel piece Obsession, from 1983, for instance, with sacred supermodel Christie Brinkley, the ultimate golden uptown girl, standing in as an airbrushed female Saint figure. Peering into a piece of deep blue void such as Between Dreaming and Living, #5, from 1986, subtly reminds us that we can never really be sure if we’re awake or asleep. Which is exactly the way that both mass media and consumer society prefers its customers to be: interstitial, liminal, hovering between hyper-desire and permanently suspended satisfaction.

This exquisitely curated and installed retrospective of more than eighty works, the first for an artist who demands and deserves our full attention, was also cleverly juxtaposed with a concurrent show of the deeply resonating Robert Rauschenberg’s works from 1965-1980. This was the ideal context for situating Alexander’s overall oeuvre, since both artists blurred the boundaries between mediums as they mixed and merged materials and ideas in a daring use of everyday images culled from a popular culture which moved too fast to fully delve into its own messaging.

Extreme Beauty, so strangely similar to the entertainment format of ultimate or extreme fighting, deftly demonstrated how Alexander has cultivated a crisp career montage of images devoted to unraveling the mechanisms of display that shape meaning and desire in our culture. By stripping consumer systems of their mystifying and signifying but largely unconscious strategies, Alexander, like Rauschenberg, encourages us to fully embrace the shimmering intersection between making art and living life. Indeed, both artists astutely interrogated mass media via their skillful use of its own techniques of seriality, repetition, recursion and glitz, all resulting in a profound deconstruction of the flimsy assumptions we choose to live by.

These days, the 1980’s almost feel like another planet, not just another age. Indeed, the provocatively titled Extreme Beauty showcased her multi-faceted examinations of mediated beauty and its cultural consumption as an otherworldy commodity, throughout a surprisingly elastic artistic practice that encompasses photography, sculpture, collage and installation. Her clear-eyed gaze falls upon mall interiors, retail shop windows, model apartment suites, tightly controlled public gardens, and even large scale murals advertising nothing but themselves.

Originally from Victoria British Columbia, a graduate of the experimental hotbed of NASCAD, and a long time resident of Vancouver (she is currently studio-based in Montreal), Alexander’s take on her job description as a cultural artifact producer is as concise as the conceptual brevity contained in her stunning assemblages of media tropes, fashion and advertising enticements. “My job as an artist is to figure out how things work.” Her recapitulations of art historical references can also be succinctly neo-baroque in their surrender to those immersive sensory experiences we all seem to long for.

An artist friend of mine (a filmmaker who uses found/appropriated footage in his recreations) recently asked me a tongue in cheek rhetorical question, “When is appropriation appropriate?” So much captivating artwork demonstrates how a well-intentioned study of our image addictions can provide answers visually rather than verbally. Appropriation is thus most appropriate when it is creatively utilized by an astute artist in order to aesthetically critique the political or social implications of whatever the image or idea at hand might be: creatively deconstructed via drastic recycling and retelling.

In closing, I’d like to briefly draw the viewers and readers attentions to the fine catalogue produced for this retrospective show at the VAG, and to extol its virtues in a market where often such publications can be pretty coffee table books that collect dust in the basement. This one however is almost a living textbook which helps readers, especially those who might be puzzled by the artistic use of appropriated or found mass media imagery reproduced in their art, come to a contextual understanding of this aesthetic tradition.

The Extreme Beauty show was curated by current Interim Director at the VAG, Daina Augaitis, which is in itself a welcome change from most Directors, who are more often found in swanky boardrooms shaking corporate fundraising hands or bowing before government officials. Her opening essay in particular is an accessible and cogent expression of what Alexander’s work, and the who conceptualist tradition of subverting media power by reusing and reinterpreting the imagery that assails us everyday in endless waves.She starts by asking pertinent questions such as “How do aesthetic traditions get shaped?”, and then proceeds in a highly efficient manner to historically situate Alexander both biographically and artistically. “Throughout her career, has embraced situating her work in the public realm, leading her to place some of her re-photographed images back into the public sphere, including on buses, where she filled areas designated for advertisements with her own semiotic ‘signs’ of captioned TV news, emitting a different type of ‘real life information’, as she refers to it.”

We are invited to reconsider our assumptions by virtue of the eccentricity of the typefaces, the redundant repetition of the word ‘new’ and a visual art experience that cancels itself out with oblique references to an inherent ambiguity about what exactly was new and what precisely was being sold.

The absence of an actual product apart from a meditation on mediation “compels our awareness of the code itself and the economic and aesthetic system in which the sign participates.” What this suggests, for Augaitis, is an endeavour to blur the terrain between art, design and the real world, a hybrid between art and business.

Of uniquely impactful power for me were Alexander’s series of large scale photographs of shiny retail store windows, filled with an array of products but also highly reflective glass which absorbed passersby on the street and turned them into a big part of the commercial display. Augaitis also helpfully positioned four distinct zones of work in Alexander’s long career: appropriation of vernacular imagery to examine how meaning is deployed; the investigation of consumer culture and it’s methods of display and enticement; the representation of architecture as a space containing utopian aspirations; and an abiding interest in nature, how it is represented, how we engage with it, and how we are estranged from it.

Other valuable essays in this book which make it well worth ordering are “Double Takes” by Leah Pires, who seductively asks the deceptively simple but complex question, “What’s behind an image?”. Nancy Tousley’s insightful essay “Allegory and Paradox in Vikky Alexander’s ‘Nature’” powerfully explores the space of the waking dream. Vincent Bonin, in “Beyond the Seduction of Enclosures,” astutely explores Alexander’s interrogation of both extreme beauty notions and the scopophilia of ‘sublime kitsch’ at the collision point between minimal art and popular culture.

In the hands of an experienced image-interrogator such as Vikky Alexander, whose retrospective exhibition took us deep into the territory of our culture’s subliminal obsessions and its fetishistic fixations on the surface of things and people, the results were both revealing, engaging and unnerving. Echoing and embodying the basic premise of Walter Benjamin’s seminal 1936 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” artists such as Alexander have mined the image-archive of popular culture in search of the lost or missing aura that evaporates upon replication and mass transmission.

For conceptual artists such as Alexander, appropriation is thus a brilliant strategy for making us reconsider what we usually take for granted. Beauty, for instance. I do believe she’s figured out “how things work” after all.

– Donald Brackett

 

To view the full article please visit Critics At Large.

For more information about Vikky Alexander please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Sara Cwynar featured on e-flux

September 5, 2019

Age Of You, group show at Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto features Sara Cwynar and is featured on e-flux.

Age of You is a timely exhibition about how the self has become more extreme, and what it means to be an individual today. Curated by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist, with graphic design by Daly & Lyon, it includes over 70 visual contributors from the worlds of art, design, filmmaking, photography, performance and electronic music. Age of You has been commissioned and produced by MOCA Toronto.

Guess what this century’s most valuable resource is? It’s you—and all your online behaviours, enriched data sets and millions of meta-data points. In this process, a large part of you is extracted from you, and now exists everywhere and nowhere, independently of your five senses. Is this why the inside of your head feels so strange? Are you really built for so much change so quickly? And, what if individuality is, in fact, morphing into something else?

Age of You previews a forthcoming book by Basar/Coupland/Obrist, The Extreme Self, a sequel to their previous title, The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present. Set over two of MOCA’s gallery floors, Age of You presents 13 immersive chapters that chart how individuality is currently changing, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Wry words and slogans by the curators are juxtaposed against portraits sourced from:

Agnieszka Kurant, Amalia Ulman, Amnesia Scanner, Ana Nicolaescu, Ania Soliman, Anna Uddenberg, Anne Imhof, Asad Raza, Barry Doupé, Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Cao Fei, Carsten Höller, Cécile B Evans, Chen Zhou, Christine Sun Kim, Craig Green x Moncler Genius, Dennis Kavelman, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Emmanuel Iduma, Farah Al Qasimi, Fatima Al Qadiri, GCC, Goshka Macuga, Heman Chong, Ian Cheng, Isabel Lewis, Jarvis Cocker, Jenna Sutela, Johannes Paul Raether, John Menick, Jürgen Klauke, Koo Jeong A, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Liam Gillick, Liam Young, Lorraine O’Grady, Lucy Raven, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Michael Stipe, Miles Gertler, Miranda July, Momus, NVIDIA Research, Pamela Rosenkranz, Pan Daijing, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Peter Saville & Yoso Mouri, Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe, Precious Okoyomon, Rachel Rose, Raja’a Khalid, Samuel Fosso, Sara Cwynar, Satoshi Fujiwara, Simon Denny, Sissel Tolaas, Sophia Al-Maria, Stéphanie Saadé, Stephanie Comilang, Suzanne Treister, Tabita Rezaire, Thomas Dozol, Thomas Hirschhorn, Trevor Paglen, Urs Lüthi, Victoria Sin, Wang Haiyang, Yaeji, Yazan Khalili, Yu Honglei, Yuri Pattison.

Interspersed are major works in film, photography, fashion, sculpture and installation, each articulating a salient aspect of the extreme selfThroughout Age of You, visitors will encounter a recurring presence of “the face,” today’s dominant data metric, as well as new ways in which crowds are being composed, computed or even weaponized.

To view the full article please visit e-flux.

For more information about Sara Cwynar please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

ektor garcia Featured in tzvetnik

August 31, 2019

ektor garcia’s exhibition Fortaleza at Progetto, Lecce is featured in tzvetnik.

6th day in Italy, first time in this country
Crocheting copper wire purchased and brought from Mexico to New York to Lecce. I make many granny squares.

I began making these copper squares in New York when I agreed to spend a month here in Puglia to work on a solo show at Jamie Sneider’s new Progetto in Lecce. I am slowly but consistently working on joining the squares by sewing them into a copper lace t-shirt.

I crochet everywhere I can, almost daily, especially while traveling. I imagine the people of a village in Mexico who weave straw hats while walking from town to town, they can tell you that the distance from one town to the next is the equivalent of any number of hats woven while walking.

I constantly learn and make new crochet patterns; they become labyrinths I get lost in, only to find myself. A single strand of wire is looped in around itself with the help of a steel hook, becoming an organized network, with occasional mistakes. I embrace them and keep them to break up the monotony.

No two crochet doilies are alike; they are trips I have taken. I unpack them and lay them out to measure and visualize the time and distance from one place to another, from a couple hours, days, months, to years, to the places I have been while making them.

I’m working on new terracotta sculptures, made of local clay from Grottaglie, a ceramic village. I don’t know what I am making but feel the need to coil and press each coil onto itself, rotating each piece, going around and around, just like the movements of crochet.

I made a few large chains that loosely mimic handmade steel chains, but they are made out of soft terracotta. I was thinking how in crochet language a row of stitches is called, a chain. There is a really nice quote from Truman Capote, I see it being about art too, «One day I started writing, not knowing that I had chained myself for life to a noble but merciless master. When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely.”

I like this idea of chained in language — chained to my past. The clay chains are extremely fragile and not meant to function as chains — they are the opposite of what a chain can do: they can’t hold weight. They are so fragile they can break in your hands, but they are made with care.

The piece ​cadena perpetua II​ means life sentence or endless chain and I feel that’s what my practice is: an endless chain of events, of artworks.

It’s nice to have so much clay at my disposal. It’s a fun challenge to use it all. I like feeling the physical weight of the material in its raw state; when it’s just clay. To know this body of work is 300 kilos of Grottaglie clay.

The works I’ve been making are very organic, coil-built shapes that mimic vessels; some are parts that can be stacked once fired. I didn’t plan anything; I’m letting each piece plan itself.

Some textures are made by the motion of my thumb dragging the clay down. I like that it leaves my thumbprint. The other piece I made today uses pre-Colombian geometric patterns – patterns that are graphic symbols found on the facades of pyramids and in ancient textiles.

At the Castellana Caves I learned that stalactites grow less than 10 cm every thousand years. Stalagmites, which grow from the ground up, take even longer.

The opening is on the 18th of July, and I am sure I will be working until the last minute. Once I’m on the airplane I will begin crocheting my next project, which I don’t know what will be, I like knowing that I will bring the copper back to Mexico.

 

To view the full article please visit tzvetnik.

For more information about ektor garcia please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Zachary Leener and Anders Oinonen Featured on Art Viewer

August 26, 2019

Family Practice, a two-person show featuring Zachary Leener and Anders Oinonen is featured on Art Viewer. 

 

Artists: Zachary Leener, Anders Oinonen

Exhibition title: Family Practice

Venue: COOPER COLE, Toronto, Canada

Date: August 1 – 31, 2019

 

To view the full article please visit Art Viewer. 

For more information about Zachary Leener or Anders Oinonen please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

 

Tau Lewis Featured on iNews UK

August 26, 2019
Tags: News, Tau Lewis

Yorkshire Sculpture International is featured in iNews UK. 

Dreamy landscapes, horizontal rain, forced rhubarb, stout shoes, strong tea… and sculpture. There’s a new arrival on the list of Yorkshire’s glories. The first Yorkshire Sculpture International – a festival celebrating the art you can love from all angles – launched in Leeds and Wakefield earlier this summer.

As part of its varied exhibition programme, this 3D jamboree anoints one-time bad-boy of Brit art Damien Hirst as the latest in a line of celebrated modern sculptors associated with the region, following in the footsteps of Henry Mooreand Barbara Hepworth. As well as four massive bronzes at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Black Sheep With Golden Horns (2009) floating in formaldehyde amid the Victorian sentimentality at Leeds Art Gallery, two works by Hirst have been installed in the city centre.

The monumental bronze Hymn (1999–2005) – an anatomical study of a male torso – stands in the middle of Leeds’s pedestrianized Briggate shopping street. The red of Hymn’s exposed musculature echoes in the signage of the neighbouring H. Samuel store and a branch of Santander. Nearby, in the city’s beautiful Edwardian shopping arcade, is the white marble Anatomy of an Angel (2008), also part-dissected.

Installed without fanfare, both have gone down a storm. Gangs of sixth-formers photographed one another holding Hymn’s muscular backside or in repose on its plinth, groups stopped to chat and stare. I asked a jeweller looking eagerly through his window in the arcade what he thought of having Anatomy of an Angel on his doorstep: he thought it was wonderful, couldn’t have been happier.

The art world – this critic included – can be a bit arch about Mr Hirst, but there are very few sculptors who elicit this kind of public response. It’s not just celebrity: the works themselves appeal and engage. People were playing with them, gawping at them, fondling them and interacting in an irreverent way not usually permitted in the context of a museum. We can’t help wanting to touch sculpture: particularly not works of art that offer a material illusion (bronze masquerading as plastic masquerading as flesh) as these do.

Hirst is not the whole story. Extending through four institutions as well as public sites, YSI offers sculptures ancient and modern, authored and anonymous, eminent and emerging. Leeds Art Gallery is showing an architectural installation by Ayse Erkmen: the framework of the gallery’s Victorian lantern ceiling, reproduced as a pavilion balanced at floor level. It’s elegant, if a little cool.
On the ground floor, installed in a thickly carpeted room, black and white photographs from Joanna Piotrowska’s Shelter (2016-18) series show adults making refuges and dens out of their possessions, suggesting a human instinct for construction.

A historic exhibition explores wood as a sculptural medium: contemporary and modern works appear alongside ancient and non-Euro American artefacts, suggesting a debt of influence. The display also shines a spotlight on less-seen art from the collection, including a carved relief by the Jamaican-born Modernist sculptor Ronald Moody whose career feels ripe for celebratory re-appraisal.

The adjacent Henry Moore Institute carries five small displays of new work. These include Rashid Johnson’s presentation in shea butter, both carved into crude sculptural forms and presented as piles of raw stuff to be modelled by visitors or massaged into the skin as moisturiser.

Through video and historic displays, Sean Lynch – a reliably engaging artist storyteller – tells the tale of “Flint Jack”, a manufacturer and peddler of arrow and axe-heads, many of which were erroneously purchased for archaeological collections in the nineteenth century.

Never mind Yorkshire: Hepworth Wakefield is one of the best museums anywhere in which to see sculpture, bringing together great architecture and great programming. Their YSI display includes older pieces exploring materials and our relationship with them by Jimmie Durham (a US American artist now dogged by controversy surrounding his claim to Cherokee ancestry, which tribal representatives deny.)

A quieter work by Wolfgang Laib occupies the side-lit adjacent gallery: a grid of rice, arranged in piles, each about the size of a handful, around small, rough stone sculptures. The space smells deliciously of Basmati, and invites meditative calm.

One of the great discoveries of YSI is the young Canadian artist Tau Lewis,whose work using textiles, ceramics, and marine debris occupies two small galleries at the Hepworth. Lewis has gathered clothing – mostly denim – from friends and family as well as her own wardrobe to create floor-based sculptures and a hanging wall piece that propose new legends of the sea.

Octopus, ray, hammerhead shark and jellyfish appear, interspersed with haunting faces, their teeth made of shells and pebbles: hybrid mermen and mermaids with ancestral origins, perhaps, in the devastating transatlantic trade in human bodies.

As well as four mega works by Hirst – including Charity (2002-3) and The Virgin Mother (2005-6) – Yorkshire Sculpture Park is staging the first major British exhibition of work by David Smith, a US American artist associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement. There are hints of Alexander Calder, Eduardo Paolozzi and early work by Giacometti, but Smith developed a sculptural language all his own, painting his welded metal works in bright colours and incorporating shapes inspired by his young daughters.

Smith died in a car accident in 1965, aged 59. Not much of his work is held in European collections, so this show is a rare treat: beautifully installed and full of fascinating insights into his early career. Half a dozen metal sculptures are shown outdoors, notably Untitled (Candida) (1965) which sits on the hilltop above the gallery and frames a view out over the park.

As well as bringing international sculpture to Yorkshire, YSI is supporting work by sculptors in the region, selected for exhibition via an open call. These five associate artists – all female – are showing in the Bothy Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Highlights of this small display include a series of striking, stained, bodily casts taken from clefts in rock by Rosanne Robertson, and a film and textile piece exploring movements in digital space by Rhian Cooke.

Stationed on the route into Wakefield itself is Huma Bhabha’s Receiver (2019) a sturdy, rough-hewn figure of heroic proportions cast in bronze, which glares ominously over the crossroads at the statue of Queen Victoria. The New York-based artist installed related works on the roof of the Met museum last summer: they suggest both war-torn antiquities and otherworldly totems.
Commissions for YSI have been inspired by artist Phyllida Barlow’s suggestion that “sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms”.

Rounding off this sculptural study of human behaviour is a commission for the public realm by Tarek Atoui, an artist whose improvised music machines in turn create a sculptural environment from sound.

YSI was proposed, originally, as part of Leeds’s bid for a stint as European City of Culture in 2023. The region had that hope dashed by Brexit, but has defiantly committed to this celebration of sculpture in the face of political uncertainty. The institutions involved have stepped up with a slick and outward-facing celebration of sculpture: it deserves to pull in the crowds.

To view the full article please visit iNews UK. 

For more information about Tau Lewis please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

 

Sara Cwynar Featured in Architectural Digest

August 15, 2019

Sara Cwynar’s solo show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is featured in Architectural Digest.

Sara Cwynar doesn’t make decoration, but she deftly nods to interior design in her first East Coast solo exhibition, now open at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The Vancouver-born artist—a trained photographer and former designer for the New York Times Magazine—explores trends, commercialism, and the amorphous and ever-changing ideals of beauty. Titled “Sara Cwynar: Gilded Age,” the varied presentation features photographs, film, and a site-specific wallpaper making its first appearance Stateside. The show will be open through Sunday, November 10.

Cwynar’s wallpaper toys with the idea of art as decoration. Sheathing a corner gallery wall, the wallpaper entitled 72 Pictures of Modern Paintings immediately captivates. This expansive decorative work, a first for the artist, is a compilation of famous modern paintings that she digitally manipulated to blend into an almost unrecognizable pattern that’s eerily ornamental until one recognizes a face, or perhaps arm, tucked into the dusty pinks and blues. Sure enough, fragments of 72 works by the likes of Lichtenstein, Picasso, Pollock, and more live amid the chaos. “l wanted to take these art objects that have been given a place of great importance in our culture, mash them together, and turn them into this big decoration to see and whether they’re just beautiful, and whether that makes them valueless,” Cwynar explains. “I think there’s still great value in just being beautiful, but the wallpaper kind of foregrounds the aesthetic components of modern art.” This inquiry is a substantial one: When even the most known artworks can so easily become purely ornamental, what inherently sets a meaningful work apart?

Cwynar investigates the thinness and flexibility of this barrier. Surely these pieces possess artistic value, but why? Viewers are challenged to grapple with this intelligently, as Cwynar smartly avoids the cheekiness that might prompt visceral reactions.

In part, she chose wallpaper as her design medium because even in today’s furniture-as-art moment, wall coverings retain their function as backdrops. Additionally, they remain embedded with associations of a bygone era. Photos of heavily chintzed and wallpapered rooms pass across the desks of designers (and AD editors) often, but such rich interiors are neither mass-market nor the look du jour. “I thought a wallpaper really made sense in this context as a classic bourgeois decorative thing,” she explains. Even today, silk wall coverings or hand-painted wallpapers are markers of luxury. Plus, Cwynar adds, “you don’t see many experimental wallpapers.”

To create the pattern, Cwynar began at the bookshelf, scouring encyclopedias. She picked out the most well-known modern paintings, scanned these reproductions into her computer—stains, spots, and all—and then digitally toyed with the scans in Photoshop. “One thing that’s important to the wallpaper is that you can see the printing dots and textures of the reproductions, so it’s not even about the actual artwork anymore,” Cwynar says. After this digital rearranging, patterns emerged. Trends in the shapes, aesthetics, and depictions of women’s bodies rise to the top of Cwynar’s optics (no doubt due to the era’s most celebrated artists being male).

Though she thinks deeply about trends, Cwynar is not prone to following them in her artistic practice. Citing rose gold accessories and sweatpants as examples, Cwynar investigates the cyclical return of trends, and whether participation in them detracts from the meaning of one’s work—or if it’s inevitable. Who can ever be safe from such influence? The artists in 72 Pictures likely didn’t follow trends consciously, yet their practices bred trends within the global modern art movement. Like decorators who scour archives and museums professionally for inspiration, this isn’t due to a lack of individual perspective as much as proximity and resourcefulness; we are never islands.

When asked if dismantling some of the world’s best-known works was sentimental, Cwynar notes that most viewers interact with reproductions of these pieces already. Andy Warhol’s soup cans, for example, are less likely to be encountered in the flesh than on a stranger’s canvas tote. Ditto a Mondrian composition and a color-block mug at the Met’s gift shop. “It’s about how art gets commodified and recycled into things that can be sold [or] literally placed on something to make it seem like it has a value or an aura,” she says.

“That’s something I think about a lot in my work—how things are changed in meaning and in value after they are touched and understood by other people,” Cwynar adds. “And that’s what trends are too.”

To view the full article please visit Architectural Digest. 

For more information about Sara Cwynar please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Sara Cwynar Featured in The Wilton Bulletin

August 8, 2019

Sara Cwynar explores power of imagery at the Aldrich in ‘Gilded Age’.

The walls are talking at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield.

The artworks in the exhibition, “Sara Cwynar: Gilded Age,” are in conversation with each other, examining color, stereotypes and beauty standards harvested from an oversaturation of messages we are bombarded with today. Images of Nefertiti, architectural landmarks, overly bright nail polish bottles and cosmetic samples are repeated and rearranged among various works, in collage-like layered creations that blend photography, installation and bookmaking with historical reference points and themes.

This is the Canadian-born artist’s first East Coast solo exhibition and it is on view through Nov. 10. Cwynar has a background in graphic design and her artistic practice is clearly informed by conceptual art. In “Gilded Age,” she looks at what beauty means, what makes for a “pretty picture” and the power of images in the real and digital worlds.

Curated in conjunction with the artist, the exhibition features a sampling of Cwynar’s color photographs from 2014 to 2019 (including new work); “Kitsch Encyclopedia,” 2014, her first artist book; “Cover Girl,” 2018, a 16mm film on video with sound making its East Coast debut); and “72 Pictures of Modern Paintings,” 2016, a site-specific wallpaper being shown for the first time in the United States.

Combing through a wealth of imagery that runs the gamut from art history to advertising, Cwynar astutely ferrets out the important from the trivial to explore several themes. Color is a prominent theme explored and one that weaves itself throughout her works to open up important dialogues.

“I was thinking about many different ways color is used to create desire or to trick people,” said Cwynar. “For example, I am thinking about which colors film can reproduce and how things that seem totally natural and technical, like what red film can reproduce or how the color of a sky looks or a skin tone, are decided on by technicians with biases.”

“I was also thinking about how certain colors take us back to certain times, and how color can contain meaning and emotion. I also have spent a lot of time researching the way color is used to sell things, especially examples like melamine plastic cups from the ’50s or the rose gold iPhone from 2016 where color was used to sell us something we already owned as if it was something new.”

Bias among image makers, particularly in advertising, is another key theme Cwynar explores, revealing hidden intents and biases in vintage advertising images that she upends. Taking on popular photographic clichés, including the portrait, still life and product images, Cwynar asks important questions about deep-seated stereotypes.

“I really hope viewers come away thinking about the power of images, and the way that even our most benign seeming photographs — for example, an architectural picture in an encyclopedia, or an advertisement of a smiling woman, or a picture of a watch, contain many layers of politics and intention,” she says. “These types of images shape the way we see ourselves and our (Western) culture in ways that we may not be able to recognize all the time. And as they proliferate more and more it becomes even harder to see.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog — the artist’s first — and the cover image is a bright pink rose, which evinces Cwynar’s mastery of consciously layers upon layers of messages in her work. The rose here is a vibrant pink hue and the rose is a quintessential symbol of beauty but roses fade just as beauty fades.

“The roses are some of the only straight or unaltered pictures in the show, and yet somehow they look fake. I was thinking about roses as this sort of unimpeachable symbol of beauty, something most people in Western culture would agree on, but making them in these garish bright almost synthetic colors so it’s not entirely clear if they are beautiful or real at all,” she said. “And also having all these advertising images in the show that sort of started as the height of style but then fell out of favor (the way most advertisements do), I wanted to connect this to something that has a much briefer life span, that is really only beautiful for a few days or for the moment I photograph it, then is gone.”

“This show thinks a lot about the cycles of value of things we consider beautiful and how some images stand the test of time (like an image of a Greek ruin, for example), and others, like a lipstick ad, have a very brief life span before we no longer want to look at them. And ultimately, particularly in ‘Cover Girl,’ I am trying to parse an idea that the way we cycle through and discard objects and images has bearing on the way we treat others and ourselves too — particularly when it comes to female standards of beauty.”

To view the full article please visit The Wilton Bulletin.

For more information about Sara Cwynar please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Tau Lewis Featured on The Arts Desk

July 18, 2019
Tags: News, Tau Lewis

Tau Lewis part of Yorkshire Sculpture International and featured on The Arts Desk. 

Sculpture is as much a part of Yorkshire as cricket and a decent cup of tea, with the “sculpture triangle”, comprising four prestigious museums and galleries, feeling almost as well-established as the county’s famed rhubarb triangle. Now the Hepworth Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park have collaborated with the Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute next door to launch a sculpture festival.

Yorkshire Sculpture International, which runs until 29 September, showcases work new and old against the backdrop of the county’s considerable sculptural heritage, with Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, two of Yorkshire’s most illustrious offspring, rarely far from sight or mind. Their commitment to the modernist maxim of “truth to materials” provides a thematic anchor for 18 artists from 12 different countries, united by their interest in exploring the physical and cultural attributes of their chosen materials. New commissions from local and international artists, all at different points in their careers, respond also to a statement by Phyllida Barlow in 2018, that “sculpture is the most anthropological of the artforms.”

A unifying theme is vital for a festival as ambitious as this one, but Barlow’s insistence on sculpture as a human imperative is sufficiently ambiguous that it can accommodate just about anything. At the Henry Moore Institute it embraces the clankingly literal, with Rashid Johnson’s sculptures made from shea butter a striking example of concept triumphing over execution. Shea Butter Three Ways attempts to channel the exotic overtones of this luxury cosmetic ingredient into a broader critique of cultural appropriation and western cultural imperialism. The ideas are good, but the cloying smell is the memory that endures.

In Leeds and Wakefield city centres, Barlow’s statement might well have provided an opportunity – sadly wasted – for a re-evaluation of public sculpture and its role. Instead Leeds city centre hosts a self-serving homage to another of Yorkshire’s sons, Damien Hirst. Hymn, 1995-2005, a giant anatomical model in playschool colours towers over the city’s main shopping street, while inside the elegant Victoria Arcade, something similar bares its organs, as neatly packed and decorative as if they had been parceled up in one of the chichi boutiques nearby.

In Wakefield city centre, Receiver by Huma Bhabha is another dispiriting addition, the more so perhaps because it was specially commissioned. Vaguely humanoid, archly naive, the piece is an artist’s inadequate internal dialogue located in a civic space in a way that shows an extraordinary lack of judgement by both artist and curator. The piece shows no empathy with its location in the city’s fine and dignified square, eliciting well-deserved snorts of  derision from passing youth on BMX’s.

If misplaced self-importance is the scourge of public sculpture, self-searching work by west Yorkshire artist Rosanne Robertson brings insight and feeling to big topics. Her casts of rock formations, made on long walks in the countryside near her studio in Hebden Bridge, test the natural states of fluidity and solidity with dedication and originality. For her, these interrogations serves as a means to consider the nature of gender and sexuality: beautiful to look at, sensitive and responsive to the artistic antecedents that surround it in the gallery at Hepworth Wakefield, Robertson’s work combines sculpture and performance in works that are both personal and universal.

In a similar vein, Jamaican-Canadian sculptor Tau Lewis’s work is infused with the power of memory. Pieced together from fabrics collected from different places and people, Lewis’s handsewn sculptures of sea creatures and others are envisaged as reincarnations of victims of the slave trade, lost at sea but perpetuated through private and public acts of remembrance.

The highlight of the offering from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and perhaps of the festival overall, is an exhibition dedicated to David Smith (1906-1965), an American sculptor little known outside the USA, with few works in European collections. Though he died very young, he was prolific, and sculptures dating from 1932 until his death seen both outside and in, present a sustained dialogue with sculptural developments of the 20th century.

Though Smith can clearly be seen responding to surrealism and kinetic art, for example, it was industrial practices rather than artistic ones that motivated him in the first place. Works from the 1930s and 1940s recall the surrealist constructions of Giacometti, the erotic casts of Duchamp and Louise Bourgeois’s cells, while a piece such as Hudson River Landscape, 1951, a drawing in metal, relates to the work of his friend Alexander Calder.

In his Medals for Dishonor series, 1939, Smith’s antecedents reach back still further. The series of 15 large scale reliefs recall Renaissance medals, their theme of protest against the horrors of war echoing Goya’s print series, The Disasters of War, 1810-20

Much as fine art provides an intellectual and formal backdrop for Smith’s work, his training as a welder was every bit as influential, a stint at the Studebacker car factory while a student proving formative. A decade or so later, in 1934, Smith rented workspace at the Terminal Iron Works in Brooklyn, so that he was in the remarkable and surely at that time unique position of prdoucing sculptures surrounded by industrial metalworkers.

Works from the 1950s and 1960s combine an industrial aesthetic with fields of colour reminiscent of the paintings of that era. In fact, Smith’s work often challenges the very fundamentals of sculpture itself, insisting on flatness and rejecting mass and volume, traditionally the very essence of sculpture.

Long-awaited, difficult to stage, and including the rare chance to see Smith’s sculptures out of doors, this exhibition is by far and away the high point of the inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture Festival, and a reason to go in itself. Smith’s works add a further, enlivening dimension to the possibly rather overawing dual presence of Hepworth and Moore. Along with an impressive outreach project that is not only supporting early careers of promising young artists like Roseanne Robertson, but also introducing school children to sculpture, this is what will be remembered from this first edition of a festival that has every reason to grow into an annual monument.

To view the full article please visit The Arts Desk.

For more information about Tau Lewis please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Interview with artist Tau Lewis at The Hepworth Wakefield

July 12, 2019
Tags: News, Tau Lewis

 

As part of Yorkshire Sculpture International, The Hepworth Wakefield sat down with self-taught artist Tau Lewis (b.1993, Toronto) while she spoke about her first solo show outside of North America, taking place in Wakefield. Yorkshire Sculpture International, the largest festival of sculpture in the UK, runs at The Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute and Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 22 June – 29 September 2019.

For more information about Tau Lewis please contact the gallery:

info@coopercolegallery.com
+1.416.531.8000

Sara Cwynar Featured on Zukus

July 11, 2019

Sara Cwynar’s solo exhibition at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art is featured on Zukus.

Sara Cwynar’s video Cover Girl (2018), the artist’s meditation on femininity and the history of cosmetics, includes scenes shot in the depths of an unnamed makeup factory. In one scene, the camera pans over sterile jars filled with flesh-tone liquids to be eventually sold as foundation. In another, thin sheets of oily rose-colored wax—pink lipstick in progress—cascade down a slide looking like slices of finely shaved deli meat, delectable and disgusting.

There is something jarring about seeing the cold realities of the beauty industry—a sector that is growing rapidly among millennials, shilling self-care, individuality, and most important, the capacity to be Instagram ready. And after one views Cover Girl in Cwynar’s “Gilded Age” at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut—the artist’s first East Coast solo museum show—it’s hard to resist seeking out more footage from inside cosmetics factories. My favorite, a YouTube video by L’Oréal on its lipstick-making process, stands out for embracing the contradiction between the product’s associations and its mode of manufacturing, stressing that “as glamorous as it is, lipstick is still a high-technology product.” As the video elaborates, lip color is mixed according to tested, standardized procedures. To achieve each shade, multiple pigments are needed, and each tube contains about 20 ingredients.

Images, especially those of women, are just as manufactured—comprising ingredients that cohere into one appealing or comprehensible vision. And many of Cwynar’s videos and photographs are designed, like Cover Girl, to offer something like a behind-the-scenes look into the making of feminine ideals. Her work forces viewers to question why certain tropes of femininity appear beautiful or at least normalized. Why does a synthetically produced red lip, for example, read as sultry rather than machinic? And when and why do we embrace artifice in women? How much makeup is too much? At what point does self-enhancement slip from tasteful to garish?

Cwynar’s work is also interested more broadly in identifying the palettes, cinematographic moods, and media formats we are subconsciously drawn to. For example, her best-known film, Rose Gold (2017)—shown in a 2017 exhibition at her New York gallery, Foxy Production—highlights our attraction to soft colors and faded analog film. (Soft Film is the title of a 2016 video showing the artist arranging her vintage eBay purchases by look, date, and function.) Shot on 16 millimeter, Rose Gold centers on color trends and takes its name from the popular, since-discontinued iPhone color option. Through a series of montages and voiceovers, Cwynar reveals how our reception of different hues changes over time by comparing our appreciation of the titular iridescent pink to our revulsion for older, harsher metallics like harvest gold, a mustardy shade that was a staple of 1970s fridges and shag carpets.

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