Magazine Contemporary Culture


Exhibitions: Paul McCarty

Paul McCarty, The King, The Island, The Train, The House, The Ship, 16 November 2011 – 14 January 2012
Hauser & Wirth London and Hauser & Wirth London, Piccadilly

Combining political figures and pop culture, ‘Pig Island’, on view at Savile Row, is a morally deviant world populated by pirates, cowboys, the likenesses of George W. Bush and Angelina Jolie, an assortment of Disney characters and the artist himself, all carousing in a state of wild and reckless abandon. The island is constructed from blocks of polystyrene piled high with wood, cast body parts, clay, spray paint and old fast food containers surrounded by a sea of blue carpeting.

Over a seven year period, ‘Pig Island’ grew to fill McCarthy’s studio, blurring the boundaries between the work and the workplace. It evolved from an accumulation of detritus and half-finished figures into a sculptural installation: every detail of the seemingly chaotic work meticulously positioned as if it were a carefully orchestrated film set, complete with film lighting. Unlike the picture-perfect Disney fairytales McCarthy so often references, ‘Pig Island’ flaunts its unfinished state and mechanisms, enabling the viewer to catch a glimpse of the artist’s process, the organic development of his sculptures and the rawness of a neverending work-in-progress.

Described by McCarthy as a ‘sculpture machine’, ‘Pig Island’ has given birth to numerous large-scale sculptures, including ‘Train, Mechanical’: a mechanical sculpture showing twin pot-bellied caricatures of George W. Bush sodomising two pigs. Each of the figures performs a choreographed set of actions – their asses move rhythmically back and forth, their mouths open and close, their heads spin and, when approached, their heads and beady eyes follow the viewer around the space.

‘The King’ presides over the main space of the Piccadilly gallery. This new monumental installation consists of a platform surrounded by large-scale airbrush paintings that were created on the easel that stands on the platform. Atop the platform is a throne upon which a silicone model of McCarthy sits stark naked with partly severed limbs, closed eyes and wearing a long blonde wig. Church pews arranged in front of the stage give the viewer a place to sit and contemplate the artist’s elevated status as they gaze up at his wooden throne.

McCarthy has been making mechanical sculptures as an extension of his performance-based art since the early nineties. His new mechanical work, ‘Mad House Jr.’, is an adapted version and, at the same time, a maquette of ‘Mad House’ (2008), first shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. ‘Mad House Jr.’ is a small room-like cube with windows and a doorless entry. Like a miniature amusement park ride, the cube shakes and spins rapidly whilst a small camera installed inside the cube records all of its movements. This footage is then projected into the space, creating an environment of physical and mental disorientation.

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Alexandra Mir


Alexandra Mir, Triumph, Detail, 2009

‘Triumph’ at the Shirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt is Aleksandra Mir’s first solo show in Germany. Inspired by a friend who had been a famous athlete in his youth and kept mementos of his achievements, Mir placed an ad in the local newspaper in Palermo, Italy, where she lives, asking for old sports trophies. Within a few months, Mir collected 2,529 trophies and had them cleaned and archived. In the exhibition, the trophies are displayed individually and in groups on plinths and the floor, or piled on top of each other like detritus. Mir explores the power of the trophy, both a coveted symbol of accomplishment and a garish, mass-produced item of little value.

Each trophy has a story, and many of the trophies Mir collected, old and unwanted, reflect a common theme of looking back on lost youth and vitality, and holding on. As the cheap metal tarnishes and the memories of victory fade, the time comes when the trophies are taken out to the trash, or in this case, sold to Mir for €5 each.

Aleksandra Mir recently gained international attention with her ‘Plane Landing,’ a life-sized inflatable jet that was installed last year in Zürich as well as various sites around Paris. She is a participant in this year’s 53rd Venice Biennale. ‘Triumph’ runs May 14-July 26, 2009 at Shirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt.

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Sculpture: Danh Vo

Danh Vo, Oma Totem, 2009

Maybe ‘everyday objects’ is the wrong term to use for my production because the way I refer to objects in my work is not about the everyday object in itself. I’m interested in building up and sustaining a certain way of thinking which enables you to look at objects in a different manner. Thinking is the starting point for looking at things.

For example, my piece Oma Totem (Grandma Totem, 2009) combines a washing machine, a refrigerator, a crucifix and a television set, which all used to belong to my grandmother. The selection was made on the basis of a conceptual approach: these are the first things that my grandmother received in Germany. Thinking determined the sculpture – not the fact that it was a fridge or a crucifix.

One of my earliest experiences of things not necessary being what they seem to be was my experience of vacation. Half my family lived in Germany, and the other half, including myself, lived in Denmark. Every summer, when all the kids had summer vacation from school, we went to visit our relatives in Germany. My family didn’t really have an idea for vacation. In the summer, they would work either in the strawberry fields or peeling small shrimps that were delivered to and picked up from their homes. I think it was more about spending time together, but that meant work. This was my first idea of vacation, and I have only good memories of it. Like all the other kids returning sunburnt to school. We always look at things through our own history, our gender and social upbringing. Most everyday objects and conventions are very unfamiliar for me. And it’s through this empirical experience that I do what I do.

From Frieze d/e, Issue 2, 2011.

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Exhibition: Anri Sala


Doldrum, 2008, Installation view

Anri Sala, 1 October – 20 November 2011
The Serpentine Gallery

Anri Sala (born 1974, Tirana) is a leading contemporary artist whose early videos and films mined his personal experience to reflect on the social and political change taking place in his native Albania.
Sala has attached a growing importance to sound, creating remarkable works in which he recasts sound’s relationship to the image. Linked to this development is Sala’s long-standing interest in performance, and particularly musical performance.
A central premise of this exhibition is that most of the works presented at the Serpentine either use a live performance as their starting point or could lead to a performance in the future.

The exhibition is conceived as a cycle, or loop, structured around pairs of works that echo each other


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Lernert & Sander

Lernert & Sander, Trampling, From the Series, Elektrotechnique, 2011

Dutch designers Lernert & Sander create pieces that reflect on the remarkable, often messy endeavor of art-making. In their surreal, Pantone world, the creative process is always beautifully exposed.

Though not yet a household name, the Dutch duo have amassed a considerable body of work – including TV commercials, short films, print pieces, and art installations – that’s darkly humorous and eminently engaging. We first got hooked on their witty films series “How To Explain…” and “The Procrastinators.” In the former, Lernert & Sander film conceptual artists as they (painstakingly) attempt to explain their work to their parents. In the latter, a series of artists confess their struggles with procrastination. Further digging led us to “Chocolate Bunny” and their first “Revenge” film, which elegantly stages and then documents the destruction of a single, innocent egg.

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Gerhard Richter

Uebermalte fotografien, 5 october 1998, Uebermalte fotografien, 8 september 2004 and Uebermalte fotografien, 2 march 2005

Gerhard Richter is a German visual artist and one of the pioneers of the New European Painting that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces. His art follows the examples of Picasso and Jean Arp in undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.

In the early 1960s Richter was exposed to both American and British Pop art, which was just becoming known in Europe, and to the Fluxus movement. Richter consistently regarded himself simply as a painter. He began to paint enlarged copies of black-and-white photographs using only a range of treys.

The evident reliance on a ready-made source gave Richter’s paintings an apparent objectivity that he felt was lacking in abstract art of the period. The indistinctness of the images that emerged in the course of their transformation into thick layers of oil paint helped free them of traditional associations and meaning. Richter concentrated exclusively on the process of applying paint to the surface.

As early as 1966 he had made paintings based on colour charts. Although these paintings, like those based on photographs, were still dependent on an existing artefact, all that was left in them was the naked physical presence of colour as the essential material of all painting.
All vestiges of subject-matter seem to have been abandoned by Richter in the paintings that he began to produce in 1976. Even these supposedly wholly invented paintings retained a second-hand look, as if the brushstrokes had been copied from photographic enlargements.

The extreme variety of Richter’s work left him open to criticism, but his rejection of an artificially maintained consistency of style was a conscious conceptual act that allowed him to investigate freely the basic principles of painting.

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Sarah Braman


Sarah Braman, Small Fry, 2008

Sarah came from rural massachusetts. She had been accepted to other, fancier schools, but luckily for us, she was broke and the one thing our Philadelphia school had to offer was big scholarships. I don’t remember much about the work she applied with other than it was sculpture and mainly purple or blue and she arrived holding a six-month-old baby in her arms, which was mainly pink.

While everyone was sweating it out trying to be the best artist, Sarah was making work about failure and love and personal offering, which came easily to her. When the faculty threatened to fail her, she protested by making more purple sculpture and having another baby. For the past 10 years she has collaborated in owning and running Canada, a gallery on the lower west side of the Lower East Side.

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Liam Gillick

Liam Gillick, German Pavilion at Venice Art Biennale, 2009

Born in England in 1964, Liam Gillick emphasizes his roots in postwar Europe and his consequent distrust of authority as major influences in his curatorial techniques and artistic practices. Currently working in London and New York, “engaged with the processes of the everyday,” he rejects the use of the term “contemporary art” citing it as historical and redundant.

Working in a variety of different mediums including large-scale installations, inkjet prints, and music, as well as curatorial projects and theoretical writings, Gillick’s work transcends disciplinary categories. In 2009, he was selected to represent Germany in the Venice Biennale, and he was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2002. Gillick has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College in 2012, as well as solo shows at institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2009), Rotterdam’s Witte de With (2008), Kunsthalle Zurich (2008), the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2005), and the Museum of Modern Art (2003). He has also contributed to magazines and journals such as Frieze, Artforum, and October.

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Liliane Lijn

Liliane Lijn, In the valley of darkness Liliane Lijn, In the valley of darkness 1973

Liliane Lijn, In The Valley of Darkness, 1973

Partly, perhaps as an act of mourning; more obviously as a reparative act, Lijn conceived of her manipulation of prisms as giving them a kind of restorative posthumous existence to remedy their mutilated identity: “A prism on its own is lost. It has no feet, no legs to stand on”. Her fantasy ran that they had lost their function in a world of technical forms by no longer being “anchored into a machine, which one way or another will be a machine for seeing… I must give it a body”.

Liliane Lijn (born 1939), is an American-born artist who was the first woman artist to work with kinetic text (Poem Machines), exploring both light and text as early as 1962. She has lived in London since 1966.

Utilising highly original combinations of industrial materials and artistic processes, Lijn is recognised for pioneering the interaction of art, science, technology, eastern philosophy and female mythology. Lijn is particularly known for her timeless, cone-shaped Koan series. In conversation with Fluxus artist and writer, Charles Dreyfus, Lijn stated that she primarily chose to ‘see the world in terms of light and energy’. Lijn describes her work as ‘A constant dialogue between opposites, my sculptures use light and motion to transform themselves from solid to void, opaque to transparent, formal to organic.’

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Harm Van den Dorpel

Harm van den Dorpel Harm van den Dorpel

Harm Van den Dorpel, Animal series, 2008

Harm van den Dorpel (born 1981 in Zaandam, The Netherlands) is a Berlin-based conceptual artist. With his work he investigates aesthetic hierarchies and cybernetic organisations of art and contemporary visual culture in general. He explores how intuitive associative expression, and algorithmically structured information systems can operate in hybrid. His practice includes sculpture, collage, animation and websites. He is regarded a key figure in Post-Internet art. Harm van den Dorpel is represented by Wilkinson Gallery in London. His work has been shown in the exhibition ‘Free’ at the New Museum in New York, and the survey exhibition ‘Art Post-Internet’ at The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art.

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Gert Robijns

Gert Robijns, Tri de graver, 2010, Happy New Year, 2008 and Pro Deo, 2006

Gert Robijn’s exhibition Happy New Year shows six new pieces. They are characterised by a clear style and referring to everyday situations. Themes such as perception, organisation and classification are treated in an instinctive manner. Elementary scientific experiences are being displayed in a minimal fashion. An apparently new balance arises between concepts such as light/heavy, below/above, covered/uncovered, visible/invisible. The items on display have their conventions taken away, renewed, as if they had been painted over.
The objects have been placed in various ways on formica-coated showcases, which remind one of shapes that can be found in every house. Refrigerators, kitchen units, occasional tables, white, austere blocks. The sides are sometimes interrupted by a shade of grey, which makes one hesitate between a constant shadow and an area of colour.

Robijns’ Liter shows two milk cartons on the level of a kitchen table. While one is still in its recognizable, original condition, the other has had its top removed and has been filled with a plastic bag containing exactly 1 litre of water. This bag partly droops over the carton in small folds. One appears to be light, the other heavy. New Balance also seems to refer to heaviness and weight. Two shoes crushed under the edge of the case. A similar, absurd scene can be found in Dieet. An empty packet of biscuits is being displayed on a lower case. The glass has been positioned right in front it. As if a passer-by hastily ate the contents and then walked off. The shape of the showcase has been applied in a more complex manner in the work Lijn N°5. There it functions as a machine, maybe a fax or a printer. Five pencils, that can draw five straight lines, are submerged in the wood. Right underneath is a groove where paper can be inserted or taken out. Scanner is another example of a machine that has been brought back to utter simplicity. It shows how two loose objects can represent a very complex device like a scanner. Happy New Year shows five diaries of different sizes ranging from a small pocket size to a double A4. This work visualizes the difficulty of predicting how busy the year will be, how many new exhibition projects and artistic productions there will take place.

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James Turrell

James Turrell, Alta (White), 1967

James Turrell (born May 6, 1943) is an American artist primarily concerned with light and space. Turrell was a MacArthur Fellow in 1984. Turrell is best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater, a natural cinder cone crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona that he is turning into a massive naked-eye observatory.

“Well, my interest is working with light and space.
And you got light and you got space, there’s no doubt of that. And it’s always something to work with light in the outdoors.
That’s something that I wanted to do, wanted to shape space, to use the light that was here naturally.
Also, I wanted to use the very fine qualities of light.
First of all, moonlight.
Also, there’s a space where you can see your shadow from the light of Venus alone – things like this.
And also wanted to gather starlight that was from outside,
light that’s not only from outside the planetary system
which would be from the sun or reflected off of the moon or a planet,
but also to emanate light from the galactic planes
where you’ve got this older light
that’s away from the light even of our galaxy.
So that is light that would be at least three and a half billion years old.
So you’re gathering light that’s older than our solar system.
And it’s possible to gather that light,
it takes a good bit of stars to do that,
and a good look into older skies, away from the Milky Way.
You can gather that light and physically have that in place so that it’s physically present to feel this old light.
That’s something that you can do here in a place like this,
where you have good, dark skies.
So to have this sort of old blended light and to have this sort of new,
eight and a half minute old light from the sun.
And I wanted to look at light that way, because to feel it physically,
almost as we taste things, was a quality I wanted.”

In 1966, Turrell began experimenting with light in his Santa Monica studio, the Mendota Hotel, at a time when the so-called Light and Space group of artists in Los Angeles, including Robert Irwin, Mary Corse and Doug Wheeler, was coming into prominence. By covering the windows and only allowing prescribed amounts of light from the street outside to come through the openings, Turrell created his first light projections. In Shallow Space Constructions (1968) he used screened partitions, allowing a radiant effusion of concealed light to create an artificially flattened effect within the given space. That same year, he participated in the Los Angeles County Museum’s Art and Technology Program, investigating perceptual phenomena with the artist Robert Irwin and psychologist Edward Wortz. In 1969, he made sky drawings with Sam Francis, using colored skywriting smoke and cloud-seeding materials. A pivotal environment Turrell developed from 1969 to 1974, for The Mendota Stoppages several rooms in the former Mendota Hotel in Santa Monica were sealed off, the window apertures controlled by the artist to allow natural and artificial light to enter the darkened spaces in specific ways.

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Richard Prince

Richard Prince, Untitled (hippie drawing, Allen Ginsberg), 2000 – 2005

Richard Prince (born 1949) is an American painter and photographer. Prince began appropriating photographs in 1975. His image, Untitled (Cowboy), a “rephotograph” of a photograph taken originally by Sam Abell and appropriated from a cigarette advertisement, was the first “rephotograph” to raise more than $1 million at auction when it was sold at Christie’s New York in 2005.

Starting in 1977, Prince photographed four photographs which previously appeared in the New York Times. This process of re-photographing continued into 1983, when his work Spiritual America featured Garry Gross’s photo of Brooke Shields at the age of ten, standing in a bathtub, as an allusion to precocious sexuality and to the Alfred Stieglitz photograph by the same name. His Jokes series (beginning 1986) concerns the sexual fantasies and sexual frustrations of middle-class America, using stand-up comedy and burlesque humor.

After living in New York City for 25 years, Prince moved to upstate New York. His mini-museum, Second House, purchased by the Guggenheim Museum, was struck by lightning and burned down shortly after the museum purchased the House (which Richard had created for himself), having only stood for six years, from 2001 to 2007. In 2008 the painting ‘Overseas Nurse’ from 2002 fetched a record breaking $8,452,000 at Sotheby’s in London. Prince now lives and works in New York City.

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Armando Andrade Tudela

Armando Andrade Tudela, Untitled (Rattan 4), 2009

Armando Andrade Tudela (born 1975, Lima, Peru) is an artist living and working in St Etienne, France and Berlin, Germany.

Andrade studied at Pontifícia Universidad Católica, Lima, Perú, The Royal College of Arts, London, and at the Jan Van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht. He was a founding member of the artist run space and art collective Espacio La Culpable, Lima, Perú.

Andrade has taken part in the 2006 São Paulo Biennial, the 2006 Shanghai Biennial and the 2005 Torino Triennale.

His latest solo show, INKA SNOW is an extension of the artist’s ongoing research practice into forms of Tropical Modernism. In previous works, like CAMION (2004), his series of Billboard Photographs (2004-5) and Fragmentos de Escultura (2005), the artist has recombined existing and imagined forms out of a growing interest in local manifestations of the informal that occur on the precarious boundary between the historic and the new.

Tudela is represented by Carl Freedman Gallery, London.

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