Tag Archives: art

Matterful Art: Marina Abramovic is Present, Indeed

Start on the sixth floor at MOMA, and enter the fascinating, disturbing and compulsive world of Marina Abramovic.  Decide what to look at first:  her “Freedom” series where she screams until she loses her voice, speaks until she can’t find the words or dances until she collapses of exhaustion; the props used during her most famous “Rhythm” piece where she turned her body into a passive object that would be invaded by 72 different props for six hours; or the photos of her stabbing between her fingers repeatedly with knives.

Notice the nudes standing between the doorway and stare for a while before you decide to go the other way because you have too many bags to squeeze through such a tight space.

Enter the room where she meets Ulay, her collaborator and lover for the next 12 years, and realize you share their mutual birthday.  Think maybe you should amp up your adventurous side, but not quite to the level of Rest Energy below.

Stare at their series of 22 staring matches they did around the world in the least likely of places, from an empty museum in the middle of the night to a dirt pit in a war-torn country.  They went on in this immobile way for hours on end.  A commentator says:  “They’re doing their utmost to do nothing.”

Read about their Great Wall Walk, which was supposed to lead to marriage but instead led to separation.

Continue through the next few rooms where you realize her later solo work was just as bold and possibly even darker, with images of war and blood throughout.  The years did not mellow her.  There’s a naked, heavily breathing woman splayed on a table weighed down by a skeleton.

You’ve seen her age from her 20s to her late 50s.

On the second floor, you share a room with her at 64, live and engaged in ongoing staring matches with random strangers.  A beefy guy gets up after going head-to-head with her for some time, walks away and breathes heavily before he says to his friend, “That was intense.”  You can check out more peaceful, emotional, pensive, dulled and focused contenders here.

You leave MOMA thinking “present” is the most active verb around.

Posted by: Mariela

Just Did It: The Photographic Dictionary


I just spent the better part of an hour perusing The Photographic Dictionary, “dedicated to defining words through the literal, figurative, and personal meanings found in each photograph.” Some of my favorites are Exhausted (above), Endearing, Intimacy, and Queue (partly just because I like the word itself so much). They accept submissions. Makes me think what words my favorite photographs embody…

Posted by Lisa

Spotlight On: Jessey Jansen and Little Lady Studio

Jessey Jansen, the creative force behind Little Lady Studio, has been an artist since at least the 7th grade.  She recalls a moment when her art teacher warned the class that the first move they made on an 8×8 inch copper plate would be a permanent one, so they should think long and hard about what they wanted the final piece to look like.  Jessey took that as an opportunity:  “I loved it…I believed if I made a mistake I could just move on and make the design into something else. So I went ahead and pressed my lines into the surface with no worries if they were right or wrong, but only that they were building off the rest.”

Since then, the building hasn’t stopped.  She started with a line of simple and elegant greeting cards celebrating women at their best while she worked at a marketing company.  


Then, she flew the corporate coup with her sister Jacqueline and friend Dave to create the multimedia startup, blurreddistinction.  After five years, they decided to “transition all they’d built and learned back into individual pursuits” — Jessey with Little Lady; Dave with a brand of hot sauces; and Jacqueline with a digital art initiative based on human hair.  (Sidenote: Remember that Project Runway dress with a similar focus?) 

The greeting cards remain popular, but Little Lady has also expanded to include a socially-consicious art initiative called MyPop (My Print on Poverty), which “addresses the impressions of chaos, alienation, verbal and substance abuse, desperate resources, constant illness and perpetual judgments” that surround an underprivileged life.   Her primary reason to make art is to improve communication, and, fittingly, some of the places MyPOP has been included are college residency programs and counseling and therapy rooms.




 All this and she just one Best in Show at Bolingbrook’s first-annual Art Walk!

Posted by: Mariela

Just Did It: Affordable Art Fair Preview

A few glasses of free Sauvignon Blanc Wednesday night and I almost forgot that I am on a spending ban due to the savings I need to travel to South Africa next summer for the 2010 World Cup. 


I could have bought two pieces of fantastic art by two very different (and affordable artists) that I came across at this year’s Affordable Art Fair. A friend and I were somehow immediately drawn to something that I saw the Southern Gothic in, yet the artist, Scott Griffin, hailed from Toronto. (It figures, half the folks in Florida on any given winter’s day are Snowbirds anyway).


I loved this piece because it reminded me of canoe trips in the early 80s in Florida’s backwoods (it was welded on an old, found Coleman cooler top), yet I was tough! I bristled myself against the tasty hum of the white wine and I said, meekly: ‘I have to ask my husband.’ Of no soccer support at all, he said it was up to me. Now that is some tough love. I held steady chanting ‘South Africa! South Africa!’ in my head and then pushed my friend even harder on her ultimate purchase, a dynamite painting of a woman at a piano:


The danger is not yet over as the fair runs through this Sunday at 7 West 34th Street. Here is another find I fell in love with:


An earthy, Japanese-inspired piece that with a stressed metal frame would run only $600 or so. (World Cup! World Cup!)

We tried to distract ourselves with a bit of interactive art as seen at the televised arm wrestling table. 


I won this one. Lost this next one…


And the folks waiting for their glasses of wine or Yuengling watched us here: 


Not sure if I should be leaning like that. Yet I digress.

Galleries I spent some major time in? 

  • TAG Fine Arts, London
  • Rebecca Hossack, London
  • Like the Spice, Brooklyn
  • McCaig-Welles, Brooklyn (shown here)


  • New Grounds Inc., Albuquerque
  • Living with Art, New York

For the $20 entrance fee, The Affordable Art Fair is well worth it, especially if you have a few hundred/thousand in your pocket that you’re itching to spend. Don’t be afraid to haggle with the artists either; they won’t bite. 

Posted by: Autumn.

Matterful Art: Hernan Bas at the Brooklyn Museum

Our friend Helen suggested we check out Miami artist Hernan Bas’ exhibit while we were visiting the Brooklyn Museum for First Saturdays. I love when someone gives me another reason to think my hometown is cool and Bas is certainly one.

He’s a punk rock romantic:


A wistful fairy:


And a heartbroken lover:


In probably his boldest move, he dared to killed the mermaid in a video installation come open-casket funeral offering called Ocean’s Symphony.  It forced us to ask ourselves:  what’s life without mermaids?  No Darryl Hannah and Tom Hanks in Splash, no Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex.  No “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “A Whole New World,” or a young and carefree Winona Ryder singing “If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life” with Cher.  Not even the Coney Island parade that packs our subways with sparkles and dust.

Life without mermaids would be boring indeed.  Bring them back, Bas.  Bring them back.

Posted by: Mariela

Barack Obama as Dr. Manhattan!

One of my favorite things about riding the subway is the random art you come across. Sometimes it’s just random scribbles or tags, sometimes it’s faces rearranged to look like monsters, and sometimes you find true pieces of art.

This is what I spotted earlier today.

I witnessed this bit of awesomeness while leaving the W4 subway station in NYC. This may be the best thing I’ve ever seen done to a subway ad.

Posted by Wendy

Just Did It: Emily Jacir’s “Material for a Film”


At Mariola’s urging, I went to the Guggenheim to catch Emily Jacir’s dual exhibits Material for a Film (performance) and Material for a Film (2004-).  The two are based on the October 1972 assassination of Palestinian intellectual Wael Zuaiter by the Mossad, who believed he was the head of the Rome branch of Black September.  Many of us will recognize Black September as the terrorist group responsible for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the Summer Olympics in Munich.

Jacir’s work portrays Zuaiter as a peaceful intellect, who memorized large sections of the Divine Comedy, obsessed over Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, ran in the same circles as Italian writer Alberto Moravia, had a bit part in the Peter Sellers version of The Pink Panther and dreamt of translating One Thousand and One Nights from Arabic to Italian.  It was that very book that Zuaiter carried with him on the night of his murder.  In fact, the book took the 13th of 13 bullets, and that image becomes the symbolic centerpiece of Jacir’s exhibit.











In one work, Jacir photographs each page of the wounded copy of One Thousand and One Nights to show the remnants of the bullet’s violent work — some are ripped, some are punctured, some are just slightly maimed.  In another, Jacir creates a “haunting mausoleum” of 1,000 blank, stark-white books — each one adorned with a bullet hole made by Jacir herself with a .22 caliber pistol, the same model that killed Zuaiter.  She calls the process “grueling” and the work itself a “memorial to untold stories.”  The rest of the exhibit is a scrapbook of Zuaiter’s life in Rome, except for the small photograph of him lying in a pool of blood in his apartment building on the night of his murder.









Jacir clearly believes in Zuaiter’s innocence.  The Museum curator is perhaps not so sure.  In her intro to the exhibit, Joan Young, associate curator of Contemporary Art and manager of Curatorial Affairs at the Guggenheim, makes it a point to say that Zuaiter was never “conclusively linked” to Black September.  The words stick out like a sore thumb.

Most interesting to me, a Jacir novice, is the way she combines historical facts, eyewitness testimony, multimedia evidence (news clippings, video, taped phone conversations, music, photographs, postcards, letters, books and even telegrams) art and poetry to paint a portrait of a man’s life.  Whether or not it is a complete portrait, I do not know.  The exhibit briefly mentions that Zuaiter destroyed his poems and everything he had ever written shortly before his death.  I am curious as to why.

Posted by: Mariela

Just Did It, Again: Marlene Dumas at MoMA


Yesterday I found myself at MoMA and drawn back into their Marlene Dumas exhibit. Just over a month ago, I saw the South African-born, Amsterdam based artist’s work for the first time and I can say that it left a mark. Her imagery is dark, honest and always satisfying. Even in her depiction of death, Dumas is successful in her suggestion of the ‘thing’ and in just the right amount–the right amount of paint, the right amount of light and dark, the right amount of thickness, thinness–for each individual painting. Francis Bacon is an obvious influence and like him she knows, even more than him I dare say, when to say when. There is something exquisite in her knowledge of lack. My second visit to her exhibit secured my great appreciation for her work and my friend Helen and I both suckered ourselves into buying the book. Having leafed through it minimally, I already am so glad I did. 


Posted by: Autumn.

Matterful Art: Things Fall Apart

A new exhibition opening this week in NYC, Things Fall Apart with a gallery talk on January 17 at 1pm with Paul Chan + The Front.

Posted by: mariola

2009 or 1959?

The art historian Pamela M. Lee (not to be confused with the bodacious Pamela formerly Lee Anderson) writes in her book Chronophobia, “The sixties are endless.” And often it has felt we have been living under the great cloud of the sixties — its many storms and shifting winds — for example the significance of whether our Presidential candidates served, dodged or were imprisoned during the Vietnam War. An illusory feeling that the country went wrong after the golden decade of the fifties.

But aren’t we already fooling ourselves when we freeze the picture-perfect moments of that forgotten decade — obscured by the rage and dissolution of the years that followed?  

I am given pause by the coincidental (or is it) appearance of both the AMC series Mad Men and the film adaptation Revolutionary Road, which take the fifties as their focus. Though technically the former is set in 1960 and the latter was published in 1961, both works are just as much about coming to terms with the former years than about what is to come.

Why now is there an interest in a revival of the 50s? With the coming Presidential inauguration is it a chance to look back at the period before the U.S. seems to run off the rails and imagine “a more perfect union”? Obama as an erasure of the sixties and a re-vision of 1959? Or, like with Mad Men, do the 50s allow us to re-write a period of our history, still highly mis-understood, and continually perceived as some sort of “golden age,” with a 21st-century point of view, which in turn only re-creates and reifies the caricature.

I have not yet seen the screen adaptation of Revolutionary Road, though I did not like the book version. So I will be back to let you know my thoughts on the film, and let me know what you thought of it.

For further disclosure, I am writing my dissertation in art history on the period of 1954-1961 in Brazil so the 50s as a subject greatly interests me and will therefore be a recurring topic on matterful.

I end with another quote from the historian Alan Trachtenberg. “The decade of the fifties has come down to us as an age of conventionality and meretriciousness, a time without great drama or credible heroes. Tacky suburban houses, ostentatious autmobiles designed as marauding fish, men in gray-flannel suits, television quiz shows that turn out to be faked (even a distinguished university professor among the culprits), and glass-sheathed skyscrapers — the new clean look of corporate power — are among the era’s tangible symbols, each representaing something decptive, something hidden, something denied. Contradiction is a better description of the period than conformity.”

Posted by: mariola