Jean-Michel Basquiat’s comical, vigorous, and tortured spirit reigns at the Gagosian Gallery. The artwork spans Basquiat’s brief but remarkable career, featuring over fifty works from public and private collections and producing an exhibition that simulates an emotional roller coaster.
Rousing highs are found in works such as “Eyes and Eggs,” made on a large white painter’s drop cloth with sneaker prints on it. Pictured is a black line-cook in a white cap with the name “Joe” written on his white shirt. Joe holds a frying pan containing a pair of red steaming, sunny-side up eggs whose yolks mirror his crazed goggle eyes.
There are dark plummeting lows found in works like “Riding with Death,” painted in 1988, Basquiat’s last year of life. Moments of fear and rage are experienced in “Untitled (Two Heads on Gold).” Painted in teal, gold, black and white on a canvas over 10 feet wide, this image depicts a double portrait of a reoccurring funny but scary figure of a skeletal black man with dreadlocks, hollow eyes, sneering teeth and lanky limbs. According to Ken Johnson of the New York Times, Basquiat was responding to “…the tragically absurd calamity of racism in America” (2013). The discrimination prevented him from becoming all that he wanted and is ultimately what drove him insane. Johnson states Basquiat worked rapidly with brushes, spray paint, markers, and other implements on found boards, stretched fabrics, wooden doors, and professionally stretched canvases, conjuring an artistic persona who mumbles and chortles to himself as he compulsively improvises his chart like compositions of cartoon images, glyphic signs and enigmatic word lists. Bringing viewers along for the ride, Gagosian pays perfect homage to Basquiat's brilliant madness.
"Eyes and Eggs" courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
"Riding with Death" courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
“Untitled (Two Heads on Gold)” courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Halcyon Days, from the Greek myth of Alcyone, are the seven days in winter (either side of the shortest day of the year) when storms never occur. Halcyon Days recall an earlier time remembered as idyllic, a time when the winds were restrained and the waves were calmed in favor of peace. Bill Cosby times.
Jayson Musson’s sweater “paintings” at Salon 94 Bowery are made from mercerized cotton Coogi sweaters that are disassembled and stitched back together in abstract designs and then stretched across a canvas. To certain American consumers, sweaters by Coogi, an Australian clothing company, are immediately synonymous with popular culture icon Bill Cosby, who, as Dr. Huxtable on the Cosby Show, embodied the funnyman Jell-O pudding-eating, sandwich-birthing dad that everyone wished they had. And for twenty minutes each week (and during the re-run years, for twenty minutes each day), we did. A Cosby-esque sitcom allowed Americans to lose themselves in a world that introduced a small crisis, solved it, and wrapped it all up with an oversized bow in twenty minutes with just a few commercials.
Removed from the context of a human body, the sweaters function beautifully as painterly abstractions. In one, I saw an aerial view of a riverbank with shades of woven crimson and orange snaking through horizontal bands of green. Another deconstructed sweater painting conjured images of ribosomes and vacuoles seen in biology textbooks and videos. Another one made me think of a dandelion seedhead in summer -- swaying in the wind and releasing its tiny airborne seeds. Musson managed to disassemble a marketable product and put it back together in an organic and accessible way that honored the movement and rhythm of the originals.
Jayson Musson also works in photography, illustration, and video where he performs as alter ego Hennessey Youngman. Although the show has come down, you can still keep up with Musson and Youngman through his web videos and his newest project, a petition demanding a feature length film about the SNL character, Toonces the Driving Cat. I’ll keep the sweater paintings, but feel free to join the charge.
Impossible Conversations at the Met
“You know, Miuccia, I hate talking to designers,” says Elsa Schiaparelli in the first of a series of eight short videos in the Met’s exhibit, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.” The two Italian designers sit at opposite ends of a long dark rococo table separated by a glass chandelier and champagne flutes. Miuccia Prada’s black sweater, crisp white blouse and simple slicked back hair are in perfect opposition to Schiaparelli’s polished eccentric look -- red lipstick, a tailored black blazer on top of a white blouse whose impossibly big bow mimics the finger waves in her coif. When the two designers raise their glasses in salude, they are just out of each other’s reach, an appropriate recurring motif that represents the designers’ individual and overlapping strengths as well as the history that stretches between them.
The script for the videos, written by curator Andrew Bolton, was culled from excerpts from Schiaparelli’s autobiography, Shocking Life, and a series of interviews conducted by Bolton with Prada. Prada comes across as poised, reflective, and private, and I often felt like we were engaged in a game of reluctant secret sharing, especially when she expressed her subtly feminist motivations in the ‘Hard Chic’ section that featured military inspired all black ensembles from both designers. “I tried to make the men more human and the women more powerful,” Prada says quietly. Schiaparelli (impersonated by Australian born Judy Davis) comes across as a parody of herself and her eccentricities are pushed on the audience relentlessly, but eventually the viewer is able to ignore the affected accent and gestures and appreciate the revolutionary nature of her work.
Visually, I did not find the layout of the show particularly different than walking through a boutique in half darkness that paired modern couture with haute vintage, and I kept feeling stupidly glum over not being able to try on the padded black brocade jacket with the cream colored French baroque style trim. But one of the most memorable chapters of the show, “Waist Up/Waist Down,” juxtaposes Prada’s skirts and shoes with Schiaparelli’s hats, jackets, and accessories. “Schiap” (as she called herself) designed clothes for the social needs of a café society, which relegated women to their seats in public and emphasized adorning the upper half of the body. Prada, on the other hand, is fascinated by what goes on below women’s waists: “Sex, giving birth, being attached to the Earth,” and calls it madness to have “all this mess” around one’s head and face. It is these little moments where the designers playfully quibble that allow the viewer to suspend disbelief and wonder about these two talented designers as Schiaparelli did, “If we had lived at the same time, would we be friends…or foes?” Prada says, “I think friends,” and I think so too.
Do check out the exhibition before it closes August 19th, and let us know what you think!
“Maybe she’s all people brought together in one human…”
These words from a dazed Liverpuddlian boy sizing up the central figure of Picasso’s Weeping Woman, which is situated just behind the camera and out of the frame in Rineke Dijkstra’s twelve minute, continuously looping 3 channel HD video, The Weeping Woman, 2009. The student (one of nine in the video), whose consistently furrowed eyebrows and quivering mouth indicate his concern with what he is seeing, gets at the universality of the Dutch artist’s subjects and thus the empathy they elicit from the viewer. Dijkstra (the beginning of her name is pronounced like ‘dichotomy’) focuses on young people whose expressions and postures vacillate between ostentatious playfulness and extreme self-consciousness with regard to their changing bodies and the maturation of their world. The portraits recall 17th century Dutch painting in their scale and expertly printed even tone, but the subjects are relatable. They make us remember when we were awkward – and how we still are.
Make no mistake, though – while some of the work is quite serious (think blood-spattered Spanish bullfighters and a nude mother clutching her infant hours after birth), there are moments of pure joy. The video mentioned above is one of these. I stayed for two loops of the twelve-minute discussion about Picasso’s painting among these children, who come up with some startlingly perceptive observations. One boy says, “I think she is quite lovely and afraid.” Another says, “Maybe Picasso just wanted to do a colorful picture."
If you haven't seen this exhibit, check it out. It runs through October 8th at the Guggenheim, and I would highly recommend attending the Curator's Eye Tour with Jennifer Blessing, Guggenheim's senior curator of photography, on Friday, August 24 at 2pm. It's free with the cost of admission and well worth the time to learn about Dijkstra's connections to her subjects and the dialogue she creates between the images with the layout of her show. Or just enjoy the pictures.
Best use of a lunch hour? Window shopping, of course! I headed over to check out the Yayoi Kusama products at the Louis Vuitton store in SoHo today--so much fun!
Kusama's iconic dots pattern is featured prominently in all of the products, which range from bracelets and bangles to shoes, dresses, bags, and even a collar! The store employees couldn't have been nicer, as they let me try everything on and even let me take pictures, which is usually forbidden.
World-renowned artist Yayoi Kusama is bringing her spotted world to The Whitney Museum for her retrospective. Known for her use of patterns, polka dots, nets, and large-scale, immersive installations, Kusama works in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film and performance. Born in Japan in 1929, she came to the United States in 1957 and quickly found herself at the epicenter of the New York Avant-Garde. The retrospective explores the full range of work throughout her career.
After seeing the exhibition, bring Kusama's spotted world home with you with the RxArt x Kusama puzzle! Available at the Whitney Museum Store and RxArt's online store.
Yayoi Kusama is showing at The Whitney from July 12th - September 30th.
Fireflies on the Water, a work in the Whitney’s collection, is being shown in conjunction with her retrospective.
Mars has come to Manhattan! Yes, you read that correctly--Manhattan is currently home to a four-week mission to Mars led by the Tom Sachs Space Program.
Using everyday materials such as plywood, duct tape, and screws, Sachs and his NASA crew transformed the Park Avenue Armory into his own idea of the Red Planet. In the center of the Armory is the Landing Excursion Model (LEM), a full-scale version of the Apollo LEM, the spacecraft designed to transport a crew of two astronauts to the surface of the moon and back. The interactive exhibition displays Sachs' vision of a new type of space travel: one in which astronauts have access to the same amenities we enjoy here on earth, such as fully stocked bars, libraries, and a food delivery system.
Not just anyone can peek inside the LEM, however; you must first become a member. To obtain member status, you are required to watch five short films: How to Sweep, Love Letters to Plywood, Colors, Ten Bullets and Space Camp. Upon completion of viewing the films, you are then ready to take the test. The test is taken at what Sachs has named the "indoctrination station" and involves sorting screws and sweeping the floor--if you pass all required tests, you earn the right to enter the LEM.
If you want to visit, time is running out--the Space Program is only open until Sunday, June 17th at the Park Avenue Armory.
Photo courtesy of tomsachsmars.com
On Friday, RxArt took a trip uptown to check out STREET, a pop-up exhibition curated by former RxArt intern Erin Goldberger. Located in a vacant retail space on a quiet street in Harlem, the exhibition showcases photography, painting, and sculpture.
STREET is part of Art in FLUX Harlem, a movement of Harlem artists appearing in Pop-Up art galleries. FLUX highlights and creates opportunity for artists living and/or working in Harlem; brings art into the center of the community where people walk to work and school, shop and dine; creates a positive use for vacant retail locations; and stimulates a vibrant neighborhood merging art, commerce and community.
WHERE: 1961 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd (@ 118th Street)
WHEN: June 1-June 24
For more info, check out artinfluxharlem.com
On Saturday, June 16, LittleCollector will be hosting a tour of Tom Sachs' latest installation at the Park Avenue Armory, "Space Program: Mars." Kids ages 5-10 are invited to participate in an interactive tour of the exhibition and learn what it takes to become an astronaut on a mission to Mars.
For more information, visit LittleCollector's blog here. Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to take part in a space adventure right here in New York City!
WHEN: Saturday, June 16, 11:30am - 12:30pm
FOR: Kids ages 5-10
WHERE: Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, New York
RSVP to email@example.com as space is limited.
Last week, RxArt enjoyed a private tour of Keith Haring: 1978-1982, currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum. Hosted by Artnet, the tour was led by Gracie Mansion, one of the first art dealers to set up shop on the Lower East side in the 1980's and currently the Senior Specialist in Modern and Contemporary Art at Artnet.
The exhibition spans Haring's career from when he first arrived in New York City through when he opened his studio and started to create public and political art on the street. The exhibition includes 155 works on paper, videos of Haring at work, and over 150 archival objects, including rarely seen sketchbooks, journals, exhibition flyers, posters, subway drawings, and documentary photographs.
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