Artist Profile Flynn Grinnan The Uncut Series 10
Reverse Cowgirl Tom West 16
Boobies, 2013 David Allyn
Collector Profile COLLECT HARDER: Peter Davis 12
Foreclosed Dreams David H. Wells 19 Flushing the System S.W. Dinge 22
SPECIAL REVIEWS Willa Van Nostrand's Worlds Fair & The Conditions Were Just Right 26 New Totems and Old Taboos Yale University Art Gallery 29
COLLECT is a quarterly, limited edition magazine published by Yellow Peril Gallery. Each issue features interviews with artists from YPG exhibitions and profiles from artists in our Flat File program and collectors, as well as reviews and previews of art exhibitions and events both in and out of Providence and special columns dedicated to art and design here in Rhode Island.
acknowledgements The Plant theplantprovidence.com
Staff Publisher Vanphouthon Souvannasane Editor Robert P. Stack
So Chic RSVP sochicrsvp.com
Peter Davis sceneinny.com
Art Director Marcel McVay Intern Emma Fague
Contributors: Nate Risteen Nate Risteen is an artist, writer, and teacher at The University of New Hampshire and The New Hampshire Institute of Art. He writes a blog about art in greater Boston at www.bostonartreview. blogspot.com.
Kyla R. Foster Kyla R Foster is an emerging art columnist living in Providence. Foster received a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio University in Art History and General Studio Studies with a focus in modern critical theory. She currently works at RiverzEdge Arts, a non-profit in Rhode Island which promotes positive educational and economic outcomes for youth through artistic expression.
Jenny Young Jenny Young is a jewelry designer and an aspiring documentary journalist. An avid traveler, she has lived in Texas, Colorado and Peru,. She currently lives and works in Providence, RI where she maintains a studio at the Nicholson File Building/
A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR COLLECT’s spring issue seeks to examine the cultural totems and taboos of today’s society and explore how people’s perceptions of them are changing.
Home ownership is considered by many to be the epitome of living the American Dream, but Wells’ work explores the reality left behind when the dream contains more stardust than substance.
No where is this more obvious than in our season opening group show Reverse Cowgirl where guest curator Tom West assembled a collection of Providence based artists to distinguish the fine line that squiggles between art and pornography. The age old “look but don’t touch” rule applies to the museum just as well as the strip club (and artists have been tantalizing viewers with sensual depictions for centuries) but woe be to the artist who crosses the line, albeit a shifting and ever mercurial one.
In Flushing the System, S. W. Dinge’s abstract paintings are a confluence of effort and desire. Layer after layer builds upon the other until all strides to communicate obliterates itself into babble, buckling under the weight of it’s own aspirations. The harder we work to express ourselves, the more misunderstood we become.
Desire can be a dangerous emotion, and most of us are raised to desire certain attainments. When we fail to reach or maintain our achievements, shame is an equally dangerous emotion. These emotional pitfalls are very evident in David H Wells’ photographic exhibition Foreclosed Dreams, guest curated by Viera Levitt.
Traditional printmaking utilizes various plates to produce arresting images to lure the imagination. Flynn Grinnan breaks this down to a minimalist approach in The Uncut Series, where the plate itself becomes the print’s subject to ogle. Always focused on celebrating process, here Grinnan has stripped away the middleman between tool and object. In this dance, the stripper and her pole have become one.
nnasane’s interview with collector Peter Davis in anticipation of the exhibition Work Harder that Davis is hosting, tells the story of a young collector striving for the best while remaining true to himself. The title Work Harder speaks to the duality of the critique, which can be simultaneously admonishment and encouragement. This will be Yellow Peril Gallery’s debut exhibition in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, as we seek to explore avenues outside of the status quo. We are taught to revere the totem while forbidden to partake in the taboo, forever linking desire and shame irrevocably. That is, until we decide to change the rules.
Robert P. Stack, Editor
"Collect Harder," COLLECT Publisher and Yellow Peril Gallery Director Van Souvan-
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Flynn Grinnan The Uncut Series
Flynn Grinnan, one-by-three plywood strips with slats, 2013.
With The Uncut Series, Flynn Grinnan is stripping down the idea of the wood cut. Having started as an exploration of carving found wood scraps and printing with these, the project evolved into a more minimal revealing of textural memory. The work acts as an extension of the artist's sculptural body of work, Fabric Flesh, where live models were asked to pose and were then draped, molded, and casted into the shell of a presence that once was. The prints left behind by discarded or appropriated lumber suggest the previous use of these readymade wooden 'plates'. Some, like five two-by-three pieces, suggest undefined but well used history. Others, like one-by-twelve board with notches, allude to a more specific and personal historyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in this case a rack made during the artist's youth to hold baseball bats.
Flynn Grinnan, five two-by-three pieces, 2013.
Flynn Grinnan The Uncut Series 10
Flynn Grinnan, one-by-twelve board with notches, 2013.
A collection of Flynn Grinnan's recent experimental printing work is represented in the Flat File program at Yellow Peril Gallery. For inquiries contact email@example.com
Flynn Grinnan The Uncut Series Spring/2013
Bold-Faced Names in the Art World Collected by Man About Town Peter Davis
Peter Davis is the Host of Work Harder, Yellow Peril Gallery’s debut NYC exhibition curated by Robert P. Stack, featuring cutting edge contemporary artists with installations that will temporarily occupy LightSpace Studio in Brooklyn during the run of Frieze New York from May 11 – 13, 2013.
Davis was born and raised in Manhattan, where he grew up on 79th street near Park Avenue with his half-siblings Minnie and Topper Mortimer. His mother, Senga Mortimer, married into one of Manhattan’s most illustrious families, the Mortimers, who trace their lineage to John Jay, a founding father. After majoring in painting at Bennington College, Davis worked at The Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts. And after interning at Paper during high school and graduating from Bennington, he began a monthly column for Paper chronicling nightlife and fashion and the latest it kids, as well as interviewing numerous celebrities from Gwen Stefani to Kelly Slater to Zooey Deschanel. Kim Hastreiter, founder and Editor of Paper, is credited with discovering Davis. Since being nurtured by Hastreiter, he has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New York Observer, The Daily Beast and numerous other magazines and newspapers. Davis was the Features Director of The Daily Front Row and Editor at Large at Paper and VS Senior Editor. After nine months of being the Editor in Chief of Avenue, a society magazine that is exclusively distributed to select buildings on the Upper East Side, he left the magazine to start Scene, a monthly New York based magazine owned by Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump and also owns The New York Observer. Like Avenue, Scene is distributed to select buildings on select blocks, although in Scene’s case, this includes some downtown ones and newsstands, where anyone on the street can buy a copy. At its core, Scene is a society magazine for a new gen-
COLLECT HARDER Peter Davis 12
eration of young New York rich—by them and the eclectic people who gravitate in their world. “If you were uptown, you were in a blue blazer, swilling champagne,” Mr. Davis said in a New York Times article about the launch of the Scene. “If you were downtown, you had a mohawk and combat boots and hung out at Save the Robots. Now, I think society is all over New York. It includes rap stars and basketball stars, as well as the usual socialites.” COLLECT Publisher and Yellow Peril Gallery Director Vanphouthon Souvannasane interviewed Davis about his contemporary art collection for the Spring issue. Of course, his responses are full of bold-faced names in the art world.
Are you friends with any of the artists that you collect? I am friends with Tom Sachs and I love his stuff and also Ryan McGinness who I met in South Africa last year on safari. Also, Camille Rose Garcia who I became friends with after buying her work. There are a few artists that I am friends with whose work I want to one day own: Terence Koh is at the top of that list. I have a Francesco Clemente and I am friends with his daughters Chiara and Nina—does that count? What is the biggest piece in your collection? Size-wise, the Warhol hot pink electric chair. I hang it above my bed and it's in a big old-school frame you'd expect a master drawing at The Frick to be in. If it topples on me while I
How would you describe your collecting approach? I only collect art that I love and want to look at every day. Some of my greatest pieces have been purchased outside the normal collecting circles. I have two Andy Warhols—a drawing from Warhol's advertising period and a bright pink electric chair—that I got from someone who was selling art from his home in Brooklyn. I was about 24 and took a cab to Brooklyn and had a wad of cash with me. I also bought a Larry Clark from the Tulsa series from the guy, one of my favorite photographers. He was literally unloading a lot of great things and looking back, I wish I had bought more. I also have a Terry Richardson, a huge photograph of his father Bob Richardson's false teeth in a glass, from a silent auction. This was before Terry was the superstar he is now. I hang the teeth in a bathroom, which seems appropriate as I hang my Warhol soup can in the kitchen. When he was alive, I bought many Edward Gorey drawings and prints directly from him. Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, 1971, Courtesy of Peter Davis; Opposite: Peter Davis, Photo We used to chat on the phone. But I have An Lee. also bought things from galleries—a favorite is New Image sleep, it will be death by Andy Warhol and since it is an electric Art in Los Angeles. The owner, Marsea Goldberg, is a street chair, it will be quite fitting. I collect a lot of photographs—I only art guru. I got a "Neckface" from her and more. buy the work of photojournalists, not fashion images though I love those in a magazine. They have gone up in value, but I
COLLECT HARDER Peter Davis Spring/2013
would never sell any. I have stuff by Bruce Gilden, a few Larry Clarks, William Klein, Garry Winogrand, Martin Parr, Leonard Freed. And I really covet my three Cindy Shermans. Do you have sentimental favorites in the collection? I love my three Cindy Sherman pieces that my best friend gave me as presents. I also cherish my Edward Gorey prints and drawings. I have every single one of his books too. They remind me of my childhood. Which piece attracts the most attention? Probably the Andy Warhol electric chair because it is so big, but only people who go to my bedroom get to see it. And I collect street artist portraits of myself, the guys who draw tourists in parks. I have one from every city I go to from Tokyo to Madrid to Mexico City. The less they look like me, the better. I hang them all togetherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;about 20 of them or more so farâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and people always ask, who are all these men? One I had done in Paris outside the Pompidou looks like an Indian girl with short hair, while another from Seattle makes me look like a mobster thug.
Larry Clark, Syringe, 1971, Courtesy of Peter Davis.
Is there one that got away? When I bought stuff for cash from the man in Brooklyn, he had a Basquiat. I was 24 and spent every dollar I had in my pocket, but I wish I had gone back to the ATM and scored that Basquiat. His career was so short, yet so explosive and I would love to have a piece of that period as Basquiat's work is both visually arresting and it captures an exciting, vital, prolific moment in New York's art world that has never happened again. Martin Parr, Common Sense/Benidorm (blue lady), 1998, Courtesy of Peter Davis.
COLLECT HARDER Peter Davis 14
Reverse Cowgirl curated by Tom West Reverse Cowgirlz, installation view. Photo: Emma Fague.
After the success of last year’s group show, #OCCUPY, Yellow Peril Gallery developed a relationship with local artist and culture-jammer, Tom West. Knowing West’s ability to create controversy and attention, Yellow Peril asked him to guest curate a group show for the season opening of Gallery Night 2013. His concept for the show was quickly narrowed to pornography and art, eventually materializing into Reverse Cowgirl. The show challenges the “power position” in sex, exploring whether such acts, considered sexually stimulating in private, become distasteful in a public or social setting. West has always been interested in exploring sex and eroticism in visual art. It is the subject that he was first attracted to as a young artist and what has gathered the most interest from his fans. Like many of the topics he chooses to explore in his artwork, there is a built-in shock factor when viewing images focused on sex. “It makes for a memorable experience,” states West, “People show more interest in it and want to own it because they don’t see it in other places.” Most of his paintings on the subject are of women masturbating because he feels “that a woman in orgasm is one of the most beautiful things on the planet. More than any flower, sunset, etc, etc.” Aroused with ambition to open the Gallery Night 2013 season with a show highlighting sex in art, West corralled a group of his favorite local artists, “people
Tom West corralled a group of his favorite local artists, “people that I knew would bring it the hardest.” that I knew would bring it the hardest.” Reverse Cowgirl consists of works by eleven Providence-based artists exhibiting a wide range of interpretations of sex and/or porn. However, perhaps inspired by West’s own preferences, there seems to be an attentiveness towards female self-pleasure and the use of sex toys. For a selection of the artists, particularly David Allyn, Curtis Aric, Nori F. R. Dubusker Swennes-Croce, and West himself, the show may be more about “stimulation” rather than “penetration”. Allyn, who generally works on two dimensional ceramic surfaces, was inspired by Tom West to make sculptural objects for the show. He felt driven to go out of his comfort zone and conceived of Boobies, a cluster of contorted stoneware boobs-phalluses. Large pointy blue nipples animate the titillating pleasure zone of the female body. Allyn also produced Toyz, a collection of gender-neutral porcelain butt plugs complete with a screen-printed Gucci logo. Toyz come in a variety of different sizes and textures, including one “ribbed
David Allyn, Boobies, 2013.
for her pleasure”. Eluding to pop cultural references, Allyn implies that the butt plugs are metaphors for getting “fucked by the corporations.” Aric was excited by the idea of making a piece for Reverse Cowgirl. “When I thought about what to make for the show I knew right away what I wanted to do. My concept was way not what I ended up with, but I like what happened.” His piece, Fluffer, is a reassembled bike with giant Mickey Thompson tires and
Reverse Cowgirl Tom West Spring/2013
a shifter placed right on the seat where ones crotch would comfortably straddle. When plugged in, Fluffer’s motor induces intense vibrations, intending to stimulate the crotch and get you, the rider, off. Known as “Dirty Curty” to many, Aric is an enthusiastic builder and inventor. His piece for Reverse Cowgirl demonstrates his ambitions to bring a person to extreme orgasm. Swennes-Croce says Tom West approached her to be involved with the show because the subject is right up her alley: gross. Her first idea was to create raunchy cartoons, but instead she felt inspired to illustrate female genitalia “loosely based on my own butthole, but not a self-portrait.” According to the artist, In Relief was in-
tended to appear “cummy”. Remniscent of a flower, In Relief glorifies the female anus and vagina, showing both men and women that it is not something to be ashamed or afraid of. In Liberty, West uses a found piece of aluminum with gentle curves that mimic the appearance of a fighter jet wing from World War II. His intention is to compare the modern day pin up girl to those painted on aircraft in the 1940s. West's homage is an image of a fully exposed woman, genitalia complete with self-stimulating anal beads. She grips her knees, flags her vagina and wears a daring smirk on her face. West explains that the appearance of pin up girls on planes in the '40s was considered “racy,” and that Liberty represents his own take
on an image vulgar enough to have the same effect. As times have changed, there is a blurred line for what is considered appropriate in the public realm. The artists of Reverse Cowgirl highlight objects and actions that could be considered scandalous to some people yet very appealing to others. From masturbation to sex toys, sexuality and porn, West hopes to “strip away the veneers of shame and repulsion surrounding sex in art and take a more critical look at the role sex plays in our private and public lives”. Jenny Young Reverse Cowgirl was on view at Yellow Peril Gallery from March 21 – April 14, 2013. David Allyn, Toyz, 2013; Abobe right: Nori F. R. Dubusker Swennes-Croce, In Relief, 2013.
Reverse Cowgirl Tom West 18
Foreclosed Dreams David H. Wells
David H. Wells, Los Angeles, 2009.
David H. Wells has fashioned a career shooting freelance photographic essays and photojournalism, and working as a photo educator. Foreclosed Dreams represents a foray into a new, if familiar territory for Wells. Having published with such illustrious print media as the Philedelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Sports Illustrated, and The New York Times Magazine, Wells is clearly a seasoned photo essayist accustomed to making work for the printed page. With this exhibition, Wells takes the opportunity to adapt and expand his work to new media and show his photography alongside audio-visual interview in a physical exhibition setting. COLLECT magazine's Marcel McVay sat down with Mr. Wells and had the honor of exploring this transition and some of the work behind the scenes of Foreclosed FEATURES Dreams.
You mentioned Foreclosed Dreams is a new visual approach for you to a topic like this one. First new media approach â&#x20AC;&#x201C; not visual, I've been doing photo essays my entire career. But it is the first time postdeath of print, if you will, the death of conventional publications. It's the first story I've done in the sort of new media approach we now have to take. What made Life magazine so succesfful, for example, was a mono-market. With that market, more and more publications expanded and now with the Internet, those are mostly all gone. Now there's a million channels. And so as a photographer who came out of that old model, this is the first project where I have adapted more successfully then I ever had before to the new model. That's what I meant.
So, has that changed your working
methods in the field – or is it after the fact (post-production) that you have to adapt? This multimedia piece, which is another component in addressing new media channels, does reflect a changed strategy. Not only am I photographing but I am interviewing. It used to be that there was a conven-
David H. Wells, Fright, California, 2011.
tional divide: the writer solved the word problem, the photographer solved the picture problem. In this project I am trying to solve both—it's the first time I've had to do both. I like the results; I'm still processing how much I like the effort to get them.
What is the interview process and what is the relationship to photographing? Are you talking to the folks whose houses you're photographing? No, I'm not. To date I have not talked to the people who's houses I'm photographing. The goal of the work is to give somebody the opportunity to look at the work and say, “That could be my house, that could be my childhood, that could have been me.” And as soon as you start making it about that family, unfortunately it gives people the opportunity to dismiss them. They screwed up, they made a mistake. And I don't want people doing that, I want them to think, “That could be me.” So I've been interviewing people who wanted to be interviewed, who had something to say about foreclosure – many of whom had been foreclosed upon, but were not directly related to those houses. And that is on purpose. They could talk to the process, but they weren't talking about a particular house. You want that relationship to remain anonymous to you, the photographer, as well as the viewer. Yes, and the other thing I was trying to do, and I am very happy with in this piece, is a provide a wide range of both genders and accents. One of the people I interviewed was from Eastern Europe, another was from North Carolina. Those are the two most obvious accents. I interviewed my wife who is from India, so while you are listening you have sort of a diversity of people
talking about home. When you start a conversation with someone, are you searching for a more personal connection to the loss of home, or is it a cultural change in attitude towards the “American dream?” There are a couple of things. One is that I don't interview a lot of people, I'm fairly selective about who I interview. Second thing is that I ask them all the same questions on purpose. The questions build from general experiences of home and childhood and all that, to the specifics of foreclosure photographs and if they have any experience with foreclosure. Typical interviewing style, you loosen them up and then you get to the hard stuff later. I don't know if I'm looking for anything per se except that, in every interview, I'm listening hoping for those one or two lines that I can drop into this thing, when I say to myself, that's it.
I think they can speak articulately about home. That's really what I was looking for. Most of these folks are close to you? No, not necessarily. They're people, though, who I think will make good interviews. I'm thinking of a couple of people who I interviewed in North Carolina who I didn't know, but one of them was a politician, one of them taught art in public schools – people that others introduced me to who said, I think they can speak articulately about home. That's really what I was looking for. Have you shown subjects the photo-
Foreclosed Dreams David H. Wells 20
graphs before interviewing? To what Farm Security Administration project. extent are they responding to the pho- During the depression, the US governtographs within the interview process? ment hired a bunch of photographers to 99% of the people will have photograph the state of America during seen the work on the web, because the depression. The original project was that's almost always how I'm first in- to do what's called the New FSA, to do troduced to them, if I don't know them something on this recession. That projpersonally. Then they'll see the photos ect didn't come together for reasons unon my laptop when we're meeting. related. And then I turn the microphone on. Then I started researching this But the last part of each interview is to ask them about their reaction to the photographs. There are a couple of people in the piece who are talking about the photographs themselves because the best part of those interviews was their reaction to the photos. The guy that said "screw you to the banks", he gave me nothing until the end. And then at the end when he said “I'm saying screw you to the banks” - because he'd been foreclosed upon – it came out, he was giving me David H. Wells, Providence, RI, 2011. what he had been through. That's why I liked that quote story. I initially photographed the people so much because it really is his. who cleaned houses out for foreclosures. A lot of times they would talk about what How long have you been working on they saw and you could hear they were this project? empathizing with these people. Visu I started in April of 2009. Orig- ally what you saw was a bunch of guys inally I was one of a group of photog- throwing out trash, but what was amazraphers during the beginning of what ing was the stuff they were throwing out. became the “Great Recession”, we were It would make great video, but it wasn't a going to do something similar to the photo story.
So after about two weeks I changed the project approach to not be about the people, but about the stuff that was left behind. And since April 2009 I've worked in twelve states so far, with that same idea of getting in after the foreclosure and before its cleaned up because that's when you could see the ghosts of the people that used to be there. And that's whats in this show. It's easy to think about it as an emptiness, but it's not just that. It is empty, but there's a lot of presence. That's what I'm aspiring to. To get that point where you know somebody was there, but it's not so specific that it becomes about John or Mary. I'm trying to keep it more open. I'm trying to stay away from those individuals but I want their presence or their ghosts to be in the background. Is this an ongoing project? It is still ongoing. If anybody who reads this wants to help me get into houses, I could use the help! I'm going to Alabama, Mississippi, Arizona in the next two weeks. Foreclosed Dreams ran April 18 through May 12th, 2013 at Yellow Peril Gallery.
Foreclosed Dreams David H. Wells Spring/2013
Flushing the System S.W. Dinge
S.W. Dinge's body of paintings, Flushing the System, are manifestations of a fascinated exploration of the effects of information flood. They are an experiment in perception, where the most cohesive idea is the fact that you can't quite grasp it. Deeply layered piles of wordforms create weighty bodies of script that remain peripheral – fleeting semblances of meaning that reveal nonsense. You can almost hear how these words might read, and they actually invoke quite a bit of sound. Manic ramblings of an over-excited sociopath. Cries of desperation in a time of loss or pain. The violent crows and calls of voracious brokers at the New York Stock Exchange. The steam of adrenaline streaming from the lips of exasperated spectators. The context doesn't much matter – but the effect is there: unintelligible and entangled ex-
pressions – any ounce of recognition giving way to language en masse. We sat at a restored historical bar in downtown Providence on a Monday. It was our second meeting. Conversation flowed in and out with ease and I found an oddly satisfying sentiment in our ability to communicate so fluently and enjoyably, as compared to the artist's almost supernatural ability to convey the chaos and unintelligibility of language with such intimacy. It assured me that, no, these images and environments are not the product of a blabbering, mind-scattered fool. They became an expression of a guy like me, or you, who has found, likely through his exploration and observation of the visual plane in his own work (which has explored such universal and scientific territory as string theory), a portal of access into a wild and rattling area of formation–
S.W. Dinge, Lazy Eye Patch (detail), 2012.
before language or expression, but after the marks of the pen. “A stenographer of tongues,” Dinge remarked, reminding me I had offered him this title upon our first meeting, I was glad he'd reminded me of this image. With multiple drawing media at hand, laying across the canvas, Dinge enters what sounds like something of a trance state where he is able to move and write with enough tact to work in a liminal space allowing letterforms to only begin to define themselves. And it's not easy. It' isan active struggle to keep the hand moving just ahead of the moment of recognition – where the written word becomes understood. These paintings are the remnants of Dinge's activity this mental area. A psychological gravity augments the visual gravity created by suspended blocks of clamor. The rec-
ogonizable but illegible characters give form to an area of the mind that is just beyond comprehension. And it is uncomfortable. It feels like suggestion. The loss of comprehension draws us into an emerging chaos subverting everything we work to make sense of. Rather than frighten, these works instill a calmness in that they restrain the snarls of chaos by giving them form and revealing their relationship to more unified and discrete forms on a common neutral ground. The minimal and decisive planar composition advances the discord into harmony. Here, again, the suggestion of sound is accessible, and a synaesthetic resolution may be realized. Marcel McVay Flushing the System runs May 16 to June 16, 2013 at Yellow Peril Gallery, Providence, RI.
Clockwise from above left: S.W. Dinge, Loose Screws, 2012; S.W. Dinge, The Camel's Back, 2012; S.W. Dinge, Leaky Lifeboat, 2012.
Flushing the System S.W. Dinge Spring/2013
Willa Van Nostrand & World's fair Elizabeth Potenza, Geometry Rose (detail), 2013.
COLLECT recently had the opportunity to meet with Providence-based curator Willa Van Nostrand on her return from the Virgin Islands this spring to visit her pirate uncle, “a wild 63 year old musician who built a shack in the woods and taught us how to collect water from a cistern.” When she's not curating or learning how to live off the land, she's working with Jon Buonaccorsi and Sara Agniel, directors of Providence-based contemporary art gallery Buonnacorsi+Agniel, running a cocktail catering company, and mainting an active studio and performance practice. Integrating visual studio arts, performance, theatre and the various intersections thereof, Van Nostrand's personal and studio work lay the foundation for her interdisciplinary curatorial processes. “Curating is about personal relationships with artists. It's really helpful being an artist myself because I know what I want and how I want to be represented. Not that I represent anyone, it's more a collaboration between me and that artists to figure out what's going to make that room vibrate.” After obtaining a degree focused on performance and studio arts at Sarah Lawrence College, Van Nostrand returned to Providence, a city close to her childhood home. “This city is filthy rich with artists and musicians. I knew AS220 was here, both for shows and–you know I was a member of the printshop. All the sudden all of the tools were
beaming in Providence, and I had these hands that were really really ready to work on whatever that was, which has always been theatre-based, performance.” This area's rich history of integrating visual arts with music and performance couldn't be more of an appropriate environment for Van Nostrand's exhibition project, World's Fair, and it's current situation within Pawtucket, Rhode Island's lively recording studio and venue, Machines with Magnets. “The project was born out of the need to create a gallery and curating system for artists locally and people that I've met [along the way]. It started this past summer, summer 2012. Right now my home base is very happily at Machines with Magnets. Being there has really helped me dive in and have a space to work with. I love the nature of pop-up shows – but it's really a pleasure right now to have a space with an address and light and walls that you can paint white, and repaint white, and repaint white again. There's a bar program there that I happened to design with Tom Gomes, Keith Souza and Reba Mitchell at Machines with Magnets.” Machines with Magnets, whose title playfully refers to the basic working components of a speaker, established itself first as a recording studio. Naturally, the space attracted local musicians and sound artists, and provided a stage
for performance. “People wanted a place to play music that wasn't Lupo's, the living room, that wasn't AS220. It's a different aesthetic.” And its location just far enough outside Providence allows it to maintain a sort of satellite identity. It's still a very active venue and recording studio, growing with Van Nostrand's dedication to a multifaceted cultural area to include visual art exhibitions, performance art, and with the recent addition of a full bar with a contemporary-classic menu designed by the curator herself, an intimate and lively experience. Amongst curating several upcoming shows for World's Fair at Machines with Magnets, and actively producing work (arranged on her studio floor were a number of antique saw blades waiting to become etching plates), Van Nostrand will be guest curating an exhibition at the RISD Museum this August. Below, Kyla R. Foster provides a review of The Conditions Were Just Right, which ran in April 2013. Marcel McVay
The Conditions Were Just Right World's Fair @ Machines with magnets curated by Willa Van Nostrand In The Conditions Were Just Right at Machines with Magnets, Willa Van Nostrand seems to understand how each artist conceptually denotes serial art and adjoining movements individually, yet by combining the works, a serial progression emerges. Although, traditionally and historically, the ceramic works by Justin Coleman, who currently lives in Pittsburgh, don’t blatantly represent seriality in the same ways the other two artists’ works do, the formal shapes and the glazing patterns of A-Hedron (Daniel) reference the negative space in modular constructive architecture and minimalist, hard-edge painting style. Coleman groups representational miniature ceramic novelty
Tanya Merrill, Untitled #4, 2013.
casts-- farm animals, babies in hooded overcoats, body parts, lamps, strange sphere-shaped-faces in Americanabilia Series. His combinatorial placement choices of the ceramic trinkets in groups on pedestals and in bowls as well as the gallery visitors receiving one of the casts as a “souvenir” for buying a 50/50 ticket the night of the opening, alludes to the uselessness of art, especially the memorabilia “art” one might buy for a certain occasion.
metrically abstracted by hard black lines and shapes, and opaque colors—use repetition, objective neutral surface space and elements of industrial material.
The soft painting, Untitled #7, by Tanya Merrill, an artist working in NYC, seems to be the love child of Sol Lewitt and Agnes Martin. Merrill’s serial paintings—the combination of soft, minimal pencil lines and translucent colors geo-
The most striking work is that of Elizabeth Potenza, who currently lives and works in Providence. Her sculptures, Geometry Rose and Angle of Repose successfully link all the works together by joining Coleman’s three-dimensional reference to modular constructivism through material choices and Merrill’s formal two-dimensional seriality through formal art elements. In Geometry Rose, Potenza, intricately places circles of glass with polyurethane rubber, and steel encompassed by a reclaimed wagon wheel. Although
the rose-pattern is contrived, Potenza’s use of reclaimed industrial materials bring upon natural elements that perfectly balance the labor-intensiveness and the deliberate arrangements in the sculpture. Potenza used recycled float glass and salvaged steel for, Angle of Repose, which adds to the concept of the continuity of recycling and reclaiming materials. The weighted sculpture towers over the viewer as if truly a factory window. Within the large vertical “window frame,” there are three groups of six smaller, movable frames that angularly adjust in and out. The six smaller frames are made up of even smaller square and rectangular pieces of glass which are tinted with a rusty and green color and placed together like the squares in a Mondrian painting. The sequences in this piece, contrasting with the circularity of Geometry Rose, are outstanding. It is a grid, within a grid, within a grid, and links historical emotions—knowing the industrial materials were reclaimed and that the artwork looks like it should be in a warehouse—to the concept of The Grid in art. Angle of Repose, with with Geometry Rose, constructs and then deconstructs the original idea of The Grid being about modern ambition. At one time untouched always meant structure and power, The Grid in art is now pervious to change. Kyla R. Foster
28(2013) micro-installation by Justin Coleman; Top right: Elizabeth Potenza, Geometry Rose, 2013. An Americanabilia Series
New Totems and Old Taboos at Yale University Art Gallery
ike many undergraduates, in my first semester of college I took a psychology class. As I look back from what is apparently my full adulthood it’s hard to know why this was so appealing, but unquestionably it was. Psychology seemed to have all the clout of real medicine but without the blood, and there was something that just felt smart about it. I was probably trying to gain some insider’s knowledge into why people acted the way they did, and I’m pretty sure I also wanted an explanation for my own impulses. Psychology held the promise of ‘why’, which was a question I couldn’t yet contain. In the Psychology Department’s first section we spent over a month reading three full books by Sigmund Freud. Even at the time I knew this was suspicious, as Freud had become a bit taboo. I had never been explicitly told so, but somehow I was aware that Freud couldn’t be cited as a defini- 1 Rachel Harrison, The Spoon Bender, 2011. tive source in a college paper, and I’d heard something fishy about an Oedipus complex. Sigmund id, but we know better now. Look at how far we’ve come!” Freud was an author I associated with beards and balding, However, the Art Department was saying “art is mostly full of and with rattan chairs that had long been given over to the shit right now, and nobody pays attention to us poor figure cat. I understood that it was still important to read his work, painters. But look at Lucian Freud! Look how far we can go!” but there was a caveat hanging over every class discussion: I liked the Art Department’s everything-is-broken you need to know this, but it’s from another time. Be careful attitude. Their moodiness and self-pity felt right to me, while repeating it. But I had also begun studying art that semester, and the Art Department was unapologetically decorated with postcards of Lucian Freud’s paintings. It didn’t take long for someone to point out that Lucian Freud was Sigmund Freud’s grandson, and the taboo of the grandfather was used to add cache to his descendent. But while Sigmund Freud had the psychologists seemed both defensive and self-assured in become an object lesson in caution among psychologists, a way that I found unsettling. At least the psychology people the artists saw Lucian Freud as an inspiration. It was as if were less obnoxious than the sociologists down the hall, but I the psychology teachers were saying “this used to seem val- still became an art major.
Freud appeared to have the best explanation for the taboo that he would eventually become.
2 Marcel Duchamp, Tu m’, 1918.
However, in lionizing Lucian and dismissing Sigmund I couldn’t help but feel that Sigmund Freud was right about a few things. He had predicted that Communism was doomed to failure because it didn’t address how sex and aggression drove human behavior. This seemed spot on. He had also explained his own fate, as he appeared to have the best explanation for the taboo that he would eventually become. In his 1913 collection of essays entitled Totem and Taboo, Sigmund Freud opens the second piece with his explanation of the word itself. He clarifies that taboos “ …differ from moral prohibitions in that they fall into no system that declares quite generally that certain abstinences must be observed and gives reasons for that necessity. Taboo prohibitions have no grounds and are of unknown origin. Though they are unintelligible to us, to those who are dominated by them they are taken as a matter of course.”(Totem and Taboo, “Taboo and Emotional Ambivalence”, p. 25). Identifying actual taboos becomes difficult under these criteria because their reasons for being taboo have to remain unexplained. And in actuality, the harmful taboos don’t remain taboo for very long. In a litigious society like the United States, taboos are a step between normalcy and universal moral prohibitions, and therefore they slip beyond Freud’s definition. In just the past hundred years for example, subjects like race and gender discrimination or the physical punishment of children have gone from being
accepted norms to being taboos, and then on to becoming moral prohibitions and crimes. Taboo could therefore be thought of as a transitional state in the progress of moral reform, with one generation’s norms becoming another’s taboos. Though as an undergraduate I also knew that Sigmund Freud’s own descent into being taboo had been gradual, without hearing the reasons or necessity for it. But few of his ideas became illegal, and instead psychoanalysis has basically been demoted from a medical science to a social science. Indeed, taboos rarely become laws in murkier fields like the social sciences, the humanities, and especially the visual arts, as Sigmund Freud’s ghost and my jaded art professors could attest. Taboos often reign as the final word in these disciplines, and they are especially dominant in art, where the gallery owners, curators, and critics who are the arbiters of culture don’t admit what abstinences must be observed, and they give no reasons for the necessity of obeying them. But obey we must, under the penalty of rejection and dismissal. We are dominated by these taboos, and although they might not be intelligible, they are identifiable. A struggling artist’s ability to survive depends on not crossing the art establishment’s taboos, so it’s worth trying to point out what they are. The Yale University Art Gallery is currently showing two exhibitions that bookend Modernism, and in doing so they are defining what’s taboo by its absence. I say this
. 3 Wassily Kandinsky, Mit Buntem Kreis (Multicolored Circle), 1921.
broadly and with a layman’s definition of Modernism, but even with those qualifiers these shows don’t make the leap into Postmodernism. The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America and Once Removed: Sculpture’s Changing Frame of Reference both celebrate the victory of Modern art, and they display a continuity of taboos that have remained relatively unchanged for a century. Some of the taboos are simple, like the prohibition against rendered and naturalist figurative art in the Romantic tradition, and this taboo is sustained by the nearly contemporary work in Once Removed. This latter show displays even less figurative interest than The Société Anonyme, whose exhibitions would include figurative works as long as they made some attempt to represent the figure with Modernist trappings. But the traditions of pictorial space are likewise taboo, and even in the places where Anonyme artists might drift toward spatial description, like in the work of Béla Kádár, Heinrich Campendonk, or even Marcel Duchamp, they found a way to interrupt the traditions of spatial rendering with a tone or shape that protrudes into the foreground. And although their pieces can sometimes feel like they fall into an earlier tradition, like in the Ashcan leanings of Walt Kuhn or Giorgio de Chirico’s twisted classicism, Anonyme exhibitors nearly always tried to break up their pictorial space. Despite the chasm of difference between artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Giorgio de Chirico, the taboo of The Société Anonyme is clear:
don’t create unaltered perspectival spaces. It’s a small step from redefining pictorial space to rethinking actual space, but that’s the most identifiable shift between The Société Anonyme and Once Removed. And although the latter exhibition’s curatorial statement says that Modernist conventions “traditionally envisioned sculptures as stand-alone, autonomous objects”, it’s hard to see how these relatively contemporary sculptors have distanced themselves from that spatial autonomy. The sculptures in Once Removed all stand in their own spaces, and what’s changed is how nearly every artist in the show - with the exception of Carol Bove and
I saw a child run up to Haim Steinbach’s readymade toilet
brushes and pull one out. her tribute to Brancusi or Allan McCollum with his ironically framed Surrogates - is trying to find a non-traditional way to relate their work to the broader gallery. But whether it’s Rachel Harrison’s carpet on the floor or Mona Hatoum’s gurney, these new compositions feel like an expansion of the Modernist rebuke of deep space within a picture, and it all falls neatly behind The Société Anonyme. That red carpet is somehow what I expected, and nothing would be shocking here except the taboo of a shoulder-high white pedestal.
4 Haim Steinbach, security and serenity #2, 1986.
However, there is one significant change between these two shows. The Société Anonyme was mostly sincere, and it’s ironic that sincerity itself has become the taboo of an art world they largely created. There are few personal touches in Once Removed, where nearly all of the artists are driven by formalist or sociopolitical motives. Overall this show makes us feel like we’re walking into a cold and mirthless continuation of the Modernist tradition, but with the loss of that tradition’s spirit. The implied taboo here is that any heartfelt expression of an artist’s time, place, and emotions are somehow unwelcome, and I can’t help but feel that my art professors were right in thinking themselves excluded from these circles. This conversion from The Société Anonyme’s enthusiasm to a calculated expansion of their interests might be a changing frame of reference’, but it’s hard to see how that change is positive. But as we’ve seen with the evolution of social taboos and the treatment of Sigmund Freud’s work, taboos can shift. As I rounded the corner from Matthew Barney’s dumbbell of petroleum jelly in Once Removed, I saw a child run up to Haim Steinbach’s readymade toilet brushes and pull one out. His father quickly intervened, and the child contritely put the brush back, albeit crookedly, in its holder. But the guard could only muster the effort to say “oh yeah, don’t touch that”, and both the guard and the child left the brush askew on its bespoke triangular shelf.
Disrespecting this work was not taboo to the child, and it was not taboo to the guard. It was only the parent and the institution of Yale that were demanding respect for this century-old idea. All of this is understandable as part of a centennial celebration of the 1913 Armory Show, and it’s no coincidence that MoMA has also mounted a visual panegyric to Modernism this year. But it’s a little depressing to see Haim Steinbach’s readymade toilet brushes in 2013. Whatever observations on consumerism they might hold are well recorded by now, and they don’t deserve a century of currency. Duchamp explored this idea pretty thoroughly, and people could have argued about readymades in a biplane. Let me get back to my Freud trope—Lucian Freud is not taboo -some of our best contemporary art critics, like Sebastian Smee, have written fondly about him—and I’ve seen more than a few paint-covered monographs of Lucian Freud in a young artist’s studio. Artists like Freud have been reflecting their own lives and values for the past century without being dependent on Modernist contrivances, and they have found success with their own audience. And in truth, the supporters of this personal artwork can have their own taboos, which often seem to be the very Modernist-descended interests that Once Removed is exhibiting. My university professors would wince if you mentioned an artist like Matthew Barney or Nam June Paik, though their explanations would get muddled if you asked them why. To them it was just taboo, a threat without specifics or origins. In retrospect, I can see that the sociopolitical and idea-first formalism of someone like Nam June Paik is a threat to academic careers based on the value of craft, though this was probably more felt than reasoned by my professors. The Once Removed artists see craft as serving an idea, whereas artists like my teachers or Lucian Freud see the fullness of their ideas as being revealed through their craft. This reversal of processes has separated art into two camps, with each side viewing the other as taboo. However, neither position seems troubled by the irony of how early Modernism’s sincerity has been picked up by figurative artists who are basically anti-Modernist. It’s really the forthright honesty of painters like Lucian Freud that many of us respond to, and this transfer of earnest energy might be what allows the work of the insincere but Modernist-descended Matthew Barney and the sincere but anti-Modernist Lucian Freud to exist together at places like the Tate. It’s as if we can all sense the connection between early Modernist en-
thusiasm and the enthusiasm of unaffected figuration, and this helps to unite two seemingly disparate art worlds. But whatever our divisions may be, Yale’s current celebrations of Modernism and its followers leave little doubt about who is in charge. Art is still dominated by the taboos of The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America and Once Removed: Sculpture’s Changing Frame of Reference, and most viewers will accept these taboos as a matter of course. But we should recognize that the gallery guard and the kid who misplaced the toilet brush don’t accept them so readily. This is different from the hordes of people who mocked early Modernism, as nearly everyone can recognize this as high art. But taboos can evolve, and like Sigmund Freud’s definition of taboo, many of us can no longer see the reasons for our current taboos’ necessity. Nate Risteen is an artist, writer, and teacher at The University of New Hampshire and The New Hampshire Institute of Art. He writes a blog about art in greater Boston at www.bostonartreview.blogspot.com. Once Removed: Sculpture's Changing Frame of Reference ran from December, 2012 to April, 2013 at Yale University Art Gallery. The Societe Anonyme: Modernism For America runs there through July 14, 2013.
6 Janine Antoni, Bridle, 2000. Illustration attributions and materials
5 Allan McCollum, Collection of Ten Plaster Surrogates, 1982–92.
1 Harrison, Wood, polystyrene, cement, acrylic, felt, canvas, a steel chair, a plastic doll, and eyeglasses. Yale University Art Gallery, Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund. © Rachel Harrison, courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali Gallery, New York. Photo: John Berens. 2 Duchamp, Oil on canvas, with bottlebrush, safety pins, and bolt. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of the Estate of Katherine S. Dreier. @ 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp. 3 Kandinsky, Oil on canvas, Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Collection Société Anonyme. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris 4 Steinbach, Plastic laminated wood shelves, 4 blue Gem Lites glitter lights, 2 white Makio Hasuike toilet brushes, and 2 black Makio Hasuike toilet brushes. Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased with a gift from the Arthur and Constance Zeckendorf Foundation. © Haim Steinbach. 5 McCollum, Enamel on cast Hydrostone. Yale University Art Gallery, Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund. © Allan McCollum, courtesy of the artist and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York 6 Antoni, Full salt-and-pepper cow hide. Yale University Art Gallery, Richard Brown Baker, B.A. 1935, Fund. © 2000 Janine Antoni, courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.
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