Tag Archives: Adrian Villar Rojas

Brief notes on Chelsea Ground and the Met Roof

“Sean Scully: Wall of Light Cubed”; through May 20, Cheim & Read, 547 W. 25th Street.

“The Past is Present” (Hank Willis Thomas, Turiya Magadlela, Brad Kahlhamer); through April 22, Jack Shainman,  524 W. 24th Street.

“Robert Therrien”; through May 26, Gagosian, 555 W. 24th  Street.

“Erwin Wurm: Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order”; through May 26, Lehman Maupin, 536 W. 22nd Street.

“Kevin Francis Gray”; through April 22, Pace, 537 W. 24th Street.

“Yoshitomo Nara: Thinker”; through April 29, Pace, 510 W. 25th Street.

“Adrian Villar Rojas: The Theater of Disappearance”; through October 29, The Met roof.

*** Does “expert” abstract painting exist?  Like, an ideal display of formal dialectics (structure/not-structure; preconception/perception; accident/ rigor, rigidity/fluidity).  Within his own visionary constraints (not an oxymoron in his case) and despite inevitable association with the whole constellation of painting through time, Sean Scully’s work recalls really no one—well, maybe the ghost of Braque.  A relatively recent foray into sculpture is represented here by two colossal, fat columns of what appear to be stacked, staggered frames or square platforms – visitors cannot see the tower tops.  One is monochromatic black, coaxing out the ziggurat factor; the other features his noted greyed-tinged rainbow palette.  Each fills up the relatively small rooms in which they are (respectively) installed, so that a first reaction may be, why not in the large main gallery?  But, of course, given Scully’s deep, deft formal deliberations throughout his forty-some-year career, the body/space/object scale is surely integral.

*** I loved Robert Therrien’s caringly-burnished, matte-finish Minimalist sculptures and shaped paintings of the 1980s—still resonating beneath several chromed-hued, colossal versions here.  Likewise his overblown domestic geometry of the 1990s—as in generic furniture and plates, here metamorphosed into staged sets displayed in trailers, suggesting Surrealist theater and a compulsion to spotting and juxtaposing unlikely like forms.

*** Clumpy, lumpy, something borrowed, something of you—DIY on both sides of the art-making equation for Erwin Wurm.  Viewers will find faux-naively sewn or otherwise scrawled instructions in/on  deconstructed and reassembled furniture and other hybrid forged/found objects, which encourage explicit interaction with each piece (put it that way).  For example, you stick your feet into sawed holes in an old coffee table.  Do it.  Sublime bricolage (leftovers patched into service as art), with a chaser.

*** Slightly varied, big scary-cute-animé-tinged paintings of a slightly-cybor-girl from Yoshitomo Nara, a progenitor of the Japanese postwar sensibility and phenomena with global sympathizers and appropriators.   A group of black-and-white- glazed ceramics vessels decorated cartoon-like with the subject’s adventures and bearing mixed messages about society and love represents something new for Nara, and … dare I say … saleable?  (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  J. Seinfeld).  They are very cool and accessible.  But, I’d rather buy one of the contour drawings that explore his obsessively repeated, enigmatic starlet.  And there are colossal, hobbit-strange sculptural sentinels to contend with, as well.

*** Hand-hewn Marble imitating plaster-putty neo-Baroque anatomy studies—mashup Bernini/Messerschmidt/Rodin/Francis Bacon—Kevin Francis Gray offers a compelling antidote to the 3D-printed also Baroque-ish creations of Adrian Villar Rojas currently on the Met Roof (more below).

*** Speaking of which, 3D printing had something to do with Hank Willis Thomas’s sculptures in Shainman’s tri-artist display—making them no less emotion-filled or savvy.  That’s especially if you’ve been along on his art journey over the past two decades, from cutting photographic commentaries on sports and advertising to his recent socio-community-network collaborations, like www.forfreedoms.org (currently featured in a small show at MoMA PS1, through September 10).  Two wall sculptures here are derived from photographic “points” of interest (Barthes’s punctum) within basketball play-action shots.  These hyper-realist, purple-tinged shining arm-to-fingertip-to-basket casts (resin-based) appear both celebratory and haunted by chance and instability.

Hank Willis Thomas, resin-cast sculpture from the “Punctum Series” at Jack Shainman; 4/19/17

And a column of b-balls is a great riff on Brancusi; while the theme and multiple-entendres of these, like all his b-ball-based works continue the props to David Hammons.  Also included are several of Thomas’s word paintings, which play with semiotics and visual perception while forthright in content.

I came with no background on the other two artists, but left a fan of Turiya Magadlela, who has wrung out translucent colorfield abstractions from stretched panty hose, shouting out feminist performance pioneer Senga Nengudi in the process, and was captivated by Brad Kahlhamer’s  wirey “dreamcatcher” American flag.

***Villar Rojas went nuts with the 3D printing in his Met roof installation.  Dicing digital images into intuitive new forms and sending them off to the object fabricator is an increasingly popular art process/technique, to be sure–not to be written off as mere fad or novelty.   Yet, in the age of digitized reproduction, as well earlier methods–art gains and loses (to clumsily invoke W. Benjamin).  The resultant, scattered tableau is “spectacular” (in the sense of G. Debord) and inevitable (back to Benjamin); but, what is the criteria for artistic/aesthetic engagement, differentiation, and quality with this new screen media-to-object trend?  So Villar Rojas has incarnated part nightmarish, part goofball hybrid figures, developed from from scans of works of art from the Met’s collection, redistributed, montaged, and melded with fleshed out human bodies, gathered at a kind of haunted feast.  It’s fun in a puzzle way and gains as one may recognize snippets and fragments.  There is follow-up thought on the glut of objects in museums and their often arbitrary taxonomies of forms, functions, and status.

Adrian Villar Rojas sculpture from The Met roof installation (4/29/17).


Post-Millennial Hits at MoMA

Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection, through July 30 at the Museum of Modern Art

Quite simply, this show makes a great case for these early 21st-century creations by an international array of artists, each thought-provoking and visually engaging.  Most directly invoke cultural cross-overs that will–in retrospect–reflect a number of world issues pressing at this time; a few deal primarily with visual perception while suggesting content beyond the frame.

The tour de force and show’s namesake, Unfinished Conversations (2012) is a fascinating, artsy (in a good way) biopic on “cultural studies” founder, Stuart Hall (1932, Jamaica; 2014; UK), in three-channel video format by John Akomfrah (with substantial assistance from a host of others).  At 45 minutes, it is one of very, very, few film or video works near this length placed in the context of a group exhibition that I have sat through in its entirely—not out of due diligence to the subject (who deserves it, in any case) but because I was mesmerized after a few minutes. Highly moving yet unsentimental, it intertwines appropriated vintage and and newly created, moving and still images, color and black and white, of shifting land, sea, and city scenes, private and public events and personages, and interview snippets with Hall over time that convey the brilliance and humanity of his blended socio-political-aesthetic discourse. And the collaged, far-ranging soundtrack is meticulously considered, integral, and dynamic.  (If you can’t stay for the whole thing, find a way—like asking the guards or the google—to catch the section on the birth of Hall’s son near the middle.)

The other video in the show, by Jonathas de Andrade, whose piece on man-fish compassion via staged ceremony, 0 Peixe (2016), made big waves in its recent run at the New Museum (1/25-4/9/17), is also engrossing, at c. 10 min., for its blend of journalistic and artistic premises and perspective/s. The subject is a staged-to-be-filmed protest/spectacle (a la Guy DeBord), of animal cart drivers in Recife, Brazil whose transport tradition is a target of modernizing commercial interests and the government.

A few stand-out photo, drawing and painting inclusions: Samuel Fosso’s demure black and white photo self-portrait-portraits, in the vein of Cindy Sherman and (even more so) Yasumasa Morimura,  whereby the photographer assumes the role of public figure sitter that we think we recognize.  Any who have followed this  innovative progenitor of contemporary photography out of West Africa will especially appreciate the conceptual and technical maturity of the examples here.  Somewhat complementary is a display of painted portraits by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye of credible but actually conjured individuals.  A sprawling, seemingly autonomous drawing by Kara Walker of surrealist-scary, dream-memories reveals the underpinnings of her famous silhouette murals.  Abstraction perseveres with Kim Beom’s painted cartoonish maze, which evokes loosing one’s way (in art, in the world) as well as early Mondrian; and Wolfgang Tillmans’s giant digital photo of digital TV static–-a zen-like field referencing the obliteration of media images by censors (something of a visual oxymoron).

As for sculpture, you won’t miss the tromp l’oeil petrified tree trunk at the entrance by Adrian Villar Rojas; but may need to look for labels near the sleek, chunky symbols of Iman Issa to confirm that they are influenced by forms from the Islamic monuments noted.

Kim Beom, Untitled (Intimate Suffering #1), 2012 (MoMA Collection)