Tag Archives: women artists

“Radical Love” at the Ford Foundation”

320 East 43rd Street, through August 17, 2019

If you’ve never been to the landmark 1960s building of the Ford Foundation for Social Justice, which has had an extensive public plaza-like space open to the public from the beginning, the new gallery and its programming (established 2018 in a building overhaul; this is the second exhibition) is even more reason to get going. Exhibitions focuses loosely issues and circumstances related to the Foundation’s mission, whether and both who the artists are. Here the thematic title reins in global artists dealing more and less with injustice, personal obstacles, wrapped up with self-love, communal celebration, and most often post-colonial, Diaspora, and transnational identities and social issues.

An innovative feature of the building is its tiered indoor tropical garden (above), the site of a sound piece (part of the show) by Umani Uzuri, which incorporates the spiritual, “Wade on the Water” to invoke a “hush arbor,” or hiding place for escaped slaves in the antebellum South.  On the second floor in the gallery proper a large entrance wall accommodates a kind of memorial to the protestors arrested in the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry, in which their individual photos have been developed on transparent silk and superimposed onto painted portraits for a ghostly stereoscopic effect.  A trio of figurative textile sculptures from the late 1970s by the still prolific Faith Ringgold (b. 1930) are as political as they are personal in their feminist form and subjects.  Most other works share some sort of visual dazzle through a riot of color, patterning, and textures.

A tin-foil-glittery, kitsch-Baroque, paper-mache rat-infested, gay-urban altarpiece by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, who started with this sort of thing c. 40 years ago, is impressive for its obsessive dedication to scrappy, inventive craft.  His semiotic linking of superficial sparkle with queerness as well as spirituality is seen elsewhere here; while others use glittery effects to other associative ends.  Ebony Patterson’s hanging, sequin-dotted patchwork tapestry, in which images of body parts peak through in sections, includes gold-painted conch shells and coins strewn below to reinforce the Caribbean context of her dreamy-nightmare aesthetic. Rashaad Newsome’s kaleidoscope-like photo-collages of glam-bling adornments on impossible bodies deals partly in drag ball fantasy, picked up in Athi-Patra Ruga’s staged portrait photos.  Weedy growths sprouting from high on several walls are tangled with bits of shiny detritus in an installation by Lina Puerta.   Raul de Nieves’s opulently costumed mannequins representing two aspects of his mother recall Egungun masks (which completely cover dancers in the Nigerian masquerade traditions) and Nick Cave’s “soundsuits.”  A gold-ornamented painted female portrait by Lina Iris Viktor includes a backdrop map melding Africa with sites of its Diaspora. An especially moving assemblage sculpture by Vanessa German depicts a “white-face” Madonna / nkisi (power figure in traditional groups of the Congos) cradling a black baby doll, with silver-beaded strands of tears. Probably the most arresting and eye-opening work for most viewers will be Sue Austin’s video of her underwater experience in a wheelchair specially equipped for the event. More than a half-dozen other works included are similarly engaging; and a bonus on my visit were publicly accessible works beyond the exhibit by Kehinde Wiley and Hank Willis Thomas (look down the hallways to and from the elevators).

Raul de Nieves, “Fina Beauty” and “Fina Nurture” (both 2019); at the Ford Foundation)
Foreground: Vanessa German, “Notes on the absence of Sacredness: How Little Black Girls Die” (2018); background: Lina Iris Viktor, “Eleventh” (2018); at the Ford Foundation.

Sculpture: Minimalism (Sperone Westwater) / Maximalism (Nancy Rubins at Gagosian)

“Sculpture”; Sperone Westwater (Bowery), through August 15.

“Nancy Rubins: Our Friend Fluid Metal”; Gagosian (21st Street), through September 15.

If Koons’s flawless shine fetish has fascinated the masses and cognoscenti alike (for the most part), dominating art-social media-NYC this summer in an endless flood of fun-house selfies, a mirror ball of another ilk—namely an equally gleaming, though pockmarked moon by Not Vital, has landed at Sperone Westwater.

Not Vital, "Moon" (2011; stainless steel)
Not Vital, “Moon” (2011; stainless steel) [click to enlarge]
Gazing at this fallen celestial orb feels very different than clowning into a Koons, although, it compels, likewise, to take that side-long self-glance, if not a money shot of our narcissism. The work rests in a sublime installation on the third floor of SW’s Gagosian-challenging new-ish Bowery HQ; which also includes a vermilion-lacquered, half-stairway to … oblivion, or a fourth dimension behind the wall, by Wolfgang Laib (2002), a ritualistic circle of puzzle-piece rock fragments by walking artist extraordinaire, Richard Long, and a heavy wood abstraction in the shape of an inverted tau, which also suggests an altar, by Carle Andre (pace Andre’s distaste for content association—true, as well, it couldn’t be more formally Minimal).

Third fl. installation view, Sperone Westerwater; with "Moon," a R. Long (1996; granite) and a Carl Andre (1992; cedar timbers)
Third floor at  Sperone Westerwater (partial view); with “Moon,” a R. Long (1996; granite) and a Carl Andre (1992; cedar timbers)

Each floor of this group show has similarly intriguing juxtapositions as well as engaging specific works by an inter-generational, international roster; with more mirroring on the ground floor in the proto-disco assemblages (one, kinetic) of Heinz Mack, c. 1960.

Heinz Mack, "Kleiner Stelenwald" (1960; brass, with motor)
Heinz Mack, “Kleiner Stelenwald” (1960; brass, with motor)

Back then, the reflective surface was just taking off in pop culture and contemporary art, après Brancusi (prominent in works by many emerging NY-based artists at the time, including R. Smithson, R. Morris, Y. Kusama, L. Samaras).

***

Nancy Rubins was a memorable hit at the 1995 Whitney Biennial with a floating, twerked and bound mattress installation featuring creamy supermarket cakes smushed into the crevices, evoking a post-industrial Tiepolo. (Digression: bed and mattress show, dedicated to R. Rauschenberg’s famous MoMA Bed 1955, with Rubins, Guillermo Kuitca, Tracy Emin, Sarah Lucas, Pepon Ossorio . . . ?)*  In the interim, Rubins got into heavy-metal assemblages that also defied gravity, with the origins of the fragment components more and less discernible—rambunctious off-spring of later Frank Stellas. Twenty years hence, the three works currently on view at Gagosian are again bouncing off the ceiling, as well as walls and floor—dense clouds of recycled junk (Shinique Smith is one heir), including a proliferation of defunct, old-school springing playground or low-rent carnival rides in the form of sea-foamy-tinted, kitschy-toy, zoomorphic cross-breeds.

Nancy Rubins, at Gagosian Gallery, 522 W. 21st St., summer 2014
Nancy Rubins, at Gagosian Gallery, 522 W. 21st St., summer 2014

. . .  Abandoned, twister-blown, small-town toddler amusement park gracefully re-coagulated, tumbles and hovers into the white cube.

Nancy Rubins, detail
Nancy Rubins, detail

*Re: “bed show”; update (11/1/15): I was unaware,  when I posted this, of the comprehensive exhibition at 21er Haus, Vienna, “Sleepless: The Bed in History and Contemporary Art,” (Jan.-June 2015), including several of these artists.