CIVILIZATION and its DISCONTENTS

Civ

CIVILIZATION and its DISCONTENTS
OPENING RECEPTION:
DATE: Saturday, July 23rd
TIME: 6 – 9 PM

NARS GALLEY • 88 35th Street, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn NY 11232
Visit: http://www.narsfoundation.org/homepage.php

ARTISTS:
Steffi Homa
Nancy Drew
VanillaRoyal
Kikuko Tanaka
Olek

Civilization protects us, unifies our efforts, and broadens our perspectives. It provides protection as well as the comforts afforded by a shared history and the developments of science. And yet, as Freud pointed out in his seminal work, the price we pay to be a part of civilization is often more than our spirits can bear without resistance or resentment.

With dada, Pop art, appropriation, and minimalism, artists found ways to stand in the margins of society, and to make images that defied its restrictions while leveraging its iconography. Stepping out of the space cleared by these past genres, new artists are looking into even more extreme methods of breaking free, not only borrowing from the trappings of our civilized world, its symbols, memes and ceremonies, and advertisements, but also treating meaning itself as material for color, texture and mood.

These artists create a new aesthetic that works because it defies context in favor of pure form and free association.

The artists in this show will present works that are simultaneously loaded with insinuation and free of meaning. Breaking away from the constrictions that are entailed by “making sense,” this new art can make bold with the aesthetic joys that came to civilization at a great price. They come off, therefore, as audacious and rude, like children taunting the librarian.

Because they harken to familiarity without the price of full understanding, and they wink at cultural constructs that “look” like those that are usually loaded with meaning, they can play with “originality” and create “inspiration” seemingly by sheer hap.

Color can be arbitrary, or evocative without ties to any coherent plot or meaning. Rythyms and symbols, borrowed at random can be collaged together to produce a mood or a feeling of meaning that is all the more ecstatic for breaking free of the rules.

If you’ve ever worn a T-shirt from a place you’ve never been, or felt elated by a song the language of which you did not understand, or dared to display a button for its color without paying mind to what it says, then you get it.

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The Five Artists

Stephanie Homa: A young East german-born British artist working mostly with paint, Homa’s imagery and playful sense of humor are definitely on the cutting edge of micropop with its freewheeling use of borrowed and salvaged cultural symbols.

Says Steff of her own work:
“The playful spirit displayed in my work reflects the personal playground of a wild and sloppy mind where I set the rules. I reject restrictions and conventions so that my work drifts between evolving and dissolving its own concept and philosophy – resulting in an everchanging hologram of curiosity.”

Nancy Drew: A seasoned artist of note, Nancy Drew was represented by Roebling Hall in its heyday, and was included in Open House: Brooklyn Art Today at the Brooklyn Museum.

She has recently embarked on a series of paintings remarking on celebrity and time, and female iconography. Simultaneously, Drew is still continuing to playi with pornography, celebrating the theatrics, the beauty and the thrill of the genre. 

Growing up in an Ab Ex world, Drew takes advantage of a language of gesture and form that belongs to that male dominated genre, but she decorates her paintings with glitter and softens them with flocking, producing images that are at once bold and feminine.

VanillaRoyal: VanillaRoyal uses fetish and fantasy iconography, playing them off of each other in an attempt to jog the mind free of easy and habitual associations. The visual language in fetish and fantasy genres is built with motifs that are deceptively simple, while loaded with existential meaning. Both fetish and fantasy have a dominant iconography that is extreme and colorful, and that plays with polarities like good and evil, dominant and subordinate.

By manipulating the similarities and the tensions between these extremes, VanillaRoyal manages to create dreamlike scenarios that address sexuality vs. childhood, freedom vs. enslavement, joy vs. pain — giving the viewer a world of ice cream and chains. At once charming and threatening, these polarities conjure disturbing dialog.

Olek: Olek’s by now famous crochet art has become a meme of its own. Speaking as much to labor and to effort as to time and process, Olek’s objects, performances, and video are instantly and universally understood and empathized with.

Says Olek,  “With a miner’s work ethic, I long to delve deeper and deeper into my investigations. My art was a development that took me away from industrial, close-minded Silesia, Poland. It has always sought to bring color and life, energy, and surprise to the living space. My goal is to produce new work and share it with the public. I intend to take advantage of living in NYC with various neighborhoods and, with my actions, create a feedback to the economic and social reality in our community.

Kikuko Tanaka: An ambitious painter, sculptor and performance artist in the mold of Matthew Barney, Kikuko Tanaka’s work plays with psychological, socio-historic, and pop references (From Disney to Dostoyevsky!) using them to defy traditional story-telling and the tired and unquestioned values embedded therein.

Says Tanaka:  “I follow my whims and impulses. I also borrow some motifs from existing literature and artworks, both to express my empathy toward them and to take pleasure in deconstructing them within my context. Most of the time, I’m trying to make bad jokes through my work.”

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NARS (New York Art Residency & Studios Foundation) presents its first every Emerging Curator Project Show, with Civilization and its Discontents, a show by 2011 selected curator Cat Weaver.

Civilization and its Discontents: July 23 – August 28th
Gallery Hours:
Wednesday – Friday: 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: by appointment between 12:00pm – 6:00pm
  Please call the NARS office to set up an appointment at 718-768-2765.

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On Derivative Art and Law

Robert J. Lang's creation takes a munch break at MoMA

In my latest on Hyperallergic,  I gave Robert J. Lang the mic and he gave us a lesson in the history, diversity, and multiple uses of origami! He also comments very briefly on his current lawsuit against artist Sarah Morris whom he accuses of copyright infringement.

I have been following copyright infringement cases for a while now and find it very interesting that people tend to predict case outcomes based on their personal opinions about copyrights, or the individual artists, or the genres of art involved. Rarely do I see discussions about derivative art, copyrights, and lawsuits that actually deal with the legal issues that are involved.

The Lang v Sarah Morris case is a very good example. People who have taken a strong position in favor of derivative art are predicting that Morris cannot lose. Others see this as clear case of infringement and are rooting for the origami artists. But few seem to understand the legal terms they are using to support their emotional arguments. And fewer still seem to understand that the courts don’t care what sort of art you like.

The fact is, it can be pretty hard to predict the outcomes of these cases without a good look at the depositions and the court records. And arguments about the court’s decisions look pretty silly when they misunderstand terms like “transformative” or mistake the word “derivative” for an insult. These legal terms are too often reacted to in a naive and emotional way even by some who set themselves up as experts on the subject.

I will follow up here in a week or so, with an essay about the legal issues involved in these cases, and how they are misunderstood by the public.

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