May 28, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
David Graham’s “Where We Live: Photographs of the American Home” is at Laurence Miller Gallery through June 26. Graham’s photographs span more than thirty years; he aims to “document the American home as both sanctuary and playful expression of individuality.” You can see more of his work here.
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May 19, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Walter Russell (May 19, 1871–May 19, 1963) was the progenitor of a “new world-thought” centered on light; in books such as The Electrifying Power of Man-Woman Balance, The Book of Early Whisperings, and The Dawn of a New Day in Human Relations, he foresaw “a marriage between religion and science” in which the laws of physics would be rewritten. He believed that weight “should be measured dually as temperature is,” with “an above and below zero,” and that “the sunlight we feel upon our bodies is not actual light from the sun.” (Russell’s Wikipedia entry notes gingerly that his ideology “has not been accepted by mainstream scientists.”)
In what’s ostensibly his seminal text, The Secret of Light, he outlines a philosophy rife with capitalized Nouns and portentous pseudo erudition:
Man lives in a bewildering complex world of EFFECT of which he knows not the CAUSE. Because of its seemingly infinite multiplicity and complexity, he fails to vision the simple underlying principle of Balance in all things. He, therefore, complexes Truth until its many angles, sides and facets have lost balance with each other and with him.
Truth is simple. Balance is simple. Rhythmic balanced interchange between all pairs of opposite expressions in Natural phenomena, and in human relations, is the consummate art of God's universe of Light. It is also the Law. In this one fundamental Universal Law lies the balanced continuity of all creative expression in God’s electric wave universe of two conditioned lights in THE ETERNAL QUESTION seeming motion which record God’s One Whole Idea of Creation into countless seemingly separate parts of that Whole Idea.
He mastered the casual authority of the simple declarative sentence. A personal favorite: “Two-way sex-conditioned spirals are the consummate individuals of all Creation.”
To illustrate these hypotheses, Russell relied on diagrams that are as visually compelling as they are inscrutable. “All matter is created by dividing gravity into pairs,” he wrote in one. Another charts the location of every element along a “nine-octave cycle.”
May 11, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
This is the final week to see Charles Coypel’s extensive Don Quixote tapestries, paintings, prints, and books, on display at the Frick through May 17. Coypel, Louis XV’s painter, was commissioned by Paris’s Gobelins Manufactory to produce the series, which he worked on for a good portion of his life, from 1714 to 1734; it comprises twenty-eight episodes from the novel, in full-scale preparatory paintings that the manufactory later wove into tapestries. Coypel, himself a playwright, took a theatrical approach to the images, as evidenced by the gestures and poses of his characters; the curator Esther Bell writes, “His playful visual innuendos were targeted at both a rowdy parterre and aristocratic circles who equally embraced puns and dirty jokes, while the depiction of ballet and costume mirror both the repertoire of the Opéra and private performances for the privileged members of the King’s household.”
Coypel’s became the most influential eighteenth-century illustrations of Quixote; tapestries like the one above were indebted to his work. Read More »
May 6, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
It would be an understatement to say that Airan Kang is fixated on the book as a form—the South Korean artist’s exhibitions have bibliophilic titles, almost to a one: there’s “The Only Book,” for instance, plus “Hello Gutenberg,” “Light Reading,” “The Bookshelf Enlightened,” and “Luminous Words.” Her latest, “The Luminous Poem,” which opens tomorrow at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, continues a career-long project that “opens up the idea of the book from a concrete, self-contained object into a virtual space for the imagination,” as the gallery puts it. You’d be forgiven for finding that high-flown—but even if Kang’s installments don’t explode your whole approach to the written word, you can still count on them to rewire some synapses. The enigmatic title piece projects Romantic poems across an enormous mirrored book that the viewer can walk through; the effect is like a planetarium for words, with serifed stars. Her shelves of books, meanwhile, their spines and covers etched in retina-scarring neon, conjure both your neighborhood bookshop and a Jetsons-era take on space-age amenities. It’s as if some time-traveler whispered the words electronic book into the ear of Hanna-Barbera cartoonist circa 1963—Kang’s works are proof of concept.
“The Luminous Poem” is up through June 13. Read More »
April 30, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Our Spring issue, available now, features “Thesaurus Paintings,” a portfolio of text-based paintings and drawings from Mel Bochner. They have a focus on ordinary language, specifically the “emotional trajectory” that emerges when one riffs on words and phrases of a certain theme. The direction, Bochner says, is evident in
how one gets from the first word to the last word—from the prim and proper to the crude and vulgar. I concentrate a lot on the sense and sound of the language. The flow of words has to have a certain kind of rhythm—or a certain kind of lack of rhythm. That’s how the narrative of the painting is constructed.
You can see what he means by looking at Easy/Difficult, a painting that wends its way from a breezy, “easy” high point, to, well, “some deep shit,” as optimism shades into fatalism: Read More »
April 22, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Earth: it’s a neat-looking place.
Agèd. Spherical. Cerulean-ish.
Problem is, there are more than seven billion people here, gumming up the planetary works with such “advances” as “buildings,” “indoor plumbing,” and “rust-proof tension-mounted shower caddies.” Earth is so crowded with human beings that many of them live and work within mere feet of one another. It is, on Earth Day, something of a buzzkill. Read More »