April 23, 2011

Greetings from Nudashank and the Transmodern Festival

"The Shape of Things to Come" at Nudashank, installation view.  Tracy Thomason (left) Stacy Fisher (right)

I recently received a note from Seth Adelsberger and Alex Ebstein at Nudashank, an independent artist-run space in Baltimore, about their new exhibition, "The Shape Of Things To Come." The show features abstract, sculptural paintings and objects by Brooklyn-based artists Stacy Fisher, Tracy Thomason and Maria Walker. "Falling somewhere between sculpture and painting, works balloon off the walls, hang from the ceiling, sag in imperfect shapes and collectively posess a subtle animation that ties into the Transmodern aesthetic* while remaining grounded in abstraction and object art."

I like the images of the show, but I wonder if the days of "casual, wonky posture" are numbered. Is this experimental strategy (which I love) beginning to slide comfortably into grad school schtick?

Maria Walker, "Island of Health" and "Untitled."

Stacy Fisher,"Green Plaid Sculpture"

Maria Walker

"The Shape of Things to Come," in conjunction with the Transmodern Festival, Baltimore, MD. Through May 13th.

*The Transmodern aesthetic: Provocative work by cultural experimenters who defy traditional genres and embrace radical innovation through transmedia, clashes of organic vs. artificial intelligence, psychogeography, dislocation of consensus reality, real politic and collective cultural action.

Related post:
Gahl and Berg @ Nudashank in Baltimore



16 comments:

NO! i've never seen thomason's work but fisher and walker are two of my favorites.. this show looks awesome... i still remember first seeing walker's work at one of those yearly Sideshow shows with like a thousand artists, it was a standout! even there!

and i still think about the piece by Fisher i saw in a group show at Heskin a few years ago. COVETTT

i've gone out of my way to see work by these artists whenever i can and am never disappointed. i'm freaked out to see this dismissal!

if i had any money i would be on a bus to baltimore to see this show.

Posing a question such as, "Is this experimental strategy... beginning to slide comfortably into grad school schtick?", celebrates the kind of shallow unimaginative discourse that populates the minds of people unwilling to accept the nuance of abstraction within contemporary practice. This brand of dismissive cynicism has absolutely no function other than casting a wide net with little to say. Each of these artists works with very specific materials in very specific ways. I won't get into specific examples here, because I believe all three of these extremely intelligent and articulate women can enlighten those who might be interested. I happen to know two of the artists in the show... and in knowing these artists, I know that their work, and their respective personal formal trajectory has maintained its integrity over the course of several years.

I believe it is certainly valid to question tropes within cultural production, but to prepare a pedantic assertion over artists without reason (perhaps the authors reason is that they have not yet heard of these artists... and believe me you will see plenty more!) is reckless, demeaning and useless. Furthermore, wondering "if the days of 'casual, wonky posture' are numbered" is an exercise in futility... The reduction of these artist's work into some sort of formal banality is disingenuous and ridiculous. Firstly, the author assumes that the work of these three artists is fits into this empty logic. Secondly, where will the work that fits under the author's shallow critical assertion go at the end of its numbered days?

I lament the fact that cynical and lazy criticality gets thrown around and assigned to artists who struggle with their work daily. These three artists ask themselves difficult questions and have been doing so for quite some time.

The best that can come of the statements made on this blog is that it might arouse interest, albeit through dismissive controversy, towards the content, concepts and goals of each artists respective work. The worst that can come of these statements is the perpetuation of shallow, useless commentary on work that does not benefit from being seen via jpegs... long live blogging!

Martin and JSM--Thanks for the comments. Fortunately, I don't have to defend myself for things I didn't actually write. Had you bothered to read the post with more care, you would have understood that it isn't a cynical dismissal of the artists in the Nudashank show. In fact, I said the show looks pretty good and that I love this kind of work."Casual wonky posture," which is how it is described in the press materials, is a spot-on way to describe the artists' approach. But historically there's always a point at which sincere investigation morphs into a visual style or genre--not for the artists who were initially investigating the possibilities, whose initiative and originality I admire, but for younger artists who begin to emulate them.

^ agreed. these are not new ideas or material investigations, but these days its hard to not find this so much more relevant than traditional painting.

I agree with Sharon. These kinds of approaches (which I like, too)can end up seeming very "seen it before" as more artists pick up on the trends. For this reason, "traditional painting" will always be relevant.

It seems right to push painting's limits as far as possible and equally right to work strictly within them. The bas relief approaches here rely on the reading of traditional painting and sculpture for the differences and overlays they propose. Their off-handedness reads fast, at least initially, so a glut of imitations might not possess the allure of long-term visual interest. I can think of several shows that feature this mode of working...which prompts further thinking on its potential as a visual language, grounded in the combine as one model, a walk down the street as another.

The argument of origination over emulation always comes @ the expense of substantive dialogue. Whether you're a pessimist in the Baudrillard camp (we are doomed to rummage through the trash cans of history), or an optimist (we are revisiting past modes to isolate and augment movements that we departed from too quickly for the sake of {modern}progress), the nitpicking of trends is always the refuge of the curmudgeon.

I argue once again that the baseless insinuation that these three artists are exploiting some sort of formal trend does disservice to the nuance and integrity in each of these artist's work. You may see traces of Frankenthaler, Hesse, Benglis, Morris, et al, but does that mean that these artists are merely exploiting favorable aesthetics? Or perhaps one could entertain the notion that these artists are developing their own formal language with an informed approach.

Either way, I do understand the skepticism. It is easy to assume the artist/student sees a successful formula and tries to emulate it. I'm glad to know that my colleagues and peers do not take such a vapid approach to making artwork. This is why I felt compelled to defend the work of these artists. While the author asserted that this trend might be "sliding into grad school schtick", I felt there was a hint that these artists were complicit.

All in all, this skepticism appears not to have generated a very interesting dialogue thus far... Mere cries for the relevance of traditional painting over that which isn't, is a tired and useless argument. This argument seems to be generated in perpetuity without reason or resolution... perhaps only to benefit the careers of academics or critics.

Lastly, I applaud anonymous @ april 25th 10:45AM for using a more tactful and thoughtful approach to reading the concurrence of work that seems to be engaging this modality.

"...Provocative work by cultural experimenters who defy traditional genres and embrace radical innovation..."

For the last years I have seen lots of things that are absolutely not new but present itself as a "provocative experiment..." . Not only in visual art , but in music and literature and cinema too.
Why is so wrong to assume that you aren't doing something new today ?
Iss't a too old fashion mentality to look always for the next new thing? And worse, what is really new , offering an old stuff in the place of it trying to convinse people of a fraud ?
Show me one single aspect of these works that haven't been exaustively produced and exhibited sinse the 80's, or even 70's.
Why does the lie needs to be present ?
Isn't better to only point the fact that these are good works? They are.

oops , i didn't read the comments before.
good to know I am not the only one noticing it.

I think it's a really good question - "casual wonky" etc. If all I had to go on was the wild profusion of really good abstraction taking place right now, that alone would validate the question.

For whatever reason there are many artists right now who are really good at making abstract works of various kinds, whether pure painting or the materials explorations seen here.

Sure, each has a special take, an idiomatic angle of some sort, and each (most anyway) seem to be bringing something genuinely view-worthy to the table.

But when there's so much, when really good abstract art reaches a volume of production that makes it almost a commodity like pork bellies, it really makes sense to stop and assess how much further down that road things can go.

It's a unique situation in art history, I think. Great question, Sharon.

I agree Bill. The new approaches challenge so many tenets of abstraction, particularly ideas about design, color and composition originally developed in the 1920s by Bauhaus artist/teachers that we're still teaching in art schools today. I'll write a longer, more thoughtful post about it in the near. Perhaps in the form of a manifesto....

You have to take into consideration the venue for this exhibition. We have a gallery in Baltimore- a city which rarely acknowledges larger contemporary art ideas (trends), and has even fewer opportunities to easily access (in person) much of the work being produced by their peers in Brooklyn and beyond. You can consider yourselves lucky to have seen so much of this kind of abstraction in young work that you can question whether or not it continues to be honest and interesting. We have a largely student audience in Baltimore, many of whom become exposed to these ideas for the first time at Nudashank. We picked 3 of our favorite examples, and artists who have been working in this style for many years to bring together a strong group show. And it may be difficult to tell from the images, but Tracy Thomason uses human hair, spray tanner, hair gel and other non-tradtional materials in her work. The Transmodern festival is an interactive performance art and new media festival that will occupy the rest of our artist live/work building this upcoming weekend, the quote from their press release is describing their performance and expanded cinema angle. To differentiate between their mission and ours, we chose to have a purely object art show, where last year we curated more directly for their vibe, including video and interactive sculpture.

Thanks for the comment, Nudashank. I bet your exhibitions rock their world!

i think it's really cool that a show in baltimore is generating this interesting conversation - thanks nudashank!

I'm late to this party I know but thinking about Nudashanks comments...I didn't even see the show in person, but it looks like it could work anywhere. I wish more NY galleries would show more lesser known and emerging artists and take more chances like this. Nicely done.