Agnès Varda, Lions Love (...and lies), 1969

Agnès Varda’s films
at LACMA, Los Angeles

November 1 2013
2:00 PM

From highly personal documentaries to experimental and improvised features, Agnès Varda’s films have always been marked by her tenderness toward her subjects. Still punkish and plucky at eighty-four, Varda, the “godmother” of French New Wave, could hardly be otherwise. Not only was she the only woman in the movement, but the vivid and eccentric aesthetic that defines her life and work is as pioneering, tangible, and urgent today as it was sixty years ago. As part of LACMA’s Art+Film initiative, four of Varda’s films set in California have been restored for “Agnès Varda in Californialand” (3 November 2013— 22 June  2014), which also includes her photography alongside a new sculptural installation. From the Kodachrome palette of Uncle Yanco (1967), in which Varda visits her houseboat-dwelling “uncle,” a Sausalito painter and bohème, to her quiet attention to the women and children at the Oakland “Free Huey” rally in Black Panthers (1968), to the a loose and goofy (and perhaps heartfelt) non-sequitur on love, life and other spiritual endeavors in Lions Love (…and lies) (1969), to her charming adventure documenting Los Angelean muralists in Mur Murs (1981), Varda weaves the politics, cultures and counter-cultures whose histories and legacies we continue to consume and critique. As Shirley Clarke (playing herself) asks in Lions Love (…and lies), “Which comes first: the movie or the reality?” With Varda, the question is irrelevant: there’s never been any need to distinguish. (Natalie Bell)

Agnès Varda solo exhibition “Agnès Varda in Californialand” at LACMA, Los Angeles, opens November 3.

Isabelle Cornaro, Paysage avec Poussin et Témoins Oculaires (version I), 2008
© Isabelle Cornaro Courtesy of Künstlerin and Balice Hertling, Paris

“Museum Off Museum”
at Bielefelder Kunstverein

October 31 2013
2:10 PM

“My experience is what I agree to attend to,” observed William James in the 1880s. Over a century later, his observation holds true: what we see (and know) can be a simple matter of assent. Even if museums have historically prevailed in dictating correspondences between objects, a persistent rebelliousness prevails among artists who interrogate the logic that governs museums’ practice of collecting, organizing, historicizing and exhibiting. The artists contributing to “Museum Off Museum” at the Biefielder Kunstverein take the idea and ideology of the museum as a starting point in works that engage the sort of agency that has been restricted to the museum as the sole executor of culture. Rather than focusing only on critical interventions that undermine the museum’s prerogative, these artists examine the assumptions and incentives that inform conventional methods of collection and display and take “off” to show how these practices can be freed and unfettered. The strategies they employ shift between replication and re-presentation (Isabelle Cornaro), formal oppositions (Kader Attia), poetic inventories (Camille Henrot), uncanny fragmentations (Özlem Altin), deviant syncretisms (Slavs and Tatars), personal anthropologies (Simon Fujiwara) and archival reconnaissance (Jeremy Deller). While no single artist works in a set strategic field, together they remind us that not only the museum but the world at large presents a modular and chaotic narrative space. (Natalie Bell)

“Museum Off Museum” at Bielefelder Kunstverein will run through January 26.

Richard Hollis, material for Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1978 – 1981
Courtesy of Richard Hollis

Richard Hollis
at Artists Space, New York

October 17 2013
7:35 PM

As an aspiring painter in mid-1950s London, Richard Hollis admired Constructivism and the kalte kunst (cold art) of Swiss artists like Max Bill and Richard Paul Lohse, but at an art teacher’s suggestion he took up graphic design instead, rigorously taking on the visual strategies that employ text and images to communicate ideas. Famously part of the team that helped wrestle John Berger’s 1972 BBC series “Ways of Seeing” into a book, Hollis found inspiration in the television format—what had arguably become the predominant way of seeing. At the time, setting images within the relevant parts of text and using a bold sans serif font (to give the text a weight that would echo the series’ emphatic narrator) were, in graphic design, as radical as Berger’s critical approach to visual culture, both high and low. As print designer for London’s Whitechapel Gallery from the late 1960s to mid-1980s , Hollis designed innovative mailings that unfolded into posters as well as catalogues for artists like Eva Hesse and Philip Guston, among dozens of others. Artists Space presents the first exhibition of the pioneering graphic designer’s works in the US, bringing approximately one hundred pieces from Hollis’s archive to to reveal his unrivaled presence in British postwar graphic design and visual culture. (Natalie Bell)

Richard Hollis’ exhibition at Artists Space, New York, will run through November 10.

Essex Olivares, Office Riddim (detail), 2013
Courtesy of the artists and Lisa Cooley, New York; photo by Cary Whittier

“The String and the Mirror”
at Lisa Cooley, New York

August 21 2013
6:52 PM

Ranging from pioneering, semi-shamanic figures (Akio Suzuki, who uses found objects and improbable instruments) to young experimental ensemble performers (Essex Olivares) to studious investigators of sound’s political import (Lawrence Abu Hamdan), the sixteen artists included in “The String and the Mirror” at Lisa Cooley offer oblique reminders of how sound manifests in our imaginations, in our memories, and in our daily lives. The press release dubs this “sound as an expanded practice,” though all of its claims—as one of the works by Basque troublemaker Mattin—are inverted to be negative. (“It will be fairly straightforward,” he glibly declares in its penultimate line.) Curators Justin Luke of Audio Visual Arts and Lawrence Kumpf of ISSUE Project Room also reveal a number of well-known artists’ lesser-known works, such as Marina Rosenfeld’s lenticular photographs and Alan Licht’s decibel meter. An understated centerpiece, Stefan Tcherepnin’s Concrete Mandalas (2013) offers a quiet tribute to the gallery’s location, the site of the legendary experimental music club Tonic (razed in 2007 in light of rising rents and condominiums—one of which now houses the ground-floor gallery). Tcherepnin’s installation presents a hanging cloth backdrop and three staggered kidney-shaped platforms—suggesting stages and musical notes on a scale—each surface sealed with sodium silicate in which a swirled puddle of beer appears symbolically frozen in time, the bar floors liquids of a heady past forced, literally, into a glassy finish. (Natalie Bell)

“The String and the Mirror” at Lisa Cooley, New York, will run through August 28.


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