"Panem et Circenses," Installation view
Courtesy of Rob Tufnell

Rank 2: “Panem et Circenses”
at Rob Tufnell, London

August 8 2012
7:23 AM

As Olympic mania crescendos in London, sport-themed summer exhibitions are legion. Featuring historical and contemporary works by a disparate group of artists, “Panem Et Circenses” (Bread and Games) offers a timely riposte to the games motto, “Inspiring a generation.” Guy Debord’s film Society of the Spectacle (1967) sets the tone for “Panem Et Circenses,” an exhibition of works that explore strategies of negation.

Elsewhere, Michel Auder’s The Games: Olympic Variations (1984) appropriates TV footage of Olympic athletes, but changes the way it is edited together in order to create elliptical sequence that challenges the way we read the images. Oliver Laric’s KopienKritik (2011) a resin cast of Hercules’s head riffs on the Roman tradition of remaking Greek sculpture. Both artists’ transgression of copyright law are a pertinent response to the corporate lockdown of the London Olympics. To accompany the exhibition, Tufnell has republished Paul Lafargue’s The Right to be Lazy. Originally published in 1883 the essay advocates a resistance to the “dogma of overwork.” A timely reminder that to stop competing can sometimes be the only radical gesture left. The athletic body offers an obedient repository for late capitalism, in  contrast with the myriad disobedient bodies currently striking, rioting and occupying spaces in cities the world over. (George Vasey)

"People Who Work Here," Installation View
Courtesy of David Zwirner

Rank 3: “People Who Work Here” at David Zwirner, New York

August 7 2012
7:42 AM

As they relate to the art world, the complementary notions of center and periphery are still a touchy subject. Are you in the center, moving towards it or so far out on the periphery that you established a center of your own? David Zwirner gallery plays with these notions in “People who work here.” This staff show combines the work of sixteen of the employees of David Zwirner, whose day jobs range from art handler to registrar. The curators James Morrill and Chris Rawson, controller and archivist at David Zwirner, who also run Rawson Projects, an emerging Brooklyn-based gallery. Upending the center and periphery of the inner workings of a gallery, the show touches on the tension between art and work: making art is work, but artists often need day jobs to survive. The curators worked without a curatorial agenda, presenting works across a broad range of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. The result is a fresh and unpretentious exhibition, a true summer show, deserving the third place for honoring the people who make all the other “blue chip” shows happen. (Maaike Lauwaert)

"The Still Life of Vernacular Agents," Installation view
Left to right: Ettore Sottsass, Fatima Al Qadiri and Thunder Horse Video, Katja Novitskova
Courtesy of Kraupa Tuskany

Rank 4: “The Still Life of Vernacular Agents,” at
Kraupa Tuskany, Berlin

August 2 2012
11:30 AM

Fascinated by non-Western cultures and their philosophies, Ettore Sottsass’s memories of his journeys are as vivid and sensual as his color lithographs, two of which are on view in Kraupa Tuskany’s current group show “The Still Life of Vernacular Agents.” In his design studies for teapots from the “Memories of India” series, the functional objects are imagined as temples or “‘super-instruments’ in which to take drugs, have sex, listen to music and watch the stars.” The exhibition also includes Poster for Olivetti’s Philos 33 (1997), showing Sottsass’s laptop design set against the portrait of a Kouros; a now-pixelated archaic smile animates the screen. In line with the suggestive nature of the show’s title, most of the works brought together here seem strangely infused with life, despite their inanimate materiality.

Hybrid forms, oscillating between subject and object, are at the heart of this thoughtfully curated show. Take for instance the Voodoo-inspired sculptures by Getho Jean Baptist and Celeur Jean Herard, composed primarily of found objects. These creatures take on an eerie presence. Michele Abeles’s seemingly high-tech still lives defy definition; and trigger 3-D effects through multiple overlaps fuse body parts with objects, frames and screens, to achieve a three-dimensional effect. Fatima Al Qadiri’s electro-tropicalia sound-piece paired with Thunder Horse Video’s psychedelic animations make up the exhibition’s soundtrack. Put together, these “vernacular agents” are about to take on a life of their own. (Anja Isabel Schneider)

"Used Photocopier," Installation view
Courtesy of Hotel, London

Rank 5: “Used Photocopier”
at Hotel, London

August 1 2012
5:10 PM

Classic appropriation has a luxuriant end, in that artists capture and repurpose the glamour and seductiveness of images. Think of Richard Prince’s lustrous advertising images swiped from Life magazine populated by gleaming fountain pens and diamond earrings; of Martha Rosler’s images swiped from home décor magazines and kittenish Playboy shoots; or of John Stezaker’s use of headshots from the silver screen era. But what of the sexiness of hanging out outside the local shops, stealing a glimpse of the seedier end of the tabloid papers, and finding bizarre, fetishistic corners of YouTube?

“Used Photocopier” at Hotel presents the work of artists working at the lower-rent side of the appropriation scale. The show’s starting point is the broken old copier left by Wolfgang Tillmans’s studio when the gallery took over the Bethnal Green space. The subtle sexual inflections on the word “used” are reflected in the Jason Loebs’s photographic sculptures, which see him opening boxes containing rolls of photographic paper and casually exposing them in the exhibition space, so that they turn the shade of tanned flesh; while Matthew Smith has bound several standard issue black bins together with rope. Gabriele Beveridge appopriates one of the campily moody headshots that you see in the window of a cut-price barbershop, bookended by two pieces of marble, while Charlotte Prodger’s installation :-* (2012) appropriates two videos that the artist found on YouTube of boys making fetishistic films with trainers, cutting up a boxfresh pair of Nikes or shoe swapping using no hands. Keith Farquar‘s frieze-like presentation of George & Lynne (2001) comic strips from the Sun newspaper reveals a strangely unfunny set of skits replete with nudge-nudge sex jokes and glimpses of Lynne’s beachball boobs. In this show such cultural debris is raised to monumental scale, and the thrills are deliciously cheap. (Laura McLean Ferris)

Installation view of "Dogma", 2012
Courtesy of Metro Pictures Gallery, New York

Rank 6: “Dogma” at
Metro Pictures Gallery,
New York

July 28 2012
3:51 PM

Metro Pictures’ exhibition “Dogma” proves that man’s best friend and man’s best artwork needn’t be mutually exclusive. Opting out of the over-determined, literary conceits so typical of messy summer group shows, Swiss Institute director and “Dogma” curator Gianni Jetzer instead gives grand, glossy gallery treatment to the dumbest and most populist of subjects: dogs—in paint, photographs, installation, performance, and other media. William Wegman is of course represented, but more surprising artist inclusions keep the proceedings from seeming one-note or reductive.

Haim Steinbach has made a career of tastefully minimal installations appropriating consumer goods. Here, he features dog chews spread out over a low platform. Finishing off A military theme (2008) are two upright skeletal bed frames leaning against the wall like twins, keeping his trademark oh-so-elegant formalism intact and tangentially dog-related. Elsewhere, Claire Fontaine has made a surprising offer to potential collectors: the Paris-based collaborative will render one’s pet in neon tubing, hung—like many of Fontaine’s more common Marxist phrases—on the wall in pink and blue, a surprisingly hilarious, even kitschy, twist to a rigorously critical practice. Gestures like these make “Dogma” the summeriest of summer group shows, one for which the most serious of artists take a breather from workaday polemicism. (David Everitt Howe)

Exhibition view of "Group Shoe", 2012
Courtesy of Gavin Brown's enterprise

Rank 7: “Group Shoe”
at Gavin Brown’s enterprise,
New York

July 26 2012
2:41 PM

“Like a party, it takes a well-assembled group of people to make a summer show work,” writes Alessio Ascari in the introduction to our list of the top 10 summer shows. “Group Shoe,” curated by the painter Joe Bradley and now on view at Gavin Brown‘s enterprise (NY), is itself a kind of party: it’s fun, wild and surprising. With works by Bread And Puppet Theater, Duane Hanson, John Mccracken and Robert Smithson, it is also a truly eclectic show. The energy is palpable, with works that straddle the grotesque, the phallic and the political. The press release is unpretentious, simply stating names and dates—no frills, nothing explained or given away. This show is one that needs to be experienced, with as little foreknowledge as possible. In a 2009 interview with Dike Blair of BOMB Magazine, Bradley talks about the importance of titles in his work: “I think a thoughtful title can sort of nudge the viewer in a certain direction.” As a title, “Group Shoe” nudges us in the direction of comicality and puzzlement and for that reason alone, it deserves the seventh place on our list. Go see it, go party. (Maaike Lauwaert)

Eduardo Sarabia, Codex, 2012
Courtesy of Proyectos Monclova, Mexico and Tanya Leighton, Berlin

Rank 8: “Asiataco”
at Tanya Leighton, Berlin

July 25 2012
6:18 AM

Curated by the Mexico City gallery Proyectos Monclova in a swap with Berlin’s Tanya Leighton Gallery, the opening of “ASIATACO” suggested a Mariachi-flavored Friday-night block party, with the artists playing the role of service industry operatives. Simon Fujiwara and his cousins lined up like a fast-food employees,  serving hundreds of homemade Japanese-Mexican fusion tacos that tasted like an experimental East L.A. taco truck had been beamed in. Neukölln’s hybrid bar/off-space Times Bar run by artists Calla Henkel, Lindsay Lawson and Max Pitegoff produced vicious margaritas that stripped away reservations and inaugurated a temporary dance floor. The on-view works by Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, Christian Jankowski, Eduardo Sarabia and Simon Fujiwara, too, pile up the  ambience of long distance exchanges and the microeconomics attached. Fujiwara’s Dir America (2011) reads like a account of the time he dictated a letter in English to a monolingual Mexican scribe. While for Künstlerfade (Ugly Sculptures) (2010), Jankowski memorialized a disposable napkin turned hand-drawn map by reproducing it as a wool carpet. Set in a site of business trade-offs, this summertime exhibition deliciously connects a smorgasbord of transaction-heavy exchanges with breezy rigor. This show deserves its 8th place in our top 10, not only thanks to the quality of the artists presented and the nice idea of exchange with a foreign gallery, but also because we particularly appreciated the use of the opening as event and performance. (Alex Freedman)

"Standard Operating Procedures," Installation View, 2012
Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Photography by Joshua White

Rank 9: “Standard Operating Procedures” at Blum & Poe,
Los Angeles

July 25 2012
5:40 AM

As a curatorial proposition, “Standard Operating Procedures,” is a kind of negative structuralism— seeing the SOP codes of business practice and web-identity construction as analogous to recent self-conscious studio maneuvers.

The press release of the exhibition at Blum & Poe describes a standard operating procedure as the programming of a business process that now extends to algorithmic web methods of subjectivity production and relationship building. It is insinuated that, as an artistic practice, an SOP involves the intentional leveling of subjectivity and a complicity with an automated method of construction. There is an attitudinal undercurrent to this proposition. Starting from the position of subject deferment opens up the terrain to the possibility of exceeding the corruption, and foreclosure of subjectivity, in the production of a super-self-conscious emergent artist.

Most indicative of Piper’s SOP umbrella is Carissa Rodriguez’s secrétaires sculptures titled Stay Schemin—raw and unflattering, boney fragments of what seems to be a gallery secretaryʼs work desk wall, with planes made of enlarged art magazine ads for artists that possibly shape some contours of her own identity. (Walter Smith)

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