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Friday, 25 November 2011

Don't Miss This | Rashid Rana: Everything Is Happening At Once | The Cornerhouse | Manchester

Text by Liz Buckley

Everything Is Happening At Once at The Cornerhouse, Manchester, is the first solo UK exhibition in a public institution by Asian artist Rashid Rana. Rana's work explores how physical realities and social practices affect our culture and identity. He is also particularly interested in the contrasts that appear in everyday life. This interest manifests itself itself in the exploration of both two and three dimensional fields found in the artist's work. Using a mixture of both micro and macro images in his work, which reference the idea of the whole vs. fragment that many of the pieces in this show embody, Rana uses the theme of abstraction, however his techniques are not abstract.

The first part of Rana’s exhibition is titled Dis-Location. In this section visitors can find varying examples of the artist’s work, including both 2D and 3D. The three dimensional sculptures on display are made up of magnified pixels, which gives the effect of digital movement in a solid space. These pieces play with the idea of stillness and motion coinciding. A particularly fun piece is Plastic Flowers in a Traditional Vase (2007); here Rana has created an almost digitised bunch of flowers, a subtle hint at how our everyday culture is affected by technological advancements. Dis-Location (2007), is a large flat print, and consists of thousands of small pictures which make up one larger image. It appears Rana is trying to portray how many components go towards building a society, culture or identity, and it is the little details which create the big picture. The question of whether to concentrate on the micro or macro image created here shows viewers the contrasts of perceptions that we all experience. A similar piece is The World is Not Enough (2006-2007), which uses the same techniques. Here the small pictures are of masses of waste and rubbish, which ironically creates quite a pleasing abstract and colourful image when one stands back. From a distance the busy movement of forms and colour here could be reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock.

Gallery Two of The Cornerhouse holds work of more explicit content. Rana’s pieces here are concerned with the human body, and the conflicts we find within cultural practices. Again the artist plays with the contrast of the image both up close and far away. Several pieces in this part of the exhibition appear to be paintings of blurred bands of colour, however they are actually made up of yet more pixels, taken from photographs of flesh, blood and wounds. Standing back, Rana’s piece What Lies Between Flesh and Blood I (2009) could be a Mark Rothko with its strips of dense colour, but Rana has used magnified squares again here, making the photographed wounds appear to be painterly in a clever fusion of art with the body.

It is clear Rana likes to experiment with scale in his work, using both magnified and shrunken images in many of his pieces. Veil VI (2007) and Red Carpet I (2007), a couple of the artist’s more explicit pieces, are large scale Asian-inspired prints seen from afar, and are even quite attractive. However these are also made up of tiny images which the viewer can only notice if they get right up close. It seems Rana is using these techniques again and again to portray how every part of social culture is double sided, and that even demure and traditional civilizations almost always have an explicit and violent side to them.

The final part of Rana’s exhibition is on the top floor and holds another mixture of the artist’s work, including some of his most well known pieces. Untitled (HOC) (2010) consists of 4 square panels that form an open-top cube. The panels are covered with tiny mirrors, which are tilted so that only one side shows the viewer their reflection. Behind each mirror there are many tiny images of urban landscapes and buildings from Rana’s home town of Lahore in Pakistan. Desperately Seeking Paradise (2010-2011) uses the same technique but on a much larger scale. Both of these pieces show the relationship between a person’s physical appearance and what makes up their personal identity and culture, as well as the constant contrasts we find in every area of life.

From the range of Rashid Rana’s work on display in Everything is Happening at Once, we can see how the artist uses a range of both modern, minimalist and abstract expressionist techniques to create his art. His pieces compile photographic imagery on an alternative scale, and provoke the viewer to consider how we perceive images. Rana’s work expresses his ideas about personal identities and the contrasts found within varying cultural practices in the modern world. The way he constructs his pieces, whether it’s a sculpture, print or otherwise, shows a curious investigation of the physical realities we create around us, and how existence is made up of many dimensions.

Everything is Happening At Once, 01/10/2011 - 18/12/2011, The Cornerhouse, Oxford Road, Manchester, + 44 (0)161 200 1500. www.cornerhouse.org

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We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Photography: WeAreTape
All images courtesy the artist and Cornerhouse

New Horizons | Robert Mapplethorpe Curated by Sofia Coppola | Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac | Paris

There are a few things you will already know about Sofia Coppola; she wrote Lost in Translation, was the first American woman to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival with Somewhere and was the woman behind the Dior commercial for Miss Dior Chérie which she shot in Paris with Maryna Linchuk. Then there are the things you may not know about Sofia Coppola, which you probably should. She grew up on the sets of Francis Ford's films and even appeared as a baby boy in the christening scene of The Godfather. After partnering with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon on her clothing line Milk Fed (sold exclusively in Japan), Coppola must have got a taste for collaboration as since then she has worked with Robert Wilson, Hedi Slimane and The White Stripes. Her latest project sees Coppola take the role of curator of a new Robert Mapplethorpe exhibiton at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris.

This exhibition uses the same approach as Robert Mapplethorpe: Eye to Eye curated by American artist Cindy Sherman in New York in 2003 for the Sean Kelly Gallery and Robert Mapplethorpe: Curated by David Hockney , which was presented at Alison Jacques Gallery, London in 2005. The idea is to have a contemporary artist bring his or her take on an œuvre as significant as that of Robert Mapplethorpe’s.

Coppola selected the images from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York, with whom the gallery has collaborated for this exhibition. By using rarely seen and little-known images taken by Mapplethorpe, Coppola has created an exhibition very much in step with her world. Always inspired by images, the director uses photographs to orient the visual concept of her films. She draws inspiration from images pulled from magazines, taken by iconic photographers, and even snapped with her own camera. Whether done consciously or not, from a single glimpse of the photographic ensemble, the viewer could easily imagine the photos to be a mood board for a future film. However, there is no “narrative” that weaves the selection of images together: the viewer has the freedom to invent fictional characters within the nuances of gray.

Coppola has extracted gentle images from Robert Mapplethorpe’s archive: contemplative moments from which a delicate tension emerges. Known for his erotic and provocative images and the metaphysical nature he often imbues his subject matters with, the viewer is able to discover an almost unexplored side of the artist.

Robert Mapplethorpe, 25/11/2011 - 07/01/2012, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 7 Rue Debelleyme, Paris, France. +331 4272 9900. www.ropac.net

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Lisa Lyon (1982)
Annabelle's Mother (1978)
Katherine Cebrian (1980)
Paloma Picasso (1980)
All Mapplethorpe Works © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Celebration of Swedish Art History | Moment-Ynglingagatan 1 | Moderna Museet | Stockholm

Text by Bethany Rex

Celebrating Swedish Art History in the 1990s, Moderna Museet, Stockholm unveils their new exhibition Moment-Ynglingagatan 1. The non-commercial gallery Ynglingagatan 1 was a vital forum for Swedish contemporary art in the 1990s, featuring international artists such as Pierre Huyghe, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Takashi Murakami and M/M (Paris), decades before their work were recognised by critics and major institutions all over the world.

With modest means and fuelled by a feeling of exasperation with the existing art scene, Ynglingagatan 1 took matters in their own hands in autumn 1993 with their first exhibition which was Bjarne Melgaard. The focus on relational aesthetics, multi-disciplinary art, design and fashion, and a distinctly international profile helped to set Ynglingagatan 1 apart from other galleries and art institutions in Stockholm. Ynglingagatan 1 was also a launching pad for the careers of a group of Swedish artists, including Karl Holmqvist, Ann-Sofie Back, Peter Geschwind and Johanna Biling.

This exhibition, which opens tomorrow, is a retrospective presentation of works from the gallery's programme, in chronological order. It attempts, as far as possible, to feature the works that were exhibited at the gallery, comparable works from the time, or documentations of exhibitions and projects. With its ambition to emphatically focus on the 1990s, a programme of events, debates and lecturers that will reflect the thoughts and ideas that were circulating at the time when the gallery was open.

Thomas Ekström is the co-founder of Ynglingagatan 1 and also curator of this exhibition. Here we discuss the impelling force behind the project, his vision to create an alternative art scene, and the stand-out pieces from the show.

What was the inspiration behind this new exhibition, Moment – Ynglingagatan 1?

I don't know if inspiration is the right word, Ynglingagatan was an alternative space that existed between 1993-1999 in Stockholm. From the start in 1993 when we were four friends managing the gallery the community around Ynglingagatan grew and in the end we where around 20 people managing three gallery rooms, a design shop, a film club and a café. We had events, design lectures and at some point Jarvis Cocker from Pulp did a DJ set. This exhibition is more of a representation of what we achieved in that time and what we got up to in the 1990s.

As co-founder of Ynglingagatan 1 and curator of this exhibition, why do you think artists such as Takashi Murakami and M/M Paris were so attracted to the gallery, and the location itself?

I think you might have to go back in time to really appreciate the reasons why the gallery was such as success. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact set of rules and reasons but I can think of a few contributing factors. For example, we housed Takashi's first solo exhibition outside Japan and when it comes to Michael and Mathias of MM Paris they were more or less designing theatre posters at the time. But in a broader perspective we always gave 100% to artists that we liked as people. Word got out, and other artists and designs began to flock to the gallery. We also had a much broader view on art that included fashion and graphic design for example, that was not really common at the time.

When you founded the gallery in the autumn on 1993 the space was only 16 m2. It must have been a constricted exhibition space for artists such as Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley and Larry Clark. Before you moved to your larger space, how did you overcome these spatial constraints?

I think it is a common misunderstanding that works of art have to be big or valuable to be interesting or important. Nothing can be more incorrect, but yes we had to cancel Rudolf Stingel because the gallery was too small. In Larry Clark's case the Moderna Museet has a very nice collection of works, so we can actually show more now than we originally did at the gallery and Jessica Diamond’s wall painting will be quite a lot bigger than it was back in 1993.

Could you talk us through some of the most important works in the exhibition?

It is a pretty complete set of the best from the 1990s, just look at the artist list. Then we’ve got the historical depth to the 1960s and 70s in form of artists such as Peter Saul, Chris Burden and Sister Corita. But of course I am honoured to show works like Carsten Höllers Killing Children (1992), Dominique Gonzalez-Foresters Parc Central (2006), work by Pierre Huyghe and Swetlana Heger, early collages by Richard Hawkins or the complete run of Ed Ruscha´s books.

And do you have your personal favourites?

Well it is hard to choose one or two pieces from a bunch of your favourite works by a great generation of artists. But in my current state of mind, a stressed out curator, two days before the exhibition opens, with some works still not in the museum, two particular works come to mind. Cary S. Leibowitz or Candy Ass’ painting If I ever have an out of body experience I hope I stay there and Tom Marionis conceptual work from 1970, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, which is a subject close to my heart right now!

Finally, what impact would you say Ynglingagatan 1 has had on contemporary art history in Sweden? I know it is hard to be objective on this one!

As you say it's hard to be objective, but I think it is the only gallery that ever will be honoured with a museum exhibition so take from that what you will!

Moment - Ynglingagatan 1, 25/11/2011 - 22/01/2012, Moderna Museet, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm. +46 8 5195 5289. www.modernamuseet.se

1. Tom Marion The Act of Drinking Beer Is The Highest Form of Art.
Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1999 © Tom Marion.
The artwork was performed for the first time in the U.S. in 1970
2. Takashi Murakami Mr Dob.
Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1995 © Takashi Murakami
3. Cary S. Leibowitz aka Candyass Fair/Unfair, 1993
© Candyass
4. M/M Paris Theatre posters.
Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1999 © M/M Paris
5. Carsten Höller Killing Children III. Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1994
© Carsten Höller

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We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Max Mara Art Prize for Women 2011 Winner Announced

Laure Prouvost has been announced as the winner of the Whitechapel gallery's Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery and Chair of the Jury announced the winner this evening at the Italian Embassy in London.

French artist, Prouvost (b.1978) was chosen from a distinguished shortlist of artists which included Spartacus Chetwynd, Christina Mackie, Avis Newman and Emily Wardill. Prouvost graduated from Central St Martins in 2002 and was part of the Lux Artist Associate Programme, an initiative for artists working with the moving image that aims to provide an intensive development focused on critical discourse, extending to the practical and infrastructural issues that present challenges for artists working with the medium. Her work includes film, performance and installation and has been part of group shows at Tate Britain, the ICA, Serpentine and BFI Galleries. The Max Mara Prize is an addition to her collection of accolades,which include the EAST International Award (2009) and a FLAMIN commission in 2011.

The Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery celebrates the aesthetic and intellectual contribution that women artists bring to the contemporary art scene. The unique initiative set up to promote and nurture female artists based in the United Kingdom, enables artists to develop their potential with the gift of time and space. The winning artist is given the opportunity to create a new work of art inspired by a six month residency in Italy. The resulting work is then shown in Britain and Italy.

The Judging panel for the fourth Max Mara Art Prize for Women was chaired by Iwona Blazwick and included Lisa Milroy, artist; Muriel Salem, collector; Amanda Wilkinson, gallerist; and Gilda Williams, critic and lecturer. Laure Prouvost will embark on an all expenses paid six month residency that is divided between an urban and a rural environment. The first part will be located at the British School in Rome; the second at the Pistoletto Foundation in Biella founded by the great Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. The work that results from this commission will be exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2013 and at the Maramotti Collection in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery and Chairwoman, Max Mara Art Prize for Women, said: "Prouvost's gripping short films and intriguing environments unhinge the connection between language and comprehension to open out for us surreal horizons of meaning. It will be of immense interest to see how the literary, cinematic and visual cultures of Italy will impact on her work."

Laure Prouvost said "Ideally these few words would express how pleased I am to win this award - it will be very interesting for me to work in another cultural environment and for the work to be challenged and grow out of this context. It will give me a really long period away from distractions to build on and develop new work. It is a real endorsement of what I do and I am very glad that the judges are supporting my practice."


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We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

1. Laure Prouvost Idealy This Sign Would Take You In Its Arms (2010)
Courtesy the artist
2 & 4. Laure Prouvost The Wanderer (Betty Drunk) (2011)
Courtesy the artist and MOTINTERNATIONAL
3. Laure Prouvost It, Heat, Hit (2010)
Courtesy the artist and MOTINTERNATIONAL

A Ticking Timebomb | Shen Shaomin: The Day After Tomorrow | 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art | Sydney

Text by Ella Mudie

A futuristic world of unfeeling biological experimentation that's just a small step away from the one we inhabit now. This is what conceptual artist Shen Shaomin invites his visitors to enter in The Day After Tomorrow, Shaomin's first solo exhibition in Sydney for a decade. Having moved to Australia from China after the political unrest of 1989 until resettling permanently back in China in 2002, over the course of his globalised artistic career Shaomin has become known for his commanding quasi-biological and anthropological installations that carry a string in their tail, confronting the darker implications of human intervention into nature and unchecked scientific, political and technological ambition. The Day After Tomorrow sees Shaomin return with a startling new manifestation of his striking yet critical approach.

Displayed across both floors of the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Chinatown, at street level Shaomin's first installation, I heard the sound of distance (2011), offers a somewhat elliptical experience for the viewer. Arranged in a ritualistic circle are 12 muyus, the traditional Chinese wooden fish drum, cast in varying sizes and diverse materials from throwaway plastic and aluminium to the more enduring stone, ceramic, steel and wood. Placed on white plinths beneath yellow cushions and with accompanying gongs, there's a sense of cultural and chronological displacement in these ancient instruments' resemblance to consumer objects on display. In Chinese culture, the drums are traditionally struck by monks when reciting texts as reminders to concentrate on their sutras while the fish symbolises wakefulness and in this way the drums may also signal to the visitor to pay attention and remain alert to their surrounds.

At the top of the stairs the tone changes as the visitor encounters the main gallery transformed into a vast expanse of clinical crystalline whiteness by a wall-to-wall carpet of rock salt. Inhabiting one corner is I sleep on top of myself (2011), an array of hyperreal silica gel sculptures of sinewy pink flesh coloured farm animals stripped of their coats of fur or plucked of their feathers, incubating atop hilly mounds of salt. Animals typically bred either for domestication or human consumption from goats and piglets to a cat, dog, goose, and rabbit at first glance they resemble carcasses, disturbing given their setting of heaped quantities of salt seasoning, but upon closer inspection subtle signs of life are discernible. On one mound a bald rooster, burrowed into a messy array of plucked feathers as if ready to cook, uncannily rocks backward and forward as it gently breathes in and out, quietly defying death.

What might be the cause of this perverse and disturbing scenario? At the other end of the room, the lifelike silicone figure of a frail elderly woman, all skin and bones and a shock of silver white hair sprouting like whiskers from her head, suns herself naked while reclining on a wooden deck chair. Titled I want to know what infinity is (2011) the viewer can't help but draw connections between her apparent desire to prolong life and the pressure this places on the natural world, particularly those animals we rely upon as food supply or potentially might seek to exploit as resources for the regeneration of our flailing bodies. Could city life, which increasingly distances us from the animal world, accelerate this trend? A step removed from Chinatown's footpaths bustling with shoppers and the noisy din of traffic, the surreal artificial ecology of Shaomin's installations offer a rare opportunity to pause and consider some future realities we'd rather ignore.

The Day After Tomorrow by Shen Shaomin at the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney continues until 10 December.2011.


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We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Shen Shaomin, I sleep on top of myself (2011) detail of production image, silica gel simulation, acrylic and fabric, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

The Frozen Rollercoaster | The Tiger & Turtle: Magic Mountain

Designed by Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, The Tiger & Turle - Magic Mountain is the name of this imposing outdoor sculpture which opened last week in Duisburg Wanheim, Germany. This rollercoaster-cum-pedestrian walkway sits on a large hill overlooking a sleepy surburban town. The steel forms visually allude to the nearby decommissioned factory structures looming over the small town stretched before it. At 45 metres tall (147 feet), the sculpture is the largest in the country and is easily visible from every angle.

Visitors to the sculpture might, however, be disappointed as this is not a white knuckle ride, but a €2 million euro curved flight of stairs. This perceptual play is key to the project's success, whereby, as the designers note "the roller coaster stands for acceleration and high speed of a tiger but the visitor has to explore it step by step like a turtle."


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We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Photography by Werner Hanappel & Mutter Genth

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