Sue de Beer: “The Blue Lenses” at Marianne Boesky Gallery, on View September 9 – October 25, 2015

Sue de Beer’s The Blue Lenses at Marianne Boesky Gallery in the Lower East Side is a new two-channel film screened within an immersive sculptural environment. This experimental video sets out to make a Daphne du Maurier inspired film noir set in
 a fictional version of the Middle East. De Beer constructs images together through overlapping, fragmented, and kaleidoscopic shots where scenes are flooded with sharp greens, bright reds, and blues. The title is taken from the du Maurier story where a woman, upon having the bandages removed after surgery to restore her vision, finds that through her 
new eyes, the people around her frighteningly bear animal heads on their human bodies. In her film, de Beer continues to play with the ideas of looking, seeing, and distorting through the lens, where altered perceptions and experiences of the film’s main characters present a multifaceted picture with a sense of suspense and intrigue.

Over the course of 20 minutes, we learn more about Daniel, the mysterious character who switches between being a salesman, a connoisseur of fabric, a drug user, a magician, and a thief. Clips of disparate and unrelated scenes and snapshots of Abu Dhabi are shown between his fragmented narrative, told to us by either Daniel himself or by a young Arabic woman he meets whose voice we first hear at the beginning of the film. Shots go in and out of focus, the lens flickers, the camera is unsteady, and subjects are cropped at disorienting angles. Interruptions of the narrative, divided by five vaguely titled chapters, come in the form of a burlesque dance performance and eerie stills of the indoor ski slope located in the Mall of the Emirates. We are captivated and our attention is held throughout the film, nevertheless, and is carried along with the rhythm of a hypnotic drumbeat that plays midway the video and continues through to the end.

The gallery is also transformed into a sculptural installation where patterned, lacelike screens mirror the architecture seen throughout the film. The windows are tinted with jewel-toned cobalt blue, which is inspired by the film’s title and included to invoke the color that is associated with the power and beauty in Islam. This constructed environment, together with the film, propels us to question and examine what we consider foreign and strange. Through all these distortions and layered realities shared via memory, imagination, and the illuminating words of the main characters, The Blue Lenses ultimately asks us to defy preconceived expectations, make us question what we read and see, and determine what is real or true from what is invented or fictional – perhaps getting lost along the way when attempting to decode and unravel the given information. Although we are unsure as to what exactly takes place in this intriguing, ambiguous, and plotless story, it is powerful in the way it positions us to make a choice between accepting everything as is, or confront the “facts” with which we are presented.

-Nechama Winston

A Review of Yola Monakhov Stockton’s “Post-Photography” Series at Rick Wester Fine Art, on View September 12 – October 24, 2015

Yola Monakhov Stockton’s unique gelatin silver prints in Post-Photography at Rick Wester Fine Art are marked with an ethereal and ghost-like aesthetic that continue to haunt each time you return to the work. The artist’s untitled pieces were created via handmade pinhole cameras and sent through the U.S. Postal Service, as well as other parcel services. The exposures we see in the gallery are records of the camera’s journey through transit – beneath the ceilings of sorting facilities, inside delivery trucks, and along neighborhood deliverymen’s mailing routes.

Stockton’s black-and-white prints contain formal shapes that range among rectangles, triangles, squares, and circles. These objects float around in spaces that are somewhat identifiable, such as a post-room or a tree-lined block, while some exist in ephemeral white or gray netherworlds, filled with hand written scribbles, silhouetted shadows, stains, film negative exposures, and swimming lines that resemble seismograph readings.

Each exposure represents its own universe – a utopic, perhaps even purist, bubble – a world that extends beyond the physical coordinates of time and space. This effect is contrary to what is actually happening in the making of these objects – a subversive penetration into rooms and institutions that are off limits to the public. They are abstract documentations that break all rules and boundaries, and allow viewers access into operations and systems that are part of the everyday and mundane, yet regulate and maintain the quiet stability of our daily lives and routines.

In a way, Stockton is observing and accumulating information for no purpose but to create sublime works of art that blur the lines between public and private space. This ongoing project makes me think about the traditional photographic practice and the nature of photography – one that has been turned over on its head. Stockton is certainly involved in the post-processing of these photos, but happenstance and serendipity are the true authors of the works we see, which in no way takes away from the effervescent brilliance of these 14”x11” and 24”x20” dreamlike, X-radiation-esque skeletal treasures.

The involved procedure and concept of remote, migratory picture making is part of the artist’s larger vision that continues to evolve and grasp meanings and implications she herself is still uncovering. As a young artist who is only beginning to accept and appreciate the implications of engaging with the photographic practice and take ownership and agency in creating the things we see – contributing to the dialogue through visual language – I admire the trust and freedom Stockton displays in sending out each parcel she makes. Each work bears the markings and trajectories of a collection of happenings and memories as they get handled, moved, and passed-on in spaces that are located in the “between” – an unsure, vague, and diffuse state of existence I think we all find ourselves in at some point or another, and is another reason why I gravitate towards Stockton’s Post-Photography series.

-Nechama Winston

Endless Tillmans (PCR at David Zwirner gallery Sept.16 – Oct. 24)

Endless Tillmans

by Sam Margevicius

Wolfgang Tillmans humongous show “PCR” is difficult to digest, until you realize that he’s just drinking tap water: so you do too; then it slips down your throat and tastes good forever. I didn’t even read the press release when I walked into the show, I’m interested by the cryptic vs. the accessible and wanted to see if I could put the pieces together myself. Walking around in a haze of inspiration, I wanted to run out the door, find some recent photos, print them huge, live with them, and smile. What difference between his work and mine, his work and anyone’s? We are always being told to think critically, so I stepped back and wondered…I wanted to believe that it was not art for art’s sake, that he has not been elevated due to longevity and social hierarchy. I wanted to remember that I am not yet fully formed, that I can reach some higher level of worthiness, that it will open up to me if I learn how to see it.

After the first visit I left with little more than a feeling of having been inspired. When I got home I didn’t print a photo so big that I would feel like a king, but I decided to go back less than a week later to look in books for a deeper key to Tillmans’ work. I stood at the bookshelf in David Zwirner, and read through his conversation with Hans Ulrich-Obrist (2007), until it led me to his own writing in “Manual” (2007). Tillmans in conversation with Obrist was all over the place, he could pick up any thread and apply it to his work. Tillmans’ own text was concise, some 300 words, but he spoke about the idea of truth. He said there are a few fundamental truths that he’s on-board with, but most other things considered “True” are difficult to reconcile. He believes that “homosexuality is a reality”, which feels a little bit like saying that alternate truths are true. Tillmans seems to refuse confining himself to a subject, he is completely open to what is.

Now I knew what was going on, I walked into the rooms and my jaw dropped in amazement. The tables he had used for “Truth Study Center” (2005) were now filled with blank pieces of paper differentiated by size and color tone. One of the biggest photographs was the most mundane, an outside flower pot with no flowers; I saw aging shrubbery getting browned, and ripe young stems working their way out of the indefinable darkness of the dirt. Then more tables, this time with photographs on them as well as text. “1969 was 24 years away from 1945, 24 years back from now is 1992.” This statement is unbelievably simple, the kind of sentimental feeling one gets on their birthday, the bizarre sense of the importance of this very present moment. Then on that table I found two photographs that spoke to me most of all; they were 4×6 prints, one above the other, each depicting an open book framed by a few centimeters of grass. The setting sun cast shadows of the blades of grass across the blank pages. This is it: the temporality of the moment, the sun is always setting, diary entries and notes to be remembered, bodies of light to play with, arrange, and create new bodies.

Sam Margevicius, Polish, 2015

As a Christmas present some time ago, I offered my Dad a visual work of art based on a topic of his choice. He responded with the following :

“I’m a visual person. I do well at pattern recognition and quickly grasp things through my eyes. My ears are a second place. It’s not as easy to recognize tunes, but I’m okay at it – my accordion and piano playing are testament to this. So my idea ‘floating around in my head,’ is to see music. Chopin’s solo piano music is one of my favorite of all music – there are many close runners-up, but maybe because Chopin was from Poland, as was my grandmother, and the fact that I really enjoy playing Chopin, he is first on my list. So, I’m including a recording of Chopin’s Polonaise in G-minor and the sheet music. What would a visual of this be? A photo? A drawing? Both?… Whatever! It’ll be a nice christmas present. – Dad”

(music performed by Idil Biret)

Cristina Velasquez, FIGHTER – 2014

MONTAJE EX 3Raul, 2014.

During 2014, I worked with young immigrant men boxing in New York City and produced a series of photographs titled FIGHTER.
The series focusses on the moment after the match and the rawness of that emotional instant while isolating the subject from the noisy scene full of details. A sense of humanity, fear, violence, and determination characterize the photographs. The face portraits represent the dreams of adolescence and identity as young immigrant men. Boxing becomes a symbol for the match between fear versus courage, and failing versus the possibility of excelling in life and being acknowledged.  Ultimately, the series FIGHTER presents young men facing an imminent challenge, fighting for their place in this world and the only opportunity of changing their realities.

Nechama Winston, Lute Player Among the Rest, 2015

Nechama Winston, Lute Player, 2015

It was my first real and last experience in Venice – La Serenissima, the City on Water – the Bride of the Sea. Three days of wandering and traversing through the city’s twisted, narrow arterial streets culminated in this moment where it became second nature to notice the aromas of Italian pasta, olive oil and wine infused with the incoming sea breeze from the Grand Canal. I was one of many – a body among bodies – entrenched in the midst of a collective history of war and disease, elevated by artistic triumph and scientific innovation.

Up until now, I had been migrating alone from one place to the next. I noticed the gypsies and beggars pierce through the glowing Venetian light. The magical aura in the ringing sound of church bells, crooked clock towers, siestas, local markets, textiles, and colored-dyes was grounded by the ghost-fleets of the city’s past – waves of immigrants and travelers floating between East and West, leaving an imprint on the crust of Venice’s sinking walls.

I first saw this musician in costume outside Santa Maria della Salute, Our Lady of Health. Hours later, we met again on the Ponte dell’Academia. This time, I stayed. I listened. As I was pulled out from the static haze of an otherworldly past, I slowed down into the present. I watched him play Baroque minuets on his lute while his gaze mirrored mine, and we both looked and stood still on this link, this crossing, into the late evening – when the street lamps grew dim, and the crowds began to fade, and recognition took place.

Sasha Bush, Among The Toy Blocks

Sasha Bush, Kindergarten Classroom: 9 AM, 2011

Sitting in a corner, the tabletop against my shin reminds me that I have entered a world where the average eye level is just three feet tall. Along with two kindergarten teachers, I am an exception among the many small bodies here.

In this environment of perpetual flux, curiosity and the unexpected lead both children and myself to the next thrilling discovery. Bookshelves and tabletops are constantly redrawn in an endless collision of wet paint, glue and colored marker. Slumped over drawings of alligators and rabbits, sprawled on the floor reading, or screaming, children run around the room at a dizzying pace.

Stillness, and her sister, Reflection, rise to the surface momentarily before submerging again.  With my camera I excavate their remains, searching for their traces among the cities of wooden blocks that litter the carpeted room at my former kindergarten in the Hudson Valley. With my grandfather’s handmade gift, my older brother and I created similar skyscrapers and police departments to those at my right awaiting their latest renovations.

Part of a series focusing on children’s classrooms, this photograph serves as a twin to the knock on my shin in its ability to break an implicit illusion. Amid the nostalgia of toys I also played with, there remains no possibility of ever fully perceiving the world from that limited, lighthearted playfulness that a three year old experiences.