Shows I've seen Lately

by - Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ok, so I have gone to see a couple of really great/ interesting things in the last few weeks that I wanted to write about.

Firstly, Dorian Katz and Jamil Hellu just opened a show "People We Know" last week at the new Center for Sex and Culture (if you are in the area and want to see it email I wrote on Dorian last year in her final MFA show at Staford, and I think her work is fantastic. In that show, she had a variety of large scale drawings of herself playing different roles- Salome, St. Sebastian, etc; her representational work is simultaneously representational (and moderately mimetic) and totally performative. Each work is a sort of fantasy space where she can inhabit totally different bodies and roles. 

In this exhibit, Katz instead represents people she knows (hence the name?) as strange fusions of animals and St. Teresa's; because I am one of the sitters (ok, sidebar, how freaking cool is that?), I have a little more insight into her process. The work is fueled by an idea, but that idea is catalyzed by a performance (in this case, a dependence on) of others. In each drawing, the "sitter" makes an Ecstasy of St Teresa face (if you don't know what this is, bing it. Bernini. Amazing) while simultaneously inhabiting the body of an animal or creature. They are fabulous portraits, containing the same humor that you can see in the majority of Katz's work, being simultaneously sexual, personal, and art historical. The Boy enjoyed trying to figure out what all of the animals were, but the work often has a depth coming from a playful iconography given meaning by Katz's relationship with her creatures. The drawings are paired with the photographic portraits of Jamil Hellu, another Stanford grad from the year before. 

Paired together and placed in the Center for Sex and Culture, both artists consider what it really means to "know" someone, focusing not only sexual relationships but the erotics and humor of friendship (and even annoyance??). These aren't necessarily people they love, but in the act of making them into portraits, they know them. Their work resonates in their consideration of the relationships that fuel portraits. I'm not kidding, go see the show. It is worth it to see a small sampling of two Bay Area artists who both have real and fantastic futures. If you aren't in the Bay Area, but want to check out more of Dorian's work, you can look here:

 SOMArt's Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze

Earlier in the week, Dorian and I went to the closing of SOMArt's Man as Object, a screening of Carolee Schneeman's Fuses, and a panel with Schneeman, the ever-fantastic Annie Sprinkle, the curator of a show, and some other lady who was pretty awful. I wanted to really love this show; there is something satisfying about the idea of men being the object of art, reversing the age old tradition of the female nude. Walking around the work, I found a lot of it endearing, and some of it was pretty smart and interesting. Annie Sprinkle had a great little photo installation. Other things, like the photograph above, kind of prove why this idea of simple objectifying reversal is ill-conceived and would never work. It comes off as funny or heavy handedly inclusive. This photograph was one of a series of men, many of whom I am sure someone finds attractive, but I am willing to bet it is not the photographer. This isn't about erotics, or the history of the nude, at all. I wasn't sure what the curators were thinking, and further discourse with them did not help. 

First, in introducing Fuses (which is a great work. I loved Carolee Schneeman before, but I really really love her after hearing her speak and watching this short film), the curator had literally nothing to say about it. I think he called it important like 4 times. If you can't tell me why, just don't say it. Later, in the panel, among a chorus of kind of inane questions, he asked a downright rude one about how Stan Brackhage influenced her (Brackhage was infamously awful to her). The curator of the show seemed rather muddled about what she felt the show was doing, at points it was being inclusive, opening up an intersubjective sexuality (because God forbid women actually take, rather than just share); she was sure it was doing something, but I don't think she knows what. I also didn't hear much discussion influenced by the other recent discourses on the subject, namely the panel with Joan Semmel and Richard Meyer during CAA. So I left the show kind of disappointed, but hopeful something could be done (though one has to ask how useful an enterprise like this is anymore). I feel ambivalent about it.

Earlier this month, I headed to SF MoMA with my class for a field trip. Beyond feeling like something between an elementary school teacher and a  chicken herder, I got to enjoy the truly beautiful photography of Francesca Woodman and the new show of Richard Serra drawings. I thought they were great, but it did make me think more about the mythos Serra is designing for himself. I wonder how these sort of dramatic dark expanses literally cover up the architectural design needed to make the monuments which he is most famous for, again rejecting the persona of an architect. I love that the drawings themselves are almost monumental in size (hence the photograph). I am still ruminating on this, but it is a great collection, and everyone should enjoy SFMoMA while it is still open.

You May Also Like