Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s, a major retrospective at Singapore's National Gallery (14 June–15 September 2019), opens emphatically in flames. At the exhibition's entrance, viewers encounter a wall-sized image from 1964 titled Burning Canvases Floating on the River. The photograph captures a performance by Lee Seung-taek, in which...
When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...
Without punctuation, She Said Why Me, the title of May Fung's 1989 video presents itself as a statement, rather than a question. It suggests a subject who expects no response, a person prepared to make what she can from being chosen though perplexed by the attention. The video follows a blindfolded woman, then unmasked, through late colonial-era...
We live in a state of the perpetual present. With the revolving door of exhibitions in more and more venues, commercial and scholarly alike, thousands of artists appear on a relatively flat plane of aesthetics. This is good for a lot of things—fair art criticism among them—but it tends to hurt our understanding, as viewers, of where the art is actually coming from. Neo-geometric conceptualism is a case in point. Best known as Neo-Geo (and also called Neo-Conceptualism and Simulationism), the 1980s East Village movement involved a redeployment of minimal strategies from conceptual art in relation to popular culture, melding aspects of pop art and conceptualism. Many of its leading artists are now well-known on their own. LEAP takes a look at how their work has evolved, and what they might still share.
Ashley Bickerton completed studies at the California Institute of the Arts in 1982 before attending the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. Bickerton is known as one of the original members of the group of artists known as Neo-Geo, which also included artists such as Peter Halley and Meyer Vaisman.
Bickerton’s works are a combination of found objects, photographs, and painting. His works are colourful and figurative, yet with often grotesque connotations. His practice involves painting the bodies of his subjects then taking photographs which he manipulates in order to create his uncanny caricatures with disproportionate and unsettling features. Bickerton provides a dystopian view of humanity through his portraits of grotesque figures. His infamous ‘blue-man,’ often a self-portrait, is representative of the 20th century man who, in Bickerton’s works, is both a family man and a manic drug fiend.
Pieces produced during Bickerton’s time as an artist-in-residence at the STPI in 2006 have an almost nightmarish quality with monstrous-looking heads peering out from beneath the surface of water surrounded by debris. Bickerton’s move from New York to Bali in the 1990’s is a clear influence in his work. The frames of Bickerton’s works are made up of materials bought by the artist in Bali and recall Indonesian craft making.
Bickerton’s works are held in many international public collections including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate, London; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Foundation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Berardo Collection Museum, Portugal; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Jeff Koons is an American contemporary artist whose works often reference popular culture and are characterised by an interest in the banal and readymade.
Koons received his BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York, his current city of residence. During the late 1970s, Koons worked as a student assistant for the artist Ed Paschke, whom is cited along with Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Duchamp as early influencers upon the artist’s practice. In the 1980s, Koons worked as a commodities broker, later explaining this move as a way to finance his artistic career before returning to being a full-time artist.
During the 1980s, Koons rose to prominence as part of a group of artists who came to be associated with the term Neo-Geo. The group is often discussed in the context of the art world’s critique of a media-saturated and consumer-influenced culture and the commodification of the art object. Other artists included Ashley Bickerton and Peter Halley.
Working predominantly in series, Koons creates works in a number of mediums ranging from photography to sculpture, often using readymade objects or objects that appear to be readymade. Early work included The New (1979–1987), a series of branded and mounted vacuum cleaners. When they were first exhibited in the window of the New Museum in New York in 1980, they were arranged in cabinets and displayed as if in a showroom. The works were oriented around a central red fluorescent lightbox, which had the words ‘The New’ written on it, as if referencing a new brand. Subsequent series included Easyfun Ethereal (2001), which included multi-media collages of images of bikinis, lips, eyes, cars, food and landscapes. Koons drew from the visual language of advertising to make the familiar yet unrelated images communicate to his audience.
His sculpture Acrobat (2003–2009) exemplifies Koon’s often deceptive riff on the concept of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade. The work is a large lobster, vertically balanced upside down on its claws between an upturned bin and a chair. It immediately appears to be an inflatable plastic pool toy, due to the realistic paint detail and naturalistic crinkling around its edges. The work is in fact made from stainless steel and is exceptionally heavy.
The artist is perhaps best known for his large-scale public sculptures. An example is Puppy (1992), a giant 13-metre sculpture created using live flowers and depicting a West Highland Terrier. The work references the topiary garden style that dates back to Roman times, when bushes were trimmed to resemble statues of animals. In 1995, the work was erected at Darling Harbour, Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and in 1997, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation purchased the work and relocated it to the exterior of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. At the inauguration of the Bilbao that same year, Spanish police intercepted a terrorist plan to blow up the Puppy sculpture. The men, disguised as gardeners, planned to install detonating flowerpots into the work.
Works such as Puppy are highly technical, taking several months to create. In addition to flowers grown offsite, a 3D computer model was used to construct the stainless steel framework of the work. Hand-moulded wire mesh lined with soil was then placed on the frame, along with an internal irrigation system. The irrigation system ensures the work is kept blossoming and allows it to continue growing. Its creation is due both in part to Koons’ conceptual premise and the manpower of his studio assistants. Koons currently employs 148 people in his studio to assist with his projects. Although Koons began by making his own sculptures and paintings, he now employs people so that he is not limited by the time taken to make his works. This time gives him the freedom to edit his works, increase his productivity and control the process of each work.
Sherrie Levine's work engages many of the core tenets of postmodern art, in particular challenging notions of originality, authenticity, and identity. Levine rose to prominence as a member of the Pictures Generation, a group of artists centred in New York in the late 1970s and 1980s whose work examined the structures of signification underlying mass-circulated images, and in many cases directly appropriated these images in order to imbue them with new, critically inflected meaning. Since then, Levine has created a singular and complex body of work in a variety of media (including photography, painting, and sculpture) that often explicitly reproduces artworks and motifs from the Western art historical canon.
Born in 1947 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Levine studied at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she received her M.F.A. in 1973. In 2015, the artist joined David Zwirner. Her inaugural solo exhibition at the gallery in New York was on view the following year. In 2017, Sherrie Levine: Pie Town was presented at the gallery in London.
In 2011, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York presented MAYHEM, a major exhibition of Levine’s work spanning three decades. The show included one of her most acclaimed series from 1981—a group of twenty-two photographs of reproductions of Walker Evans’s photographs from his Farm Security Administration-commissioned project to document the rural South during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Referencing the loss of uniqueness as a result of mechanical (and digital) reproduction, and ironically using a medium generally held responsible for diminishing the value of the artist’s hand, After Walker Evans: 1–22 emphasises a description of the pictures in contextual, rather than formal terms.
Levine’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide, recently at Neues Museum, State Museum for Art and Design in Nuremberg (2016); Portland Art Museum, Oregon (2013); Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany (2010); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2009 and 1991); and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2007). Other venues include Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany (1998); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Menil Collection, Houston (both 1995); Portikus, Frankfurt (1994); Philadelphia Museum of Art (1993); Kunsthalle Zürich (1991); High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (both 1988); and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut (1987).
Major group exhibitions include Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2018); Ordinary Pictures, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2016); America Is Hard To See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); Prima Materia, Punta della Dogana, François Pinault Foundation, Venice (2013); The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2009); Whitney Biennial (2008, 1989, and 1985); SITE Santa Fe (2004); São Paulo Biennial (1998); Carnegie International (1988); documenta VII (1982); and Pictures, Artists Space, New York (1977).
Work by the artist is held in major international museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Gallery, London; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Levine lives and works in New York and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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