February 27, 2013

Liu Wei at Lehmann Maupin, New York

Liu Wei
Lehmann Maupin, New York

February 28 – March 23, 2013

Liu Weil
Liu Wei
Merely a Mistake, II, 2009-2011
doorframes, wooden beams, acrylic board, and stainless steel, dimensions variable.
Installation image from the Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai

Lehmann Maupin presents the first solo exhibition of Chinese artist Liu Wei’s work in the United States, on view at 540 West 26th Street from 28 February through 23 March 2013. The exhibition will feature an amalgamation of multi-media works created over the past year in the artist’s studio in Beijing. Three large-scale assemblages constructed from salvaged demolition debris, a continuation of the artist's Merely a Mistake series begun in 2009, will be the centerpieces of the installation in the main gallery space.

Liu Wei will be present for an opening reception on Thursday, 28 February from 6 to 8 PM.

Considered to be one of the most progressive and original Chinese artists to have emerged on the international art scene, Liu’s work has evolved over the past 15 years into a layered conceptual approach that transcends medium and material. Working across painting, sculpture, photography, installation and video, Liu is relentless in his pursuit of truth and engagement with reality. His exploration of urban life stems from the accelerated urbanization afflicting his immediate cityscapes and the instability of a rapidly changing society. Of the times, Liu has said, “We grew up when things were constantly changing and nothing seemed stabile. There was a turnaround in values every couple of years…. Today you’d believe in one thing and tomorrow you’d believe in something completely different.”

Critical of the systems on which contemporary society is structured, Liu employs whatever medium or technique is best suitable to call into question the fixed notion that there is one way to understand the world and one way to act. In his catalogue essay for Liu Wei: Trilogy presented in 2011 by Shanghai’s Minsheng Art Museum, Gunnar B. Kvaran writes:

Acutely aware of his place in history, but also concerned with breaking tradition, Liu intermingles artistic inventiveness and an engagement with serious social and political questions, inviting the public to take part in intersubjective relationships. He does so through a symbolic constellation of objects, created out of unexpected materials and placed in surprising configurations, that deal with universal topics such as power and politics, society and identity, history and memory, art and philosophy, or with more abstract notions like time, unpredictability, change and illusion.

Kvaran goes on to say that “each of his works is like a vessel loaded with intelligent and meaningful reflections on the human condition, and the power of his art lies in the originality of the forms, objects, materials, and narrative structures that he brings together.”

Lehmann Maupin’s exhibition highlights new work from the various series for which Liu has gained notoriety, including Exotic Lands, Jungle, China, Merely a Mistake, Beyond the Sky Limits, Truth Dimension, and Colors. The abstract imagery of his Truth Dimension and Colors paintings recall the vast skylines of the world’s metropolises, their vertical urban sprawl unfolding frenetically across horizontal panoramas; in sharp contrast, the muted bands of color in Beyond the Sky Limits appear as quiet ruminations on the natural landscape. For Liu, an engagement with architecture is a reoccurring thread, and the reclaimed doorframes, wooden beams and metal bolts that constitute Merely a Mistake take the form of pointed arches and flying buttresses, reminiscent of Baroque and Gothic architecture. Installed side-by-side, as opposed to grouped by series, the nearly two-dozen works on view form a collective reading of a profoundly complex artistic practice.

LIU WEIL (b. 1972, Beijing, China) graduated from the China Academy of Art in 1996, and came of age with the younger generation of Chinese artists showcased in the ground-breaking 1999 “Post-Sense Sensibility” exhibition in Shaoyaoju, Beijing. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world, most recently in a solo exhibition at the Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2011), as well as at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2010), National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2010), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2010), Saatchi Gallery, London (2008), Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2008), and Mudam Luxembourg, Luxembourg (2008), among others. He has participated in numerous international biennials, including the Shanghai Biennial (2010), the 6th Busan Biennial (2008), the Guangzhou Triennial, (2008), and the 51st Venice Biennial (2005). He received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award for Best Artist in 2008, and was nominated for the Credit Suisse Today Art Award in 2011. The artist currently lives and works in Beijing.


February 25, 2013

Adel Abdessemed at David Zwirner, London

Adel Abdessemed: Le Vase abominable
David Zwirner, London

February 22 - March 28, 2013

Adel Abdessemed
Cri, 2013 (detail)
Ivory. 56 inches (142 cm)
Courtesy Adel Abdessemed and David Zwirner, New York / London

David Zwirner presents an exhibition of new works by ADEL ABDESSEMED, on view in recently opened London gallery. Le Vase abominable is the artist's third solo show with David Zwirner since joining the gallery in 2008. The artist's previous solo exhibitions at David Zwirner, New York, were Adel Abdessemed : RIO (2009) and Adel Abdessemed: Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? (2012).

Across a wide range of media, Adel Abdessemed transforms well-known materials and imagery into charged artistic declarations. The artist pulls freely from myriad sources–personal, historical, social, and political–to create a visual language that is simultaneously rich and economical, sensitive and controversial, radical and mundane.

In this exhibition of new work, cultural references become inseparable from themes of war, violence, and spectatorship. The ground floor presents the eponymous Le Vase abominable, a two-meter tall copper pot positioned on top of a replica of a large explosive device, a carefully crafted bomb, whose relationship to the vase remains ambiguous. Nearby is a group of five smaller, similarly shaped vases each made from a different material, including gold, gum, and salt. Their repetitive yet incongruous appearance highlights a recurring dichotomy in the artist's work between décor and fetish, which seems further intensified by the materials used. The vases are juxtaposed by a large drawing, The Twang of the void, which presents a throne in the midst of a barren landscape. Based on the actual throne used by Queen Elizabeth II, its stark, lone presence stands out against the opulence it traditionally represents.

On the floor above, a group of works takes their point of departure in the well-known reportage photograph of children fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Made entirely in mammoth ivory, Cri depicts the young girl in the center of the image, running naked with her arms outstretched and her mouth open in a scream. Her life-sized figure is accompanied by a series of drawings featuring soldiers in full gear–they may represent those surrounding the children in the photograph, or any other armed conflict. An animation, entitled State, is projected onto all four walls in a separate room and features labyrinth-like drawings which recall Republican prisoner protests at HM Prison Maze in Northern Ireland during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Fighting for their right to wear their own clothes on the basis that they were not convicted criminals, they wrapped themselves in blankets rather than the provided uniforms and refused to leave their cells, which in turn were not sufficiently cleaned. They consequently smeared the walls with their own excrement, beginning the so-called "dirty protests."

Born in 1971 in Constantine, Algeria, Adel Abdessemed studied at the École des beaux-arts de Batna and the École des beaux-arts d’Alger, Algiers (1987-1994), before traveling to France where he attended the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon (1994-1998). He was an artist-in-residence at the Cité internationale des Arts de Paris in 1999-2000, and the following year at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center’s International Studio Program in Long Island City, New York. After living in New York, the artist moved to Paris, then to Berlin, then back to New York. He now lives and works in Paris.

In 2012, his work was the subject of a major solo exhibition at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent, which was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the museum and Steidl. Also in 2012 was a special presentation at the Musée Unterlinden in Colmar, France, which displayed the artist’s Décor (2011-2012), four life-size

24 Grafton Street, London, W1S 4EZ

February 23, 2013

Benny Andrews @ Michael Rosenfeld, New York - There Must Be A Heaven

Benny Andrews: There Must Be A Heaven
Michael Rosenfeld, New York
March 19 - May 18, 2013

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery presents Benny Andrews: There Must Be A Heaven, an exhibition of thirty-six works that span from 1964 to 2005. It is the first comprehensive survey since Andrews’s death in 2006 and the first solo exhibition of his work at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, which recently moved to 100 Eleventh Avenue in Chelsea. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue featuring an essay by Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims and a foreword by Congressman John Lewis, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Georgia).

A self-described “people’s painter,” Benny Andrews (American, 1930-2006) was born in Plainview, Georgia, to a family of sharecroppers. In 1948, he received a small scholarship to attend college, but eventually had to drop out. He joined the US Air Force in 1950, served for the duration of the Korean War, and received an honorable discharge in 1954. With funding from the GI Bill, Andrews returned to school, enrolling in the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1958, he received his degree and left Chicago for New York City.

Settling in a tenement on the Lower East Side, he developed the “rough collage” technique that became a hallmark of his style. As Sims in her catalogues essay explains, “Andrews’s use of collage came out of that fact that he found oil painting ‘too academic’ and imbued with more ‘sophisticated’ associations. He found the textural quality of collage appealing, and he used it to ‘keep himself off balance.’ . . . Andrews’s work, with its calculated awkwardness, unconventional techniques, and Southern focus, exists provocatively alongside that of self-taught artists. But as art historian and Andrews scholar J. Richard Gruber would caution us, despite Andrews’s predilection for ‘realistic subject matter, he was intrigued by the fundamental issues associated with abstract art.’ While he was often in conflict with his instructors and peers over the emphasis on abstract expressionism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago . . . he would come to be ‘increasingly more convinced that all art was fundamentally abstract.’”

By the 1960s, Benny Andrews had mastered this technique and exhibition opportunities followed. In 1965, with funding from a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, Andrews traveled to Georgia and began working on his Autobiographical Series. He continued to paint, exhibit, travel, write, and teach until his death from cancer at age 76. During his lifetime, he lectured extensively and received numerous fellowships, grants, and other awards from prestigious international institutions. His work is featured in over thirty permanent collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, High Museum (Atlanta, Georgia), Art Institute of Chicago, Studio Museum of Harlem, and Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC).

Benny Andrews did not see art as a substitute for action. In 1968, he began teaching at Queens College, CUNY, where he was part of the SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) program designed to help students from underserved areas prepare for college. In 1969, he was a founding member of the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC), which advocated for greater representation of black artists, curators, and intellectuals within major museums. In 1971, the art classes he had been teaching at the Manhattan Detention Complex became the cornerstone of a nation-wide prison art program. From 1982 to 1984, he directed the NEA’s Visual Arts Program, and shortly before his death in 2006, Andrews was working on an art project in the Gulf Coast with children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In 2002, he and his wife, sculptor Nene Humphrey, established the Benny Andrews Foundation to help emerging artists gain greater recognition and to encourage artists to donate their work to historically black museums. In 2008, The Foundation donated over 300 of Andrews’s artworks to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to be distributed to appropriate cultural and educational institutions that will use the artworks as a foundation for education initiatives.

In 2008, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery became the representative of the estate of Benny Andrews, but the gallery has been exhibiting his work regularly since 1994. Most recently, Andrews was part of the 2012 exhibition Benny Andrews, Bob Thompson, Alice Neel, which brought together three New York friends, who steadily pursued figural expressionism in a creative landscape dominated by abstraction and minimalism.

Lowery Stokes Sims, author of “Benny Andrews: From Earth to Heaven and Back,” is the Charles Bronfman International Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design. She was on the education and curatorial staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972-1999 before serving as executive director, president, and adjunct curator for the permanent collection at The Studio Museum in Harlem (2000-2007). A specialist in modern and contemporary art, Sims is known for her expertise in the work of African, Latino, Native, and Asian American artists. She has lectured and guest curated exhibitions nationally and internationally and was a visiting professor at Queens College and Hunter College in New York City, a fellow at the Clark Art Institute, and a visiting scholar in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota in 2007. She has also served on the selection jury for the World Trade Center memorial and is on the boards of ArtTable, Inc., the Tiffany Foundation, and Art Matters, Inc.

100 Eleventh Avenue @ 19th, New York, NY 10011

February 19, 2013

Big Pictures at Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX

Big Pictures
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX
March 5 - April 21, 2013

Although many believe that large photographic prints are a recent phenomenon in photography, this exhibition reveals otherwise. In fact, the drive to create ever larger images has intrigued and motivated photographers from the medium’s earliest years. It was not until the latter part of the nineteenth century, however, that prints began to increase in size. Photographers like William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) used mammoth glass-plate negatives to capture images of the grand landscapes of the American West—a subject that called for large-scale depiction.

In the twentieth century, with the advent of photographic enlargers, the size of photographic prints grew bigger still. Photographers like Ansel Adams (1902-1984) and Margaret Bourke White (1904-1971) understood that larger photographs resulted in a distinctive shift for the viewer. Such photographs, they realized, allowed for close examination of details while simultaneously compelling viewers to engage with the work’s expansive physical presence.

Today, photographers continue to use ever larger prints to increasingly draw the viewer into the image, creating a unique and powerful personal experience. The 50 works in Big Pictures, drawn largely from the museum’s extensive holdings, date from 1867 to photographs made in recent years by artists such as Richard Misrach (b. 1949) and Abelardo Morell (b. 1948). Together, the works in this exhibition reveal a decades-long movement to make dramatic enlargements that sharply influence viewer interaction and interpretation.

Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Museum's website: www.cartermuseum.org

February 1, 2013

Art Dubai 2013: Abraaj Group Art Prize Winners Artworks exhibited

Vartan Avakian, Rayyane Tabet, Iman Issa, Huma Mulji, Hrair Sarkissian, Winners of the 5th Abraaj Group Art Prize at Art Dubai 2013

The  five winning artists of the fifth  Abraaj  Group  Art Prize are in the final stages of producing their new artworks which will be unveiled at Art Dubai on March 19, 2013. The winners, announced last year, are: Vartan Avakian  and Rayyane Tabet from Lebanon, Iman Issa from Egypt, Huma Mulji from Pakistan and Hrair Sarkissian from Syria. 

Hrair Sarkissian Portrait
Portrait of the artist with one of his artwork, 2012
Image courtesy of the artist

Hrair Sarkissian Artwork
Istory - 6, 2010
Previous work. Courtesy of the artist Hrair Sarkissian and Kalfayan Galleries

They have been working closely with guest curator Murtaza Vali for the past six months on their ambitious projects, which have required them to experiment with new techniques, travel internationally and undertake new research.

Murtaza Vali Portrait

Portrait of the artist by the photographer Siddharth Siva, 2012
Courtesy of the photographer

Accompanying the exhibition will be a publication designed by Brooklyn based design agency Project Projects, with commissioned essays from writers such as Haig Avazian, Adnan Madani Vali Mahlouji, Walid Sadek and Kaelen Wilson-Goldie.

Savita Apte, Chair of the Abraaj Group Art Prize, said: “The Selection Committee have consistently showcased creative excellence from the MENASA region highlighting artists who traverse national and regional boundaries with their work. This year's winners Vartan Avakian, Rayyane Tabet, Iman Issa, Huma Mulji and Hrair Sarkissian join an alumni who are already inspirational figures in the global art scene and whose works are shown increasingly in international institutions."

Iman Issa Portrait
Portrait of the artist, 2012
Courtesy of the artist

Huma Mulji Artist Portrait

Portrait of the artist by the photographer Siddharth Siva, 2012
Courtesy of the photographer

Huma Mulji Artwork
Ode To A Tubelight, 2011
Enamel and mixed media on canvas
Previous Artwork. Courtesy of the artist Huma Mulji

The five new works will bring the total number of  artworks created by artists awarded the prize to 21, and will be part of the Abraaj Art Collection  following their unveiling at Art Dubai 2013

The aim of the Abraaj Group Art Prize is to give often under-represented, contemporary artists the resources to further develop their talent. Artists are invited to submit proposals for new artworks they would like to produce. Once chosen by the Selection Committee, the artists go on to produce the works. The artists collaborate with an internationally renowned curator. This allows them to tap the latest trends, while the prize gives them a global platform to showcase their works and their region. The Abraaj Group, a leading private equity investor operating  in global growth markets of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, launched the art prize in 2008. To date, the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 works were unveiled at Art Dubai and artworks have been exhibited at  several venues in  Africa,  Asia,  Europe,  the Gulf  and  the US including: The National Museum of Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia (2012), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2012-2013),  the Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2012); Future of a Promise, collateral event of the 54th Venice Biennale, Italy (2011); Museum of Photography, Braunschweig, Germany (2012), La Triennale, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2012); Parasol Unit, London, UK (2012-2013); Museum of Arts and Design, New York, US (2009 and 2010); Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian’s Museum of Asian Art, Washington DC, US (2012-2013); Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai (2009, 2010, 2013) and the Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah (2010), UAE.

Photographs of the previous Abraaj Group Art Prize exhibition that was unveiled at the Art Dubai fair. The 2012 exhibition untitled Spectral Imprints, curated by Nat Muller, presented artworks by Raed Yassin, Taysir Batniji, Wael Shawky, Risham Syed, Joana Hadjthomas and Khalil Joreige.

Entrance to Spectral Imprints, Abraaj Group Art Prize exhibition, 2012
Nat Muller, Curator. Artworks by Raed Yassin, Taysir Batniji, Wael Shawky, Risham Syed, Joana Hadjthomas and Khalil Joreige.
Photo Courtesy Abraaj Group Art Prize

Opening of Spectral Imprints, Abraaj Group Art Prize Exhibition, 2012
Visitors at the Spectral Imprints and exhibit by the winners of the 4th Abraaj Capital Art Prize, unveiled at Art Dubai 2012, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE on Monday, March 20, 2012.
Photo by Siddharth Siva. Courtesy Abraaj Group Art Prize

Abraaj Group Art Prize Unveiling at Art Dubai, 2012
Photo Courtesy Abraaj Group Art Prize

Abraaj Group Art Prize Unveiling at Art Dubai, 2012
Visitors at the Jumeirah Preview at Art Dubai 2012, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE on Monday, March 20, 2012. Photos by Siddharth Siva. Courtesy Abraaj Group Art Prize

Abraaj Group Art Prize

The Abraaj Group Art Prize's website: