Friday, April 27, 2012

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin, Volume 3, 1939-1944

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Zoe Strauss

26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
January 14–April 22

Zoe Strauss, Daddy Tattoo, Philadelphia, 2004
, ink-jet print, 
12 x 16".
The anonymous voice who previewed this show last November in the New York Times intoned that the subject of Zoe Strauss’s photography is “poor people.” The word choice belies the radical politics at the heart of Strauss’s project on view in this anarchic retrospective. Consisting of a selection of images made over the last decade, “Zoe Strauss: Ten Years” was organized by the Philadelphia Museum as a sprawling survey that spills out into the city itself.
Strauss is known in her hometown of Philadelphia for staging annual exhibitions of her photographs (with prints available for five dollars each) under a section of Interstate 95 in South Philadelphia since 2002. On view are 170 of these images, picturing people, urban scenes, and landscapes that Strauss has encountered in her everyday life. In her attention to the material realities of her surroundings, Strauss taps into the rich legacy of documentary photography from Walker Evans to Allan Sekula. The salon-style hanging encourages viewers to make connections and hints at the vast production behind this careful edit; three slide shows running side by side present even more pictures and also foreground the artist’s interest in time and sequence.
Strauss’s stated ambition as an artist is “to create an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life,” and the much-abused word epic truly animates this project, invoking Homer but also modernist echoes such as James Joyce and Bertolt Brecht. The artist is keenly attuned to the production of dialogue: The exhibition includes a library and reading room (designed by Strauss’s friends in the Philadelphia collective Megawords) where visitors can hang out and talk; an extensive series of public programs (including a lecture by Strauss on Bruce Springsteen); and “office hours” during which the artist meets with visitors (appointments can be scheduled online). The show also extends out into the city: Fifty-four billboards are currently displaying Strauss photographs, carefully selected by the artist according to location, orientation, and surroundings. In one, a woman known only as Antoinette looks down magisterially, her face framed by sky, and the I-95 project has been radically inverted: Instead of physically bringing viewers down into the unseen spaces of the city, the billboards make us look up at Strauss’s world, newly elevated into the sky.

-Megan Heuer

[Lifted from ArtForum as a note to self]

Mel Bochner

Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
November 6–April 29

Mel Bochner,
Master of the Universe, 2010, oil and acrylic on two canvases, 100 x 75".
The latest “In the Tower” exhibition, part of an ongoing series highlighting individual artists of the postwar period, teems with words. This is not altogether surprising: Language has been central to Mel Bochner’s art since the mid-1960s, and here a selection of his early works pairs with his more recent thesaurus paintings of 2003–11. The show, curated by James Meyer, examines Bochner’s interest in linguistic systems, focusing on his use of the thesaurus as a generative compositional tool. “The thesaurus,” according to Bochner, “presents each word as an endlessly branching tree of family resemblances, planted in a neighborhood where meanings overlap.” Indeed, such overlaps—and related fissures—are on full view in distinct moments in Bochner’s work.
A smaller gallery collects early text-based drawings from 1966–68, including restrained portraits of Dan Flavin, Robert Smithson, and Donald Judd, in addition to numerous works on paper related to the larger thesaurus canvases. Bochner’s Portrait of Eva Hesse, 1966, composed of expanding rings of synonyms for the word wrap, figures on both walls, as he remade the work in charcoal in 2001, sparking a return to the strategy of synonymy. Even in black and white, Bochner’s recent work appears looser, his 2008 and 2009 lists peppered with bubbles and arrows containing additional terms and phrases nestled into his word studies.
The canvases in the main gallery methodically parse individual words and phrases, with language often sliding into colloquial speech by the lower portion of the compositions. Bochner’s use of color, however, complicates straightforward reading. With increasing chromatic variety, to the point of distinct hues chosen for each individual hand-painted letter in his 2010 and 2011 pieces, text itself becomes an all-over composition. This coloristic variation and semantic doubling pry language apart twice over, and Bochner’s words pulse with everyday meanings tumbling beyond them.

-Edward Vazquez

[Lifted from ArtForum as a note to self]

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quitting drinking is hard. But fun.

Instead, I am planting some buckets and my backyard with some stuff like lavender and corn. I am also reading six books. I am going to do the Master Cleanse soon, too.

It's pretty cool, I guess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I remember when this issue of Purple came out...I went to Nationale and spent 35 bucks on the motherfucker. So worth it. I stole this photo from Amy...thanks girl