Curated by Rachel Gugelberger and Jeffrey Walkowiak
Ceci n’est pas… (This is not…) an exhibition about painting. This is not an exhibition that defines a moment or a trend. This is not an exhibition that celebrates the emerging artist or the mid-career artist or those who have passed. This is not an exhibition about appropriation, subversive strategies or architectural interventions. This is not an exhibition about global warming, the war in Iraq, government corruption, Lindsey Lohan or Knut the polar bear.
The group exhibition Ceci n’est pas… (This is not…) presents works that approach various facets of the art world with irony and humor. Culled from artist’s observations and experiences as well as art world mythology, the far-ranging styles include self-deprecating anecdotes, commentaries on art and exhibition practices and critiques of art market trends. The artists in Ceci n’est pas… use a cynical yet enlightened lens that reveals the passions, manners, idiosyncrasies, desires and anxieties that are woven into the fabric of contemporary art.
The title of the exhibition borrows from the subject of Rene Magritte’s painting “The Treachery of Images,” in which the Belgian surrealist emphasized the contradiction of representation. (In the painting, a pipe is shown above text in French that reads, “This is not a pipe.”) The works in the exhibition Ceci n’est pas… look beneath the veneer of representation to find meaning in the art world of today. With the simultaneous exhibitions of Art Basel, Skulptur Projekte Münster, documenta and La Biennale de Venezia, the summer 2007 “Grand Tour” is an art event of massive proportions, offering an auspicious time to reflect on the world that created it.
Recently, many artists have turned to themselves, their colleagues and their lifestyles as a starting point to discern their individual positions in the art world. Tamy Ben-Tor’s hysterical and disturbing portrayals of eccentric characters expose the self-indulgence, bigotry and other maladies of people who occupy the cultural milieu. Kalup Linzy’s soap operatic videos deal with love, loss, and art world politics that simultaneously undercut stereotypes of gender, black culture and sexuality. Charley Friedman performs art world characters; a pushy salesman with a gaudy wardrobe (gallerists/dealers) or a short-tempered, snotty older woman (consultants), while Guy Richards Smit uncovers the sociopathic details of an artistic superstar via characters drawn directly from popular culture; a sitcom actor and a rock star, to name a few.
In the work of Laura Parnes and Pam Lins, moments from artist’s professional lives – rites of passages for many – are depicted in a cynical and humorous manner. Parnes’ videos recount awkward, funny and at times embarrassing studio visits, and Lins’ whimsical ink drawings sensitively capture the angst, horror and frustration many artists-to-be experience in an academic environment. Cary Leibowitz inscribes text that expresses personal desires and insecurities onto lowbrow knick-knacks such as buttons, coffee mugs, pendants and stuffed animals. Liebowitz shares his self-deprecating humor with David Kramer, whose works on paper and videos convey his anxiety and disappointments as an under-recognized artist who never gets a break. Emphasizing the dichotomy of high/low culture, Alejandro Diaz utilizes various artistic tropes to address notions of political, social and economic imbalances within contemporary society.
Jennifer Dalton develops sharp-witted visual systems that focus on the reality of being a contemporary artist today. Her charts, graphs and categorizations of art world customs include artists and their families, collectors, critics, gallerists, auction houses, and art schools.
Featured in fashion and lifestyle magazines – most often draped in designer gear amidst a messy studio – the successful contemporary artist has reached celebrity, even cult-like status. Nina Katchadourian plays with this romantic adoration using self-portraiture, alluding to the long history of stereotypical representations of the male artist. With the reverence befitting a teenage girl, Jude Tallichet displays a decidedly ironic idol worship of some of the most successful male artists of her generation. Peter Coffin and Edgar Orlaineta comment on the mythical and mystical auras that surround the interpretation of artists’ oeuvres and lifestyles, while Christopher K. Ho and Troy Richards design luxury vacation itineraries catered to an individual artist’s work.
Several artists peer into the art of exhibition and marketing strategies. While Michael Smith takes on the group exhibition construct, reassigning curatorial responsibility to the artist, Simon Linke challenges the predictable and redundant promotional language of marketing through a repetition of reproductions of gallery advertisements. With an emphasis on the everyday, Danica Phelps explores market value by chronicling her daily activities, including work expenses and sales profits. On the other hand, Michael Lindeman’s paintings of classified ads extend outside of the established art world, offering deliberately upfront works meant to decorate the home, available at refreshingly de-inflated prices.
Other artists employ understated conceptual art practices to sensitively examine familiar art historical genres and tropes. Neil Goldberg’s video installation scrutinizes unrealized ideas. Terence Gower identifies a quintessential Modern artist by recreating her works and chronicling her methodology in a series of photographs that evoke the documentation of conceptual practices. Reynard Loki offers a series of seemingly identical paintings that articulate the semantics of untitled artworks. Leaving no stone unturned, Pablo Helguera appropriates Strunk and White’s famous book on grammar, The Elements of Style, to create a guide to art world manners and etiquette
In conjunction with the exhibition, Sara Meltzer Gallery has organized a series of events:
Wednesday, July 11, 7pm Pablo Helguera performs We all Need a Pygmalian, a musically enhanced inspirational lecture introducing The Pablo-Helguera Manual of Contemporary Art Style.
Thursday, July 19, 8pm An evening of screenings by Alex Bag, Kate Gilmore, David Kramer, Laura Parnes, Guy Richards Smit and Michael Smith.
Tuesday, July 24, 7pm Kalup Linzy performs a sequel to his 2006 Conversations wit de Churen V: As Da Art World Might Turn.
Wednesday, July 25, 6-8pm Open Book is an opportunity for artists who work in book form to share their production and process with other artists and interested viewers. Please submit materials to Sara Meltzer Gallery by no later than July 6th. Co-sponsored with Regency Arts Press Ltd. For further details, visit www.sarameltzergallery.com.
Tuesday, August 14, 4pm A walk-thru of the exhibition with private dealer Betsey Geffen, aka Charley Friedman.