In New York it goes without saying that you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to all things art related. Here are three of my top art experiences from my time away.
Ten handsome young male troubadours milled about a dimly lit exhibition space, sitting on squabs, leaning against the wall, pulling beers out of a fridge. They were singing the same song, in a heartstring pulling minor key, over and over again. Initially it was all too schmaltzy, too earnest, but it didn’t take long to be sucked in. This same group of singers occupied the exhibition space 6 days a week, eight hours a day, for FOUR MONTHS. So there was a significant feat of endurance at play that cut through the frat boy prettiness. On one of the gallery walls was a large video projection on a loop. Shot in soft 70s hues, it featured a housewife and plumber arguing in a kitchen, before falling into an awkward embrace. This was in fact the artist’s actor parents, starring in Iceland’s first feature film, Morðsaga (1977) and family legend has it that Kjartansson was conceived the night after the shoot. Deciphering the lyrics to the troubadours’ song, which included the title of the work; Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011/2014), added an element of humour that initially made me feel embarrassed about my indulgence in the sheer beauty of the thing. And this is what makes Kjartansson’s work so great – he attempts to convey genuine emotion through melodrama, seeking sincerity within stereotypes. This was one of the best works I have ever experienced.
LOL was surprised to discover that the commercial galleries in Chelsea were largely filled with big, bad paintings. Lichty’s show, his first commercial solo, was a welcome antidote. Containing only four works, each sculpture and installation was a refined study in the interplay of two corresponding materials – a small square of basalt sat upon an identically sized block of steel, two strands of black Japanese silk knotted in the middle stretched floor to ceiling, Fred Sandback style. In the back room, two bronze troughs filled to the brim with water bubbled ever so slightly as the water was pumped gently from one end to the other, emulating the basic functions of the human body, and oxidising the base of each object in the process. These three works were foils to the show’s centrepiece, a single piece of naturally shaped basalt topped by a taxidermied cat. Lichty worked closely with the taxidermist to ensure that the resting shape of the creature closely followed the form of the rock, the top of which he had polished by hand. Speaking with the artist, Lichty mentioned that his hands were all over this show, an interesting observation given the slick and minimal result. Despite this, the work has real warmth – it’s distinctly human. Lichty is one to watch.
Lassnig was wild. The Austrian painter’s tightly curated retrospective was presented chronologically, charting the artist’s progression from graphic abstraction to figural representation, when she began painting according to ‘body awareness’ – aiming to represent the way her body felt from the inside, rather than superficially. Reveling in abjection and the monstrous feminine, her portraiture battled conventions of female beauty head on. We’re presented with images of the artist naked, hairless, with her brains spilling out of the back of her head, or, iconically, toting two guns – one pointed at us, the other at herself. This gritty, confrontational subject matter is matched by the most exquisite, fresh palette (helpfully amplified by the blonded wooden gallery floors). Lassnig was a brilliant colourist Many works in the show that she made in the 70s look as if they could have been painted today, her singular aesthetic is resoundingly contemporary. The Austrian painter began showing in New York in 2002 so the exhibition was timely. Sadly Lassnig died in May this year aged 94.
(You can watch a video walk through of the show here).