You go up to the 4th floor, you turn left after getting out of the elevator to look at the description of the show. There, you can see the work which intrigued me the most in the show: A statesmanlike, official looking portrait of President Obama placed high up on the wall. Beneath it, people gather to read the description about the show.
“Why is he there?” I ask my wife. We are at one of the most prestigious cultural institutions where, at least to me, openness and examinations of possibilities should be encouraged, and the shapes, positions and the contexts of humanity in our lives should be explored without any authoritative boundaries. I was disturbed to see him introducing the show, greeting a few thousand museum goers everyday. For a starter, this president joins a meeting every week with the people from the spy agencies, generals and other officials to discuss who should be assassinated with remote controlled planes. This president engages, without due process, the executions of suspects which include the US citizens and innocent bystanders. The attacks are often aimed at wedding ceremonies, funerals, and they often include “double tapping”, a war crime according to international laws, in which a successive attack is aimed at rescuers, desperate relatives in tears and the brave people who volunteer to help the injured victims. My wife sort of avoids the question saying “I don’t know”. We often get into arguments when I start talking about things of this nature.
I really hated to ruin the day with a fight. After all, it was my birthday and she came out to pick me up in the city where I was working for a week. It was nice to see her after a week of separation, but I felt the burning anger and sadness thinking about the deaths and the destruction, the words “why is he there?” just dropped out of my mouth. My wife might have rolled her eyes, but that was not unusual. I also forgot about it after 5 seconds. We were back to our fun outing.
Moving along, looking at art works, I might have taken a picture or two. I thought one of the cardboard sculptures on the wall was nice. My wife complained that she didn’t like anything except for the pots with dinosaurs on them. I wanted to say that some of the works seem to be like blue prints or recipes. They seemed to include instructions or narratives but they didn’t actually create the magical tastes in my mouth, or the profound shock of transformation in my head. But before I could actually open my mouth and say it, we weren’t walking together anymore. I guess I tend to think in a day dreamy manner sometimes, my wife would get mad because I think in my head and I fail to actually say it, resulting in, well, ignoring her without meaning to do so. In short, we were just appreciating the art works in the show.
Anyway, we moved to the 3rd floor. By that time, however, I was feeling something again. I noticed that I was repeating the words “why was he there?”. The portrait: his piercing eyes, the image of the people swarming beneath him. And I almost forgot to mention this but you could also hear low ominous sound effects coming from a sculpture around the corner adding to the undeniable unsettling feeling. Come to think of it, the placement was sort of odd too, stuck at the corner, sort of too high as if it was calling your attention to bring out the question “why is he there?”
I had to tell my wife that I had to go back to the 4th floor to see what the portrait was all about. A big mistake, of course. Later I was accused of leaving her wondering in the museum alone. But the question kept repeating in my head “why was he there”. I could not help it.
This is what the description on the wall said:
“Many of Dawound Bey’s photographs–including the others on view elsewhere on this floor–reflect on the nature of portraiture. They explore the limits of what the genre can and cannot do, using it to pose complex questions of identity and our relationships to history. Bey’s portait of Barack Obama is, by contrast, an excellent but straightforward example of the genre. It is included here as a tactical move within curator Michelle Grabner’s quasi-pedagogical strategy; Grabner notes that this image can be viewed as “a signifier of both civil unity and political and racial instability, a punctuation of nationalism and hierarchy in a shifting field of artworks that occupy the fourth floor””.
OK, so the museum does acknowledge the portrait as a “punctuation of nationalism”, and “a signifier of both political and racial instability”. But the president’s portrait, which is positioned to preside over one of the most important cultural events in the city, is also seen as a symbol of “civil unity”.
There is a civil unity based on justice and humanity and a civil unity based on violence and fear.
The Obama administration has succeeded in rounding up the entire population of the planet under the vast NSA global network. The government is collecting everything we do online and more. They send out bugs to infect our devices to spy. They infiltrate democratic movements to hunt down dissenting voices. They threaten journalists with unjust laws and imprisonment. And as the elected officials talk about peace and democracy, they keep 1000 military bases across the globe with 57% of our taxes going to the defense budget. The US fights numerous covert and overt wars, all of them are offensive and are based on the special interests of the multinational corporations and the giant banks. At home, the police force is militarized. We have 2 million people, mostly minorities and mostly for victimless crimes, incarcerated in domestic prisons, the running of which is out sourced to private corporations, providing virtually free labor for the major US corporations. OK, I’ll stop but my point is that it’s the “civil unity” by the rule of fear.
There is no word about any of that in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. We may talk about gay rights. We may talk about women’s rights. We may express and explore the boundaries of our culture and our perceptions. But we are unified under the piercing eyes of our commander in chief. Why is he there? Because he is the symbol of our corporate cage. We are free and creative as long as we stay inside of our cage. And the more I see our moral and ethical obligations neglected in our art community by our silence, the brighter the president’s portrait on the 4th floor shines.
Of course, that is just all in my head. But I fantasize and I’m dying to want to believe that one of the curators of the 2014 Whitney Biennial sees it through. She is compelled to step out of the cage and poses important questions as a responsible human being: Why is he there? Don’t we know what is going on? What is art for? What is culture when our basic values are based on corporate interests? Don’t we care?
As we left the museum, the entire building seemed to be a giant art monster with President Obama’s portrait as the head and the long line leading out of the door as its tail.
This show is organized by Aureus Contemporary. Participating artists are Alejandro Diaz-Ayala, Jeremy Dean, Jeff Depner, Pauline Galiana, Hiroyuki Hamada, Karim Hamid, William P Immer, Michael Mapes, Claire Shegog and Yi-Hsin Tzeng.
You can learn more about the show at the site.
Come say hi! We’ll have an opening on April 4th 7-10pm.
4 april to 14 april 2013
opening night: 4 APRIL 7-10pm
operating 11 – 6pm
(closed on Monday)
Following is a text from an event Pechakucha Night Hamptons Vol. 1 at Parrish Art Museum on Thursday, September 20, 2012.
Thank you for inviting me today. I would like to talk about making sculptures. The first step is to come up with the basic idea for it. This is a tricky process because I am interested in an experience without words, stories or symbols. What I am interested in is to make you feel like you belong to the vast universe that is within the tiny cells we are made of reaching out to the edge of the space out there. It can be a scary feeling. You are all alone just floating in the unknown vastness. You might be stuck with something you don’t understand. Or you might feel like you are nothing. You might be lonely and afraid. But I believe good art can let you feel the vastness and the mystery without the fear. It welcomes you with open arms. And remind you that you belong to that reality. It can be a moment when you look at a painting you love. Or it can last for a whole song when you listen to a great song. Or it can last for a whole chapter of a book. What it does is that it can become a bridge between that part of you and you buried in our everyday life. It gives us the courage to go on and it gives us the courage to embrace the unknown with curiosity and excitement.
Making process is a weird thing. You open yourself in certain ways at the same time you let go of other things. It’s not like solving a math problem where you add a fixed number to a fixed number for instance. Most of the time you can’t even see all the numbers you are adding. And the missing numbers can only be seen with your heart and soul. For an average man in mid 40s, jaded, cynical and disillusioned, it is not easy. As soon as I think I caught something, it’s gone. It’s like building something with my eyes closed. The things I can count on the most in this complicated process are persistence and time. Good work requires breaking rules that I have cultivated over the years. It requires additional trials and errors that allow me to see the new possibilities. I have to be patient in sticking to the goal.
The process is very slow and it’s done with my tiny brain with yet smaller art window looking out where the work sits. I go around the work so many times trying to look through the window mostly failing to see what’s out there. But eventually I succeed in mapping the area. I slowly build the work. I try to feel my way through every inch of the surface. In fact, it’s much less than an inch. Sometimes a tiny dot might make a big difference, like a tiny sparkle in somebody’s eye that can make him come alive. But it gets complicated when the work doesn’t even have an eye or a face. It’s a very time consuming process. But when the work is done. It’s very obvious. I am at a special place only with my work and myself. Nothing else matters and I am completely at peace, or completely excited.
So how do I go about it? My approach is to start from drawings. That’s my map to guide me to where I will be struggling. The lines, subtle shades of tones, shapes, these things can imply the vast process that I will be going through. I keep my sketchbook with me all the time. I try to brain storm on papers and come up with recurring shapes that literally ask me to work on as it starts to appear as a three dimensional piece in my imagination. Or sometime it just pops right on the page and I’m certain that I have to work on it.
I started out as a painter so building structures can be rather crude with lots of trials and errors. I mostly use materials you can find at a hardware store: Wood, insulation foam, burlap, plaster, roofing tar, spray paint, and so on. And using newer, more exotic materials has been an interesting challenge today.
The surface treatment brings up the characters of the piece, It defines the shape, it gives a static object movements, rhythm, surprises, and visual narratives. Or it can even tell you an imaginary history of a catastrophic event, reconciliation, or just endless calmness and richness of unbroken cycle of nature. I have fun going along with the flow. I take chances. I try to see things I didn’t see before. The result, when it works, always surprises me with a fresh presence of its own.
Following images were shown during the talk–20 images, each shown for 20 seconds.
Pechakucha Night Hamptons Vol. 1 Thursday, September 20, 2012 – 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Last year I was interviewed by January Biannual: A beautiful crowd-funded publication with no advertisements. I enjoyed answering the questions very much.
Here is how they describe themselves:
“JANUARYbiannual is a publication with small dreams. We are inspired to touch just a few, but in a way that is lasting and profound.
JANUARYbiannual is fascinated by substance, by depth, by fortitude, and by integrity.
It is our humble ambition to slow things down, for just a little while”.
I think that’s wonderful. Please check out the publication.
Erik Benson, Paul Brainard, Pia Dehne, Hiroyuki Hamada, Elizabeth Huey, Erika Keck,
Emily Noelle Lambert, Frank Lentini, Eddie Martinez, Brian Montouri, Bryan Osburn, Kanishka Raja,
Erika Ranee, Tom Sanford, Christopher Saunders, Kristen Schiele, Ryan Schneider, Oliver Warden,
Frank Webster, Eric White and Doug Young
Allegra LaViola Gallery | 179 East Broadway | New York, NY 10002
T 917.463.3901 E firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday – Saturday: 12-6PM
Opening Reception: October 26, 6-9PM
Allegra La Viola Gallery is pleased to present Die Like You Really Mean It, a group exhibition on view
from October 26 – December 7. The exhibition is curated by artists Paul Brainard and Frank Webster
and features new paintings and sculpture by over twenty artists living in the New York metro area.
The curators have assembled an energetic and dynamic show, where each work registers as a highly
charged expression of the individual artist. Brainard and Webster have maintained a special interest
in choosing works that register not as intentionally ironic but rather as sincerely and at times
viscerally rendered. This exhibition celebrates painting as a healthy, living, and variegated mode of
art making in New York.
The works included in this exhibition are often resistant to purely formalist and conceptual concerns,
engaging themes that extend beyond the material media of painting. Figurative and scenic elements
may invite narrative readings while color is used forcefully, liberally, or selectively. The expressive
qualities of color among the works range widely from Oliver Warden’s transformative explosions of
color, to Hiroyuki Hamada’s restrained, bi-chromatic capsule-like wall reliefs. Also of concern among
the works is the relationship between the human being and its environment, exemplified by Erik
Benson and Kristen Schiele’s depictions of inhabited indoor and outdoor settings, Pia Dehne’s
complex compositions in which figure and ground are enmeshed through lyrical patterns of line and
geometry, and Kanishka Raja’s use of pattern to unite various specific locations depicted in the same
Atypically, this show exalts in its contrasts. The works of Chris Saunders and Brian Montouri could
best sum this up. Saunder’s paintings are slick and calm on the surface but belie an unsettling and
subversive content, while Montouri’s vision is a veritable disgorgement of expressionist storm and
bluster. Each artist pushes the medium with equal passion, but in radically different directions, with
starkly different results. This passion however is one thing all of the artists in Die Like You Really
Mean It share in common.
—Paul Brainard, Kristen Lorello and Frank Webster
Thank you to many of you who came to see the show. It will be up through Saturday January 8th.
The closing reception will be on Thursday January 6th 5:00pm to 8:00pm.
636 West 28th Street Ground Floor
Between 11th & 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
The closing reception will be held on January 6th 2011, 5 pm to 8 pm.
I wish you wonderful holidays, and I wish you lots of happiness for the new year…
Left: #53, 2005-10, 38 diameter x 14 1/2 inches Right: #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches
Both pieces are on view at the Coleman Burke Gallery till January 8th 2011
Images from the Art Sites show are up at the main part of the site. Here are a few…
For the full photo sets, please click here, and click on PHOTOS at the top bar for Art Sites 2o1o Part 1 to 3. There are 47 images! Or, Hiroyuki Hamada Art at Facebook has an album with same images. They are smaller but load faster. Hope you like the images!
It’s been a great few weeks having a show at Art Sites. The show turned out to be super
featuring the latest works as well as the oldest ones. Last week, we have also added nine
of my oldest drawings predating the plaster sculptures. You can see them in the office area.
And, we have one more weekend to go! The show will be closing on Sunday the 10th. Here
are a few images from the show. More photos with large view options will be added to the
main part of the site in a few weeks.
Here is how to get to Art Sites: Direction to Art SitesArt Sites651 W. Main St.Riverhead, NY 11901631-591-2401hours: th-sun 12-5Please call for additional hours
An Amsterdam based magazine Creatie has a visual essay by Mischa Rozema
of PostPanic that makes you look at my work from a refreshing perspective.
While I couldn’t fully get the text part since the magazine is in Dutch, the
pictures tell the story very well. To me the essay focuses on how we are as a
peculiar specie on the planet that can see who we are and tries to shape who
we are. The essay tells our excitements, uncertainties, oddities and triumphs
in the process. It’s always refreshing and enjoyable to see someone coming
up with a solid theme out of my non-referential work. Thank you Mischa.
To see the essay, please go to main part of my site, click PRESS. It should appear in
the list as “A Visual Essay by Mischa Rozema”.
Three other artists who appear in the essay are exceptional. Here are some other
works by them which do not appear in the essay. Hope you visit their sites for more.