Thursday, March 19, 2015

ON VIEW: Senga Nengudi

Senga Nengudi, Rubber Maid, 2011. Inner tube tire, nylons, sand. 14 x 22 x 3 inches. Image courtesy of the artist, ESSEX STREET, NY; and Thomas Erben Gallery, NY.

Tony Conrad, Senga Nengudi, Toshiko Takaezu
March 12 - April 26, 2015

114 Eldridge Street
New York, NY  

From ESSEX STREET press release:

ESSEX STREET is honored to present an exhibition of recent and historic works by Tony Conrad, Senga Nengudi and Toshiko Takaezu. Each is major. This exhibition focuses on their respective concerns and engagements with surface, with technics, and most significantly with developing an art form that conveys dynamic notions of performativity. Each object in the exhibition curves between the moment of its creation or initial activation and its present state of being awake.

Senga Nengudi emerged from the Southern California Funk of the 1960s and 70s African-American Avant-Garde. In the 1960s Nengudi studied Gutai in Japan, worked as a teacher at both Simon Rodia’s Watts Tower and also at the Pasadena Art Museum in the era of Walter Hopps, Allan Kaprow et al. The works in this exhibition, one first made in 1976 and the other two more recent examples, are performance merged into artwork, their tension and engagement inherent in the rubber and nylons’ torque and stretch. Gravity gives the objects an extant life, as weight struggles with elasticity. Without the performer, the work becomes its own body. They regard the forms and shape of African, Afro-Hispanic, and Native American sources, assembled like a diaspora rearticulated in the here and now: a tire, pantyhose, a shell, sand. They speak new phrases and new subjects in the mysterious language of Bourgeois and Hesse. They are ritual, the more worn the more vital.

Toshiko Takaezu, a master ceramist, was a protégé of Maija Grottel at Cranbrook in the 1950s. The works included in the exhibition are closed forms and moon pots made in porcelain, stoneware and ceramic. Without any semblance to pitchers, vases or bowls, they declare a divergence from traditional craft, asserting both autonomy as sculpture and a disavowal to function. Their oblique face wraps around as a site for painting glazes and treatments. Takaezu was a pioneer of gestural abstraction in ceramics. Their oversize scale and shape convey her exceptional skill in structuring and kilning. Inside each of these works, sealed in darkness, are clumps of extra clay, dropped in just before being fired. Holding one of her pieces rattles these interior and secret masses, producing a sound clattering notes from in to out. Though most of the time this song, like the coordinated forces which determined the shape of these onto themselves vessels, is inaccessible.

Tony Conrad has been reformulating the basis of video, filmmaking, musical composition and performance for half a century. After studying math at Harvard in the early 1960s, he was a pioneer of New York minimalism working with La Monte Young, John Cale, Henry Flynt and others. In 1965 he made one of his first masterpieces of structural film, The Flicker, which consists of only alternating black and white stills. This work goes beyond narrative capacity, beyond medium specificity and definition, into the very mechanics of audience reception, specifically how the brain of a viewer processes what is and is not seen. In 1973 Conrad made the Yellow Movies and the Yellow TVs, the later of which are included in this exhibition. These works boil down the phenomena of movies and television, into a durational screening and a viewing experience. The program of the screening is merely the yellowing of white or fluorescent paint. The making, exposure, exhibiting and screening of these programs are condensed into one ultra-elongated event. The speed of these movies and tvs does occurs, albeit at a rate so much slower than our viewing habits. The program becomes psychedelic, as Diedrich Diederichsen has claimed; a radically deviant temporal relation. In comparison, they make Warhol’s Empire a highly paced interlude.

The objects in this exhibition are ON, even and especially beyond the confines of our visual receptivity. They don’t require just viewing, but a kind of spirit and cognitive unlocking.

This in now, how do it so?

Installation view of Tony Conrad, Senga Nengudi, Toshiko Takaezu, ESSEX STREET, NY.
On left: Senga Nengudi, Rubber Maid, 2011, Inner tube tire, nylons, sand, 14 x 22 x 3 inches; On right: Senga Nengudi, Blue Haze, 2013, Nylons, sand, found objects, 18 x 16 x 2.25 inches. Image courtesy of the artist, ESSEX STREET, NY; and Thomas Erben Gallery, NY.

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