THE BACK ROOM BIENNIAL @ LZ Project Space, 164 Suffolk Street, New York, April 16, May 8, 2010

CURATORS: Lynn Del Sol, David Gibson, Linda Griggs, Jennifer Junkermeier, Savannah Spirit

ARTISTS: Tom Bogaert, Marcy Brafman, Sally Curcio, Gabert Farrar, Amy Greenfield, Debra Jenks, Moira McDonald, Annysa Ng, Kaeko Shabana, Michael Zansky

When I first saw the space which was to become LZ Project Space, it made me think of little back rooms in galleries everywhere, which are sometimes offices and sometimes storage facilities, but which always hold the evidence of future achievement. Whether packed up in crates and bubble wrap or hanging just above the gallery director’s desk, what is found in back rooms is the next thing to grace the gallery walls. I thought, what if this became a motif for a group exhibition, even a biennial? Using the rarified territory of the back room as a model for organized visions of current and future talent seemed very interesting. I have invited other curators to add to the mix, filling a small space on a side street and making it into a curiosity cabinet of curatorial approaches to the ‘new’ and the ‘next’. What interests me as a curator is the act of translation, and the varieties of presentation which make it possible. All art does this, but group exhibitions do it in a way that makes us super-conscious of how it’s being achieved. I chose to call this exhibition a “biennial” because I wanted to draw the visitor’s attention to the spectacle, or paradox, of looking at art and thinking not just about each work, but the intentions of the curators, who were merely asked to suggest two great contemporary artists. Here they are in their own words:

LYNN DEL SOL: Throughout Amy Greenfield’s films she focuses on the innate dignity of the human body. The themes of identity and meaning emerge in our common movements. Walking, falling, embracing, rolling, running, lifting, sliding are what she and her performers do in her films. For Greenfield the body, moving with, and against, the close up camera, can be the concrete image of inner human nature, an instrument for its expression, and a vessel containing images and actions that crystallize the meaning and mysteries of experience: memory and movement, the past and the present moment. This is depicted in her film Element through her attempt to move across the trenches of wet mud--trying to run to and away from the weight of the malleable earth. There is a sense of struggle, a sense of urgency, as her body falls, rolls, and sinks into the folds of the silt. An escape as well as a surrender. The viewer is drawn in, not only because the camera is set only a few feet from the artist-- the camera man Hilary Harris knee deep in the mud--but there is this immediacy, this understanding of sensuality and the need to touch our beginnings to be accepted by our spirituality. As the artist brings herself to her physical limits there is a moment. It's a curious thing to envision how a filmmaker may revisit the editing process after a decade of having already perceived its’ completion. In this case, Amy maintains her pioneering technique of stringing the human body and camera together by taking advantage of the modern day high-definition video format to further engross the viewer in the rawness of her appeal. This film reveals continuity the experimental aesthetics that articulate Amy's common blend of the extreme physicality of emotional tug-of-war. Her films are an exercise in the body being pulled here and there and ultimately, seducing us. Debra Jenks grew up in Niagara Falls which was famous for honeymoons and Houdini. Which influenced a general interest in oddities and “flaws.” She’s a compulsive collector of books of all kinds—paperbacks, pulp fiction science fiction, encyclopedias, poetry, art books, odd self-help titles… And is attracted to the type of language used in them (especially that bordering on the ridiculous), the ideas (more often the bad ones) to be gleaned from them, and the physical or tactile quality of the book as a compact object. She began “rewriting” The Strange Woman after finding a copy in the trash (the book was written in 1941 by Ben Ames Williams). Retitled The Strange Woman and Seven Diamond Miners, her translation is a 600-page erasure (transposed to a series of double-page prints), written by selecting words from the “original” text, resulting in a new and subverted narrative. The Strange Woman and Seven Diamond Miners is, in part, an attempt to synthesize text and image (and her own work as both an artist and writer). The pages may be read sequentially as a linear narrative, and as a series of singular poetic locutions which is how we have it displayed. The “Strange Woman” is revealed to the reader through the stories of seven men. Each man is a section of the book, and each becomes a stand-in for one of the seven dwarfs (from Snow White). Two rules have been followed thus far in re-writing. The first is to use only the words available on the page. The second is to use the word bed whenever it appears in the text (or at least once per page if there is more than one occurrence of the word on a page). The project will eventually comprise a series of 22”x 30” prints. Currently she has complete 300 pages of text or 150 double page spreads (there are 16 double-paged prints thus far in this series), and a video book (projected onto a bed as part of an installation).

DAVID GIBSON: What I have always loved about painting is the way in which it provides an ever-changing model for how we can view the world. This is of course always dependent upon the art work we are viewing, its vision and the talent inherent in it. Marcy Brafman and Michael Zansky each approach the world in very specific terms, and their styles of painting, though radically different, enrich our understanding of how it can be seen, qualified, and summarized. Marcy Brafman is overtly influenced by Pop Art, having in her professional background an affiliation with pop culture, the music world, and advertising. She chooses motifs from the media, characters who have become popular via the sheer aggregate of repetition, and because they were chosen by their creators for possessing a value beyond the momentary. Each of her subjects emerges from the ether of myth and folklore, and in this painting, we are assured of its specific identity. “Astigmatic Mermaid” (2008) is obviously inspired by the Disney film of similar name. But Brafman takes our perception of a mermaid further, beyond the blurred lines of imagination and myth, into a context where we see her physically manifested as the ambiguous figure she really is: one part male fantasy, one part female role model. In both roles she is a grotesque, sexually indeterminate, and unable to travel beyond the waves. She is a finite symbol of the ocean, which is sexuality incarnate—continually roiling, with unknown and infinite depths. Brafman takes her mythology, mixing it together with a certain feminist assignation, and plays still more with the charged nature of her appearance, making her into a painter’s idea more than anything else. Michael Zansky comes to the practice of painting through various other genres of image-making, in which he creates a dark and twisted reality that is comparable to that of Bosch or Goya, in that every painting is a different fragment of a larger dream in which portents of reality, or some arcane vision of the future, are being portrayed. In his painting “Crossing 5” we are presented with the image of a large face (not a skull, but a visage, a consciousness) sits aboard a raft in the middle of a huge storm at sea, waiting to reach the other side. Zansky’s work is about the movement of consciousness and the movement of ideas in paint: both attempt to create with the knowledge that only fact of movement itself is possible. What guides the artist's hand is not some new world waiting to be depicted, it's the old world yawning behind us, driving us forward, into new states of manifest destiny.

LINDA GRIGGS: I've always loved exciting looking art that tells a story and then stands alone without it. These two pieces do that beautifully. In Sally Curcio's piece, "Jack Johnson's Fight" I saw a story about a man who fought every racial convention. For a lesser artist, control of the optical illusion would have been enough. For Curcio it becomes a part of a vocabulary of story telling with Jack Johnson punching holes through the bars of a cage. JM Wilson viewed the work and wrote, “Jack Johnson’s Fight” has the fighter dimly in the background while a grid of white superposes the image like a cage. The intersections of the grid dance with the optical illusion of the colors black and white, appearing and disappearing in the interstices suggesting the ephemeral existence of “color.” (JM Wilson III, Ph.D). When I first saw Tom Bogaert's piece I admired the beautiful patterning. But a week after seeing it, I kept thinking, why mice? He could have used any shiny, black material; roofing tar, black caulk... I had to contact LMAK Gallery and ask. They (get better citation) replied, "Tom Bogaert's 'Until My Darkness Goes" is based on the Malthusian theory that genocide comes forth from poverty and overpopulation. The mice licorice are a national pride of Belgium and considering Europeans part in Africa, the symbol is fitting." I now find myself surprised that the two pieces I've chosen are political. I've never thought of myself as someone interested in political art. For me, this is an excellent example of art's ability to slip around habitual thinking.

JENNIFER JUNKERMEIER: The Sun by Gabert Farrar and Leveler by Annysa Ng are the two artworks I am pleased to present for inclusion in the Back Room Biennial at LZ Project Space organized by David Gibson. Each of the works, while evoking a conceptual dialogue, border on the poetic. They hint at personal narratives that reveal universal truths and commentary about the current state of being within contemporary culture. The Sun is a 28.5" x 28.5" acrylic on wood wall relief created by Gabert Farrar. It makes reference to iconography found on wall reliefs from Mesopotamia, considered by some to be the first known civilization. At the same time, The Sun calls attention to current branding icons and there subsequent similarities to the Mesopotamian icons, evoking questions about the history and future of visual language and communication. The spray painted palette of The Sun, grey, black and yellow, reference colors once seen illuminating the Empire State Building on a foggy night. Leveler is a small, 12” x 2.2”, mixed media sculpture by Annysa Ng. The sculpture is steeped in the dichotomies between formal and informal, masculine and feminine, high and low to yin and yang. The sculpture could also be conceived as a metaphor for the 21st century woman. Leveler is functional, reliable and effective while being sexy; simple, sleek, cloaked in black and adorned in Channel.

SAVANNAH SPIRIT: Moira McDonald creates imagery that comments on a childhood she wished she had growing up. These dioramas from the series “Along the Dog Fence” instantly take on a fantasy world due to the materials used and the way in which she photographs them. Her titles describe only the month and year of which her imaginary childhood takes place. I chose April 1987 to represent this series since it truly describes in one photograph the need for something different than what is real. Kaeko Shabana also works in the realm of childhood as a theme in her photography yet in a different way than Moira. This series titled “Obsession” is about the transition from girlhood to womanhood. For some females it is a painful process to change into the woman you want to be and the fear of leaving behind the child. Kaeko’s photographs give the subject a certain ambiguity so as to make the viewer relate in his/her own way. The piece chosen from this series “Samantha” is a woman who wants to have her own child though is torn between becoming an actress (a lifelong dream) or a mother. Both photographers compare and contrast yet have different methods. It almost seems the 2 works could be from the same photographer but a separate series. As emerging photographers who should have more “exposure,” they work well in the Back Room Biennial.


TOM BOGAERT



MARCY BRAFMAN




SALLY CURCIO




GABERT FARRAR




AMY GREENFIELD



DEBRA JENKS





MOIRA McDONALD




ANNYSA NG





KAEKO SHABANA





MICHAEL ZANSKY

Comments