My Highlights from Art Basel in Miami Beach, 2013
THE ARMITAGE GONE DANCE EXQUISITE CORPSE PROJECT
More than 180 internationally recognized visual artists, architects, designers and photographers participated in the Armitage Gone! Dance Exquisite Corpse Project, beginning in 2011. The artists created one hundred and thirty nine artworks to benefit Armitage Gone! Dance, an internationally acclaimed contemporary dance company under the direction of renowned choreographer Karole Armitage. Using the 1920's surrealist parlor game "cadavre exquise," a drawing that combines words and/or images by multiple artists on one sheet of paper, the project celebrates the theme of chance encounters, surprise and radical juxtaposition. Each artist adds to the composition, in sequence, without seeing the contribution of the previous person. The chance juxtaposition of images and styles results in a work that is both unexpected and amusing. Each drawing is a combination of the work of three or four artists.
The Exquisite Corpse project is a way for a wide range of artists to express their support for Armitage’s work and also a way for her to acknowledge artists who have played such a large role in her career. The project also highlights the “performative” aspect of art-making by demonstrating that drawing, performance art, and dance all have in common spontaneity and an unpredictable nature. The evanescent quality of dance is mirrored in the surprising juxtapositions of the Exquisite Corpse.
A key member of the Pictures Generation, Sarah Charlesworth explores the structures and assumptions that undergird visual production. Her work evolved as she began to notice how “values were being constructed in mass culture that informed the way we think about the world, our possibilities as human beings, how it is to be a woman, how it is to be a man, how it is to be American or a white person or whatever,” as she has said. For her series “Objects of Desire” from the early ‘80s, which plays with the language of advertising, Charlesworth appropriated images of animals, Hollywood gowns, or masks, among other subjects, isolating them from their context and setting them against bright, monochromatic backgrounds.
Michael van Ofen paints representational images that are tightly cropped or simplified to the point of abstraction, just beyond immediate recognition. He calls these “results of a figurative line of development reaching far out into the abstract.” Van Ofen changed his primary medium from photography to painting after art school; he is known for his sketchy style, limited palettes, and large fields of color rendered in thick brushstrokes. Van Ofen works without making preparatory drawings, using a wet-on-wet technique of oil paint application. Though his works draw from the tradition of 19th-century genre painting and academic conventions of portraiture and landscape, van Ofen lists contemporary artistic influences: Blinky Palermo, Michael Asher, Bruce Nauman, and Marcel Broodthaers.
German, b. 1956, Essen, Germany
In his spare, enigmatic, mixed-media sculptures and installations, Tom Burr explores the ways in which we imbue the spaces and things by which we are surrounded—like clothing, furniture, or the patterns in wood—with our memories and emotions. As he explains: “I know that objects retain the stain of people and that our memory can be physically located out of longing or grief.” Though his work is grounded in his own memories, it is deliberately ambiguous, allowing viewers to invest it with their own life experiences. He uses what he calls a “focused spectrum” of humble materials and found objects, including plywood, old blankets and t-shirts, radiators, doors, books, and bits of hardware. By draping a pair of nylons over a radiator, encasing sneakers in yellow Plexiglas, or constructing stripped-down rooms, Burr makes his (and our) memories material.
American, b. 1963, New Haven, Connecticut
Laura Owens’ paintings, which have run the gamut from abstraction and landscape to figuration, demonstrate a shrewd awareness of form, color, and line. Her work is recognizable from its Pop color palette and deep sense of experimentation. “I often refer to myself as being in perpetual student mode, teaching myself to make the painting I want to make,” Owens has said. Her paintings convey a profound sense of history, recalling figures such as Mary Heilmann and stalwarts of Modernism, but they shy away from grandiloquence. Writing on Owens’ navigation between genres as diverse as folk, conceptual, and classical painting, Paul Schimmel said, “Owens has found a language that questions the nature of painting while embracing its multifarious manifestations.” Likewise, her careful technique is balanced by an ability to express an unburdened, even joyful, sense of experimentation in her canvases.
American, b. 1970