Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘collage

Richard Hawkins – Third Mind

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Art Institute of Chicago

Gay desire isn’t just about pretty boys.

We haven’t posted in forever; we’re going to make it up to you with a gay show! Everyone is slapping the National Portrait Gallery’s ass for being oh-so-brave for tackling the controversial topic of gay desire in American art. Because no one has dared go gay lately.  Oh wait, yes they have, here, here, and here.  And that’s just at one museum East Coasters.  Museums in the middle of the country have gone gay too; here in Chicago, Richard Hawkins – Third Mind is currently on view at the Art Institute.

This is what we gleaned from the intro walltext:   The Andy Warhol Foundation awarded a grant for this show, which is a not-so-unobvious clue that this show is going to be gay gay gay.  Third Mind, is Hawkins’s first museum survey, but NOT A RETROSPECTIVE, he’s a mid-career artist and isn’t going anywhere so let’s make that clear.   According to the text, the subtitle (Third Mind) “serves as a testament to the duplicity and ambiguity that characterizes his work,” but is probably more a play on this.  I don’t know if Hawkins work is as duplicitous and ambiguous as the curators are claiming; to me it’s not that unclear…more on that later.  Also the organization of the show is addressed:

Due to the decidedly circuitous nature of Hawkins’s art, linear chronology alone is an insufficient mode of presentation. Thus, this exhibition is laid out in a sequence of ‘rooms’ made up of visual and thematic comparisons that provide just one of many possible bases for comprehending and appreciating the complexities of Hawkins’s practice within the larger historical context provided by the encyclopedic setting of the Art Institute.

What a revelation!—Not. I love it when museums explain themselves, but here there doesn’t really seem to be anything to explain; the curators grouped works from various series of Hawkins work together, aaaand done.

From this first grouping of works (a collage series from 2000) two things are very clear: one, Hawkins excels in collages (paintings not so much, and sculptures sometimes). Two, the majority of people who love to buy Hawkins are from New York, Miami (not a shocker), LA (not shocking), and also Chicago, since apparently someone has been on a spending spree on behalf of the Art Institute.

Bottom - Urbis-Paganus-IV.9.1, (2009)

The next series of collages is funny as hell, and pretty gay.  The series combines various cutouts of Greek and Roman sculptures with texts praising this or that dick or ass of the sculptures.  Hawkins has no problem pointing out which Greek derriere he prefers most; his sassy comments on men’s physiques are the definition of being a bitchy gay.  Take that National Portrait Gallery with your “codified” signs of homosexual desire.

Zombies are the new vampires – Disembodies Zombie Head(s) (1997)

In the next room are several more series.  The Hawkins work I knew previously is the Disembodied Zombie Heads series.  Look here’s one from a MOCA show, how considerate of MOCA to lend it.  And if one Disembodied Zombie Head weren’t enough, and if three Disembodied Zombie Heads weren’t enough (the Hammer loaned not one, but two), the Art Institute has gathered six total (the other three come from LA too).  I think six Disembodied Zombie Heads is just overkill (but zombies are hot in Hollywood right now).

Some newly acquired Hawkins sculptures.

Several sculptures are scattered earlier on in the show, but the last room is mostly devoted to them.  House of Mad Professor (2008) from the Hammer, Crepuscule #1 & #3(1994), Dilapidarian Tower, (2010) and some other haunted houses litter the space.  The sculptures are engaging, mostly because they have elements of Hawkins’s collage practice in them.  And don’t forget, this show continues in Gallery 291…

If you want to see some of Hawkins’s paintings you have to go to the other side of the Modern Wing, up a flight of stairs, and navigate to the correct room.  It seems like the curators were trying to hide Hawkins paintings, and personally I think it’s because these paintings aren’t Hawkins’s best work. Organizing the exhibition with this divide only makes this fact more obvious to me.   (Apparently they do sell; they’re still listed on Hawkins’s LA gallery’s website.)   Had the curators chosen only 10 butt sculpture collages, and only three zombie heads, maybe there would have been room to put Hawkins’s paintings in with the rest of the show.

Customized of Readymade (2005) & Burberry Schoolgirl (2005) - In gallery 291 for a reason?

The many similar examples from the same collage series are excessive and unneeded; the effect makes this seem more like a gallery show and less like a thoughtfully curated museum exhibition.  Proof of this is in the pictures.  The below installation shots aren’t from the Art Institute, but from several recent gallery shows.  This is pretty much what the show at the Art Institute looks like.

Installation shots, but of what?

Maybe the curators wanted to show how widely Hawkins is collected, or maybe they wanted to showcase the shopping spree someone has been on. Many of the works in the show are labeled as newly acquired for the museum, proving that museums are active in the contemporary art market world (although perhaps only as recipients of works that a donor chooses to acquire).  Speaking of donors, let’s take a look at the lenders, there are a lot of them, and most of them are from New York, Miami and LA:

Craig Robins – Miami developer (and CE’mO) who loves artistic projects
Blake Byrne – Former-MOCA-board-member-‘mo
Kourosh Larizadeh & Luis Pardo – donate to ‘MOCA in LA
Goetz Collection – Munich, collection of Ingvild Goetz, who is a lady (exception to the trend)
John Morace & Tom Kennedy – New York ‘mos who sponsor a lot of shows
David Campbell – I hope this is the right old guy
Greene Naftali Gallery – Hawkins’s New York Gallery
Paul Chan – New York artist, also represented by Greene Naftali
Robert Lade & Richard Telles – LA ‘mos(?) and one half of Hawkins’s LA gallery, Richard Telles
Jim Isermann – LA artist, also represented by Richard Telles Gallery…
Tiffany Tuttle & Richard Lidinsky – Un-goggle-able couple
Dennis Cooper – LA, writer-of-Closer-‘mo
Barry Sloane – Big-shot LA realtor, who’s sold a Frank Lloyd Wright
Peter Norton – Gold-shitting heterosexual, of the Peter Norton Family foundation, and Norton Antivirus
And some Private Collection(s) in Chicago

So a bunch of ‘mo are buying Hawkins work, which isn’t surprising since the work is very generous (saturated even) with homosexual desire.  Let’s talk about desire:  When I was taking notes on my blackberry, I overheard a gallery walkthrough in progress.  A young museum educator talking with some silver-haired ladies, and I thought, wow this must be awkward.  But she handled it amazing well.  She recounted how she had given a tour to a highschool group and asked them to consider the idea of desire, how it is what you want and sometimes what you can’t have, and to question what is keeping you from having it.  Sources confirm that Hawkins is not dealing with unfulfilled desires.  After covering the subject matter of Greek and Roman sculptures, Hawkins began to focus on images on Asian boys.  Hawkins does indeed have a little Asian manfriend, so to his desires seem more fulfilled than un, mostly because little Asian men love him back.

Hope this post was as good for you as it was for me.  Why are the gay posts the best posts?

– H.I.

P.S. To my LA readers, Third Mind is headed to Los Angeles (shock of all shocks) after it closes in Chicago, so head over to the Hammer in February.

Urbis Paganus III (2009)– So many things you love all in one artwork Keith.

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Glorious Excess (Dies)

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JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM

The Glorious Excess (Dies) exhibition showcases the work of Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. This is technically part two of the exhibition, part one was called Glorious Excess (Born), and ran from July 12 to August 3, 2008.  (Dies) has some of the same works as (Born) with additional new works.  The show roughly follows a story of a fictional character Glorious Excess, a skeletal rock and roll star.  The two shows follow the course of his life: birth, life of glamorous celebrity, death and beyond.

Discrete exterior banner

Discrete exterior banner

Even before going into the exhibition space it is obvious how large this show is for JANM.  On approaching the museum one is confronted with a large banner hung outside the museum announcing the exhibition.  Then, after entering the museum, a visitor has to walk past a large step-and-repeat of the show’s sponsors before entering the exhibition space.

Discrete exhibition sponsors

Discrete exhibition sponsors

All of this is reminiscent of a red carpet event, and the shining spheres of celebrity the show claims to be about.  A final nod to the entertainment industry are labels on the doors leading into the exhibition galleries, on both of the double doors are “Parental Advisory – Explicit Content” labels, which often appear on albums with explicit content.

Greeting / Warning Label on exhibition entry doors

Greeting / Warning Label on exhibition entry doors

The introductory wall text is probably my favorite thing in the exhibition.  The text used two fonts, one the black swirling baroque font used for the title, and the other was a standard font in chewable bright pink.  The choice of color for the font matched words in the text “bubble gum” which was one of the cliché statements used in the intro wall text about celebrities, paparazzi, tabloids, etc.

Across from the wall text is a large wall positively covered in clippings from tabloid magazines.  The large collage/mural features recognizable faces, and seemed like something an obsessive stalker might create.

Stalker Locker – Tabloid Installation

Stalker Locker – Tabloid Installation

The exhibition is relegated to two coffin-like halls—very dark, the walls painted a dark grey.  The artworks and wall text were all overly-dramatic spotlighted like portraits in a haunted mansion. Quotes from a variety of sources, written in the deliciously-bright pink font, were integrated into the exhibition. Quotes from Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Ice Cube and Neil Young were included…how they all related to one another, or to the exhibition is still confusing to me.

A series of four paintings, which all had the same image only in different colors, was hung two by two in way that established a repeating pattern. I liked how these works and their installation addressed serialism. The repeating pattern was reminiscent of both the step-and-repeat outside the exhibition, as well as the repetitive Louise Vuitton “LV” pattern which was used in the background of the four paintings.

In another wall text half-way through the exhibition, Shinoda discusses the image of the skull, and his reasoning for using it in his artworks.  He explains he was inspired by the skull in traditional Dutch painting as it functions as a vanitas, as well as the modern usage of the skull in Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God.

A celebrity for all seasons

A celebrity for all seasons

Another series of four paintings was hung in a traditional row. The cycle of the seasons: Spring – Warhol, Summer – Cobain, Autumn – Dean & Winter – Lennon, are all hung at the same level in seasonally-correct order.  The four dead celebrities’ portraits lead up to the “death” of Shinoda’s character Glorious Excess.

Open-Casket - Glorious Excess’s Funeral

Open-Casket - Glorious Excess’s Funeral

At the end of the two dark halls is an open coffin, with gaudy fake flowers, fake electric candles, and a terrifying and outlandishly comically-fake silver skeleton inside.   This is the wake of Glorious Excess. His life and times were too short.

Then after the funeral, the visitor enters into the two story open atrium. Blinding natural light floods this space, even brighter after the dark caves of the exhibition.  On one wall is a mural of a now be-winged Glorious Excess.  He is either on his way to up to Heaven or on his way down to somewhere else.  Because of his wings, and the brightness of the room, I think he is probably on his way up; this is a scene of Glorious Excess’s assumption.  It is also the end of the exhibition.

Glorious Excess rises to heaven?

Glorious Excess rises to heaven?

There is also closing wall text, which features more boring language and the following statement: “Relief serves as a reminder that life is temporal, transient and too short to obsess with the excess; moreover it is imperative that we realize that we each have a role in creating the world we hope to live in.” This random statement seems to be promoting Shinoda’s charity rather than making an artistic statement.

To exit the exhibition a visitor had to first go into the small theater adjacent to the exhibition.  But wait!—first the visitor has to wait for the next showing. A conveniently-obnoxious red digital clock counts down the seconds until a visitor is allowed in to view the movie.

Final countdown

Final countdown

The theater is small and lined in grey fabric; it is similar to a sound-proof recording studio, which is of course another reference to the music industry in which Shinoda works. The movie is not video art, but a documentary video (?). The content compromises shots of Shinoda at work, Shinoda on a Hollywood star tour, shots of red carpets and interviews with paparazzi.  Two celebrities that garner focus in the movie were Michael Jackson and Princess Diana.  The content about Michael Jackson is relevant, and was probably produced fairly quickly considering the events of Jackson’s death happened only two months before the Glorious Excess (Dies) exhibition opening.

Shinoda’s custom kicks

Shinoda’s custom kicks

After exiting the theater two more art works are displayed in the lobby: customized DC sneakers and Honda motorcycle.  Both products were customized by Shinoda, but more importantly DC and Honda are sponsors of the show. Clearly JANM is not considered with being discrete about its sponsorship.

And to finish, more product placement

And to finish, more product placement

– H.I.