Mang Mang – Artist Review


By Judith Yeh

http://www.mangmang.me/en/index.php

It isn’t often that one comes across a portrait artist who predominately takes portraits of themselves. So it is quite refreshing when I came across ShenZen, China-based artist – Mang Mang.

Mang Mang crafts sharp studio portraits embodying many facets of her own psyche. For Mang, an image can’t be too stylized for intimacy. She is unafraid to cut, re-arrange, blur, and distort otherwise straight-forward photographs of herself to better represent a concept. Unlike the material excess of Sherman—an undeniable inspiration—Mang’s prop choices are minimal and singular. Innocuous household items morph into emotionally charged fetishes and their relative harmlessness become a point of contention.

Mang’s stark white website reflects her noticeable aesthetic through her body of work, which often conveys themes of identity, travel, and sometimes violence. All through a clean, open, sharp composition and view point. However, there is a strong hidden idea of “love”; even if her work is filled with violence, gore, psychosis, metamorphosis, and beauty, they all connect to “love.”. While often turning the camera on herself, Mang is open to photographing others. As for the male figure she occasionally presents, “He was my fiancé, but we separated in the end.” Born Zhao Bing Bin, “Mang” means “blind,” a choice to “remind myself not only to rely on my eyes, but to use the heart to see the world.”

Jorge Pardo’s Mérida House – Art Review

In 2003 in Mérida artist Jorge Pardo started on a commission from the no longer existent London gallery Haunch of Venison. Pardo bought a small, dilapidated building between two houses in Mérida and used the $100,000 exhibition advance to completely renovate it. The renovations were designed by architects Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz who are both part of Pardo’s studio staff and have worked with him before on the building and renovating of homes for the purpose of exhibition. In 2005, the house was constructed at an accelerated pace by hundreds of local laborers. As the exhibition was due to take place in the London galley in 2008 the curator and Pardo came up with an idea: Pardo took over four thousand images of the houses interior, photographing every inch. He then used the images as a backdrop in the gallery’s exhibition space and created an abstract notion of a house. The entire house was mapped out onto the gallery space. Morphing one site into another. In front of the photographs, the room was filled with decoy furnishings, lamps and paintings that were superimposed on the photographs of the houses interior. The space also featured sculptures from all stages of Pardo’s career. The house built by Pardo in Mérida, Mexico basically became a photographic prop. It was an object that’s final destination was photography. It was displayed in absintena, in the commercial gallery, in a completely different city that was thousands of miles away.

An interesting relationship was created between Pardo’s house in Merida and the gallery in London. The exhibition in London served as a portal through to view his house in Mérida. Working between the site of his house in Mérida and the gallery in London is nothing new for Pardo. As an artist, he is always shifting between sites and spaces with many functioning studios across America. Pardo has been quoted in saying  “wherever I am, the studio is.” whether that be the house in Mérida, Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz house (the two architects working with Pardo), the workshop or his car that functions as a portable studio used to transport himself between the different locations. Pardo’s studio or site of art production is a completely flexible, fully reflexive, transdisciplinary process.

Pardos house in Mérida was the second house he has built as a surrogate artwork for exhibition. The first being 4166 Sea View Lane, Los Angeles a commission by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), in which every element was designed by Pardo: the house, lamps, furniture, tiles, garden, and kitchen cabinets. For five weeks in 1998, visitors were led on tours around the house. Once the exhibition finished Pardo moved in. For Pardo his houses in Mérida and Seaview Lane, LA, were still sculptures that conveniently function as residences for him to move into once the exhibition of the work has finished. It’s his works usefulness and functionality that prompts viewers and critics to ask questions of the work such as ‘Was it art? ‘Design?’ ‘Design art?’ or ‘Architecture?’ He has also been questioned in regards to scamming the gallery to build a free house for him to live. Pardo has long made functional sculptures and questioned traditional definitions and boundaries of art, using design, architecture, photography, painting, and sculpture.

Then and Now, Here and Nowhere – Exhibition Review

By John Fuller

Then and Now, Here and Nowhere – Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University Campus, Kelburn.

3 February – 12 April 2015

Artists: Gavin Hipkins, Peter Trevelyan, Shaun Waugh, Kates Woods and Brent Wong

The Adam Gallery is my favourite place for contemplating art in Wellington. Somehow, it works for me on a number of levels. The Adam flatters average art and makes great art shine. Perhaps that is what a well designed gallery is supposed to do. The current exhibitions (all three) are packed full of great art, so go and take a look, I can’t say much more than that.

This review will focus on “Then and now, Here and Nowhere”. The exhibition only features a few works, and plays on an interesting strategy of locating pieces from different artists and different generations side by side, challenging the viewer to think about what may have changed and what remains constant. Brent Wong’s arresting surrealist pieces from the late 60’s sit surprisingly comfortably with Kate Wood’s very contemporary and rather hypnotic video work, or her 3D photographic studies, which exist slightly awkwardly I feel, somewhere between kitsch and the sublime. Both artists attempt to fool around with the mind of the viewer, spark the imagination, question reality. Both do this successfully and both complement one another, despite the generational rift.

Gavin Hipkins and Shaun Waugh use photography to play similar games. Hipkins large work, “The Model (1999), is a dynamic series of small photographs featuring mathematical multi-faceted objects from the Victoria University Mathematics Department. The work can be reconfigured each time it is installed. It dominates the entire double level wall inside the Adam entry foyer and could arguably be called sculpture. Waugh plays with surrealism, but exploits digital technology to replace paint and brush. Again both these artists sit comfortably beside Wong in spite of time.

Arguably the odd one out in this picture is Peter Trevelyan. His sculptural piece is not typical of other work I have seen before. It plays on the notion of concealment, secret hiding places, in this case a cut out book amongst other books on a table. Of course the concealed compartment contains a small and delicate lattice type structure he is so well known for. For me, and I may be missing something here, this work does not sit well with Wong, but then again that may be the whole idea.

How have times changed? Artists have creative tools in 2015 that Brent Wong would not have even been able to imagine in 1969, yet he was able to create a surreal world with his paint, a world that shares so much with the work of these contemporary artists. It makes one wonder what he could do with an iMac and a digital camera.

Image. The Keeper. Brent Wong. (1969-75), oil on board

Petra Collins’ Instagram – Online Art Review

By Laura Duffy

Petra Collins is an American photographer and artist, currently working in New York. Petra often photographs adolescent girls with sensitivity towards the exploration of friendship, sexuality and youth. Using the representation of young experiences to encourage young people to become more comfortable within their own bodies.  Potentially reproducing the ideology that she’s trying to critique by discussing female sexuality and development from a male-gaze perspective specifically in her older work. I think she and working through the internalization of the male-gaze and progressing.

Petra seems to be interested in broadening the dissemination of her work outside of the gallery, as well as being involved with Rookie magazine she designed a t-shirt featuring masturbating menstrual blood for American Apparel. She is also very prominent within social media such as Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr. Utilising the mainstream space of fashion and magazines as well digital social media space, which could be said to be more popular than the gallery space for her target audience of young girls. Looking specifically at her Instagram, the photographs are being digitally exhibited, as well as simultaneously published to her account. As well as posting her own work and exhibitions, she includes influences to her life and work. I find this an interesting mixture of professional and personal, workbook and blog. Entering into the same space that she’s critiquing, the mainstream, she’s working from the inside out. As well as allowing easier, instant and international accessibility for viewers.

I found it really thought-provoking when Petra Collin’s Instagram was shut down after posting a picture in bikini bottoms with public hair showing. The photo was reported to Instagram by a number of anonymous users, exemplifying a societal force and regulation to the “norm”.  When interviewed by Oyster on the topic Petra Collin’s expressed her confusion and annoyance drew comparisons to the medias repetitious coverage on Rihanna’s face beaten up after being the victim of abuse. Questioning what is censored and what is not, why are we allowed to see so many horrific things yet censor the natural pubic hair of the female body? She finishes the interview with lingering questions for readers, “WHY you felt this way? WHY this image was so shocking? WHY you have no tolerance for it? Hopefully you will come to understand that it might not be you thinking these things but society telling you how to think.”

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Link to Petra Collins website where the Oyster interview is published:

http://www.petracollins.com/?page_id=222

Link to Petra Collins’ Instagram:

https://instagram.com/petrafcollins/

Image credit: Screenshot from Instagram & Petra Collins

S P A C E S at The Dowse – Exhibtion Review

Featuring artists such as Andrew Barber, Zac Langdon-Pole, Gavin Hurley, Kate Newby, Patrick Lundberg, Fiona Connor and Peter Peryer.

The Dowse Art Museum -13 Dec 2014 – 22 Mar 2015

By Kane Laing

Walking into the space of S P A C E S, the first words that enter my mind are “Looks like Contemporary Art”. It had a feeling of contemporariness with its mix of contemporary aesthetic tropes, the giant abstract canvas, the small paintings, the giant semi-abstract reduction painting, the recontextualised stack of bricks, the intimate black and white photo, and of course the removed and relocated staircases sculpture in the middle of the room. Not to mention the colour theme of grey and white.

On the wall-text of S P A C E S is written:

 “How do you exhibit architecture? The common answer is generally a combination of drawings, models, photography and film – media that may provide a helpful representation but can never quite match the experience of architecture itself. . . Through these works we may begin to notice the physical space around us, and start to ask questions: How much does architecture impact on art? How much does art impact on architecture? Is it possible for the spaces we see art in to be neutral? Are some spaces so interesting architecturally that they dwarf the art? Can art change the way we see and remember a space?”

I don’t feel like any of these really good questions were addressed, except maybe in the most vague manner that only contemporary artists could. It sounds like a wonderful seed to an exhibition, but in this case the exhibition bears boring fruits. The exhibiton was very cold to me and try-hard contemporary, I didn’t like it. It is the sort of exhibition that leaves me with the underwhelming feeling of “Art, who cares.”.

However it was still worthwhile seeing. The stair sculpture was actually totally reconstructed, which was interesting, but I then wondered if it was more interesting than bringing some real stairs in. I really like the painting by Patrick Newby and I am a fan of his stuff, but it does nothing for this exhibition. Some things are kind of nice but nothing gives the exhibition life. It isn’t a bad exhibition it’s just really boring.

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INSTALLATION VIEW WITH WORKS BY GAVIN HURELY, JOHN REYNOLDS & JULIAN DASHPER, AND PATRICK LUNDBERG. PHOTO: JOHN LAKE

I can see the interesting links to architecture in most of these works, but I felt uninspired and distant from the beauty or fascination that can be found in architecture everywhere. The wall text in the show is right on the money and I want to see a show that really embodies those questions. But, I’m sorry, 12 bricks stacked up is a shallow engagement with an interesting concept. To me that is the essence of what is wrong with contemporary art, it’s so vague and clinical, and it can be intimidating to some people when it is so inaccessible. I don’t think the public has to be spoon-fed and there is room for ambiguity and unknowing-tension in art, but at least make it engaging.

The alphabet-art show upstairs was much more fun.

Images taken from The Dowse website

http://dowse.org.nz/exhibitions/detail/spaces

The Unbearable Lightness of Art by Simon Mark Smith – Exhibition Review

By John Fuller

Little Chelsea Gallery, UK. – 7 – 29 June 2014

Simon Mark Smith is a UK based artist with an eclectic mix of talents, ranging from digital art, photography and writing through to traditional painting. He is also a singer/songwriter. This particular exhibition sparked my interest, not because of the art itself, which is almost incidental in my view, or the slightly deadpan presentation, but because of the philosophical and far-reaching questions Smith is asking through this art and the innovative methods he has used to set up a dialogue with the viewer .

This artist uses digital photo frames, iPads, paint, photography, QR codes and mixes them all up to create what I would best describe as an artistic quandary, a situation where the questions asked have no clear answers. In fact if anything they possibly lead to more questions.

The Unbearable Lightness of Art opens up a Pandora’s Box of debates around the value of virtual art vs the value of printed art vs the value of traditional media. It questions how and who decides this value and even tackles the issue of the value of the artist’s name.

Thrown into the mix are hybrid works, which utilise digital photo frames with real paint added directly to the screens. There are digital photographs of objects, which are printed, painted on and then re-photographed before being digitally altered and displayed virtually in digital frames. These are displayed next to the same images printed on paper. Again questions around value (both monetary and artistic) are asked. Does a digital image on an iPad have any value? When the same image is printed does its value change? Again more questions than answers.

Smith goes on to explore the longevity of virtual art, or more accurately its lack of longevity. Will it survive over time, or will it be lost? Does it exist at all if it is not printed? Is its lack of permanency a good thing or a bad thing? Finally he uses QR codes to generate dialogue and some virtual images, including one of a self-portrait which was constructed entirely on his iPad using graphics software. This is a highly realistic rendering of the artist generated by his use of software. Is it a self-portrait or a portrait produced by a machine? Again more questions than answers. I have a head ache.

Bonus Simon Mark Smith music track. WARNING don’t watch this if you hate Elvis.

Mongrel Mob Portraits – Jono Rotman

By Kane Laing

Every once in a while an artwork, artist or exhibition pops into the mainstream media’s view, usually because of some controversy or how expensive some piece of art is. The latest to pop up is Jono Rotman’s Mongrel Mob portraits. It is a stunning exhibition in The City Gallery with beautiful large-scale prints and a tight and effective edit, there are less than 15 images in the whole show. The high quality of the photographic portraits coupled with the human-size images is compelling and engaging, as is the photographer’s subject.

The subject of this exhibition is The Mongrel Mob, which is undoubtedly a recognizable part of New Zealand culture, and it is something that is surrounded by fear and hate. It is fascinating to see individuals from an exclusive part of our society presented to the public in this way, especially with the saturation of imagery worn on the clothes and skin of the gang members. But what is this exhibition achieving or trying to achieve? What is the real effect of staging such an exhibition?

A friend of mine who works at the city gallery had a member of the public ask “What do you think of these dropkicks?”, right off the bat the distaste towards these individuals is obvious and clear. In the news, controversy has sprung up around a particular individual who was on trial for murder, saying that it was disrespectful to the victims to glorify the man in such a way. In the exhibition catalogue book Dr Ranginui Walker writes “These portraits challenge us to ask: what are the hidden and untold stories that underlie them?”. In essence this is what the question the exhibition is attempting to evoke. Rotman is trying to photograph a maligned people in a respectful and neutral manner. I believe that the humanity of the subjects is what shines through in these portraits and it does offer an opportunity for reflection on what lies underneath our facades.

However, there is no denying the culture these individuals represent. A culture of crime, murder, teenage prostitution, drugs and violence. A world hidden to most people in New Zealand and a world still hidden in this exhibition. We know the second-hand stories about the Mongrel Mob, the stories we bring into the exhibition to relate to the images we see. Is that dangerous? Is this exhibition a fetishization of our gang culture for middle class white people (aka gallery-goers) to get their fix on? How many people from cultures such as the one in the exhibition’s subject go to art galleries? And is this exhibition inherently glorifying this gang culture? I don’t know.

What is underlying these questions and this exhibition is the fact that all behaviours and cultures are learned and are a product of environment. What is it that produced this culture? Is the violence and gang structure taken from maori tribe culture? Or are the swastikas, imagery, drug culture and violent behaviour learned from the western colonial culture? These questions and debates are really important for our society, and I wonder if this exhibition does enough to support it.

Installation view at Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland. Photo: Tobias Kraus