Carl Kostyál is delighted to present the Hungarian artist Bozó Szabolcs’ debut solo show in London.
To delve into the fantastical world of Bozó Szabolcs, born in 1992 in Pécs, Hungary and known simply as ‘Szabi’, is to encounter a cacophony of wild cartoon-ish animal figures, extravagantly colourful and full of an apparently untrammelled sense of mischief and joy. But these are not the familiar, Western icons of animation. No Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny here. His brushwork belongs to a post-war gesturalism, their shoes to 18th century cobblers’ creations. Something is not quite as it seems.
In truth these creatures are born out of the rich history of Hungarian animation, which has, from its auspicious beginnings in the 1910s, drawn on Hungarian folklore and mythology for its inspiration, with morality tales and the grotesque being the dominant aesthetic in those early days, later giving way to a fertile if constrained period in the 1950s when the industry was nationalised by the Communist state, eventually moving toward a focus on anxiety and claustrophobia in the 1970s and finally exploding into the heyday of iconography, clearly still heavily influenced by the preceding years, in the 1980s. It is this very specific Hungarian cultural legacy that informs Szabi’s lively cast of lovable characters.
In the 1950s, political pressures of the time strongly dictated the topics animation could cover. There was a deep suspicion across Communist/Socialist countries from Sweden to China of American resources and technology in the field and how they co-opted animation in particular to propulgate a positive image of the West and by contrast of course, a negative one of the East.
The Hungarian state invested so heavily in their national animation studio Pannónia that it rose to major international renown, competing with Walt Disney and Hanna Barbera. Nationalistic to the core, Hungarian folklore and traditions, the country’s artistic and musical legacy and the colours of the national costumes dominated the content of the cartoons produced in this period, with the explicit goal of fostering a sense of national pride in Hungary’s creative celebration of its homegrown history and legends that was good enough to compete with this American/Western narrative, if not even better.
These tales and figures endured even once the Wall came down in 1989 and independent animation studios sprang up, using bold irony and allegory to portray the Hungarian condition under Communist rule and pushing the boundaries of technical experimentation with plasticine, sand, coal, textiles and computer animation.
This is the aesthetic formation of Szabi’s paintings, absorbed by osmosis if not intent, along with the hand-puppets, first-generation computer games, comics and fables still ever-present in the Hungarian television programmes of his childhood, such as the well-known ‘Little Mole’ or the lesser-known ‘Süsü the Dragon’ which share some of the trippy and home-made qualities of the famous BBC children’s series of the 1960s, ‘The Magic Roundabout’ but informed by a rather more sinister history. The artist doesn’t simply replicate these figures of a now almost forgotten and uniquely Hungarian ‘pop’ culture, he extracts the melancholic, retro character of his animals and transforms them anew via an unabashed celebration of painting.
Szabolcs Bozó (b. 1992, Pécs, Hungary) lives and works in London.
Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Home Again’ at L21 Palma de Mallorca, Spain (2020); ‘Big Bang’ at Semiose Gallery, Paris (2020); and a two-person show with Richard Woods at L21, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (2019).
Group exhibitions include ‘Summer Summer Group Show’, Ross+Kramer, New York; ‘Kawaii’, Almine Rech, Shanghai (2021); ‘Stockholm Sessions’, Carl Kostyál Stockholm (2021); ‘Can’t Wait to Meet You’, Primary Projects, Miami (2021); ABC Gallery, Budapest (2020); ARCO, Madrid (2020); Ramp Gallery, London (2019) and L21 Gallery (2019). Bozó has participated in The North Hill Residency (Pasadena, CA) and L21xCamper Foundation (Mallorca) and will participate in the Carl Kostyál invitational artist residency with Canyon Castator at Mohilef Studios, Los Angeles in 2022. He will have a solo presentation with Carl Kostyál at ART021 Shanghai in November 2021.
Photo: Prudence Cuming. © the artist. Courtesy of Carl Kostyál
In Search of Possibilities of Hope
23.07.2021 — 20.08.2021
“Courage is grace under pressure”
Ernest Hemingway, The New Yorker, 1929
Carl Kostyál proudly presents In Search of Possibilities of Hope, a series of new paintings by New York-based Iranian artist Arghavan Khosravi.
The defining characteristic of Khosravi’s exquisite paintings is contradiction.
Her paintings are vehicles for the expression and containment, actually and metaphorically, of a host of contradictions and seemingly unresolvable tensions.
Formally and stylistically the works are at once traditional, experimental, conceptual, illustrative, flat and constructed. In their visual semiotics they blend East and West, past and present, reality and the surreal. In the hands of a lesser artist such a mélange could have descended into the vapidly postmodern (in the crudest understanding of the term). Here it is intentional and neurotically powerful. The visual baseline of Khosravi’s universe is a fearful instability.
This intensity is biographical in origin. Khosravi explains: “I was born soon after the Islamic Revolution… My paintings describe the double life I led throughout my childhood and teenage years, adhering to Islamic Law in public (ex. being forced to wear a headscarf, to pray and recite the Quran at school), while still being able to think and act freely in private.”
Now based in New York and having been unable to return to Iran for fear of being denied re-entry to the US due to its immigration policies, Khosravi describes her paintings as creating “a space to recast memories and process paradoxes of my childhood in Tehran, and ground my perspective as an Iranian now living in the US.”
This psychic and geographic dislocation finds formal expression in physical divisions and the juxtaposition of collaged elements in several works here. Entrapment, a smaller sized painting that brings to mind Persian miniature painting, a tradition that Khosravi is a strange heir to, is divided into quadrants. A young woman looks out at us, at once confident and wary. On the right-hand half she is dressed in contemporary fashion, on the left her face becomes, seemingly, a digital model of itself, features erased, articulated in neon-pink. Her shoulder and upper arm meanwhile are reduced to a ghostly white and transparent outline. A picture of a self, divided and only uncertainly present. Uniting the two sides is a thin red cord, starting as an earphone on the right, ending in the mouth of a Chinese dragon on the left.
Red cords, painted and actual, are a significant leitmotif in Khosravi’s work representing “the lines drawn by theocratic power.” Whereas in typical art discourse lines are innocent formal elements – Paul Klee – ‘A drawing is simply a line going for a walk’ – here they reify the repressive underlying ideology that structures the world of Khosravi’s paintings, viscerally recalled from her experience of growing up in a climate of private freedom and public censure.
In The Glow they, albeit loosely, bind the figure’s wrists together. In Connection another earphone cord becomes a red line of unsought inherited connection to the distant, patriarchal past, manifest as a painting of a classical Roman statue. In Insomnia, an astonishingly accomplished painting, the ersatz subject, with human arms and a statue’s head, lies bound by a lattice of red cords onto a hostile bed. The decoration of its bedcover has come to life as a menagerie of now threatening zoomorphic forms. Nowhere is safe.
For contingent cultural reasons Persian miniature painting evaded the censure of figuration common to Islamic art. An essentially private art form in terms of ownership and display, the miniatures were enjoyed and shown by their owner as they wished. Their intimate size embodied the luxury of choice. With subtle skill Khosravi overturns this conceit. After the memory of that tradition is filtered through the lived experience of Iran’s oppressive theocracy, that luxurious intimacy becomes psychologically claustrophobic. In the sadly beautiful Let me talk a young woman’s face, elegantly modelled and painted, is literally divided and compartmentalized, her nose and mouth and thus power of speech lost to an underlying void, crisscrossed with the red rope of repression.
In their psychological honesty and persistent commitment to beauty nonetheless they are, perhaps, emblematic expressions of grace under pressure. Courage in painted form.
Arghavan Khosravi (b. 1984, Tehran, Iran) lives and works in New York. She received her MFA at Rhode Island School of Design, and previously earned a BFA in Graphic Design from Tehran Azad University and an MFA in Illustration from the University of Tehran.
Her work has been exhibited at the Orlando Museum of Art, FL; Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan, China; Newport Art Museum, RI; Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA; Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York; M+B, Los Angeles; Lyles and King, New York; Yossi Milo Gallery, New York; Fridman Gallery, New York; Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York; Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York; Super Dutchess Gallery, New York; and Stems Gallery, Brussels.
Her work is in the collection of the Rhode Island of School of Design Museum in Providence, RI; Newport Art Museum, RI; Private Collection of Rosanne Somerson, President, Rhode Island of School of Design, Providence, RI; and Recharge Foundation, New York as well as several private collections.
This is her first solo exhibition with Carl Kostyál London.
©the artist. Photography ©Carl Kostyál (Yuki Shima)
Rebecca Ness: Windows and Worlds
Text by Morgan Aguiar-Lucander
We are fascinated by what others choose to collect. Whether it be paintings, books, stamps, or royal commemorative plates, the same set of objects bewilders one viewer while entrancing another. Neither onlooker, however, leaves the encounter apathetic. From the charming to the heinous we are unwaveringly intrigued by what others devote time and resources towards, in the pursuit of a stronger collection.
Collecting is an impossible task to complete; from the Broad to the Beyeler, the ever elusive perfect collection remains perpetually out of reach. A notion the arguably foremost American narrative writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, recognized in the closing of his preeminent novel: “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further… And one fine morning—.” It is the enduring pursuit of this aim that engages us, and in turn propels the collector forward.
The dreaded phrase “What’s in your collection?” is a statement greeted with disagreeable familiarity by all who have ever dabbled in the turbulent waters of the commercial art world. In answering this discourteous inquiry the collector bares a part of his soul, defrocking himself in a ritual act, in the slight hope that he might be able to absorb an additional sacred object into his collection.
In this presentation of paintings, Rebecca Ness grants us windows of access to examine the menagerie of objects from specific individual’s worlds. In contrast to the barbed inquisition of the art dealer, however, Ness’ lifting of the curtain is an act of encouraged curiosity rather than scrutinizing judgment. In this sense the presentation of these paintings parallels an archeological excavation; Ness has gathered, dusted off and arranged these objects so that they may provide a commentary on both individual and societal identity. Ness pursues this cultural excavation in much the same way an archeologist might dedicated her life towards the reconstruction of Pompeian pottery: in the firm belief that we must look back to understand where we came from, and consequently who we are.
Instead of Pompeii, Ness showcases the cultural relics of a suburban Americana in its twilight: model Corvettes and locomotives, whittled animal figurines amongst crumpled U-Haul boxes. Ness asserts that America’s commercialism, or perhaps in plainer words its stuff, holds the key to our existential quandary. That it is the objects we keep, demonstrating their value in our very allocation of spatial and emotional real estate, which in turn constitute a significant part of our identities on both the collective and individual level. The battle of nature vs. nurture is ultimately resolved by Ness through the assertion: you are what you eat—namely the objects we consume.
Ness does not didactically declare this proposition, instead through a smattering of objects and facial expressions we are left to construct the narrative skeleton of her argument from the fragments scattered amongst the sweeping compositions of her paintings.
Painters throughout history have indulged in rich and varied compositions in the pursuit of societal critique. Bronzino’s An Allegory with Venus and Cupid balances an artistic indulgence of colour and form in its moralistic cautioning of unchaste desire. While the Flemish brush of the 17th Century critiques the excess of its day through stage lit still-lifes, vanitas paintings and memento mori, the Florentine altarpiece heralds and celebrates the craftsmen of the guild in its corresponding use of rich colour and punctuated gold. Ness has more in common with the Florentine than the Dutch painter.
Carl Kostyál proudly presents Seven Sisters, New York-based artist Cynthia Talmadge’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Installed in the context of Kostyál’s home in Milan – the piano nobile of a 19th century palazzo re-modelled in 1963 by Milanese architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni – is Talmadge’s new body of work, Pointillist paintings of Brutalist architecture seen in the snow on the Seven Sisters campuses.
Seven Sisters is the collective appellation for a group of liberal arts colleges located in the northeastern United States. Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Radcliffe College, Smith College, Vassar College and Wellesley College were all originally founded in the 19th century to provide women with an educational equivalent to the (then male-only) Ivy League.
While Pointillism occupies a comfortable place in bourgeois official art history and Talmadge’s works are highly accomplished in its conventions, the depictions themselves are, as the artist describes them, “very desolate images that evoke the feeling of being the only person left in the dorms over winter break.” Seurat reinterpreted through Sylvia Plath (Smith ’55), perhaps.
The works continue Talmadge’s unfolding engagement with darker corners of the firmament of American cultural history. Previous subjects of the artist’s saturnine interest have included reimaginations of illustrious chemical dependency treatment facilities, and, more recently, the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, a fixture of New York’s Upper East Side that hosted farewells for the likes of Igor Stravinsky, Rudolph Valentino, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Judy Garland, Tennessee Williams, Joan Crawford, and Biggie Smalls, amongst many others.
As Roberta Smith observed of the latter series in the New York Times, “Like Monet painting the Rouen Cathedral, Ms. Talmadge has painted the funeral home’s facade from different angles, in different seasons, at different times of day. But she has side-stepped Impressionism’s speedy improvisation for an implicitly static style. The dot-by-dot pointillism… is a method that has all the deliberation and precision of a funeral director preparing a corpse for an open coffin.”
The Seven Sisters paintings are more emotive, suffused with a general sense of constant low-intensity oppression. A quiet and powerful mix of emotional, visual, and art-historical intelligence is evident throughout the works. In Campus Safety (Wellesley College), 2020, the viewer is positioned at the lower ground floor exit of a brutalist building, looking up a flight of stairs past the blue light of a campus security emergency call box at a Neo-Gothic chapel ahead, all seen through falling snow. Any sense of immanent ascension in the work, however, is replaced by a more deadpan visual assessment: this is what is, and what must be faced.
In Welcome Freshmen, 2020, the ghostly reflection of a Federal style red brick building hovers in the panes of a functional array of tall, modernist windows, broken by a twisted banner welcoming a past fall’s incoming class, as well as by the silhouettes of predatory birds (stickers used to frighten off smaller birds that are often injured by flying into windows) – symbols of mobility rendered inert.
Carrel, 2020, depicts the interior of a library in a warmer palette. A cramped study desk and chair sit constrained by the concrete and glass geometry. A Wellesley College pennant is affixed to the raw (“brut”) cement wall, its proud letters tapering to nothing. In bypassing the picturesque views of these institutions in favor of a focus on the brutalist structures that punctuate their more traditionalist campus architecture, Talmadge questions how a building style that originated in European socialist utopianism came to advertise the egalitarian aims of schools originally created for the daughters of an American WASP elite, whether those aspirations are in any way fulfilled by the contemporary “meritocracy” these institutions now embody, and what the emotional repercussions for the occupants of these buildings might be.
Beyond its dense emotional charge, Talmadge’s Pointillism also makes a sharp historical connection. The Seven Sisters colleges were founded during the same period as the most prestigious art institutions in the US northeast, including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Art Institute of Chicago. Here, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, once radical, were to be smoothly appropriated by the soft power of the same establishment culture the colleges were founded to serve, prefiguring the strange role of the modernist architecture on the campuses Talmadge depicts. Taken together, the subjects of the show and the rendering of those subjects produce an intimate portrayal of what happens when promise and potential meet power and its institutions.
Against this intricate cultural-historical backdrop, unseen but psychologically present in all the work, is Talmadge herself: “I’m always trying to understand the moment when my personal reaction to something sincerely painful or terrifying approaches cinematic cliché. I’m both attracted to and repulsed by this tendency, and interested in using my work to understand what it means, refining and stylizing artifacts from actual lived trauma to the point where they connect to shared cultural vocabularies.”
Cynthia Talmadge holds a Bachelor of Arts in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. She lives and works in New York. This is her first solo exhibition at Carl Kostyál. She will participate in Carl Kostyál’s invitational residency programme Fontana di Vita in Matera later this year.
Past solo presentations include 1076 Madison, 56 HENRY (2019) As the World Turns, Halsey McKay Gallery, New York (2018), Leaves of Absence, 56 HENRY (2017). Talmadge has participated in group shows at galleries and cultural institutions throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, including Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles; Mana Contemporary, New Jersey; Almine Reich, New York; Nina Johnson Gallery, Miami; Fisher Parrish, Brooklyn; Tina Kim Gallery, New York; the Architecture & Design School, Free University of Tbilisi, Georgia; the Foam Museum, Amsterdam; Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York; Amsterdam Fund for the Arts; Albert Merola Gallery, Provincetown, Massachusetts; Monya Rowe Gallery, St. Augustine, Florida; Aperture Gallery, New York; Beaconsfield Gallery, Vauxhall, London; De Markten, Brussels; JOAN, Los Angeles; LeRoy Neiman Gallery, New York; Atelier Néerlandais, Paris; Pioneer Works, Brooklyn; Superchief Gallery, Los Angeles and Petrella’s Imports, New York.
Photo: Emiliano Scatarzi; ©the artist. Courtesy of Carl Kostyál
Austin Lee & Mark Thomas Gibson
11th June – 11th July 2021
Carl Kostyál Gallery at Hospitalet, Stockholm, Sweden
General opening times:
Book your visit with email@example.com
American Psyche is a two-person show featuring paintings by artists Austin Lee (b. 1983, Las Vegas) and Mark Thomas Gibson (b. 1980, Miami) presented by Carl Kostyál Gallery at Hospitalet in Stockholm.
The paintings in American Psyche have developed after a tumultuous year in the United States with history unfolding as the show was being planned. Austin Lee and Mark Thomas Gibson take on different approaches to how directly the outside world is visible in their works. Both artists have created their own visual language and approach to making art that reflects their own personal and emotional experience through the language of painting.
Gibson explains “I think it is important to take two artists living through the same moment where race, class, politics and health (mental/physical) are directly on the table. The shows that typically ask these questions generally operate in separate hermetically sealed vacuums where race and gender construction is the price of the ticket for entry. Often the entry that ticket provides bolsters predetermined outcomes in the associations of the work presented. Rarely do we have time or are we asked to present work that may work to complicate our pre affirmed understanding of art”.
The horse is present in both artists’ works and is a motif that goes back throughout art history. The shared subject helps highlight each artist’s unique approach, Lee’s horses evoke emotion and mindspace while Gibson uses storytelling to put his horses to work, assigning them roles like actors in a play. The show is an opportunity to not only look at individual works but also to reflect on different approaches to painting and how it is intertwined with experience and consciousness.
Hospitalet art space is a collaboration between Carl Kostyál Gallery and Gullringsbo Konstsamling. Hospitalet is located in the central atrium of what was once the infamous mental asylum known as Danviks Hospital. Designed by the architect Göran Josuæ Adelcrantz and completed in 1725, it housed not only those considered mentally unstable but also many whose political views were considered inconvenient. Often referenced in 18th century literature, most notably in Fältskärns berättelser by Zacharias Topelius in the 1780s, Danviken was used in common parlance as a synonym for the mad house.
Directions to Hospitalet: SL commuter boat 80, departs from Nybroplan and arrives Saltsjöqvarn. Journey takes 16 minutes. Walk to the right when you get off, for about 100 m. By car or taxi: Drive to the end of Saltsjöqvarns Kaj, via the tunnel coming from Henriksdal.
Hospitalet Stockholm comes up in Google Maps. Very limited parking in front of Hospitalet.
Coming from Södermalm: Walk from Henriksdal bus stops or Londonviadukten/Danviksbron. Address: Hospitalet, Sjökvarnsbacken 15131 71 Nacka
Photo: Viktor Fordell; © the artist. Copyright Carl Kostyál
Carl Kostyál London is proud to present Revenge Body, Emma Stern’s first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition is open from 13th May to 12th June 2021.
Borrowing from the visual vocabulary of online niche subcultures such as fursonas, fandom and 3D erotica, Stern plays with the quasi-pornographic representation of women in the virtual world, combining traditional painterly techniques such as monochromatic underpainting and chiaroscuro with virtual 3D programmes and modelling to create eerily anonymous, finely-worked ‘portraits’, reclaiming these man-made avatars for the female domain.
“What my work is most critical of is the inherent inclination toward pornographic (or at least porn-adjacent) representations of women throughout cyberspace. As our virtual selves become ever-more inextricable from our physical selves, I’m interested in how the preferences of the programmers are imposed on virtual female bodies within the largely male-dominated arena of software and technology.”
– Emma Stern in conversation with Evan Malachosky, Cool Hunting, 2019.
“There are recurring female archetypes that appear all throughout history but are especially pronounced in the world of 3d fandom and pornography: the cheerleader, the cowgirl, the pin-up girl, the bimbo, the secretary, the girl next door… and then when you start involving all these niche internet/gamer subcultures, you get these fantasy elements and wind up with the slutty elf, sexy centaur, the warrior princess and so on. All these characters are recognisable even if you’ve never seen them before, so they have their own narratives in a way, because they are archetypal.”
–Emma Stern, De:Formal, 2020.
Emma Stern (b. 1992) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute’s School of Painting.
Recent solo shows include ‘Slow Fade’, The Newsstand Project, Los Angeles (2020); ‘Works’, Jorge Andrew Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2017); ‘Tabs’, Stream Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2015). Stern has an upcoming solo show at Carl Kostyál, Stockholm in November 2021.
Recent group shows include ‘Stockholm Sessions’, Carl Kostyál, Stockholm (2021); ‘Resting Point of Accommodation’, Almine Rech, Brussels (2021); ‘The Artist is Online’, Konig Gallery, Berlin (2021); ‘Friend Zone’, Half Gallery, New York (2021); ‘06’, PM/AM, London (2020); ‘Escapism’, Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York (2020) and ‘American Woman’, Allouche Benias Gallery, Athens, Greece (2020).
We are delighted to announce the launch of Carl Kostyál’s new permanent space Hospitalet, in collaboration with Gullringsbo Konstsamling at the former Danvikens Hospital, Danviken, Stockholm.
The inaugural exhibition is a comprehensive survey of contemporary painting entitled Stockholm Sessions. Taking its title from the famous Stockholm Jazz Sessions of the 1960s, the exhibition features over fifty artists and it will be open from 7th to 30th May 2021.
Diana Yesenia Alvarado, Hangama Amiri, Amanda Baldwin, Gina Beavers, Ana Benaroya, Szabolcs Bozó, Andrea Marie Breiling, Coady Brown, Marcus Brutus, Alejandro Cardenas, Shawanda Corbett, Jingze Du, Camilla Engström, Oli Epp, Francesca Facciola, Liam Fallon, Marcela Flórido, Alex Gardner, Jan Gatewood, Alfonso Gonzalez Jr., Jenna Gribbon, Alexander Guy, Daniel Heidkamp, Jocelyn Hobbie, Cathrin Hoffmann, Sam Jablon, Kara Joslyn, Susumu Kamijo, Arghavan Khosravi, Hannah Lupton Reinhard, Chason Matthams, Daniele Milvio, Rebecca Ness, Ariana Papademetropoulos, Harrison Pearce, Joshua Petker, César Piette, Edgar Plans, Jesse Pollock, Paul Rouphail, Conrad Ruiz, Wahab Saheed, Christian Santiago, Koichi Sato, Benjamin Spiers, Emma Stern, Constance Tenvik, Felix Treadwell, Jess Valice, Emma Webster, Hampus Wernemyr, Brittney Leeanne Williams, Tyrrell Winston, Sun Yitian, Tan Yongqing, Jon Young, Allison Zuckerman.
ABOUT THE SPACE
Hospitalet is located in the central atrium of what was once the infamous mental asylum known as Danvikens Hospital. Designed by the architect Göran Josuæ Adelcrantz and completed in 1725, it housed not only those considered mentally unstable but also many whose political views were considered inconvenient. Often referenced in 18th century literature, most notably in Fältskärns berättelser by Zacharias Topelius in the 1780s, danviken was used in common parlance as a synonym for the mad house.
131 71 Näcka
Exhibition dates: 6th – 30th May 2021
Opening hours: Thursday – Friday 12–6pm, Saturday – Sunday 12–4pm
To visit the show, please book your appointment via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
By boat: From Nybroplan, take SL commuter boat 80 from 16 minutes to Saltsjöqvarn
By bus: To Henriksdal
By car: Drive to the end of Saltsjöqvarns Kaj.
Photography ©Carl Kostyál (August Eriksson)
Throughout the history of images, women and cars have had a fraught relationship. Often flung together in the pursuit of profits, women’s bodies have been used to market cars to men since advertisers managed to equate the purchase of the car, with the lifestyle the woman draped atop it represented. The automobile is a cultural manifestation of the American dream: the freedom to roam beyond the horizon and to remake oneself in the image of one’s own ambition. Yet it is precisely through the leveraging of women’s sensuality, that the car has been transformed into an American symbol of success, freedom and virility. A parallel thread of association exists through art history, running from the Italian Futurists, through to Richard Prince’s appropriated Marlboro Cowboy, and perhaps finding its apex in Jeff Koon’s Hoover vitrines: at once sterile objects and yet intensely eroticized.
In this new body of work, Ana Benaroya inverts the looking glass. While the women represented in these images retain their seductive allure, they are simultaneously empowered as protagonists. By transforming the male gaze into a womanly one, Benaroya endows her figures with the qualities traditionally ascribed to the machismo viewer: strength, appetite and influence. By reconceiving and recasting the target market of these images—to whom they speak and ultimately exist for—Benaroya presents a revisionist reading of this art history.
Benaroya began the series by reading Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s 1909 Manifesto of Futurism, engaging the text’s fanatical equation of machination, violent passion and speed with masculinity. While Benaroya alludes to Giacomo Balla and other Futurists’ use of gestural expression, intensity of color, and fascination with the intersection between person and machine, for Benaroya it is woman who stands at the Romantic forefront, pushing the work and the viewer to absolute velocity.
Benaroya bridges artistic and cultural traditions in her presentation of this revisionist history. Woman exists both as the object of the viewer’s desire, and as the author of narrative action. Works such as Hocus Pocus, On the Run, and The Green Empress leave no room for ambiguity as to who is in the driver’s seat. By pairing the figures’ powerful muscular anatomy with a femininity that exudes moments of tenderness, Benaroya imparts a new nature to these images: particularly evident in the lingering gaze between the easy riding Desperado and her animated exhaust fumes. While it may be possible to detect a sense of desire in the Futurists’ work, there is certainly no intimacy present. It is in these moments, in the combination of strength and sentiment, where Benaroya’s feminist revision is at its most innovative.
Benaroya’s womanly figures are indeed immensely muscular, seemingly constituted from wells of vivid color; yet while they may be fantastical by nature, the emotions and relationships between these women anchor them to our experiential reality. Through this dual nature, Benaroya’s works simultaneously embrace the fanciful and exist as emotional biographies. We must remember that Benaroya’s images, just as the midcentury automobile billboards, are made with a preconceived viewer and motive in mind.
Throughout this body of work Benaroya reflects on how women and their bodies were, and continue to be used to sell a hyper-masculine conception of success, freedom and conquest. While the advertisement suggests that if you buy the car you might get the girl, Benaroya liberates and empowers the women of these images, inverting the notion entirely. There is no doubt that it is we, the viewer, in the passenger seat and that these women are behind the wheel. Buckle up!
Text by Morgan Aguiar-Lucander
©the artist. Photography ©Carl Kostyál (Prudence Cuming)
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The Bible (King James version), Book of Genesis 1:26.
Carl Kostyál London is proud to present Weltlandschaft, Emma Webster’s first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition opens on 11th March and runs until 5th April 2021.
The exhibition comprises a series of large oil on linen works, painted with a seductive fluidity and bravura. They are, both in their subject and in-and-of-themselves, contemporary landscape paintings.
Contemporary, here, signifies a strange mixture of the attractive, the artificial and the unsettling. Amidst the lusciousness of the brushwork and the vibrancy of the paint, there is a jarring, even quietly sinister quality about Webster’s landscapes. They subtly evoke, perhaps, the sensibility of an arthouse horror movie. Beneath the pleasant surface, something is wrong.
To the eye conditioned by the illusionistic traditions of Western painting, it is the sense of depth in the works that is most clearly awry, scrambled as it is by passages of unexpected flatness and weird interrelations between the fore, middle and back grounds.
In Natural History the immediate distraction of the densely painted foliage in the foreground gives way to an oddly flat and close vista of a waterfall, that, within the logic of the painting, we realise is probably a painted backdrop. In Dove Hollow, the constructed quality of the depicted space is revealed by shadows of branches cast improbably onto a patch of fake sky and an awkwardly out-of-place screen of ersatz greenery. The conceit becomes explicit in Background’s Backdrop in which an aggressively lit collection of bare, silvery trunks cast warped shadows onto a backdrop behind them.
Webster’s paintings are, most immediately, paintings of dioramas she constructs in her studio from animal figurines, plastic foliage and backdrops of collaged elements of canonical landscape paintings. More expansively they are paintings that remember the history of the landscape painting and speak also of the often messy and pathetic interface between meatspace and the digital realm.
Weltlandschaft, (transl. ‘world landscape’) the show’s title, is a term that was coined to describe a trend that emerged in some 16th century painting in the Low Countries and Germany. These works depicted imaginary, panoramic landscapes seen from God’s-eye view that encompassed the gamut of topographical elements; mountains, lowlands, coasts, waters and buildings. Coinciding with the early years of the Age of Exploration and thus colonization, it was a development similarly fuelled by the prejudice that nature was something to be measured and tamed by human exceptionalism. The world as property. Interestingly the genre’s most prominent example is Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, in which, famously, Icarus’ fatal fall into the sea is an incidental, almost unnoticed detail.
Half-a-millennia later the fatal consequences of humanity’s hubris are writ all over the land, air and sea. Yet the deadpan implication of Webster’s paintings is that we’d rather stay cocooned in a world of cheap fiction. Like the obsessive fans of Chinese livestreaming ‘stars’ who choose to believe in the backdrops depicting luxury penthouses and five-star environments that frame the performed lives of their idols, we’d rather not look behind the curtain.
Emma Webster (USA/UK, b. 1989) lives and works in Los Angeles. She earned an MFA in Painting from Yale School of Art (2018) and BA in Art Practice from Stanford University (2011).
Recent exhibitions include Alexander Berggruen, New York, Lancaster Museum of Art & History (MOAH), Lancaster, CA; Zevitas Marcus, Los Angeles; Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York; Joshua Liner Gallery, New York; Thomas Erben, New York; and Next to Nothing, New York. Her work is in the collection of the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.
She will also participate in the group exhibition Stockholm Sessions at Carl Kostyál, Stockholm in May 2021.
©the artist. Photography ©Carl Kostyál (Prudence Cuming)
Chinese artist Li Shurui (b.1981, Chongqing) is a central figure on the Beijing contemporary art scene. Born and raised in Chongqing, in South-West China, Li Shurui is part of a new generation of Chinese artists – born between the late 1970s and 1980s – who distanced themselves from the memories of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). This generation greatly benefitted from the radical economic reforms and social changes that took place across the country, and its artistic community began to look both to Chinese art history and that of the West.
Li Shurui entered art school with the intention of studying traditional Chinese ink painting, but rebellious against its formalist training and strictures, she developed a more intuitive and sensory approach to her practice. As the artist explains: “In our education, there is traditional Chinese ink painting and Socialist Realism, but not modern nor abstract art; it jumps directly into contemporary art” [..] When I started my ‘Lights’ series I had no idea what Op Art was. It was in my DNA to choose such a style of art, and my concept of light is always inseparable from that of space. I strive to my best ability, for my work to be able to control the mind, soul and body, to overcome language barriers and the inertia of logic; and for my audience to experience and enter the realm of my artistic conception.” – Li Shurui in conversation with Phaidon, December 2012.
Li Shurui’s interest in light stems from her personal observations of Chongqinq’s nightscape. Fascinated by the visual patterns of LED lights, so much an integral part of the modern Chinese cityscape, she began to depict their optical illusion and spatial depth. Li’s interest in light also derives from her experience as an art assistant in Beijing, where she realised that “what you paint is unimportant, what matters is the viewer’s physical and sensory experience” – Wu Jianru, LEAP Magazine, 2014.
Her early paintings are based on personal photographs. Human figures can be vaguely discerned within a whirl of motion and hallucinogenic light. Yet Li’s paintings are not frenetic, but meditative and calming. The psychedelic effect of the image envelops the viewer in an alternate reality.
In her more recent series, the shadowy figures dissolve into pure abstraction. Li accentuates the spatial dimension of her paintings, pushing against the limits of the picture plane to reach the realm of geometrical and three-dimensional compositions.
“I always reflect on the implications of the concepts of abstraction and non-abstraction, representation and non-representation.. My early paintings were similar to a network of matrix, then I slowly started enlarging each independent dot, transforming them into celestial and luminous bodies or circular shapes.” Li Shurui, SuperELLE Magazine, November 2020.
Li Shurui (b. 1981, Chongqing), lives and works in Beijing. She received her BFA at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (SFAI) in 2004. In 2016, Li was granted the New York Fellowship Program of Asian Cultural Council (ACC).
She has presented solo exhibitions at New Galerie, Paris, France; Salt Project, Beijing, China; White Space Beijing, Beijing, China and Connoisseur Art Gallery, Hong Kong. She will have a solo exhibition at Long Art Museum, Shanghai in January 2021.
Her works have been exhibited in several group shows in major institutions and museums, including Constellation, Georgian National Museum Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery, Tbilisi, Georgia (2017); No Man’s Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C., USA (2016); Turning Point: Contemporary Art in China Since 2000, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2016); No Longer / Not Yet, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2015); Jing Shen: The Act of Painting in Contemporary China, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC), Milan, Italy (2015); 28 Chinese, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA (2015); About Painting, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), Xi’An, China (2014).
In 2019 Li Shurui was commissioned to design a special, limited edition handbag for Christian Dior, based on a painting by the artist from the John Dodelande Collection. Christina Dior launched Li Shurui’s handbag during Art Basel Hong Kong 2019.
Li’s paintings are housed in major private and public collections, including The Estella Collection, US; The Rubell Family Collection, US; Ullens Collection, Beijing; Domus Collection, Beijing; Long Museum, Shanghai; John Dodelande Collection, France; and DSL Collection, Paris.
The Belgrade-born Maja Djordjevic is known for her digitally-native aesthetic sensibility and her innate ease within the realms of computer-generated visual syntax and digital manipulation.
Djordjevic’s work has from the very beginning directly engaged with the legacies of deskilling, net art, and feminist figuration. Its use of antiquated Microsoft Paint software and expressly simplified essential forms deliberately eliminates the dogmatic pressure of technical prowess and institutionalized criteria of virtuosity as well as exclusionary connotations of tech-agility and opaquely seamless coding associated with misogynistic preconceptions and attitudes.
What has always attracted Djordjevic to the aesthetic of Microsoft Paint, an early bitmap graphics program whose crude algorithm generates colour pixels so large as to pre-emptively foreclose any possibility of granular detail or advance chromatic modulation, is the paradoxical rawness and immediacy that its unadulterated shapes convey to and from a vantage point of someone raised with the pixelated vocabularies of Sega, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man as points of foundationally constitutive reference.
That is not to say that Djordjevic’s work lacks in skill or labour investment – quite the contrary. Indeed, the multi-stage process entailed by the artist’s method is both manually rigorous and time-consuming. It begins with Djordjevic composing – or, more accurately, sketching from direct immediacy of an inspired moment – her compositions in Microsoft Paint. This is then followed by a meticulously precise process that sees the artist scrupulously replicating the digital images pixel-by-pixel and line-by-line in glossy, sumptuously bright enamel oil paint, relying purely on hand and without the aid of customary projectors or masking tape. The choice of medium here is instructive as well – Djordjevic has settled on the enamel paint for the uniquely reflective quality of its surface – as close as one could possibly get to an approximation of the computer monitor itself. In this way, the resulting works are left forever oscillating between the extremes of forgetting or jettisoning of the painterly skill and its deliberate recuperation and celebratory exacerbation through the artist’s craftsmanship and manual virtuosity.
Motifs unmistakably specific to the female experience customarily absent from the language of video games of Djordjevic’s cohort of contemporary digitally-native artists sharply distinguish her uniquely feminist take on these elements of new ubiquity. Thus, while mining the same discursive fields that shape the current artistic landscape of her peers, Djordjevic’s combination of deliberately and daringly simplistic “still rendering” visual elements with deeply personal linguistic expressions charts a feminist path all of its own.
Djordjevic turns to the title of her favourite song, This Must Be the Place, by the Talking Heads for a source of this exhibition’s title – a reflection of both the inextricably personal nature of these works and their deeply interior source of origin – a proverbial snapshot of the artist’s inner monologues and idle ideations divorced from any modifying outside influence. Conceived in the months of the global lockdown, all of the paintings in the show speak to this unique historic moment and the longings that it engenders.
Home is where I want to be is both the title of one of the paintings in the show, the first line of the Talking Heads song, and an inspiration for the exhibition’s unusual layout. “Home is where we’re all supposed to be right now” – Djordjevic observes, “so I decided to make furniture from my paintings – a table and a chair so that we can all “sit” and have a thought about the places where we dream to be, where we were, and where we are now – a home where we want to be. The paintings themselves show these kinds of situations”.
While Djordjevic’s canvases are hardly ever devoid of a healthy dose of humour and darkly ironic self-reflection, the situations her signature “naked girl” stick figures find themselves in here are distinctly reflective of a kind of particular COVID Derangement Syndrome of fidgetiness – spread out on the table (THIS MUST BE THE PLACE), serving up daisies on a dinner plate (I am serving you), hanging upside down from the rooftop (My point of view) – they’re restless, sleepless, and decidedly not sober. It is as if the physical works themselves have imbibed the spirit of confined restlessness and want to stand, and lay down, and rotate sideways in search for a new perspective – on themselves, as well as each other:
Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me around (…)
I guess I must be having fun …
Maja Djordjevic (b. 1990, Belgrade, Serbia) has completed her BFA and MFA at the University of the Arts, Belgrade.
Her works were featured by Carl Kostyál in the group show ‘Malmö Sessions’, Ystadvägen 22, Malmö, Sweden (2019). Djordjevic also participated in the artist residency ‘Draw Jam 2019’ organised by the galleries at Masseria Fontana di Vite, Matera, Italy.
Djordjevic recent solo exhibitions include: ‘I’m Always Different Person’, Dio Horia, Athens, Greece (2019); ‘I Will Find You’, Dio Horia, Mykonos, Greece (2018); ‘Body Building’, The Hole, New York (2017); ‘This Is What Is Not’, U10 Art Space, Belgrade, Serbia (2016); ‘I Don’t Know You, But I Love You’, Dio Horia, Mykonos, Greece (2015); ‘DOODLES’, Galerija KM8, Goethe Institute, Belgrade, Serbia (2015); ‘SLIKE’, Galerjia Kulturnog centra Rnbica, Kraljevo, Serbia (2015). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Carl Kostyál Gallery; The Library Street Collective, Detroit; The Garage, Amsterdam; The Hole, New York; U10 Art Space, Belgrade; and Museum of Contemporary Vojvodina, Serbia.
– Text by Valerie Mindlin
Alexander Guy (b. 1962, St Andrews, Fife) moved from Dundee, Scotland to London in 1985 to begin his Masters at the Royal College of Art. This was a richly rewarding time for Guy, who emerged as a potential painting superstar from the course: Bob Geldof was one of his first collectors. A teaching position at the Glasgow School of Art followed, and in 1990, he was invited to participate in artist residencies in New York and Tennessee. Glasgow’s Museum of Art acquired his work and he was shortlisted for the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize in 1993. However his battle with addiction began to undercut this momentum and he became homeless for a time. His paintings subsequently got lost, destroyed or stolen when he could no longer afford to pay the rent for his storage units. Galleries he worked with went bankrupt and with that, more paintings disappeared. In spite of all of these trials, he continued to paint.
An obsessive admirer of Guy’s work since art school, Oli Epp was determined to find him and talk to him. Guy had no social media, no mobile number or working email address. Through the sheer luck of finding his fiancé, Caroline Gormley, on facebook, with whom Guy runs an art school in Paisley, they were finally connected. From there, the mission began to track down his paintings, which were found in warehouses in Italy, Germany and France. Oli brought in Carl Kostyál to help in the mission and together they have spent the last year hunting down Guy’s best surviving paintings in order to present the first retrospective exhibition of his work from 1986 to the present.
As an artist, Guy has a genuine thirst to engage with real people and places, painting what he calls the ‘tacky realism’ of modern life. His oeuvre functions as an incredible encyclopaedia of behaviours, trends and pop culture in Thatcherite Britain. He is the UK’s modern-day Domenico Gnoli. Guy’s version of Pop art, where banal branded objects occupy the space (the canvas) formally dedicated to ‘high’ art, has a humanist feel. Kleenex, Greggs, Mr Kipling, Harpic, Starbust could not be said to be seductive graphically as elements of every day consumption but Guy renders them almost to a photo-realist degree, and with a kind of nostalgia that brings these objects strangely to life.
He ploughs through art history for familiar motifs and subjects in the same way that he eagerly gathers images from the internet, combining them with details, objects and people from his own daily life. He treats every subject with the same raw, quasi-photorealist approach: folk at the pub, celebrities, pornography, rubber dinghies, sneakers, overflowing ashtrays, loo roll, cleaning products, dog food – all are potential fodder for his sharp and unforgiving eye.
The crude freshness of his aesthetic evokes the metaphysical compositions of Giorgio de Chirico and the naive style of late Philip Guston, whilst also nodding to the urgency of the social realism of the Mexican muralists. There is a simultaneously smooth and thick impasto handling of paint and the work glows with a saturated, artificial intensity. A dark roughness creeps around the edges of his everyday objects and people, yet it never fully penetrates the bold spirit of his work. He paints the bleak reality of everyday life, transforming it with an electric potency, which feels as fresh and as urgent as if they had been made today.
These paintings have been made through a pandemic, through civil unrest in my country, and now through fires ablaze all around me.
The title ‘NOBODY’S BABY’ eludes to a longing for guidance, and a need for stability and intimacy I have only been able to find within. The reach for a hand that does not exist.
‘NOBODY’S BABY’ is about independence; both forced and found. A growing into oneself when longing to grow into another. The desperation and desire for answers that do not exist. ‘NOBODY’S BABY’ is a survey and a celebration of our most primal intuition; survival.
I AM THE BABY
I AM NO LONGER THE BABY
I FOR SURE AS HELL AIN’T YOUR BABY
I AM NOBODY’S BABY
With love and resentment,
A South California native, John Millei has been a central figure on the Los Angeles art scene for decades. A long-time Adjunct Professor of Painting at Claremont Graduate University and Professor of Fine Art at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, his teaching has had a profound impact on generations of contemporary artists. His former students include Mark Bradford, Laura Owens and later Sterling Ruby and Doug Aitken among many others.
Millei made a conscious decision to remain in California rather than gravitating to New York in the 1980s and has lived and worked between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara ever since.
Largely self-taught and the former studio assistant of Richard Diebenkorn, Millei began painting in the late 1970s. He was influenced by Jasper Johns’s iconic series 0 through 9 (1960) and the Abstract Expressionist paintings of John Altoon, a prominent figure in the LA art scene of the 1950s and 1960s.
He is part of a generation of artists that includes Lari Pittman, Roger Herman and later Mary Weatherford, Mark Bradford and Laura Owens, who were responsible for shifting Los Angeles painting away from the cool slick minimalism of the Space and Light group, towards a more painterly and promiscuous kind of painting that trafficked in the space between figuration and representation, pop culture and Abstract Expressionism.
“We are the generation right after Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy and Charles Bukowski who grew up on punk rock and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. We were more interested in the seedy side of Los Angeles and Hollywood, not the cool, clean-finish, fetish, ‘beach boys’ art of the Light and Space artists,” John Millei explains.
“My practice is about dancing in the liminal space between the public or historical and the private or personal. For example, in the series of paintings For Surfing, I am using a historical reference to talk about something personal (the loss of a close friend in a surfing accident.) The Girl with Bow paintings are portraits of my daughter, as much as they are playing with cartoons and Picasso.”
In the 1990s, John Millei began exhibiting at the influential Ace Gallery in Los Angeles. Originating in Vancouver, Ace Gallery opened in Los Angeles in 1967 and was an important presence there, showing Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, Donald Judd, Frank Stella and Robert Motherwell amongst others.
He is an artist whose visual vocabulary knows no bounds. He plays with images and subject matter that have functioned as motifs in the canon of art history since time immemorial, subjects so familiar to us that they have become almost banal: the seascape, the flower, Picasso’s portrait of Dora Maar, Cezanne’s Bathers and so on.
However, the motifs, genres or subjects themselves only function as a point of departure for his imagination; what truly interests him is how he can playfully re-invent and subvert these icons, with his finely tuned sense of the absurd and his mastery of paint and scale.
Growing up in the California of the 1970s, the image of the flower was ubiquitous, co-opted by surfer dudes, with their vans covered in goofy flower stickers, by the hippy movement and in the protests against the Vietnam War as a symbol of pacifism.
‘Flower Power #2 (for V. V.)’, (1993), is a majestic, schematic painting which uses the windmill, specifically the plastic toy version of the windmill and its superficial similarity to the form of the flower, as its absurdist point of departure. It became one of the first in his ongoing series of deliberately cartoon-esque, hyperbolic paintings that function also as an exploration of the flower’s obviously erotic potential. He chose the title ‘If Flowers Could Dream’ (2001) for a monumental painting from that series, as he said if they could dream “they would dream of pornography, which is a hyperbolic, exaggerated version of reality.”
Millei creates abstract re-workings of iconic paintings that have been transformed into signs by mechanical reproduction. The point of departure for Millei’s ‘The Real Life of Flowers’ (2002) is the black-and-white cartoonish flowers by American Post-Conceptual artist Christopher Wool, in turn a replay of Andy Warhol’s silk-screened Flowers.
Interested in the separation between the image and its meaning, Millei re-stages the kitsch irony of Warhol and Wool’s flowers into exaggerated and absurdly large, trippy abstracted compositions.
A devoted surfer, Millei’s iconic ‘For Surfing’ (2001-2) and ‘Maritime’ (2004-07) paintings apply the experience of surfing onto the canvas. A homage to a friend who died in a surf accident, ‘For Surfing’ depicts the sea at its primal state, powerful and fierce.
Re-staging and subverting the iconography of the sea as depicted in the Romantic paintings of Caspar David Friedrich and Théodore Géricault, Millei reinvents the apocalyptic motif to give it new life in his own abstraction.
Millei was profoundly struck by the method of constructing water from the Medieval Apocalypse Tapestry (1377-1382), using the frame of the painting as a device to compress the space and bring tension to the waterline. As the artist describes: “You are more in the water, than looking at the sea, there is no horizon point. The paintings function as being consumed by the water”.
John Millei’s play with the tropes of art history is not limited to flowers and the sea.
In the series ‘Woman in a Chair’ (2009) Millei re-stages Picasso’s celebrated Portrait de femme (Dora Maar) (1938). However these paintings are not concerned per se with Picasso nor with his subject Dora Maar, but serve as a point of departure for Millei’s exploration of his own stylistic evolution. In his series of large-scale game-playing with this leitmotif of 20th century art, the elasticity of his painterly skill is given free reign, stretching the original structure of Picasso’s composition using every conceivable artistic conceit: colour, form, minimalism, abstraction and so on.
“Millei’s relationship with the past is symbiotic rather than parasitic: he gives it the only authentic life it can have in the present. Turning known artistic territory into a terra incognita of abstraction, he restores art’s existential mystery.” Donald Kuspit.
Born in Los Angeles in 1958, John Millei lives and works in Santa Barbara. In addition to his Professorship at the Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA from 1991 to 2015 and at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA from 1987 to 2017, he was also Adjunct Professor at the Southern California Institute Of Architecture (Sci-Arc), Los Angeles, CA from 1995 to 2000 and has served as visiting Professor at several renowned universities in California, including the Otis College of Art and Design.
Millei has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco; Lowell Ryan Projects, Los Angeles; Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami; Galerie PCP, Paris; Ace Gallery, New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico; and Marc Jancou Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland.
John Millei’s works can be found in the following public collections: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA; The Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts (AFGA), San Francisco; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Velan Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea, Turin; Colección Jumex, Mexico City; and Dib Bangkok Museum, Thailand.
Ben Spiers | Midnight Sombrero
by Harrison Pearce
Simply put, glimpsed in darkness, a sombrero worn at midnight probably isn’t quite right, probably; it demands a double take.
This is how Ben Spiers’ paintings perform, emerging from and receding into shadow. I’m never sure of what I’ve seen.
I’ve always found Ben’s paintings slippery; like how it might be if I dared to try and hold mercury – I won’t quite get hold of it, but if I could, I assume it will poison me, or destabilise my mind. And yet I still want to.
A double take is fast and slow, visceral and cognitive, upsetting, then…delightful? I remain unsure about that last part but feel confident that is how Ben likes it.
His paintings seduce and interrogate me with equal force, so I thought it best to just ask him about them, avoiding them to start with. We spoke for two hours. I learned a lot. I know nothing.
I had a hangover that day; Ben and I share the same birthday and we talked the day after. On reflection, I don’t know if the way I felt was the cause or effect of the trajectory of our chat but going through it felt just like looking at his work.
Ben nudges and teases the edges of thoughts and sentences in much the same way I imagine he gently coerces paint. The confluence of raw instinct and deliberate premeditation left me in a state of epistemic bankruptcy, after which I actually felt purged of my hangover. I felt lighter.
I share with Ben an appreciation for the giddy feeling of uncertainty, because saying, “I don’t know” is a ruthlessly honest and liberating admission. It’s exhilarating because a boat without a rudder just is more exciting. More than that, it’s crucial. Certainty and dogma run along a straight line. By contrast, Ben is a free-range thinker with a free hand.
None of this is to say he doesn’t know what he is doing. Instead, with a virtuosic hand that indiscriminately reaches across time, place, fiction and reality, Ben helps himself to familiar things, remaking them until they are not familiar at all, and you realise they never were. The relationship between signifier and signified is so vulnerable because it was only ever arbitrary. Ben excavates the indeterminacy of all things. With his brush he whispers to the prima materia, perhaps not knowing what form it will take in its reply. What I see in these paintings is the simultaneous confabulation and decomposition on which my perception of reality supervenes. And that is a reality that compelled us to discuss Will Ferrell, Copernicus, Penn and Teller, Wittgenstein, Philip Larkin, Hull, swamps and Mike from Breaking Bad in a concatenation that probably did make sense at the time.
I keep coming back to that duck-rabbit illusion, where you can never see both animals at the exact same moment, even though they both exist in the exact same ink. Ben’s paintings do something like that. For instance, in The eponymous work in the show, ‘Midnight Sombrero or Danae and Zeus’,
I might be seeing Barbara Streisand lending the chiaroscuro of golden age cinema but the pose also conjures the Ecstasy of St Teresa. The golden shower will doubtless elicit unsubtle fantasies only thrown off course by the title, should you choose to consult it: so, is it a bodily fluid or is it molten metal in the end? The painting will constantly assert and undermine an answer, never letting you take refuge in cognitive dissonance.
At a glance Ben might appear to be a polemicist. Sometimes I see a new painting and I marvel as much at his unadulterated skill as his willingness to run across very thin ice, underneath which dwells an abyss of unease: the body, gender, sexuality, race, class, cultural appropriation etc, etc, – controversy abounds. But Ben’s fancy footwork keeps him from the plunge. And it seems that if you find yourself in freefell you only have your own faulty perceptual apparatus to blame. Because nothing is quite what it seems.
Once when my son was very young, I asked him what he thought happened to people after they died. “They turn into tombstones,” he said quickly, as though it were a question too foolish for contemplation. It sounded logical enough that the evacuated body might simply be transfigured into something more permanent, something less vulnerable to pain and grief and time. Maybe the letters RIP replace the GAP logos that once emblazoned our t-shirts, maybe our shoes are cast off and our feet turned to stone, maybe our bodies mineralize and grow heavy so that we can be planted into the earth forever. “Poof,” I said to him, my fingers fanning open in the air. “Poof,” he said back. I did not tell him that I don’t want to be buried. I did not tell him that it seems to me that the person who decides to become a tombstone is asking for an eternity of neglect.
Though I don’t specifically want to become an abandoned thing, I have long felt great affection for them. I love obsolete celebrities and hotels that have fallen out of fashion. I find incredible pleasure in leafing through 20 year old tabloids or tracking down rosters of prescription medication attributed to medicine chests of deceased socialites. I am thrilled by online auctions that traffic in the tacky cast-off clothing of forgotten rock stars, by ebay listings for half-empty jars of beauty cream that were purportedly once touched by starlets who died before I was born. These places are tombstones too, I suppose. They are the places that allow us to contemplate the narrow margin that delineates the ruin from the shrine.
One of the great anxieties that inevitably adheres itself to us in life is the nagging promise that time will definitely Ctrl+Alt+Del us into oblivion. Eventually, the tombstones that mark our existence will themselves fall to ruin, choked by weeds and toppled to the ground by drunk teenagers who chain smoke and grope each other on the human-sized slices of grass that we’d once assumed were our permanent real estate. Moss will obscure our epithets, our names will disappear and birthdates recede, and all of it will collude to finally return us to the realm of abstraction.
Regardless of its tacky design, the popularity of the memorial website Legacy.com makes a lot of sense to me. If you want a final resting place that acknowledges your existence forever but does not require gardening or maintenance, the digital cemetery is probably the best place to go. Here your loved ones can make offerings of pixelated footballs or bouquets that never die, they can write notes and light virtual candles that will burn until the end of time. Never will there be any need for your descendants to clear away sun-bleached cans of Bud Light or fill in holes left by groundhogs or snakes—there is no earth here, only a glossy expanse of perpetually preserved memory drifting safely through the digital ether.
The democratization of the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s heralded a slew of new ways for information to be archived. Message boards and fan pages proliferated, forums and chat-groups dedicated to interests that ranged from the subcultural to the shameful sent up smoke signals to like-minded maniacs who dreamt of living in video games or of marrying Marilyn Manson. For a brief moment, it was as though everyone in the universe had opened their diaries to us, casting aside their dignity to submerge themselves in the waters of possibility. I have felt saddened in recent years to find that links to abandoned LiveJournals often dead end at error messages. I was devastated in 2018 when the bizarre regional gossip website, Topix, was shut down for good, all of its data burned to dust in the internet crematorium and thrown into the virtual sea. There are, however, surprises to be found. Websites that have no business existing in 2020 occasionally still bear fruit, the ghosts of 1999 continuing about their business unbothered by war or famine or disease, their crudely rendered graphics spinning and flashing away, as though the intervening years had been telescoped down to nothing. I have always thought of these sites as Internet Tombstones. I have always thought of them as proof that there are some things that don’t require transfiguration in order to find forever.
The vanity of needing to be remembered is a particularly human one, and to carve one’s name onto a stone in a cemetery or the wall of a hospital wing is an impulse of man, but not of nature. Last week when I was with my son in Maine, we walked past a nature preserve that is closed off from the street. We stopped to look through a small break in the fence at the lake and trees and granite formations that are largely hidden from view. “I always think of that as a place where the sun always shines,” he told me. “The birds are really happy and the water is always clear and it’s always summer and nothing ever changes because nothing ever happens.” I told him that we would never know, that we could never see for ourselves anything outside of the narrow section of landscape visible between the two slats. “I know,” he said. “People aren’t allowed there. That’s what makes it so nice.”
– Alissa Bennett
When Oli first came up with the title for his solo show at Carl Kostyal, “Oxymoron”, a good friend and curator shot back “oh, that’s perfect for you!” Picking up on the ‘moron’ portion of the word, Oli, characteristically, burst out laughing, enjoying the sincerity of that read.
But I thought that backhanded compliment was dead right. I know Oli pretty well and would struggle to conjure a more exact estimate of him and his practice.
In precisely the same way that Oli scarcely filters how he feels about or sees the world (which can be equally delightful and fatal), his paintings pour into it. His debut London solo show has all the trademarks that he is known for; it is, as ever, a semi-autobiographical account of this cheerful pessimist’s experiences, with which we can’t help but sympathise.
Over the past couple of year’s I’ve watched Oli’s style evolve. Oddly, for a sweet and generous guy, these days the recurring rubric seems to be that of the supervillain. In his wardrobe and interior design this amounts to a little flirtation with excess, exuberance and eccentricity (There’s a strong chance he’ll be wearing that Tangoed cow to the opening night). But in Oxymoron the supervillain takes centre stage.
Supervillains have captured Oli’s imagination for some of the same reasons they bring audiences to cinemas in numbers the heroes no longer seem responsible for. Manifest oxymoron, the supervillain is pointedly foolish for not seeing his vainglorious motives as villainy at all. But the villain isn’t merely the foil sent to suffer the retribution of the hero’s binary gauge of good and evil. Instead, in recent years, we’ve seen characters like Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, whose insanity is presented as a reasonable response to a systemically chaotic and unjust world, in which uncertainty and anxiety reign. I mention this film in particular because I know Oli went to see it on three occasions during a time in which he felt personally and professionally wronged by some of the duplicitous characters that worm their way around the buying and selling of art. Because Oli wears his heart on his sleeve I have often watched and heard him learn things out loud and I think Oxymoron is an account of his coming to terms with the injustices that set reality and fiction apart. Paradoxically, however, in his paintings reality and fiction intermingle. In language an oxymoron looks fine at a glance but on closer inspection we realise two opposing ideas have been allowed to coexist. Oli’s non-Euclidean slips into Flatland are just like this, where, in terms of painting, the sense of order and hierarchy are upset, largely thanks to the epistemic challenges compounded by our digital lives.
This motely crew of unsavoury figures make for a sensual kaleidoscope of a show. In ‘Paddle’, a blind art collector recalling Blofeld caresses a hairless feline, surrounded by what might be an endless cornucopia of trophies worthy of Des Esseintes if he were at Sotheby’s today. In ‘Fool’s Gold’ a thief deploys superhuman elasticity to evade a laser grid, only to get away with a worthless rock. And, as if Botticelli had visited downtown LA, in ‘Aphrodisiac’ an ageing succubus adorns herself with mildly putrefying treats to compensate for the harsh reality that she’s no Jessica Rabbit.
Whilst thinking about this show I read that the word villain began as a description for the ‘low-born villagers’ in society who lacked manners and, therefore, morals. Over time this has mutated into the supervillain, who by means of some extraordinary virtue, such as intellect or physical prowess, tries to reach beyond their low origins, no matter the cost. And this is why we quietly root for them and why they are often so tragic.
Perhaps we sympathise with villains more than heroes because their world is not black and white. That is the shrewd dumbness of Oli’s oxymoronic characters – they are clearly misunderstood. We no longer follow the heuristics set up by the archetypes we used to know from Hollywood. Perhaps we should be hesitant to vilify because we know that every character has motivations that go beyond the two dimensions we see on screen (often enough, the lives we share on screen ought to make us feel like virtue signalling hypocrites). Driven by neuroses and, all too often, the desire to consume, we see ourselves in these bittersweet paintings and I see them in Oli because I watched him chip his tooth, nervously chewing on a bag of drumstick lollies, whilst preparing for this show. Despite Oli’s encounter with injustice the paintings somehow present unbiased opinions about the shameless cretins they depict, the ambiguity of which feels accurate and deceptively honest.
On the occasion of SPRINT–Independent Publishers and Artists’ Books Salon at Spazio Maiocchi, Carl Kostyál in collaboration with KALEIDOSCOPE present “Paradise”, a solo show by Austin Lee opening on Saturday 23 November.
On the occasion of SPRINT–Independent Publishers and Artists’ Books Salon at Spazio Maiocchi, Milan, Carl Kostyál presents “Paradise,” a solo show by American artist Austin Lee which also celebrates the launch of the artist’s first monograph, co-published with Kaleidoscope and designed by Bureau Borsche.
The show, organised in collaboration with Kaleidoscope, will consist of three paintings inspired by the enigmatic expression of Christ on the Cross (1600–1610) by El Greco. The three paintings, all made with airbrush paint on oil-painted backgrounds, aim to portray the remarkable example that El Greco provides in describing the interior mental space of human feelings. Originally meant to be three copies of the same work, they each acquired a specific emotional intention embodied by Lee while painting, therefore becoming unavoidably unique allowing for new meaning and feeling. In the courtyard of Spazio Maiocchi, a site-specific sculpture – a digital model 3D printed in aluminum and later hand-painted, figurative of a sun – completes the exhibition.
The work of the New York-based artist often explores the duality of technological advancement within reality and surrealism, creating uncanny and humorous figures by merging digital tools with traditional painting and sculpting techniques. Born in Las Vegas in 1983, Austin Lee received his MFA from Yale in 2013 and currently lives and works in New York City. During the past few years, he has presented solo exhibitions at Carl Kostyál, London; Peres Projects, Berlin; Deitch Projects, New York; and Kaikai Kiki, Tokyo.
ON VIEW DURING SPRINT
23–24 NOVEMBER 2019, FROM 1–9 PM
OPEN BY APPOINTMENT UNTIL 6 DECEMBER
Via Achille Maiocchi, 5, 20129 Milano, Italy
Curated by Oli Epp
Let the Freudian Finger point you to Zsófia Keresztes’ mosaic crown jewels, and then to Sarah Slappey’s painterly perversions and fiery manicures before leading into the garden of unearthly desire in the work of Robin Mason. This trinity of artists, drawn together from three different locations direct you towards three perceptions of the body and mind with a Surrealist spirit.
A revert to Surrealism is inevitable given current times – an exploration of the mind as a mode to understand the human psyche and all its desires, quirks, kinks, angst and roaring humour. On one ‘hand’, Slappey’s paintings, featuring pearl necklaces that seek solace in the crevices of sapphic forms and on the other, Keresztes’ mosaic aliens bounce between portrayals of pixels and the digital world which mirrors the Surrealist fascination with technology and the New World. The bondage of Slappey and Keresztes seem innocent in comparison to their Surrealist forefather, Hans Bellmer, but hits that contemporary sweet spot, that dances on the lines of abject and endearing, a song to our modern super ego. Mason’s also pays homage to Freud, a surrealist inspiration, and his model of the psyche – id, ego and superego – with a gusto Andre Breton would raise his hat to.
Nostalgia comes to play and ties a knot between all the artists featured in Fingertips. Whether it is a play on memory, a haunting deja vu or a tongue in cheek anecdote, the works are imbued with a humour that both tickles and terrifies. Slappey, Mason and Keresztes have an unsettling familiarity that you can’t quite put your finger on.
An organ to manipulate, investigate and create sensation, the symbol of the ‘finger’ is found symbolically and physically in the works featured in the show. From a soft caress to the torturing sexual pleasures inflicted by these great hands, the works of these artists are a direct channel from mind to matter.
The body – and its parts, often separate – is an ongoing theme. Like a game of Operation, we invite you to walk between the works and put them back together; voluptuous derrieres, elongated fingers, sunken eyes, hollow orifices, breasts and naughty bits…
Slappey’s pervasive imagery takes on a more saccharine sensibility with the fleshy pinks – derived surely from Rubenes-que cherubs – are touched with icy greys cold against the blush of such voluptuous derrieres. Nipples, bums and tums writhe with silky emphasis and wrists flick with a Parisian flair as with a dash the cigarette turns into bullet silver tampons.
Stories and tales from a life well lived inform the theatrical backdrop of Mason’s altarpiece riddled with symbols, text and numbers that occur like cyphers and codes. The Tree of Life is taken with lust as its branches probe and caress the silky Sacred Heart. As the curtains are opened to Mason’s world the religious symbolism is clear – the symbol of the Sacred Heart, a ruby red vagina that also represents Christ’s gaping wound – is spread open on a tree. Childhood innocence is brought to the fore and abjection lurks in the shadows as icons from our Medieval past receive a contemporary reincarnation executed with Boschian drama.
Teal rope wraps and wriggles around Keresztes’ strange amorphous mosaic sculptures similar to the intricate tyings in the Japanese tradition of Shibari. Entrapped by the rough confines of aquamarine string the glossy surface is manipulated to create a dynamism as the form is almost alive in its construction but decidedly cold to touch.
Co-written by Aindrea Emelife and Oli Epp
Churning Refusal: Basil Kincaid on Money and the Black Body
By Sarah C. Murphy // @smurphotos // email@example.com
Standing naked, his living room carpeted in sheets of sutured dollar bills, Basil Kincaid’s paint-covered chest heaved and he wiped his brow with the back of his hand. A red streak cut across his brown forehead, got caught in a curl. “I’ve been thinking deeply about the historical impact of money, and the pursuit of it, on the black body. I’ve been thinking about how we house this emotional, economic, trauma in our flesh.” He’d just stamped his silhouette across the still-flat quilts, curled in fetal positions; the residual texture of the dollars creased into the acrylic left on his skin. “It’s gonna feel so good to slice these blood-soaked dollars up and bend them to my will.”
The process of making Get it How You Live required destroying Kincaid’s assets – the first money quilt took half the dollars in his bank account; he cut them up like cloth, rendering them useless as tender. But, he said, it was worth the catharsis he found in seizing control over what had been controlling him. “’…chasing money can detach you from some of the people closest to you. I’m thinking about how money leaves that mark. That scar. Now I’m marking back.”
These quilts represent a process of unlearning a deep, American, reverence for money; of attempting to heal the intergenerational trauma of capitalism that would have us believe that we are only as valuable as the cash we can stack. The visceral act of destroying dollars to create something of greater (symbolic and actual) worth is Kincaid’s form of alchemy. It’s an access point to the lineage of alchemists from whom he comes. The irony, perhaps, is that as he unweaves toxic attachment to money over everything from his heart he grows spiritually closer to the ancestors who survived and seeded him.
“I keep thinking about how quilting began, in the American context, as a practice of necessity, as winter wasn’t giving us quilts,” he said about the title piece for this show. For Kincaid’s ancestors, quilting was a practice of necessity, of taking small scrap fabrics and transforming them, with great care, into larger objects that gave warmth — and also, in the tradition of alchemy that is Black resilience, were symbols of family and storytelling. Each piece of fabric was a part of the narrative, each stitch an act of love. The warmth of an elder’s quilt extended beyond physical comfort; to be wrapped in her craft was to feel her love long after her warm-hearted being passed from this earth.
“The only necessity my quilts are born of is the need to connect with the ancestral energy, my foremothers, my lineage of creative tradition and genius.” The quilts of Kincaid’s ancestors were also tools of resistance — in a practical and spiritual sense. Physically hung on homes of the underground railroad, they signaled pathways to safety amidst terror. What looked like blankets to slave catchers were quiet flags of rebellion, covert signs of hope that relied on the oppressor’s disbelief in their brilliance.
Spiritually, they were gifts of inheritance. Passed down from generation to generation, family quilts are soft memory. They are reminders of Black mothers’ enduring will to believe in a future for their children. Like the sharecropper’s fruit grown on forcibly leased land, quilts are symbols of the persistent and creative longevity of American Blackness. Against unimaginable repression, these alchemists never stopped planting seeds or stitching together scraps into gorgeous gifts for their children. And their children’s children.
“But the money quilt doesn’t keep you warm,” Kincaid reminds us. Cold, and crinkly, dollars as objects are all but useless to the human body. Stitched together, their spectacle is the disbelief of seeing them as a medium. What dissonance! To witness these precious bills we spend so much of our lives striving for cut up, painted, shaped into forms – instead of stacked, intact, to be counted. And they are forms that evoke shame, bunched up like discarded notebook paper, or that mimic humans but stand (or hang) lifeless on display.
Where there are sensual curves in Kincaid’s cloth quilts, there are harsh edges and stark shadows in his money pieces. They are flags of resistance in a different way, spiritual salve born not from the warmth of a grandmother’s love – but the process of unclenching capitalism’s grip on the body.
Kincaid chooses fabrics that reference the vapid striving of the American Dream – like silk renderings of his father’s lotto tickets. They gesture at the dark side of Black American inheritance & hustle, and yet maintain a sense of the warmth of Black family. (Except “Corner of Alaska And Walsh Under Dist. 1 Surveilance,” whose cool monochrome face and woven concrete or cosmos or muscle fiber, or your dad’s favorite sweatpants, are gripped in headlock by Blue Lives Matter blue; it reads like Whiteness sucking the saturation from a technicolor film.) They’re still soft to the touch.
In contrast, the money quilts – especially those with Kincaid’s bloody body prints – are starched mirrors to our own addictions to money, reminders of how physically and spiritually draining chasing it can be. Hung adjacent to the cloth quilts, especially as they’re combined in “Self Portrait: I Am Not My Labor,” the reconstructed dollars call into question how and why we invest so much belief in the dollars themselves.
When the dollars are mixed in patchwork with cloth, like the in “Retired Drug Dealer” and “Fuck You Pay Me,” the money adds a dark motion in the pieces – it’s hard to say if it’s bursting out or slicing into the forms. Or if the forms are digesting the money, churning it as fuel, trying to scrub it clean. Grappling with a necessary evil, hoping its a temporary hustle. “Our ancestors picked the cotton that this money is printed on.” Kincaid engages with one cyclical American evil: this country was built on the backs of Black people, and continues to feed on their vibrance through systems that require they participate in their own destruction.
Treating dollars as his foremothers treated scrap cloth, like raw material to be transformed, with great care, into a precious object of greater material and spiritual worth, Kincaid offers us evidence of a process we’d all do well to engage in: releasing the deeply internalized belief that money itself is precious and that the more of it you have, the more precious you are. And even deeper, healing from the poisonous belief that our ancestors weren’t precious because they were cash poor. It’s these beliefs – especially when they’re held a bout us – that justify all the ways we’re overworked and undervalued, squeezed for every dollar by landowners, by bosses, by police. Strangled to death for attempting to control of our own assets. Manipulated to believe we deserved it.
Kincaid refuses these ideas, and calls on his ancestors and his elders and the bloody debris of his own body as source. With Get it How You Live, he says no. “These cycles end with me.”
“The Draw Jam 2019 was a real blast! 12 artists together for 5 days in the south of Italy hanging out at the beach, drinking colourful slurpies and making lots of drawings- it was a dream.
We were all staying at Masseria Pepe in these shared villas, bunked up together with artists from across the globe. We spent every evening as a group having dinner many aperol spritz, generous glasses of wine- and every morning recovering by the sea or by the poolside with our pastels and pencils.
So many great memories were made on this trip but some highlights include a raucous midnight game of Marco Polo, Paul Hipp’s after-dinner acoustic jams, laughing over a mass game of Slang Teasers, smoking all of Peter Schuyff’s Marlboro reds and watching the sun rise on the 4th of July. But best of all was the new connections made with incredible artists from so many different walks of life.
On the final day we had a lot of fun hanging all the drawings in the chapel at Masseria Fontana di Vita, where the ceiling was painted by artist Austin Lee the previous year! The Draw Jam 2019 was a huge success and we’re especially proud to have been a part of something that €4000 for the Comunità terapeutica Lorusso Cipparoli charity – a charity who support kids battling with serious addiction and drug abuse.”
Oli Epp, July 2019
Painter Ben Spiers (b. 1972) is one of London’s best kept secrets. Now he is stepping into the limelight to share his work at Carl Kostyál Gallery, with his solo exhibition, Hook and Crook; a presentation of new, unseen paintings from 2013 to present.
With an uncompromising mastery of traditional techniques, Spiers ducks and dives through the history or art, indiscriminately helping himself to hybrid abstraction and figuration.
The title of the show references the English phrase, ‘by hook or by crook’, which, dating back to 1380, means ‘by any means necessary’. Here, Spiers channels this irreverent urgency, and ditches traditional hierarchies and expectations.
The works feature nuns with flaming ginger pubes and testosterone charged bulls with shiny golden bollocks. A tangled tongue twisting kiss between zany eyed lovers. A face from Edo period Japan is rendered three dimensional with CGI precision. A sweating Tamara de Lempicka, built from the heavy musculature of one of Michelangelo’s women, recalls the war time poster ‘we can do it’. Munch’s Madonna, lit for the silver screen, ossifies from the fingers into a b-movie zombie. A deranged Miro-like, globular woman is pulled from the flatland, tormented by a decadent gilded mirror.
Lit by the mysterious glow of Tenebrism, Spiers’ figures adopt form like a protean substance that inconsistently borrows from historical visual references without deference to chronology. Hopping across antiquity, renaissance, classicism, baroque, romanticism, and just about all of modernism and cinema, Spiers mixes up familiar citations into a fresh and dazzling puzzle.
By Oli Epp
A limited edition print of Double Infinity, released to coincide with the exhibition, is available//contact Hat Kempton (firstname.lastname@example.org), edition 75 plus 5APs.
in collaboration with Carl Kostyál Gallery
Echoes in the Neurochamber
Thursday 2nd May 2019
6pm – 8pm
3rd May – 28th June 2019
Via Vincenzo Gioberti 1, 20123
Echoes in the Neurochamber
02/05 – 28/06, 2019
Castiglioni, in collaboration with Carl Kostyal, is pleased to present “Echoes in the Neurochamber”, first solo show in Milan by Henry Gunderson (b.1990).
For the exhibition, Gunderson presents a selection of unpublished works: four emblematic and vouyeristic reproductions of components and / or details Personal Computers.
The artist attempt to go through the intimacy and technology function of these lifeless objects showing them from afar, taking them out of their natural context; whereby their peculiarities become aesthetic details which the artist can intervene on, altering and making them elements that let the viewer humanize the object in the canvas.
A short circuit is created and it causes a sense of alienation within the works.
The computer, the basic element on which our contemporaneity is founded, becomes an element of anxiety: It became a reflection on the close correlation between us and our dependence to digital technologies.
Henry Gunderson’s works are a psychological reflection through his aesthetics on the contemporary. They are rigorous works and rich in details that give us a dissonant specter of emotions ranging from funny to disturbing, without ever losing their accuracy.
San Francisco, U.S.A., 1990.
Lives and works in New York, U.S.A.
Solo and Two-Person Exhibitions:
2018 “Formula One”, Carl Kostyál Gallery, London, UK; 2017 “Emancipation Affirmations”, Loyal Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden; 2016 “Shoes”, Etc, 247365, New York, NY; 2015 “Two & Two”, 247365, New York, NY; 2014 “ +0-000-000-0000”, Ever Gold Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Group Exhibitions: 2019 “Malmö Sessions”, Carl Kostyál Gallery, Malmö, Sweden; 2018 “Body, Curtain, Advance”, Loyal Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden; “The Ashtray Show”, Fisher Parish Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; 2017 “Pharmacy for Idiots”, Rob Tufnell, Cologne, Germany; 2016 “No Free Tax Art Month”, 247365, New York, NY; “The Lamp Show”, 99¢ Plus, Brooklyn, NY; 2015 “Anderson’s Hidden Game”, Loyal Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden; “Believe You Me: Frank Benson, Dora Budor, Henry Gunderson, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Ryan Trecartin”, 247365, New York, NY.
1. Henry Gunderson Casing, 2019 Acrylic on Canvas 157.50h x 71w cm
2. Henry Gunderson Back (plugs), 2019 Acrylic on Canvas 157.50h x 71w cm
3. Henry Gunderson Neurochamber, 2019 Acrylic on Canvas 157.50h x 157.50w cm
4. Henry Gunderson Hard Drive, 2019 Acrylic on Canvas 157.48h x 157.48w cm
A Lover by Ben Spiers
“A Lover is an expression of my on-going preoccupation with the ambivalence and ambiguity of the ’inner-life’. It’s getting harder and harder to feel like the monarch of one’s psyche. My sense of solidity is constantly being reshaped, threatened, and enlarged by the tidal wash of virtual possibility flowing from my phone. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though – one’s just got to improvise, like a surfer carving a line through a lumpy wave. My instincts tell me what to grab: some glassy tears, glossy lips, backlit hair – and the deeper mystery of painting transforms them; makes them truly belong to each other, and, just for a second, holds back the tide to reveal something more elemental – something that sticks, gluey in the mind; like an uncanny rock that’s only revealed on the very lowest of tides.”
– Ben Spiers
Ben Spiers Testimony
“I made the slightly crazy decision to drive to Matera from London. I set off from London 20 hours after crawling home, elated, but exhausted, from the opening of my solo show at Carl Kostyal gallery.
I had been working in a fever the weeks leading up to the opening and wasn’t entirely in my right mind. As the miles ticked away and I wiggled over the passes of the Alps, Northern Europe began to disappear and the roads were flanked by flowering Oleander bushes and Cyprus trees. The browner and hotter it got, the further I felt from the red-eyed midnights in my London studio.
The masseria itself is one of those buildings that owns the landscape. It sits on the edge of a plateau and the landscape drops and waves away to the horizon in a series of dramatic swoops.
The light is extraordinary. During the day it can be almost painfully bright, with a whitish haze, but as the evening comes on it takes on a crystalline clarity and a surprising warmth.
The enormous warehouse/studio is a really atmospheric place to work. It damps the heat and light to manageable levels and the muffled sounds of people swimming in the pool is great background music.
I found it a really easy place to slip into my work and the hours flew. I managed to finish the underpainting on 6 pictures, produce numerous drawings and even do some writing. My time there felt charmed, and work flowed out in an effortless way.
Fausta and her brother Gia-Lo are the most astonishing hosts. Within hours it felt as if we’d been friends for life, and after the month I knew that they are people to whom I will always feel close. They are generous, creative, funny and loving; as warm as the landscape in which they live.
The long evenings of talking, talking, more talking, card games, occasional dancing, drinking of ‘papa Joseph’ and one post midnight 5k run through the fields were some of the most pleasurable of my life.
Anyone lucky enough to spend time on this magical residency will have something wonderful to look back on, but more importantly, they’ll have friends for life in one of the most beautiful places in Europe.”
Sara Cwynar Testimony
“The matera residency was a totally unique experience in my life, I will always remember it. At its heart, it is about being in Fausta’s world at her Masseria. Fausta is someone who cares about and invests in artists unconditionally, and whose support felt really life altering and special. This part continues to resonate, I think she will be in my life for a long time. During my month in Matera I spent a lot of time thinking, reading and editing, and talking to Fausta, to her family and friends, and to the other wonderful artists on the residency. It was a time to get some space from the production cycles of making work (though I did make some videos in the beautiful Italian countryside!), to think about things as a larger picture, and to experience another culture in a way I would never have been able to in another context. The residency also began with a week of parties and beach time when a larger group of artists and friends visited the residency which was really fun. I am so grateful for this experience, it was just so beautiful, I still can’t believe I got to be there, and I’m still thinking about everything I saw and learned there.”
Canyon Castator Testimony
“Time is one one the most valuable resources that can be afforded to an artist. Time to think, experiment, make mistakes, watch a 32 year old Italian farmer chase flies with an eclectic death paddle… Time is a precious resource, but it isn’t finite, it can be made from nothing by removing something. During my month long stay in Matera, I was given time, for the first time in a long time.
Finding ways in which to fill the long summer days seemed to be impossible. I’d toil around in my studio in the morning, working on small passages of a painting or burning through drawings in my sketchbook. I’d wander out to peak over Ben Spiers’ shoulder in an attempt to understand his methodically masterful approach to underpainting. I’d find myself sitting poolside with Sara Cwyar, helping her squeeze lemons over her increasingly blonde hair before we went to the dinning hall to put back multiple servings of cavatelli. I’d listen to Peter Schyuff riffle off romanticized stories about underdog life in a gritty 80’s New York, interjected with startlingly informed questions from an ever studious Gina Beavers. All this, and it’s just barely 4pm, a time marked daily by the first round of drinks, brought out by our incredibly generous host and the owner of the masseria, Fausta.
She made this time for us by removing the commutes, the chores, and the stress filled inconveniences of normal life. I can’t thank her enough for that. I plan to make this masseria, and these people, a reoccurring part of my life (as long as I keep LETTING Fausta beat me at cards I don’t think it will be a problem).
Also, thank you Carl Kostyál, the ambidextrous marionette master who put us all in this puppet show.”