Monday, February 16, 2009

More from Madrid: Venice Biennalers Old & New

Still sorting through ARCO Madrid images and thought I'd pull out a few I enjoyed, created by Venice Biennalers old and new:

1. 1999 Venice exhibitor Thomas Hirschhorn's Dancing Philosophy is a 2007 2002? work, so I'm sure this isn't a new find to those in the global artster scene. But ARCO was the first time I'd seen it. As the video above shows, the work consists of a few different video monitors that show the artist dancing behind a mannequin. Each set is accompanied by spraypainted phrases like "How to Dance Gramsci?" or "How to Dance Deleuze?" I really liked the ridiculous, lowbrow conflation of body and mind--as frequent readers of this blog might know, the general presence of bright colours and dancing.

Dancing Philosophy was part of a large ARCO installation of Madrid collector and gallerist Helga de Alvear's own collection. The word is that Alvear will soon be exhibiting the collection in a new museum-type institution near Madrid. I think this would be great, as it was clear that Alvaer's collection is super solid and it would be terrific to have more access to it.

Over at Alvear's own commercial gallery, near the Prado in Madrid, there was a very different must-see work on view: Santiago Serra's Los Penetrados. Ever the provacateur, Mexico's Serra here combines pairs of black men, white men, black women and white women to sexually penetrate each other in groups of up to 10 couples. The work was made on October 12, the national day of Spain once known as Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race). I'm still not sure about it. But it is a definite continuation of Serra's investigations into exploitation between classes, genders, races and other social groups (viewer/artist/performer included).

2. Vienna artist Elke Krystufek's detailed, text-heavy paintings are appealing in many ways. For one, the titles--as for "Paulo Coelho & Jonathan Meese: An Unholy Couple," pictured above--can be very funny.

Her texts also provide a strange stream of consciousness touching on issues of gender and art history in unexpected, often absurd ways: "Is a Vagina a good form? Vaginas do not interest us - we get more inspired by Nature or city palnning: cities for men: the urban men ... Feminist are of insect nature: they survive the hu"man" race. Huwomen. Huwos. The men are gone. Eva Hesse had assistants. Who knew the secrets of Eva Hesse's penislike forms & fragile skins. Even Godard had a skin problem when shooting. Shooting harms the skins."

Needless to say, Krystufek, who is exhibiting at this summer's Venice Biennale with fellow Austrians Dorit Margreiter and Lois & Franziska Weinberger, questions gender specific behavior in her work. But she's not a hard-and-fast feminist. As she says of a recent film project, "Porn is already very ridiculous but one cannot top the unplanned humor in feminism." She's repped by Galerie Barbara Thumm in Berlin.

3. A nice surprise success at ARCO was Amaya Gonzalez Reyes's solo project, one of 35 at the fair. The young Reyes hasn't been selected for any biennales yet, but I have a hunch if she keeps it up she could find herself a spot. In her ARCO work, Reyes copied a few months of her receipts onto plain white canvases, one canvas for each receipt. Then she sold each canvas for the amount listed on that receipt. This meant each of her works ranged from around 2 euros to 250 euros--a bargain at almost any fair, and one that buyers dug into with a vengeance. There were piles of them when the fair started, and only a few dozen left by day 2. To boot, the works even look kind of nice.

Reyes, born 1979 in the Galacia region of Spain, is repped by Madrid gallery Pilar Parra & Romero, and her work was curated for the solo projects space by Colin Chinnery, the new curator for ShContemporary in China.

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