MACRO Future, Rome
Aaron Bondaroff, Agathe Snow, Alan Vega, Ara Peterson, Aurel Schmidt, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Banks Violette, Barry McGee, Ben Jones, Brian Belott, Brian Chippendale, Brian Degraw, Chris Johanson, Cory Arcangel, Dan Colen, Dash Snow, Dearraindrop, Eddie Martinez, Ester Partegas, Evan Gruzis, Francine Spiegel, Gang Gang Dance, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Hanna Liden, JD Samson, Jim Drain, Joe Bradley, Jules de Balincourt, Katherine Bernhardt, Keegan McHargue, Kembra Pfahler, Kon Trubkovich, Lizzi Bougatsos, Mat Brinkman, Martha Friedman, Matt Leines, Michael Bell Smith, Michael Cline, Mitzi Pederson, Nate Lowman, Neckface, Nico Dios, Paper Rad, Patrick Griffin, Peter Coffin, Rosson Crow, Ry Fyan, Ryan McGinley, Scott Campbell, Spencer Sweeney, Sterling Ruby, Steve Powers, Takeshi Murata, Tauba Auerbach, Taylor McKimens, Terence Koh, threeASFOUR, Tim Barber, Tomoo Gokita, Valerie Hegarty, Xylor Jane, Yuichi Yokoyama.
The exhibition “New York Minute,” curated by Kathy Grayson, took place at MACRO Future, in Rome. It featured sixty artists in and around New York who capture the drama, danger, speed, and savvy of the vibrant and diverse art activities happening in the city today. This exhibition brought together for the first time the best of the downtown community, showing behind-the- scenes connections and collaborations between artists not only in New York City but in the extended network that includes active art spots like Providence, Miami, San Francisco, or Philadelphia. New York is exploding with new talent, and although not every one of these artists lives in the city, every single artwork nonetheless contains the immediacy and energy packed into a New York minute—the speed with which New Yorkers react to stimuli, with a bit of impatience, ingenuity, and savviness thrown in.
With that in mind, these sixty artists show a rapid and resourceful response to current cultural events and issues specific to their generation. Featuring mostly emerging artists and young artists living in downtown New York, this exhibition explored some of the leading tendencies in new art-making, such as updating action painting and abstraction with the toughness of the streets; synthesizing low pop culture into handmade heartfelt hybrids; taking conceptualism to new and absurd ends; organizing into collectives and bands to take all their interdisciplinary art on tour; and bringing a downtown punk attitude to assemblage, collage, and sculpture.
These artists are a tightly knit group: They have exhibited together, partied together, dated, studied together, or painted together. This exhibition represented a cross section of an expanded artistic community.
“Downtown Don” Aaron Bondaroff turned the upper deck of one museum building into a pop-up shop with all the zines, records, stickers, T-shirts, and books this group of active artists have produced along the way. Renowned downtown designer Rafael de Cardenas styled this space and created the overall exhibition design. Tinyvices creator Tim Barber curated his own section of the exhibition, with contributions from his network of artists and photographers from around the world. The exhibition was produced by the Depart Foundation in conjunction with MACRO.
Curated by Kathy Grayson
October 21 - December 22, 2017
18 Wooster Street
The faces are melting in Kenny Scharf’s new paintings. “Things are disintegrating,” he says, “I am reacting to our increasingly out-of-control situation.” Scharf’s work continues to be infused by his inexhaustible optimism and his sense of fun but there has always been an engagement with profound issues beneath the façade. Ecology, the environment, and capitalist excess have long been central themes. More recently, his paintings have shown his alarm over the effects of petroleum and the mountains of nondegradable plastic that are produced from it.
Scharf’s work has always combined and contrasted the pop culture he absorbed growing up in Los Angeles with the important innovations in modern and contemporary art. His earlier work fused Dali and Disney. More recently, he has been in dialogue with Pollock and Abstract Expressionism. In the new work, he merges his distinct style with color field and stain painting. “I like to connect with every movement in 20th-century art,” Scharf explains. “I make new hybrids, taking it all in and putting it in a blender.”
A distinctive style is something that Scharf admires in other artists and from the beginning has tried to achieve in his own work. He believes in art as an expression of individual identity. From his first mature work as a student at the School of Visual Arts, a painting by Kenny Scharf was instantly recognizable. Still adhering to his signature style, he continuously invents new forms.
Scharf is very enthusiastic about his new “sloppy style” that characterizes the major paintings in the exhibition. Rows of faces disintegrate into colorful drips reminiscent of both New York School painting and the serial imagery of minimal art. In these new works, Scharf is striving to create clear and simple forms that resonate with meaning. He feels liberated and excited, adding that “it is so much fun.”
The expression of emotion in art is essential to Scharf. Art that is cold leaves him cold. He explains that cartoon faces can express emotion with abstract power. Like his artistic colleagues from his early years in New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, Scharf studied cartoons as a way to intensify figurative expression.
It is his early downtown history that brings Scharf back to New York this October. The Museum of Modern Art is opening an exhibition on the seminal performance space Club 57 in which Scharf played a central role. Watching him paint, one can see how his experience as a backup dancer for Klaus Nomi and his other performative roles have shaped his approach to his work. One side of his painting practice is detailed and meticulous to the extreme. The other side is tremendously physical and requires him to use his body like a dancer.
Visitors to Scharf’s Los Angeles studio are greeted by a hundred or more discarded plastic toys in his yard and on his roof. During the early part of his career, Scharf found his art materials in the garbage. To this day, he still stops his car when he finds plastic toys and TV sets thrown away on the street. These discarded plastic objects have inspired the two other bodies of work featured in the show: his Assemblage Vivant Tableaux Plastiques, and his TV Bax. The assemblage works, which are inspired by the Nouveau Realistes, are constructed from his stock of recycled plastic toys. The TV Bax are painted on the plastic backs of discarded television sets. Like the toys, the TV backs have a disconcerting anthropomorphic quality. Scharf wonders if their anonymous designers created these plastic covers, which are different for every model, to resemble a face.
Scharf finds these thrown-away toys and TV backs to be poignant objects, resonant with emotion. “Each of these objects carries a story,” Scharf explains. He thinks about how people might have struggled and sacrificed to buy these toys and TVs, and about the intense relationship that children and families have with them. Scharf resurrects the lives of these inanimate objects in his work. He also notes that garbage keeps changing with technology. The backs of TV sets used to have large protruding “noses.” Now they are flatter and more similar to a canvas.
Since his childhood, Scharf has been fascinated by outer space. Space travel and the portrayal of infinite space have long been central themes. In his life and in his work, he tries to eliminate boundaries and borders. As he pursues his dialogue with the great painters of the New York School, he is increasingly preoccupied with the inner space of painting. His exploration of inner space creates a dynamic tension with his passion for outer space. With his characteristic exuberance and his moral voice, Scharf reformulates his unique combination of Pollock and Pop to create a vibrant new body of work.
Photo Credit: The1point8 and Adam Reich
Read about the Club 57 exhibition at MoMA in the New York Times here.
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