Posts Tagged ‘criticism’


Friday night was hopping in Tremont. It was such a gorgeous evening walking around the neighborhood from Lava Lounge to Scoops to Asterisk for the opening of the curated 19 show. A show that brought together 19 local artists who have never shown with the gallery before. A mash-up of different aesthetics and aims as diverse as sculpture, graphic neo-pop, post-contemporary painting, video, installation. Good and bad, successful or unsuccessful it was a survey of the exciting and diverse practices happening in the metro area.  Perhaps it was one too many pre-show beers bought for me by some old room-mates I haven’t seen in a while or just the awe struck daze I was in from the beauty of the night but, naughty reviewer I forgot or lost a pen to jot down some notes and since I forget every name ever even my own mother, I have no names to accompany my fav’s list. But, we move on.

astersk19-2Stand outs where the latex tumor-esque or microscopic platelet’s blood cell inspired sculptures in the glass case, lined up like specimens in a medical museum. The tactile nature of the material and the color choices created a feeling with out even having to hold them.  I imagine the glass case was to thwart an art looker with less than first grade restraint? I know I wanted to squeeze one and hold it.  They had a feeling of the body and of corporeality. Interesting inspiration. I also suppose they leaned on the side of orifice but I am sticking toward cellular.

Also the painting that just exploded with stuff shackled to and glued and wedged together on the surface of the support was awesome.  There was so much energy, like neo-expressionism meets sculpture meets consumer culture meets chaos in modern life.  It was junkie and exciting and resonated with color, texture, clutter: contemporary life.  I love the fact that the existential  brush strokes of Pollack and such that symbolized the inner being is now replaced with the energy of stuff. I could of looked at that piece all night.asterisk19-1

Generally I am luke warm on video because I think it is really really really hard to pull off. But the piece in the basement with the wheat fields and the county line map super imposed on the arid cracked landscape that segwayed into a race down 71  I found captivating. I stood in a trance watching. The pace was good and the imagery and raw sound transported you away and made the viewer sort of go quiet inside. Or maybe it was the smell of basement that sent me into a hypnotic peyote trance. I’m still going with the video though.


All in all, throw in 3 great Dana Oldfather explosions of color and line and…was that a skull? with that cool Nightmare on Elm Street transformation of the fist or bosom or rubbery protrusion seamlessly extending from the white wall as if in a moment it will pop and deflate and the 19 show seems to instill the notion of great art happening in Cleveland.


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I have been reading lately about a hopeful  trend of many art world participants toward the shaking out of “bad art” now that the so called bubble is over. Now that economic life has slowed, people will be searching only for quality, something lasting. I have to say, yes, it’s frustrating to see bad art  in a gallery when you’re an artist with out representation. The penchant to bash others is ever looming. I agree but art, as proven by the entire past century of art history, can be whatever it is. However there can be a distinction, and as frustrating as it is, pop music sells more copies than classical. But still, the most successful work always has a connection. Technical success in executing an idea is only half the battle. I can equate it to going to a prostitute, or at least what I think it would be like to go to a prostitute.  The job gets done but ultimately its just a shallow release. One that pales in comparison to love making with someone you really have a chemical, physical and emotional connection with. I think there is a lot of art out there today that could double as visual call girls.  The push for the new highly marketable big name grad school fetus.  The great resume and highly technical and polished art backed by the perfectly written statement linking the artist to a long lineage of former art innovators. The work is great to look at but sometimes like a pop song, the images fade and the hook only resonates for a short time. Good art you can revisit over and over and it keeps giving and evolving, slowly revealing its secrets. Bad art screws you on the first date then at dinner the next night has nothing to talk about. I guess too, either form of art isn’t that bad. Some bad art is good for what it is, a one night stand. But it’s the ones you take home to Mom are the ones worth really investing in.

I found this quote from an interview with Kent, Ohio born, San Francisco dwelling photographer, Todd Hido that really is quite profound:

Darius Himes: What is the focus? ( of your work )

Todd Hido: In lectures I have been asked, “Why do you photograph only women?” To which I respond that in a Creative Writing class in college, our very first lesson was that you should write about what you know. So, I photograph what I know.

To me it is no mystery that we can only photograph effectively what we are truly interested in or — maybe more importantly — are grappling with. This is often an unconscious process. Otherwise the photographs are merely about an idea or a concept; that stuff eventually falls flat for me. There must be something more, some emotional hook for it to really work for me. I tend to photograph things I’ve had problems with or I have struggled with, stuff that used to keep me up at night. It’s the same process with my photographs of houses — they are about recognizing some mysterious element of my childhood.

I’ve read that sources of terror in childhood often become sources of attraction in adulthood. I’ve found that true. It’s disturbing to me how many of the models remind me of past women that have been in my life — not in terms of how they look but in terms of who they seem to be underneath their surfaces. There is a familiarity to them, something that resonates, something kind of troubled about them that is very recognizable to me. It is endlessly fascinating and utterly simple as to why we gravitate to what we do. Of course this is not stuff that I’ve worked out completely, which is precisely why it’s engrossing to me. That is why I do it. That is the focus.

From: A Conversation with Todd Hido
An Interview with Todd Hido about his newest book, “Between the Two” (Nazraeli Press).

By Darius Himes
February 28, 2007



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courtesy SPACES

courtesy SPACES

I have been thinking dark thoughts lately. With every turn there seems to be  the bad news of misfortune, swindle, fraud or class system abuse by wealthy over-privileged or entitled politicians, businessmen and corporations. The condition is so chronic that I googled “Am I a nihilist?” I was looking for some 10 question Cosmopolitan survey that would confirm the fact that I am starting to believe in nothing. Luckily there wasn’t such a test and even more fortunate was the hit-the-nail-on-the-head, zeitgeist confirming installation by Eileen Doktorski  called “oblivion” at Spaces.

Tucked away from the large white walled gallery at the Spaces Flash Forward exhibition is a small dark rabbit hole that whispers and lures.  As mysterious as it seems from the outside, the inside experience of Eileen Doktorski’s emotionally charged installation is even more enthralling. The emotion of that small, dark, dank room is palpable even before you process the imagery that occupies the space. Dimly lit and narrated by a faint soundtrack of nature sounds and rushing water, the 12 foot by 12 foot or so room transforms into an apocalyptic Mad Maxian scenario of muddied trash, human relics of mass production and consumption. The floating  remains of civilization. A shopping plaza Pompeii. Or better yet a raging flood stream that ravaged a street and flushed out the belongings of all the houses in its path. A gigantic purge of items from suitcases, toy doll houses, shoes and furniture. There is even a person in the corner grasping to stay alive in the muddy current. Leading the chain of trashed human possessions is a Duane Hansen-esque slacker slumped and oblivious in a recliner eyes a gaze at a bobbing television set. The man dressed for a day or lifetime of TV watching sits and stares as the world around him carries him away. A trash pied-piper floating into the sunset of oblivion as nature fights back.  The piece is so detailed that evokes a smell, the pungent aroma of wet and flooded basement and muddy over flowed rivers drying out in the hot summer sun. Oblivion is a well crafted installation that puts the viewer in a scenario that could be all to real. It echoes the struggles of Katrina and future catastrophic events and hints at the numb and detached responses from a culture that is ever growing desensitized and “oblivious”.

Not sure if I feel better about the human condition but at least I know I’m not the only one. And at least there is some people working to create something powerful and meaningful from it all. I suppose then since Doktorski elicited such a strong response from me that I can’t possibly be a nihilist. I guess that’s good news.


See Eileen Doktorski  “oblivion” at Spaces SpaceLab till February 27th.

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A new year for many people is a symbol for a fresh start. Diet’s, savings, being a better person are sentiments and actions that start up with vigor and enthusiasm the morning after a long night sending off the previous year of regrets and failed promises.  So I find it interesting that after the new year I find a post on DailyServing.com about Carl Pope’s CIA and Case Western Reserves commissioned public arts project to give a voice to everyday Clevelanders who live the failings of wonderful city.
Pope, a nationally acclaimed artist, posed the question to Clevelanders “what do you think of Cleveland?”  The answers, in ten words or less, were submitted through an online forum and then the most potent and resonating statements were chosen to be printed and displayed via billboards and kiosks all over the city.  What came out of it was a collection of universal sentiments that summed up this great city. The billboards became the cliffs notes to a volumous epic. Distilled notions of the cities problems, desires, needs and hopes. The Mind of Cleveland project was ambitious and was coupled with lectures, exhibitions and community participation. I am not sure if any of the billboards are still up around town since I believe the project took place over a few months last spring but the full archive of the work is located at the Mind of Cleveland website. The stories, slogans and the project and a whole is inspiring. Like so many other attempts to forge on through troubled times and rebuild from a solid foundation.
Although it is great to see national exposure for such a local and serious project, I am a little upset in the chosen billboard by DailyServing to use as the illustrative photo of the project.  “Cleveland, Where Ambition is a Dirty Word”  really defeats the scope of the project. Be sure to scroll through the entire portfolio on the Mind of Cleveland website to see the full depth of feelings from the city’s residence. That one image is taken a bit out of context and misses the true scope of the project. Be sure to see the work in its entirety here.  The photographs alone are a great collection of urban landscapes that capture the essence of a city that is both vibrant and desolate.
Last, I am inspired that people have a great concern for the city and institutions are willing to contribute to the artistic and social dialogue. However, talking and in Pope’s case shouting can only get so far. I think that it has been established that Cleveland’s pantry is stocked with all the right ingredients. But who are the chefs that are going to start layering the flavors in on the great stew that is Cleveland? What are the actions that can be done to kick start the revitalization the city needs. To quote one of my favorite billboards: What do WE bring to the table?


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walrus symphonica 16.6 in x 37.5 in Archival Injet Print


lightbulb flower 8.8 in x 7 in Archival Inkjet Print

The best art only asks questions and never reveals its secrets. Cleveland based artist Andrew Raz a Tyler School of Art MFA graduate creates dark muddled works that parse meaning through the seemingly random collision of data and images.  As a body of work Mr. Raz’s digitally created and manipulated images seem like film stills or random data received by radio on another planet. They come together like someone adjusting the rabbit ears on a UHF station trying to grab the strongest signal, sometimes seeing a recognizable image then losing it just as fast to static. Individually, Raz’s images are sublime layers of digital glazes that let snippets of information through while obscuring the rest. The end creation is a dense, textured and rich surface of digital patterns and waves rendered  with an intense array of values. The images allude to a digital mash-up of Robert Rauschenberg, Joel Peter Witkin and random surveillance camera stills.  Some seem oddly religious and others resonate with unease as strange body forms appear as if shots from a gritty 8mm snuff film. Raz’s images occupy a thin edge between an empty, dark and isolated digital world and a the spiritual idea of infinity, time and space. They offer up clues but no answers and force the viewer to conclude what side to take. Darth Vader says “Come to the Dark Side” and God says “Come to the light.”


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courtesy Bonfoey Gallery

Just a quick reminder, if anyone has not scene this show at the Bonfoey Gallery, to stop raking leaves and get down to 1710 Euclid Avenue and soak up some of the best contemporary traditional photographic vision and poignant point-counter point commentary on the state of our city. These are world class photographs that employ the classic photographic attention to detail the likes of Joel Sternfeld, Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank.

This show is well curated, pitting our past verses our future. Vibrancy and urban vigor against relics, manufacturing history and an aging infrastructure. Garie Waltzer, a renowned Cleveland artist takes aim at the bustling life and saturated urban-scapes. Stepping back and filling the image with people, streets, architecture and the weaving of it all into detailed pictures that are sum of all their parts.

Andrew Borowiec, a Yale Master of Fine Arts graduate, and the recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize in 2006 draws more focus on Cleveland’s past and decaying relics of the cities history. Strikingly beautiful in light and print yet somber in its human-less subject matter, Borowiec’s photographs honor the great places that built this city while eulogizing the fate of a once bustling manufacturing mecca.

In essence the show in its whole finds Cleveland with an interesting identity problem. How do we move on from the defeat of our past while staying true to the people and places that brought us to the now. Cleveland’s history is lush and the people are what are going to bring it into the future.

This show is a must see, and despite my late adapting, the show runs through November 8th 2008.

Bonfoey Gallery “Grit and Glory — Urban Landscapes,” photographs by Andrew Borowiec and Garie Waltzer. 1710 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Admission: Free. Call 216-621-0178 or go to http://www.bonfoey.com.

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courtesy amycasepaintings.com and metmuseum.org
courtesy amycasepaintings.com and metmuseum.org

Call it trendy or call it the zeitgeist or just call it like it is, chaos. The apocalypse seems to be on everyones mind and canvas’s these days and with one look at Amy Casey’s obsessively detailed paintings you realize we’re not in Kansas, oh I mean Cleveland, any more. House’s and infrastructure literally hang in the balance, wavering on broken wooden stilts or swinging from the one thing that keep us connected, phone, cable and electric wires, after the non-figurative bottom falls out.

Ms. Casey describes her paintings being born of an apocalyptic reoccurring dream in which the world around her falls apart. It seems that the panic of everyday natural disaster and war news can not help but populate the American psyche with feelings of doom and inevitability. Gone are the patriotic days of Leave it to Beaver where pride and national righteousness were a way of life. We are seeing in life and in art the ultimate fruits of modernism. Ms. Casey eschews post modernism’s ironic counter point to modernism with a purer descriptive form of reply. It’s as though she is saying, look dude, this is where we are, let’s not fuck around, everything is falling apart and I need to make pictures of it.

When one looks at Ms. Casey’s paintings it is easy to see the reference to the great rust belt architecture of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The colors are spot on. I can even swear to know some of the houses and old corner stores that are depicted in the rubble and destruction. It is the architecture or Walker Evans, and Charles Sheeler to name a few. And one painting in particular, Clouds 2008, seems to be a direct referendum on Sheeler’s Ford Plant, River Rouge, Criss-Crossed Conveyors, 1927. In Clouds, the once heroic un-named factory that employed many and was the life force to a modern economy now hangs upside down sputtering through production waiting for the last electric wire to snap sending the backbone of prosperity into the depths below. It’s clear that Casey loves her surroundings and the urban landscape that she lives by her meticulous rendering of the structures but it is of stark contrast to Sheeler’s love or interest in the modern world. Hope and awe has made way to shock and awe. This once modern architecture of production and prosperity stand crutched and limp much like the patients in a triage after a long and brutal battle. Geriatric structures holding on only by the past in which they have lived and of notions of strength and nobility that only exist now in history.

Amy Casey is working artist here in Cleveland. She studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and at the Yale Summer School program. Her extensive body of work can be viewed on her website, www.amycaseypainting.com and at the Zg Gallery in Chicago. I just recently saw her work at the Spaces Anniversary show and it was fantastic. Enjoy!


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