In her recent works, photos and drawings, Naomi Fisher builds a development of her protagonists with narrative abundance. Chris Vasell paintings have the chromatic filigree or 1960s' psychedelia tones. The canvases of Bernard Frize are paintings of a long line with no beginning or end. Martin Oppel’s painted and constructed images explore uncommon places and things. Piotr Uklanski has constructed a diverse body of work that exploits sculpture, photography, collage, performance and film, as it promiscuously absorbs cultural references.
Naomi Fisher - Chris Vasell
10/12/2005 - 07/01/2006
Over the last several years, Naomi Fisher has been trafficking in images of women in highly personal and very particular ways. Uneasy at first, her photographs and drawings have slowly come to inhabit the space they created, as Fisher developed a vocabulary of relations between her female protagonists and the ferns, flowers and other floral wildlife they struggle with and are teased by. Fisher’s women slowly, over the span of five years, began to liberate themselves from the vegetation and the earth they at first seemed to be grounded in or bounded by. In her earlier photographs from 2000 onward, Fisher showed women strangely passively entangled, tied and almost captured by the flora they were seen with. Often presented from the torso down, almost always seen from the back and never revealing the head and face, Fisher’s women squatted, laid on their backs, sat on their rears or posed on all fours as though incapable of elevating themselves onto their feet and legs. But although these images often seem to contain an air of violence akin to that known from the images of sexually based crimes, it was neither the nudity nor the fragmentation that was disturbing about them, but the inability of the protagonists to erect themselves and stand above the level of vegetation they inhabited. Upright stance, it seemed, could not be achieved by these floral dwellers. Rather, the warm earth on one woman’s bare buttocks, the horse-mounted bamboo trunk, or the soft embrace of effacing flowers seem to present an elemental force impossible to overcome.
Fisher’s subsequent series of ink drawings of women shifted the focus of the image toward a frontal view of her subjects. While the background and surroundings of these drawings still suggest vegetation, the focus of the artist’s renderings clearly fall on the figures, which are now seen from the waist up, with a clear, sometimes partially covered view of the face. The close tonal range of h and legs. But although these images often seem to contain an air of violence akin to that known from the images of sexually based crimes, it was neither the nudity nor the fragmentation that was disturbing about them, but the inability of the protagonists to erect themselves and stand above the level of vegetation they inhabited. Upright stance, it seemed, could not be achieved by these floral dwellers. Rather, the warm earth on one woman’s bare buttocks, the horse-mounted bamboo trunk, or the soft embrace of effacing flowers seem to present an elemental force impossible to overcome.
Fisher’s subsequent series of ink drawings of women shifted the focus of the image toward a frontal view of her subjects. While the background and surroundings of these drawings still suggest vegetation, the focus of the artist’s renderings clearly fall on the figures, which are now seen from the waist up, with a clear, sometimes partially covered view of the face. The close tonal range of her drawings, mostly executed in different shades and layers of bright reds, still unites the figures with their floral background, but the shift to frontal view reveals another shift in the narrative development of Fisher’s women: Suddenly, the faces of Fisher’s heroines have taken on the expressive weight of the suffering formerly only inferred. Bright red clouds of tears surround their eyes, their mouths often agape from cries, and when partially covered, their faces are shielded with the palms of their hands. A decisive shift was set by the work Untitled (Ocean) (2004) [title check]. The dense vegetation of the tropical garden has given way the blue expanse of the ocean at dusk, uninterrupted except the torso of a lone, nude female figure, seen from the back, with a machete in her right hand. Holding the machete high above her head with her outstretched arm, ready to slash her enemies at once, the female protagonist of Untitled (Ocean) has not simply taken back her fate in a role reversal of actions, but has entered, as if for the first time, a stage of upright stance.
In her most recent body of work, both photographic and hand-drawn, Fisher builds on this newly gained evolutionary development of her protagonists with narrative abundance. A pivotal role is given to the photograph Untitled (Camo), which presents a self-portrait of the artist, set against the familiar floral landscape, grinning mischievously while holding a machete. Every other photograph sets out from this fundamentally changed relation between figure and flora. Although the woman in Untitled (Twigs) has her face covered with hair, the figure in Untitled (Pink Shirt) still squats on the earthen ground and the protagonist of Untitled (Ferns) appears still in thrall of the thick leaves of the palm tree, all are presented whole and capable of defense, their interaction with the vegetative enemy playful, if not outright cocky. And in Untitled (Vines) and Untitled (Rope), the female protagonist has clearly taken the lead, toying with the planted opponent more than battling it, teasing, licking, caressing it in ways that clearly show that the powers have changed. The drawings also have changed their mood in subtle ways that suggest a dramatic change on a different level. Vaguely based on scenes from the photographs, the ink drawings continue formally the parameters of earlier work, showing frontally drawn women, often cropped at the chest, with open mouths and widened eyes, their color ranging still from shades of bright red to violent pink. But the expression has changed completely. Rather than giving way to a previously interiorized emotion of fear and suffering, their faces have taken on a mask of aggression; their mouths are not agape by cries, they are opened from the pure scorn of anger; their raised arms no longer shield their face but are ready to strike. Fisher’s most recent series of works has completed a narrative turn of events several years in the making and has liberated its protagonists of the setting they evolved from. Their actions have taken control of their environment, and their bodies appear whole. Let’s welcome them.
- Christian Rattemeyer
Chris Vasell works in a very aquatic, trippy, stain-happy mode of painting, with the flamboyant chromatic filigree or 1960s’ psychedelia tones down for a more sombre age. Skeins of translucent, drenching pigment drift across his pictures like heavy-hued cloudbursts opening up on a clammy summer day (Bereshit, 2004), or boil with the caustic effervescence of acid poured over the bonnet of a brand new car. But Vasell isn’t just making pretty, refined messes : tucked into the coagulating, dried-up eddies of a paint are frequent figurative references - a lip, a flared nostril, a floating pair of staring eyes - that suggest a disconsolate unease with what painting can summon out of the ether.
- James Tainor
Bernard Frize - Martin Oppel - Piotr Uklanski
01/12/2005 - 05/02/2006
"Euler tour, Pavistram, Sona... etc"
"Tis said that the views of nature held by any people determine all their institutions."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The canvases are (again) paintings of a long line with no beginning or end. The line snakes regularly and symmetrically over the entire surface. More specifically, it follows a grid of 13 x 13 squares pivoted at a 45 angle, like a fishnet. Some of the intersections have been cancelled to allow a passageway between the axes. The line is painted in a grey of no special quality and does not really show a top or a bottom. The canvases are all different in that the passageways between the oblique axes are modules placed in different parts of the grid.
These paintings resemble mathematical diagrams similar to the ones that can be found in Vanuatu, India, Angola, Egypt, or Celtic countries, where they form the medium for a story, like the one told while a drawing is made in the sand to accompany the souls of the dead out of the land of the living. In which case, the drawing would then be erased.
The mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) made major contributions, despite having gone blind, to the number theory and the theory of differentials. He left us the solution to the famous Konigsberg bridges problem as a striking example of complex mathematical and topological theories: what route must be taken to cross the city of seven bridges and return to the point of departure without using the same bridge twice?
We can also see these canvases as a representation, or decipher what is loyally revealed of the process. Their height is approximately that of a human. The line is painted freehand. These paintings are not composed; they are constructed using a system that regulates the passage of the brush, rather like a performance requires a physical space and a concrete action. The action is now finished and the line is there, calm, having encountered slowness and acceleration, repetition of hinted-at figures; it bounces off the edges and generates other figures, with the promise of curling up and going back to rest at the tip of a continuous movement. We can follow it for a moment, forget ourselves in its convolutions, and incorporate this constant flow, for these paintings offer a plane of experience where the borders between objective and subjective disappear.
For a more detailed approach to Bernard Frize’s work, see the autumn issue of Parkett, featuring texts by:
Patricia Falguie're painting of action/policy of colours,
Jordan Kantor The Reconstitution of Time Past
Katy Siegel/Paul Mattick Art and Industry
Martin Oppel’s Crate Tectonics
Mass communications has transformed everything: persons, places, things, a good portion of our fantasies, and all of our representations, including art. The world has been pictured, copied, and investigated from every perspective and point of view, and in every media and style thus far conceived. We look outwardly and inwardly, all at once, accruing and discarding with increasing abandonment, playing out options to the hilt. Yet there are artists for whom discursive points-of-view, life seen in glimpses from here, there, and everywhere, are the carrier of subject matter, and the meaning of it all.
Born, in 1976, in Buenos Aires, now living in Miami, Martin Oppel’s painted and constructed images explore uncommon places and things in order to examine not only what we see but also how we see. For example, his oil painting, Miami Hills, 2004, shows enormous sand hills rising up in what appears to be a desert. A strange white liquid eases down them (echoing Smithson’s Asphalt Rundown—in gesso or white asphalt rain). Dust wafts into cumulus clouds in the background. Peeking behind the hills is a billboard with the word EXACT painted on it. This is a picture made near the beach by a road. It’s no Arcadian landscape, and far from a Painted Desert by Georgia O’Keefe. Nor is it the will-inspired perspective of an esthete empowered by the sublime. What we see is something closer to cinema: a landscape at the edge of town, captured perhaps with a digital camera, and painted in a deft, realistic style. What’s not so obvious is that the image was taken from the ground, bug level, which is a very peculiar perspective for a painting, but not for a study in POV.
A smaller painting, Miami Nice, 2004, shows a tangerine-colored crepuscular sky over the Miami suburbs. Artificial lights painted in rainbow arcs counterpoint orange clouds dense as heavy cream. Purportedly “nice," the scene looks like a CNN clip of a night attack. In another small acrylic on paper, called Goddess (Nature vs. Culture), 2004, he portrays a modern couple gazing quizzically at a large Aztec Goddess, huge in juxtaposition to them, seemingly angry for being out of her natural element. The same goddess reappears, in Brief History #2, discarded in dirt. Behind her a bulldozer, painted in shadowy oranges, pushes through what might be a landscape devastated by fire. A crystal skull, glowing like neon in the dark, appears in different paintings, as well as in a constructed version. Lions vs. Man — Study looks like it was painted photograph from a news stories about animals devouring a person. Flaccid Cone, 2003, depicts a traffic cone, bent over like an uninspired penis. Lightning looks like a more threatening version of Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field in New Mexico from 1977. Many of these paintings are the size of typing paper.
Where the paintings might derive from received information, like news items, and nondescript places, including areas artists traffic in and around, his sculptures are common objects that have been altered. Crate Ziggurat, 2004, made from aromatic cedar and cherry wood, is like a temple for crate worshippers; Clear Cone, 2003, is a transparent resin traffic cone, useless on any highway other than one of the imagination; Evergreen, 2003, is a carpet of green plastic leaves, caressed not raked; Root Pot, 2003, is a weirdly imaginable molded-plastic trashcan with roots growing out of it; Soil Cinders, 2003, groups cast cement blocks made from compacted soil; Boulder and Chair (Skull and Bones), 2004, is a large Elephant Man-like cement skull attached to the crossed “bones" of white plastic chair legs.
In reality the crates, traffic cones, trashcans, cinder blocks, and plastic chairs are more than just common objects. They are the slave-matter of industry and commerce, made on the cheap, designed to be used, reused, abused, discarded, and largely ignored, except when they go missing. In Oppel’s transforming hands, however, they begin to convey a symbolic psychology, not just pertaining to heat, wastelands, and commerce, but to the very human disjunction between nature and culture, making and manufacturing, and art and commerce. Distantly, too, they relate to voodoo dolls and fetishes, and art’s transcendent relationship to reality.
He doesn’t question the conundrum about our vacillating master-slave relationship with nature. But within the reality of his art he hints at mundane contemporary truisms: skulls dangling on key chains or propped up in collectors’ homes remain Vanitas masks of death, even to voodoo’s nonbelievers; bulldozers destroy natural and archaeological history as fast as cultural revolutions; cheapness and transient belief are the cliche's of the museum of the regurgitated masses. Other contemporary issues are also deeply enmeshed in the dumbstruck POV of his museumgoers, in the pointlessness of his see-through traffic cones, in the uselessness of the trashcan with roots, in his ziggurat of the mind, and in his cockroach’s appraisal of civilization’s outreach. These other issues are political, social, and aesthetic. One is that culture is our nature; another is that art can distract us from our mania; and a third is that Earth is an artwork we treat like a crate.
— Jeff Rian
Born in 1968 in Warsaw, Poland, Piotr Uklanski now divides his time between Warsaw, Paris and New York. Piotr Uklanski emerged on the New York art scene in the mid-90s with an emblematic work — “Untitled (Dance Floor)"—a sculpture that integrates the legacy of minimalism with the blurring of art and entertainment that characterizes the current era. Uklanski has constructed a diverse body of work that exploits as many types of media (sculpture, photography, collage, performance and film) as it promiscuously absorbs cultural references. His work has been internationally exhibited in various contexts, including the 2003 Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Manifesta 2, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the 2004 Sao Paolo Biennale and the Kunsthalle Basel. Uklanski’s work often draws polemical reactions since the artist does not shy away from potentially controversial subjects — such as his photographic series “Untitled (The Nazis)" or his precarious performance engaging a professional stuntman “Untitled (The Full Burn)."
Gallery Miami, Uklanski will present a new series of large-scale, multi-paneled photographs. These photographic ensembles will consist of dramatic images of nature taken in “exotic" locales such as Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. Though these images are rooted in “reality," they are assembled in a manner such that they appear to be abstract expressionist paintings, referencing Clifford Still, Mark Rothko and Kenneth Noland. Recently, Uklanski participated in the 8 th Lyon Biennale. Additionally, Uklanski created a permanent sculptural installation in the rainforest above Rio de Janeiro — a monumental mosaic made from Brazilian ceramic pottery— that is part of the collection of the Museu do Acude.
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
76 rue de Turenne 75003 Paris