Bill Viola, one of the most sought-after artists internationally, early selected a contemporary medium to address broad humanistic questions. Embracing global perspectives that include Christian theology, Zen Buddhism, and Islamic Sufi mysticism, his videos address our hybrid existence as matter and thought, our memories, empathy with others, and transitions through birth, death and aging. Organized by Asma Naeem, curator of prints, drawings and media art, in consultation with Viola’s creative partner, Kira Perov and the Bill Viola Studio, the exhibition displays eleven works that span the artist’s early career to the present. Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, expressed his delight in inviting “visitors to enter the museum’s newly created media galleries to experience portraiture in its most telling and current form: moving revelations of the human body and spirit that befit our digital age.” In the accompanying 20-page brochure, Naeern provides a contextualizing overview; the artist comments simply on the action in each piece. The viewer is encouraged to make associations, a direction Viola advocated in an earlier interview: “images have their life because they’re untethered and free floating” (video: Bill Viola and the making of Emergence by Mark Kidel, 2003).
Articles by Virginia Raguin
Patrick Dougherty has been making popular installations over a 30-year career in the tradition of Earthworks. Raised and educated in North Carolina (he resides in Chapel Hill), he began with a hand-crafted house in the 1970’s and a decade later was showing human stick figures positioned or standing in chairs. His first works were displayed in art galleries and at art centers before he became engaged with architectural follies that are often massive structures that leap from tree to tree, cover facades of buildings, or stand as independent houses or similarly monumental forms. His output in the past decade numbers nine to ten installations a year—each occupying about three weeks of uninterrupted effort. As well as the hundreds of sculptures in the United States, his work has been enthusiastically received internationally in almost every country in Western Europe as well as Japan and South Korea.
All artists strive to depict the human condition; Judith Schaechter does this in a series of extraordinary narratives in stained glass that address life, consciousness, and the unending richness of created form. A recipient of several National Endowment for the Arts awards as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship, Schaechter teaches in the Craft and Material Studies department at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Her recent show at Claire Oliver Gallery focuses on flight and space, actual or imagined in new and brilliant ways. Birds rule throughout! Schaechter admits that she has recently become a bird watcher although she always enjoyed animals, even as a teenager. She confides that a bird’s shape is appealing—a living form but without the complex appendages of arms and legs (hard to draw).
There have been a number of excellent reviews of this exhibit, especially Holland Cotter's early piece of August 27 in The New York Times. We still have several months to profit from “Made in the Americas.” My comments are prompted by my deep gratitude as a non-specialist for an exhibition that reinforces a new paradigm of art historical and critical thinking, even as it continues a tradition of a major museum able to bring an eye-popping collection of exquisite works heretofore not seen together. Dennis Carr has formed an intellectually rich exploration of global communication vital to the early modern era. Via a wide display of different media—textiles, furniture, metalwork, painting, ceramics, and inlay—we explore the relationship among the cultures of the Americas as the crossroads of Europe and Asia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
We are mesmerized. The polished sheen of the glass radiates colors as intensely as jewels. A myriad of forms in kaleidoscopic transformation suggest at once flowers, sea urchins, snowflakes, or bacteria. Crystalline circles like flowers or alabaster Easter eggs multiply in extravagant exuberance. Tree branches, undulating snakes (or are they veins?) spread across the profusion.
Bluntly put: this event should not be missed. The first comprehensive overview of the multifaceted German artist Sigmar Polke (1941–2010), the exhibition dominates MoMA’s 2nd floor atrium and 10 subsequent rooms. Consisting of more than 250 works, it is one of the largest ever mounted at the museum. A rich catalogue accompanies the exhibition: Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963-2010, edited by Kathy Halbreich with Mark Godfrey, Lanka Tattersall, and Magnus Schaefer. To facilitate engagement, visitors are provided with a 32-page guide, containing all pertinent label information, leaving the walls purified for visual reception. Text, so much a part of Polke’s art, then is left aesthetically integral. The exhibition will travel to the Tate Modern in London from October 1, 2014 through February 8, 2015, and then to Cologne’s Museum Ludwig March 15 to July 5, 2015.
Kiki Smith’s work in recent years has developed a trajectory of landscape. In the Neuberger Museum of Arts’ Visionary Sugar: Works by Kiki Smith of 2013, the tapestries, sculptures, and drawings suggested a journey in space and in time. Her new exhibition, Wonder, at the Pace Gallery continues this direction with sculptures (pedestal, wall and suspended), tapestry, glass paintings, and three-dimensional leaded and painted glass sculptures. There is a wealth of glass.
How do we access the past? The viewer of contemporary art is invariably ensconced in, if not assaulted by, the strategies of artist, gallerist, and critic setting a work in terms of the present. The viewer, even the neophyte, invariably is attuned to the content of the discourse—racial memories of South Africa, female experience in the United States, sexual identity, response to AIDs, poverty, or age, in term that resonate with lived, personal experience. How does an exhibitor or critic bridge the cultural gap that so actively stands between our present and our past, especially with artists outside of the mainstream?