Sunday, 25 June 2017

A Review of Irina Korina at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow

by  Flora Alexandra  I

First established by Dasha Zhukova in 2008, the iconic Garage Museum of Contemporary Art has since been re-designed by Rem Koolhaas in Gorky Park, Moscow. As described by their curatorial team, the Museum’s extensive program of exhibitions, events, education, research, and publishing reflects current developments in Russian and international culture.’

We’ve all frequented the leading spaces for contemporary art such as Centre Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern in London or perhaps MoMa in New York, but forward-thinking Garage have finally turned our attention to Moscow. With five exhibitions, a renowned magazine, cutting-edge book shop, and open-air cinema, Garage has evolved into a creative hub like no other.

Re-purposing the 1968 Vremena Goda (Seasons of the Year) Soviet Modernist restaurant, the unique space has always been a gathering place. Inevitably, their café now overflows with artists, curators and art lovers. Although, it’s transformative re-design is ultra-modern, they’ve also restored the original mosaics, celebrating soviet interiors with the iconic allegory of autumn.

Given that Garage was first opened in a bus depot, the architecture continues to reflect the ephemeral architecture of Moscow – a city always under construction. The notable atrium commission is Irina Korina’s three-story architectural intervention The Tail Wags the Comet, which launched in Spring during the acclaimed Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art.

Korina’s multi-sensory installation captures the schizophrenic architecture of Moscow. She uses the sounds and smells of Moscow as vehicles of memory from rubber to cut grass and sugary cookies. Korina is an artist whose creations consistently embrace the art historical notion of Gesamtkunstwerk. As with The Tail Wags the Comet, each piece is always a total work of art combining architecture, sculptural elements. The ceiling also reflects Islamic architecture.

Guided by the young curator Iaroslav Volovod, we were also shown the American artist Raymond Pettiboyn’s playful Cloud of Misreading exhibition. It included a broad spectrum of ephemera, paper works and various texts from the Punk scene through to contemporary culture. Questioning the significance of materials was the Congo Art Works: Popular Painting exhibition, within which flour bags were often used as canvases alongside other murals, paintings and artefacts.

After a quick look at David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material - a survey of the famous architect’s career - we found ourselves swept into the café for a matcha latte and time to reflect on our experience. With five exhibitions in the space, we were happy to have got through at least four. As observed by our photographer, Garage museum’s current exhibitions all felt so immersive that, “we had challenged our senses of sight, sound, smell all before arriving for a piece of cake in the cafe." 

After only a few days of studio visits and gallery tours in Moscow, I would urge all writers, collectors and art lovers to bypass their usual citybreaks to Paris or Berlin in favour of this art scene. Although Moscow can often painted as a dark or oppressive place by the popular media, I would instead describe the city as a truly magical place. Our guide Iaroslav’s frequent (mis) use of the word ‘fairytale’ to loosely describe anything fictional captured this mood perfectly.

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste. 

Friday, 19 May 2017

A Review of Frieze New York on Randall's Island, New York

by  Flora Alexandra  I

Frieze New York is an annual event, which attracts a broad spectrum of collectors, artists and gallerists to make the pilgrimage over the East River and discover an impressive selection of both modern and contemporary art. Across just four days, its hugely diverse audience are exposed to a plethora of cutting-edge works exhibited by more than 200 international galleries as well as a developed program of art talks, lectures and curator-led tours. 

Stationed on Randall's Island, Frieze New York is only in its sixth year, but the British fair has already achieved the coveted status of an unmissable event in the art world calendar. Forced to work alongside fierce competition such as the Armory Show and TEFAF New York, this year's program did not disappoint. Even rain and high winds on the second day failed to dampen spirits as sales remained strong, and our Instagram feeds continued to attract a huge response. 

As a dedicated follower of art fairs, I have come to expect a certain experience. Normally a large proportion of the stands will hang flat works on white walls, and others will either pull together a range of different mediums or present some form of cryptic installation, which you aren't sure if you can interact with. A dynamic alternative is the "happening" or performance pieces like Dora Budor's live impersonations of Leonardo DiCaprio at the fair. Undoubtedly, performance art as a medium is growing in popularity across art fairs and exhibitions as our appetite for immersive cultural experiences continues to strengthen. 

This year, Frieze New York felt less predictable than its competitors with creative presentations such as the Cheim & Read stand, which reacted to the recent Women’s March on Washington with a space featuring artists' works inspired by the colour pink from Ghada Amer to Louise Bourgeois and Andy Warhol. Another point of interest was Canada Gallery's immersive interior in which the contents of Marc Hundley's entire Brooklyn apartment were rebuilt at Frieze New York to display their interesting selection of works in situ. To me, both stands felt like a direct response to the uncertain social and political climate of our time.

Working in the art world these past few years, I've observed a gradual shift in how collectors, gallerists and artists choose to display contemporary art. In order to create a deeper connection with their audience, artists are not only striving to engage politically, but also questioning how their work should be presented to their audience. A perfect example is the provocative Llyn Foulkes relief Untitled "Dinghy,"  which was exhibited by Sprüth Magers and questions the prejudices of Donald Trump. The controversial piece was rendered all the more powerful by its monumental scale and solitary position on the stand's outer wall. 

As with stands such as Kiki Kogelnik at Simone Subal Gallery, Hauser & Wirth consciously exhibited the work of an individual female artist, Lorna Simpson. Although she is primarily known as a photographer, Simpson decided to fill the space with paintings like Black and Ice (2017) on canvas as well as sculptural works made from glass and brass. As she explored gender, race and identity within her blue colour palette, it also felt as if Simpson's experimentation beyond her core medium mimicked both the simultaneous unrest and innovation of the socio-economic environment in which she and her contemporaries are making their work.

Gagosian lined its walls with a solo presentation by John Currin, which created an immersive environment in which the audience could view the artist's figurative drawings without distraction. Experiencing decades of never-before seen drawings of, "a lot of naked ladies," was an intense and evocative experience, which brings you closer to the artist. Interestingly, this work is.less sexualised than expected and looks at the works of the Old Masters - especially 16/17th century imagery - through a contemporary lens. As with Alize Nisenbaum at Glasgow-based gallery Mary Mary, it was compelling to re-discover artists who are unafraid to also look back to the past. Her solo presentation used protest imagery from Mexican Modernist prints 1900-1950 to explore painting as a form of ethics.

Marian Goodman featured an immersive installation Bridges in the Doldrums (2016) by the Albanian artist Anri Sala, which was comprised of an assortment of drums placed across the futuristic space. There was a sense of delayed gratification as visitors hesitated as to move further into the space to get a closer look at the hypnotically self-playing instruments. As the progression towards more interactive stands has perhaps moved slower than anticipated on the international art fair circuit, it was refreshing to find a gallery endeavouring to challenge our senses. In the Focus section, Dawn Kasper also presented a participatory installation of musical sculpture. 

In both the Spotlight and Frame sections, there was a strong line-up of smaller galleries making their Frieze New York debut with impressive stands. Bridget Donahue's first appearance was a fortunate one, resulting in the award of the Frieze Frame Prize. Advised by Fabian Schoneich and Jacob Proctor, the Frame section continues to support international galleries, which have been running for less than eight years. The salon-style booth was inspired by the artist Susan Cianciolo's recent visit to a Milanese eatery and featured a condensed retrospective of her collages from the last 20 years. See more at the Whitney Biennale this month. 

On Stellar Rays - a neighbour to Donahue's gallery on the Lower East Side - they also presented a solo exhibition of the female artist Rochelle Feinstein, whose work both engages and reflects the realities of our current times. Her work Ear to the Ground incorporates a collection of phrases painted in her own handwriting across the installed white curtain. The amassment of words had been gathered from current language, passing conversations, marketing copy and expressions.

I must admit that I had been a little overwhelmed by the prospect of covering this year's Frieze New York. Initially, I had arrived with the intention of just re-visiting a few of the most visually-appealing, dynamic stands whilst also endeavouring to discover some exciting emerging talent, but I actually left feeling both energised and challenged by this year's presentation. In fact, Frieze New York undoubtedly felt more balanced, relevant, and politically-engaged than in previous years.

By focusing more on the artists, and the issues they sought to represent, one might even suggest that Frieze New York also made a deeper connection with those questions at the core of the art community. Alongside the blue-chip galleries, the majority of smaller galleries placed within both the Spotlight and Frame sections also offered unique presentations that were more accessible, refreshing and thoughtfully-curated.

 There was a sense of genuine concern with wider political issues, as well as more localised art ones. Whether or not that has been the case in past, this year it really came across strongly. 

Co-written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy and Lane Brenner 
Images Courtesy of Mark Blower and Frieze 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

An Interview with David Uzochukwu in Brussels, Belgium

by  Flora Alexandra  I

 David Uzochukwu is a self-taught, 18-year-old photographer based between Paris and Brussels. In recent years, he has progressed from self-portraiture to major collaborations shooting FKA Twigs for Nike as well as a series for Adobe Photoshop. Whilst shooting for publications such as Hunger Magazine, Dazed Digital, Wonderland Magazine and Vogue, David has always managed to preserve his creative integrity and strong narrative vision, especially across the fine art photography you’ll find in his portfolio. Every image has a dreaminess, but also a directness achieved by playing with colour and texture in post-production. Using the internet, he was not only able to teach himself how to use the equipment, but to connect with other artists, and now all his friends are photographers.

The Austrian-born Luxembourger with Nigerian roots grew up in Brussels and since childhood David has been documenting everything around him, taking advantage of  the diversity of his surrounding landscapes. His evocative self-portrait series on racism also shows the young innovator's ability to approach challenging subject matter. David has already exhibited in group shows from Tokyo, to Athens as well as Lagos and New York with highlights including Lagos Photo Festival, Milk Studios and the Yale School of Art. He is inspired by artists that “construct their own universe,” such as Gregory Crewdson and Wangechi Mutu. Follow him @daviduzochukwu to follow his progress, there are starry skies ahead.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be a photographer?

Not a conscious one - once I’d picked up a camera for fun, I just had to keep making pictures for my own well-being. 

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I sketch out an idea, then pull my materials together and go out on location to shoot for one or two hours. I’ll select an image (on my way home), and do my post production over the course of a few days. Concepts grow into something else while shooting, things come together differently in post production, sometimes I put the file in some folder and can’t finish it for the next two years. It's a super organic process.

Why have you chosen to focus on the human form as your primary subject?

The more I discovered how complex and beautiful humans can be, the more I wanted to photograph them - but mostly removed from daily life. I don’t like clutter.

Are you able to move freely between art and fashion? If so, how? 

I only really care about work that has a certain aspect of wonder. I don’t want to make a distinction between a fashion image and personal work, but approach everything the same way, trying to find something that feels familiar. That’s what I’m in it for!

What project or photograph thus far would you like to be remembered for?

The thought to be remembered for work I’ve already made is honestly terrifying. 

Do you feel that your young age (18) as an advantage or disadvantage?

I think I’m lucky to have found something I’m passionate about. It's already so interesting to me to see how different my work as a thirteen year old is from the work I made as a sixteen year old to what I do now. 

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

A resonation with the purest part of you.

Do you have a favourite photograph or series, which inspires you?

There are quite a few photographers that I deeply admire. First one I thought of - Lexi Mire's self portraits have always made me feel like I have a soul.

Which photographer of the past or present would you most like to collaborate with?

Tim Walker. 

Does your multi-national heritage impact your work? 

I'm very conscious of what it means to be different, and enjoy making work that reflects and owns that. 

How/do you maintain creative freedom within your commercial projects?

When taking on a project, I need to know why I take it on. What you put out, you attract, I refuse (or keep very quiet about) projects where I don’t feel the match. Hey, as soon as there’s money it’s politics, compromises to be made. I don’t yet know what my advice on this is. Don’t let them pay you.

What is your greatest indulgence in life? 

As in pleasure? Finishing a piece / impromptu dance sessions / moments in which my emotional landscape is aligned with the weather.

Has social media had a positive impact on your career?  

There would be no career to speak of without it. It definitely also comes with its own risks, but it’s incredible what kind of opportunities can arise from being able to share your work, from being able to find people that are on the same wavelength.

What do you wish every child were taught?

To not be afraid of being vulnerable. I’m always fascinated by the strength that lies within honesty and openness.

What is your favourite art gallery or space in Brussels and why?

I haven't found a specific art space that really resonates with me here! I just go wherever something good is on.

Do you work within a community or independently?

Usually by myself. I regularly get together with a handful of other photographers though, to learn from one another, eat together, dance in the rain - that’s where I make a lot of my personal work.

Do you make and receive studio visits? What impact do they have?

I don’t have a studio. I make my work on my rooftop and in public parks, or on the road. I've never been to someone's personal studio, I imagine that to be a bit like walking into someone else’s mind.

What elements of contemporary culture do you reference in your work?

I try to keep my work a bit timeless. I mean they are very pop, sometimes surreal with a colorful coating, occasionally I include fashion, and I as the creator am irrevocably shaped by contemporary culture, but for me it’s an escape from day to day life. 

What is your daily routine (or what rituals do you have) when working?

My schedule is super irregular. I’ll get up early to shoot, retouch all day long, or organize future projects. Sometimes I’ll spend time preparing a project with my agency, then mess up my sleep schedule entirely in the course of a few adrenaline filled days of shooting. 

What advice would you give a photographer following in your steps?

Make a lot of work, make it for you. When you have a good connection with someone else - cherish it. And finally.

Do you love what you do?

 Nothing is in balance and I am not at ease when I'm not creating. I wholeheartedly do.

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.