March 23, 2007

Modern Lovers

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The Glendale Community College Gallery presents:

'MODERN LOVERS', curated by Kathryn Andrews
March 24th - May 5th, 2007
We come out of winter into our final show of the 2006-2007 academic year, ?Modern Lovers?, organized by Kathryn Andrews, a Los Angeles based artist. Andrews exhibited in our gallery as recently as last June, in the show ?Summer Suite?, which also featured the work of Hadley Holliday and Emily Newman.

?Modern Lovers? is about the traces of so-called aesthetic modernism Andrews perceives in the artwork of her peers. By juxtaposing pieces rife with overtly anachronistic construction strategies and references, she wishes to force the question, ?Why this now?? Contemporary artists? romance with modernism is difficult to deny ? simply walk through Chinatown galleries on a Saturday afternoon. Takes on geometric abstraction, gestural painting, and mid-century figurative and minimal sculpture abound, as contemporary artists continue to labor toward individualized interpretations of modern forms.

Tenets of the modern aesthetic, for Andrews, have to do with the effects of the advent of photography vis-?-vis painting. Photography, realism at the touch of a button, concluded the centuries-long quest for instantaneous replication of the ?real?. In response, perhaps beginning with Paul C?zanne, artists began to react against the (purportedly) quenched ambitions of painterly realism, turning instead to abstraction and primitivism, and the use of language and nonsense in their compositions. Andrews is interested in the influence of these tendencies within the practices of the artists in this show, and how in the contemporary context such offshoots can assume new meanings.

The ideological lynchpin of ?Modern Lovers? is the impact of the relationship between modern utopianism and ?the new? (that was to usher in a perfect human society) on the modern aesthetic. Even during disco, artists were able to enjoy the notion that through their work they were involved in a unique cultural phenomenon, and that society could be viewed as improving as disco grew. Today ?the new? is still with us in broad socio-economic and technological terms, as sure as humans edge closer toward the production of either an artificial super-intelligence or the apocalypse (or both). But as far as culture goes, are we possessed of more than a hollow-eyed bloodlust for the ?now?? ?Modern Lovers? pushes its audience to reflect upon what it means for contemporary artists to reference modernism through their work, given that the modern aesthetic is still alive and kicking.

Andrews is currently working on a book, to be published in June, of interviews between artists and art writers that will address these ideas in further depth.

The following is a list of artists in the show: Jeffrey Rugh, Jill Spector, Stan Kaplan, Benjamin Lord, Stephanie Taylor, Brian Fahlstrom, Ruby Neri, Brett Cody Rogers, Monique Van Genderen, Jonas Wood. 'Modern Lovers' is on view from March 24th - May 5th, 2007, and a reception for the artists will be held on Saturday, March 24th, 2007 from 4-7pm. Stephanie Taylor will deliver a reading at 6.30 pm on opening night. Admittance to the gallery is free and all are welcome to the opening reception.

I'm still chewing over the ideas/words in the GCC Gallery page:

"...aesthetic modernism..." --does this mean that the aesthetic aspect is trivial?

"...anachronistic construction strategies and references..." --I thought that in a postmodern position, everything is leveled and that hierarchies are unjust and singular figuration is an unfortunate truncation of reality (I've just watched "Tristam Shandy", so the film's ideas are fresh in my mind). Am I correct in assuming that this is the position from which the curator is judging the subject modernist trope? The main question is whether the artist in question has not yet processed the central ideas of modernist-to-postmodernist history... and if this is the case, why would this artist be a candidate for critique? It would be as if one would critique an smaltzy art-deco illustrator in the pages of ArtForum!

?Why this now?? --does our "now" demand something more specific and defined that what the artists in question have offered up to us? A bigger question springs to mind: does the curator like these artist's efforts? It's hard to tell from the essay. Are the artists being interrogated in a hostile manner? I must not be reading this correctly, but the question did arise as I read the text.

"...romance with modernism..." --is romance... bad? Is it a weakness? Is her thesis that only "fools fall in love"? If she is coming from a postmodern position, is there no love in postmodernity? Is romance different from love? Should it be? Is love an indictment? Maybe she means 'love" as in a lapse of criticality? Can't the two be complementary? Is it possible to be uncritically critical?

If the modern is about the new, when has the new failed to reappear like a spring that gushes faster and harder as time passes? Technological change was spurred by the individualizing ethos of Western Civ., the search for truth in science spun off new technological innovations which upset every social order that congealed between each epochal turn. Rips in the social fabric induce stress and art in our modern/postmodern time has preoccupied itself with the orders and disorders of stress over and over again.

Is the curator saying that the subject artists are not dealing effectively with the stress of change in our time? Is she saying that the artists have found a way to deal with this stress so that they are released from the imperative to convey the signification of irony in their work? Is the ironic signifier the supreme litmus test that qualifies the artwork of our time? Can irony be exhausted?

It makes vivid the fact that we all have a different idea of what it means to be modern. One can only hope that the differences are mere personalizations of a term whose root we all share with a sure grip. I do come away with the thought that we live between a surging acceleration of change and an eternal truth that humankind has been the same in character since the dawn of time (I've been reading a few ancient texts lately, such as Plutarch etc, etc.).

"Nothing is new under the sun" in the era of strap on singularity*.


*Wikipedia: ...Another school, promoted heavily by Ray Kurzweil, claims that technological progress follows a pattern of exponential growth, suggesting rapid technological change in the 21st century and the singularity occurring by 2035. Kurzweil considers the advent of superhuman intelligence to be part of an overall exponential trend in human technological development seen originally in Moore?s Law and extrapolated into a general trend in Kurzweil?s own Law of Accelerating Returns.

And maybe that starts to answer your question: we will never-not-be human. And it might answer mine (how can we proceed past the this frozen mirror of modernity-versus-postmodernity?): that we live between the asymptotic singularity and an eternal unchanging character of humanity... and oscillating in between is how we can wiggle forward. (Vibration as an answer for the problem that beguiles us! I knew the answer had to have a beat to it!)

UPDATE: This blogpost was lifted from an email sent to Roger Dickes a couple of weeks ago. Roger was swamped and we didn't get to chew the fat until I walked into the show last night. I was a little nervous, not knowing if what I had written was incindiery or not. I introduced myself to curator Kathryn Andrews and to my great delight, we had a wonderful time talking about the show. Basically, the show was about the questions about the Modern, large and small, questions about what the artists really meant when the modern popped up in their work.

Now, the hard work would be to interview each of them and see what they were thinking....

Posted by Dennis at March 23, 2007 11:34 AM

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