Art News and Opinion: October 23, 2010


Mandelbrot Set

Dust the cobwebs out from the left side of your brain, and consider fractals for one geometric moment—shapes that are irregular but repeat themselves at every scale, essentially containing themselves in themselves. Come again? The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones reviews the life work of mathematician Benoît B Mandelbrot, revolutionary geometer—yes, that is a real word—who left a brilliant legacy in visual art, introducing fractals as the apparently complex yet geometrically ordered shapes that reverberate Escher-esque motifs and images. Jones gushes, “They are icons of modern understanding of the universe’s complexity.” Mathematics in art are not exactly new, an early example seen in the precisely calculated Pantheon, but Mandelbrot’s fractals were originally inspired by the coastline of Great Britain as depicted on a map. The mathematical genius discovered that the closer one looks at the coastline, the more one discovers, creating an almost infinite relationship. Thus fractals were born, a visual glossary for the intricate world we live in.

An important new video installation by Mika Rottenberg has opened at the SFMOMA, as reviewed by Kirsten Swenson of Art in America. The 20 minute-long Squeeze both repulses and tantalizes, writes Swenson. The video unites grinding industry machinery and sweating bodies, frequently shifting between shots of female factory workers in India producing gelatinous slabs of rubber, migrant workers in Arizona hacking heads off lettuce stalks, and several jarring shots filmed in Rottenberg’s own studio. Swenson comments that the editing manipulates the experience so that the viewer is made to feel as if each action leads into the next, creating a monster of production and grotesque waste, with an underlying theme of woman’s bodies being used as machinery. Swenson is clearly taken with the thought-provoking film, writing that it “conflates the repetitive rhythms of human labor with the relentless push of machinery to underscore the maintenance and manipulation of women’s bodies as a core concern.”

David Hockney “Untitled”

David Hockney is painting again. A traveling exhibition of his work, entitled “Fleurs Fraiches”, has recently arrived in Paris at the Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. However, one won’t find a single canvas in particular selection of paintings, as Hockney has fallen in love with technology. iPhones and iPads adorn the walls of this installation, showcasing Hockney’s colorful images created on the Brushes application for his iPhone—essentially the adult version of finger painting. The range of results is dazzlingly various, colorful, and instantaneously evocative. First becoming acquainted and quickly entranced with an iPhone in 2008, Hockney works by producing drawings and paintings of small bouquets of flowers in glass jars, often emailing his doodles to a group of friends on a daily basis. In an interview Hockney reflects, “People from the village come up to me and tease me, ‘We hear you’ve started drawing on your telephone.’ And I tell them, ‘Well, no, actually, it’s just that occasionally I speak on my sketch pad.’”

Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City boldly salutes the exhibition of Jeff Koons’ “porn paintings” at Luxembourg and Dayan in a recent review, acknowledging that the early nineties series has been sparking what seems to be only sour comments from every notable art critic out there, some even remarking that Koons would do better as a child than an adult. Johnson argues that viewers are simply unwilling to accept the source material used by Koons, and instead pout that work is off-putting and generic. Johnson feels it vital to point out that this series marks a specific mark in Koons’ career, and should not reveal the artist’s ambitions as a whole. Johnson alludes to the paintings, inspired by subway advertisements in the 1980’s, as brilliantly executed. He finishes his glowing review by pointing to the fine attention to detail that Koons awards each work, making the strange subject matter well-painted enough to be interesting.

Roberta Smith of The New York Times bestows a gracious nod towards the recently debuted Joan Snyder installation at the Betty Cuningham Gallery, “A Year in the Painting Life.” Describing Snyder’s minimalistic mixed-media paintings as “spirited, in-your-face, [and] opulently textured,” Smith comments that the installation beckons the 70-year-old Snyder into her prime, as she continues to produce illustrious pieces that are beefed up on drama and intrigue. It is unclear whether the paintings are nothing more than gritty minimalistic grids, or whether the canvases besmirched with glitter and dirt are actual landscapes, mimicking the Monet water lily exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery last spring. Whatever the desired implication of her Post-Minimalistic style, Smith admits that the combination of sensuousness and honesty certainly attracts. The exhibit will be on view through the end of the month.

Thanks to The James Kalm Report for this video.

Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.