Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aerial views of Aga Ousseinov

Born in 1962, the Russian artist Aga Ousseinov grew up along the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan (former USSR). Shaped by the expansive seascape surrounding him, Ousseinov dreamed of a different world - far beyond  human limitations - covered in vast uncharted territories ripe for exploration. The artist was equally captivated by the mechanization of the Soviet Union and developed an early interest in airplanes and aviation. Artistic explorations of the relationship between man and the machine also caught his attention and from a young age he was looking at the work of the Italian Futurists, Bauhaus and films such as Sergei Eisenstein's silent movie "Battleship Potemkin" (1925) and Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera" (1929).  

His fascination with machines went hand in hand with direct exposure to Cold War militarism. Soviet inventions like the Ekranoplan, fabricated under an utopian rhetoric of progress, had an enduring impact on the artist: Ousseinov became an inventor, his inventions metaphors of flight from the socialist idealism of his childhood.

Now living and working in New York, Ousseinov's curious but utterly enchanting contraptions are deliberately playful. Their success manifests itself in the ambiguity of playfulness verses usefulness. His studio space is covered with objects; a wingless airplane sculpture hovers next to a square globe with traceable four corners, alongside a series of large scale kites affixed to a wall but ready for flight in an instance.  He invites participation and play. Reminiscent of ancient and exotic artifacts, essentially unrealized past inventions, his objects are inspired by Medieval, European and early Oriental scientific diagrams and maps. Taking his inventions one step further, he reinterprets inventions of the past, stripping these objects of their original function so they something quite different through a process of transition -  airplanes grow legs, pilot morph into birds and the world is no longer round. 

Ousseinov's art is delightfully humorous but inevitably reveals an ambivalent nostalgia for an utopian past. His work seeks to explore pressing contemporary issues such as mass consumerism, globalization and progress while simultaneously reaffirming the role of art in facilitating space for imaging the fantastical.

Ousseinov studied at the V. I. Surikov Fine Arts Institute in Moscow and ICP in New York. Since 1991, when he moved to the US, he has practiced as an artist and continues to show his work widely both in the States and abroad. Recent critically acclaimed work includes a collaborative installation with Irina Ryjak in the Azerbaijan Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale and his participation in "OilScapes" at the Peacock Visual Arts Centre, Aberdeen.

A  number of forthcoming shows are in the planning stages for 2015 including a group project Grand Delusions. For further information on the availability of works or to organize a studio visit, please contact me. Ousseinov also has a kite piece on view in an upcoming group paper exhibition at the Show Room Gowanus gallery in Brooklyn, NY from December 12th.

All images "Courtesy of the Artist"
Arctic Landscape (Innocent version), 2012, ink, pencil, bamboo stripes on kozo paper
Landing (Flight), 2006, wood, wire, fabric, papier mache, gesso, pigments
The Aerial View Of My Hometown II, 2014, rice paper and archival paper collage on wooden panel
Brave Old World, 2014, Mixed media, limited edition of 6

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A seminal exhibition by the much-missed photographer John Fasulo

The posthumous exhibit "A Trilogy of Trains: Images from Around the Bend and Across the Sea" currently on show at Hudson Beach Glass until Nov 2nd is a must-see.  An intimate and touching portrait of a lifetime's work, the exhibition is beautifully curated by Fasulo's close friend and photographer, Joseph Squillante.

“The Engineer” Kevin McGarvey © John Fasulo, 1974
Kevin McGarvey, Engineer, Livonia, Avon & Lakeville RR 1974

Fasulo said of this image: “One photograph that has a special place in my heart is simply called, ‘The Engineer’. 
There is a great story about the engineer depicted in the photo; I’ve always thought this photograph personified the American railroad worker.  This past year, 2013, you could say that idea was verified when the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) chose it for the cover of their just published 150-year history of the Union.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Gonkar Gyatso: Pop Phraseology" solo exhibition opens in Hong Kong

This Fall Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong presents "Pop Phraseology", a major solo exhibition of new works by the internationally acclaimed Tibetan born artist, Gonkar Gyatso.  Gyatso's personal, political and often humorous work bridges Eastern and Western culture. With a long interest in material and pop culture, the artist often combines references to his Tibetan life with references to the global mass-media culture that is constantly interacting and shaping our current perspectives of cultural identity.  By confronting the undeniable bond between his homeland's religion and politics, Gyatso throws into question what is considered traditional while addressing the many new cultural hybrid identities to which globalization has given rise.

Shangri La, 2014
Mixed Media Collage on aluminum backed honeycomb panel
10 x 10 ft (305 x 305 cm)

Monday, February 17, 2014

When is the Buddha not the Buddha?

Leading contemporary artist Gonkar Gyatso (born Lhasa, 1961) poses this question in Dissected Buddha, 2013, currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Assistant Curator with the Department of Asian Art, Kurt Behrendt's bold decision to include Gyatso's sticker collage work in "Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations" is an enlightened one, and invites a fresh contemporary perspective on the interpretation of the Buddha within the context of the Met's extraordinary collection of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art.  

The exhibition runs until June 8, 2014 in Gallery 251, for further information about the artist, please contact me here.  A free lecture (with Museum admission) will be held on March 7, 4- 5pm, see here for further details.  The work is a Promised Gift to the Met by Margaret Scott and David Teplitzky.

Gonkar Gyatso, Dissected Buddha, 2013, 
Collage, stickers, pencil and coloured pencil and acrylic on paper.  
Image courtesy of the Artist.

Dissected Buddha presents a compelling contrast to the serene poses of the foundational Buddhist sculpture from the 10th and 11th Century. The viewer is immediately drawn to the central image of the work - a rich surface made up of cartoon stickers, interspersed with magazine and newspaper cuttings that gives form to the Buddha at the moment of enlightenment. However, Gyatso firmly positions his Buddha in the present, successfully juxtaposing the solid mass with a playful hand-drawn background in continuous motion, firmly rooted in the now. Planes, trains and automobiles shoot out from the halo - destination unknown - but carefully offset by a bombardment of urban signage and familiar political iconography all jostling for a position alongside the artist's personal text references to popular culture and politics that preoccupy the mass media and society today.