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Reiner Riedler’s Authentic Fakes

Reiner, Riedler, Tree #01, Ski Dubai, 2006

Reiner Riedler is an Austrian artist who originally wanted to study ethnology. It is clear he is interested in ideas of technology, the authentic experience, globalism, simulacrum, and leisure. His series entitled Fake Holidays explores the physical manifestations of manufactured demand, constructed satiation, privileged entitlement, and the tension between excessive wants and basic human needs. His landscapes seem somehow satisfying yet, at the same time edge into the realm of post-apocalypse. He shows us indoor ski slopes in Dubai, a moonlight rest in an indoor tropical dome in Germany, and lunch on the “Star Trek Experience” in Las Vegas.

Riedler’s Fake Holidays series brings to mind a quote from the now famous book Air Guitar by the critic and cultural theorist Dave Hickey on the issue of authenticity, wherein, he proclaims the giant rhinestone as his favorite object in the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada.

-Dave Hickey writes:

“One either prefers the honest fakery of the neon or the fake honesty of the sunset – the undisguised artifice of culture or the cultural construction of ‘authentic’ nature – the genuine rhinestone, finally, or the imitation pearl.”

The distinction that Hickey is making here is that honest fakery allows an appreciation of a scene or object for what it is without deferring to culturally-imposed ideas of beauty considered to be “authentic.” Essentially, Riedler has traveled the world seeking the authentic fake and in this series he gets us one step closer to seeing through the lies and empty promises of advertising and consumerism. These are the images that can only signal the end of the oil age and they stand as cultural relics of a time that has indeed come and will be very soon gone.

Also see his review at Flavorwire and his recent exhibition at Momentum Galerie, Vienna.

Animal Revenge: Marcus Butt’s collage

Marcus Butt of Bristol, UK, was recently featured in Wallpaper* magazine, and I was thrilled by his working process and the end result. So much Photoshop work looks so computer-generated, and this method yields a beautiful hand-made look. His process starts with a hand-drawn sketch, which he then scans into Photoshop. Then he “colors” the scans of various textures, paint samples, textiles, and other materials. “The idea is a kind of digital collage” he says in Wallpaper. “I am always looking for non-computer-generated colours, just to give the final finish a less computer-ish feeling.” And of course I love the content of the work: he creates a fluffy, beautiful world of mild-mannered animals holding shotguns. See more work at the artist’s blog.

Trauma, Portraits, Sex, Religion: Otto Dix

Otto Dix: Portrait of Dancer Anita Berber, 1925. Oil & tempera on plywood. 47 1/4" x 25 5/8"

The Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art in New York is showing one of my favorite German Expressionists, Otto Dix. Along with George Grosz and Max Beckmann, Dix showed decadent and corrupt views of Weimar society. The exhibition runs from March 11-August 30, 2010 and contains over 100 works. The show was recently reviewed by the New York Times and addresses four themes: Trauma, Portraiture, Sexuality, Religion

In the Drawing Room with a Pot of Glue

Lady Filmer (English, 1838–1903) Untitled loose page from the Filmer Album, mid-1860s Collage of watercolor/albumen silver prints; 8 3/4" x 11 1/4"

Who doesn’t love Victorian photocollage? Well I do, anyway. It’s odd and awkward and so strange. This new show at the Met (organized by the Art Institute of Chicago) explores this odd preoccupation of the rich. The Met writes: “Sixty years before the embrace of collage techniques by avant-garde artists of the early twentieth century, aristocratic Victorian women were already experimenting with photocollage. The compositions they made with photographs and watercolors are whimsical and fantastical, combining human heads and animal bodies, placing people into imaginary landscapes, and morphing faces into common household objects.” See more at the Met’s website.

Ray Yoshida’s Talking Collages

URGH! 2003 collage on paper, 6" x 8"

James Jensen has organized a memorial tribute to the Kauai-born artist Ray Yoshida at the Contemporary Museum First Hawaiian and we went last week. May I just say that Yoshida has made some of the most ingenious collages I have ever seen? First, as a Chicago Imagist, he played with fantastical images and, I believe, tried to bridge the gap between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. At SAIC, he taught artists who would later become famous in their own right such as Karl Wirsum (I studied with him!), Jim Nutt, and Gladys Nilsson. But it is his late collage work on the second floor that is most impressive. He turns hair into clouds and clothing into mountains. Negative space speaks, and business suits with no heads twist and turn. A must see.

Subconscious Narratives: Sally French

Rock the Casbah, 2007 60" x 120" Prismacolor, lacquer on fiber reactive dyed Nepalese paper

Sally French is one of our favorite artists, and she lives here in Hawaii! I’ve always been partial to her truly twisted kitties in bikinis series. Recent projects include a fantastical photo series involving a giant egg and 32-foot mural in Kaua‘i entitled, “The Keeper Series: He‘e and the Golden Egg.” “He‘e and the Golden Egg” is a contemporary myth chronicling Kaua‘i’s evolution with the underlying theme of invasion. Narrative is almost always a part of her work.“I have to have a narrative,” she says in a recent interview. “I love stories. As a child I was a voracious reader.” For more, go to Sally’s website.

Control is Lost: Zhou Jun’s Photography

Zhou Jun Development zone No. 3, Digital C - print, 50 x 60 cm; 120 x 150 cm , 2006

We love this new work by Zhou Jun, showing now at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing. Red Gate is an incredible space; we attended an opening there in 2008.

-From the Red Gate press release by Yang Liyu:

“The last thirty years of the Chinese economic miracle has led to unprecedented changes, perhaps the most obvious being the metamorphosis of the numerous Chinese capital cities. At times marveled for their engineering endeavors and glamourous makeovers, these metropolises have equally been the focus of much debate as a result of the demolition of ancient architecture and heritage sites that stood in the way of this transformation. The result is a new modernity that bears testament to the contradictions and contrasts of the new China today.

As a photographer, Zhou Jun seeks to reveal through his unique brand of black and white photography the socio-historical narration of some of these sweeping changes. Like the works of Bernd and Hillar Becher who photographed the abandoned mineshafts and silos in post-war Germany, Zhou Jun is dedicated to immortalizing the icons of China’s architecture in their states of glory, construction and isolation. With a distinct palette of greys, deliberately devoid of strong blacks and whites, Zhou Jun is constantly exploring and redefining with heightened sensitivity this constantly evolving landscape. He constructs a brave new world almost devoid of human existence where imposing buildings dominate and engage with one another. While a Northern Song landscape painting in accordance with Taoist principles pays homage to Nature by reducing the presence of human existence to an insignificant proportion, Zhou Jun creates a contemporary universe where the human condition “kowtows” instead to a concrete jungle that has taken a life of its own.”