Winter Guide: Keith Tyson Shows His Hand at the Pace Gallery
The artist Keith Tyson is a gambling man. He will even admit, candidly, that he was once a gambling addict, and has been through therapy to shake the scourge. Famously, when he won the Turner PrizeGreat Britains much-hyped, endlessly lambasted, but generally influential art honorback in 2002, he took home more money by betting on himself than from the honor itself.
I looked at the odds, and they put me at 7 to 2, which, in a race that small, is insulting, the artist recounts from his studio in London, where he is busy preparing 52 Variables, his upcoming show at New Yorks Pace Gallery. But in a pool that tiny, one bet can change everythingI caused myself to go from being an outside shot to the odds-on favorite.
This anecdote makes a fine introduction to Tysons art, which isnt really about gambling, per se, as much as it is about an artists intervention into chance. For the Turner Prize, his winning installation involved an art machine that generated instructions for the creation of artworks. For his memorable Large Field Array, seen in New York in 2007 at Pace, he created a walk-in landscape of hundreds of seemingly random sculptural objects, a condensed encyclopedia of the chaos of images we live in.
The new Pace project seems particularly gambler-y for the artist, centering, as it does, on playing cards. Basically, the show consists of 52 precise paintings on aluminum, each depicting the blown-up image of the back of a card from one of 52 different decks. The designs draw from the artists own personal collection of cardsapparently, card enthusiasts often trade jokers as a way to accumulate various designs they have an affection for, and Tyson estimates he owns up to 1,000. He has selected the cards to hit a diverse set of notes, ranging from the deliberately generic to the intricacies of a card featuring a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
The show cuts a broad path through the history of card design, from 50s pin-ups to modern corporate packs, so that it forms an oblique slideshow essay on the collective subconscious. Its amazing what works its way in there, Tyson says. Theres all this repressed stuff, Jungian archetypes, some racism, suggestions of stuff going on in the worldall of this overlooked history in this space thats meant to be a placeholder, really. The societal trajectory of 52 Variables begins with an elephant standing for British colonialism in India, and ends with the little bird from Twitterdraw from that what you will.
Tyson is one of those artists who can speak about his work with a sort of analytical grandiloquence, as if hes solving a theorem: I am always trying to find some way in a solid and static artwork to show something dynamic. Hes concerned with the cosmic, and has even been Artist in Residence at Oxfords Astrophysics and Cosmology Department.
Whats most promising about 52 Variables, however, is more down to earth. Like most good art gestures, the idea itself is actually very simpleit just opens naturally onto a multitude of associations. In its quotation of vernacular culture, 52 Variables is Pop. In its precise cataloging of data, and eye for subtle historical criticism of its imagery, its Conceptual. But, finally, Tyson stresses its also a show about painting, about abstraction and pattern and some striking images. Usually Im not such a fan of my shows, because I am so covered in neuroses, Tyson confesses, summing up his feelings about the new project. But these look quite nice.
Sounds like hes betting on himself again.
Keith Tyson, 52 Variables, December 10 to February 5, 2011, Pace Gallery, 510 West 25th Street, thepacegallery.com
Winter Art Picks
Allora & Calzadilla: Performance 9
December 8 to January 10, 2011
If youre a New York gallery rat, youve had the chance to see Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadillas Stop, Repair, Prepare performance before: It was just at Gladstone Gallery last year, where various performers stood in a piano with a hole cut in the middle, and attempted to play a gymnastic, impossible version of Ode to Joy. But there is one good reason to take advantage of MOMAs spotlight on the quirky Puerto Ricobased art duo now: The two have been selected to represent the U.S. at next years global art fest, the Venice Biennaleso Allora & Calzadillas awkward piano solo gains a whole new meaning as a national symbol. The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org
Law of the Jungle
December 9 to January 28, 2011
Looking to do an exhibition capitalizing on the buzz around Brazil, Lehmann Maupin turned to Brazilian artist Tiago Carneiro da Cunha as curatorand has gotten something much more wild and personal in return, in the great tradition of artist-curated shows. Law of the Jungle serves as a showcase for some interesting Brazilian artists, from Jac Leirner, who makes art out of devalued Brazilian currency, to the psychedelic street art duo Os Gemeos. But it also incorporates a more far-reaching selection of da Cunhas idols and mentors, from the Bali-based painter Ashley Bickerton to the inscrutable British conceptualist Liam Gillick, his former adviser. Lehmann Maupin Gallery, 540 West 26th Street, lehmannmaupin.com
Feng Mengbo: Long March: Restart
December 12 to April 4, 2011
Any vintage video game fans out there? What about fans of Chinese military history? If so, you have got to run out to MOMA P.S.1 to plug into Beijing artist Feng Mengbos Long March: Restart, an immersive, eight-screen video environment that doubles as a fully playable side-scrolling action game. The lucky player gets to control a boxy Red Army soldier, traversing a landscape where he does battle with characters from Street Fighter II, Contra, and Super Mario Bros. Bewilderinglyand awesomelythe hero achieves victory by flinging cans of Coca-Cola at his foes. MOMA P.S.1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, ps1.org
January 5, 2011, to February 12, 2011
British-born, L.A.-based Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe is known as a consistently articulate art critic himself, a serious brainbut as a painter hes focused like a laser on the wordless discretion of old-fashioned abstraction. This time out for Alexander Gray, he offers up a large-scale painting described by his dealer as a complete reconfiguration of the grid, with raucous colors, balancing hot and cold, density and light. Its paired with a single work from the 1980s, simply to show how enduring Gilbert-Rolfes artistic commitments have beenbut the installation should be otherwise sparse, in keeping with his philosophy of serious and considered looking. Alexander Gray Associates, 508 West 26th Street, alexandergray.com
Yeni Mao: Dead Reckoning
January 7, 2011, to March 6, 2011
Canada-born, Art Institute of Chicago-trained, and now New Yorkbased, Yeni Mao likes to tout a fans description of him as an omnivorous appropriator of cultural references. One previous work involved a glimmering series of portraits of the Wu-Tang Clan as gold-leaf profiles, his goof on idol worship, machismo, and decadence. For Dead Reckoning, hes reaching back considerably farther into history to play on these same themes, with an homage to the 14th-century Chinese naval explorer and all-around badass eunuch Zheng He, in an installation that involves, among other things, a collection of toy boats hung from the ceiling. Collette Blanchard Gallery, 26 Clinton Street, colletteblanchard.com
January 28, 2011, to March 5, 2011
Perhaps you remember the work of ascendant Danish artist Jeppe Hein from his residency a few years back at Queens SculptureCenter, where he created Illusion, a giant mirrored V, suspended in the air and slowly rotating, producing a dizzying effect of watching the space you were standing in constantly wheeling away from you. Heins brand of art displays the polished sleekness of good design and precision engineering, but put to trippy ends, from park benches meant to be bafflingly unusable to a motorized self-destructing wall. For his new work at 303, prepare to scratch your head and be delighted. 303 Gallery, 547 West 21st Street, 303gallery.com
February 2, 2011, to May 29, 2011
Theres no better target for El Museos FOCOS series highlighting mature and underrepresented artists than the great Uruguayan artist Luis Camnitzer, who has lived in New York since 1964 and left the mark of his own restless intelligence on classic conceptualism. The 70 works in this retrospective illustrate how early feints at word artsigns that declare, nonsensically, This Is a Mirror, You Are a Written Sentencedeveloped into a deft installation for which he created a Living Room out of words, affixing the name of furnishings to the walls and floor of an empty space, and then to more playful 70s-era attempts to sell off his own signature, and so on. El Museum del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue, elmuseo.org
Sue de Beer
February 4 to 6, 2011 February 18, 2011, to March 19, 2011
Its a one-two punch of Sue de Beer this winter, as the artist gets a showcase at the Park Avenue Armory, courtesy of the Art Production Fund, followed directly by a solo outing at Marianne Boesky. Projected in the Armorys Historical Rooms, de Beers new video, The Ghosts, draws on the look of Italian horror films, in the service of a tale of an irresponsible hypnotistplayed by artist Jutta Koetherreleasing spirits from the subconscious of a money manager, played by famed rocker Jon Spencer. Over at Boesky, de Beer will play on the hypnotic theme in more formal ways, promising a series of projections and short films that manipulate her viewers perceptions. Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, armoryonpark.com, Marianne Boesky Gallery, 509 West 24th Street, marianneboeskygallery.com
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