Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Things Fall Apart," Curated by Joy Garnett & Artists' Talk @ Winkleman Gallery

Things Fall Apart
A Group Exhibition curated by Joy Garnett
January 16 - February 21, 2009
Opens January 16 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Featuring work by
Stephen Andrews
Paul Chan + The Front
Mounir Fatmi
Yevgeniy Fiks
Joy Garnett
Susan Hefuna
Christopher Lowry Johnson
Carlos Motta
Renata Poljak
Susan Silas

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Things Fall Apart, a group exhibition curated by Joy Garnett.
January 16 – February 21, 2009
Opening reception: Friday, January 16, 6-8pm.

Things Fall Apart takes its title from a line in a well-known poem by William Butler Yeats1 that warns of ominous forces unleashed in the political vacuum following World War I. The poem reverberates in twentieth and twenty first century literature and culture, from Chinua Achebe’s eponymous novel2 about African societies giving way under colonialism, to Joan Didion’s collection of essays on California in the 1960s3, to Oliver Stone’s Nixon. Allusions to the poem regularly color news items, notably The Economist’s cover story after the U.S. market collapse, and New York Times articles covering the failed war in Iraq, the increasing dysfunction of the U.S. right wing political axis, and the spread of the current economic crisis to global markets.

If Yeats' poetic imagery and its subsequent iterations seethe with foreboding and even despair, by contrast, the international group of artists presented in Things Fall Apart mark precipitous global power shifts in their work while positing the darkest moments—when things fall apart—as salient points of departure for change.

The graphically political work of Mounir Fatmi (Morocco) directly addresses the constructed political hierarchies at hand: flags of each of the G8 nations are poised like so many icons of power atop push-brooms, symbolizing the burden placed upon those who bear the brunt of the global decision-making system, and emphasizing its forced semblance of equilibrium. Global power dynamics and the intricate process of enemy construction are likewise made legible in the oil paintings of Yevgeniy Fiks (Russia), which point to a forgotten moment in U.S. history (1943-1944) when the goals of the American and Soviet propaganda machines coincided; the story turns poignantly on the ironic twist provided during the McCarthy hearings, when artists fulfilling that particular call to patriotism were rewarded by being blacklisted. Nationalist propaganda is again repurposed as so much raw material when Joy Garnett (USA) re-invents the candy-coated public relations photographs from the Yangtse Three Gorges Development Corporation website in a series of oil paintings that show the earth itself giving way in the widening gyre of China’s monumental and controversial public works project.

Plucked from televised footage of the earliest US bombardment of Iraq after 9/11, the drawings of Stephen Andrews (Canada) signal the coming of the Americans as “liberators” with a mixture of horror and humor, focusing on those instants, magnified by the media, when everything changes irrevocably. Paul Chan (USA/Hong Kong) and members of the New Orleans-based artist-run collective The Front4 present a selection of drawings, prints and photographs direct from the Ninth Ward, NOLA's ground zero. Displayed salon-style, these works combine images of destruction and displacement, personal memory and political disturbance, reflecting the people and places of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In her new dual-channel video installation, Renata Poljak (Croatia) explores the intersections of the personal and the political, identity and nationalism, by juxtaposing the escalating collapse of a fictional relationship with the suppressed history and memory of the war between Serbia and Croatia. Susan Silas (USA/Hungary) inverts memories of past barbarism through a haunting retrospective lens with her series of paired photographs that reunite images from the Olympic Stadium in what was once West Berlin, with images from the Jewish Cemetery at Weißensee, in what used to be East Berlin. The layered, transparent drawings of multimedia artist Susan Hefuna (Egypt/Germany) play on metaphors of separateness and stereotypes of otherness through the filter of her dual heritage; multiple vantage points and interpretations—from the Modernist grid to Orientalist mystification—infuse her abstract renderings of mashrabiya screens, a traditional Islamic latticework window element that allow a building’s inhabitants to observe the outside world while remaining hidden.

Carlos Motta’s (Colombia) stacked, mass-produced newspapers comprehensively list the history of U.S. global interventions in Latin America in print form, offering a bloody inventory of counterinsurgency, weapons use, psychological warfare, interrogation and environmental degradation; the broadsheet points to the production of alternative histories, and suggests both the potential power as well as possible limitations of distributing information freely to the public. In his latest series of oil paintings drawn from news items covering the implosion of derelict buildings across the country, Christopher Lowry Johnson (USA) zeros-in on our brute fascination with physical destruction, while suggesting a climactic end to the era of American global dominance. Brimming with the heartbreaking drama of a lost “Americana,” this work evokes a once powerful and alluring past now very much past its prime and facing the prospect of being torn down in order to start anew.

By W.B. Yeats (1920)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

2. Achebe, Chinua. 1958. Things fall apart. London [u.a.]: Heinemann.
3. Didion, Joan. 1968. Slouching towards Bethlehem. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
4. The 14 artists who form The Front are Kyle Bravo, Andrea Ferguson, Rachel Jones, Morgana King, Jenny Le Blanc, Michelle Levine, Jennifer Odem, Stephanie Patton, Julie Pieri, Claire Rau, Jeff Rinehart, Megan Roniger, Natalie Sciortino and Jonathan Traviesa. The Front is located at 4100 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans, LA 70117. More info:

Image above, image courtesy of Paul Chan, courtesy of Greene Naftali Gallery, New York.

Gallery Talk by Paul Chan + The Front @ Winkleman Gallery, Saturday Jan. 17, 1pm
Jonathan Traviesa: Sculptural Awareness #7
20 x 30 inches
Pigment print (editioned)
Courtesy of The Front, New Orleans, LA

Please join us for an informal gallery talk by Paul Chan and several members of The Front who are visiting New York from New Orleans on Saturday, January 17, at 1pm (the day after the opening of the "Things Fall Apart" exhibition). They will talk about how The Front was formed, its mission, its members, and the transformation in the NOLA art scene over the past few years.

The 14 artists who form The Front are Kyle Bravo, Andrea Ferguson, Rachel Jones, Morgana King, Jenny Le Blanc, Michelle Levine, Jennifer Odem, Stephanie Patton, Julie Pieri, Claire Rau, Jeff Rinehart, Megan Roniger, Natalie Sciortino and Jonathan Traviesa.

The Front is located at 4100 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans, LA 70117. More info:


Anonymous Franklin said...

With all due respect, I have long felt that if your work is in the show that you put together, you should refer to yourself as the organizer, not the curator. The selection and installation of your own work in an exhibition is not curatorship, and referring to it as such would be colossally pretentious. Choosing and handling everyone elses' work is curatorship, of course, but given a mix of the two, the pretentiousness is diluted, not eliminated.

Best of luck with the show anyway.

1/15/2009 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I don't necessarily disagree with you on that Franklin, but until there is a wider consensus among the folks doing all the hard work of "organizing" an exhibition (and it is tons of work), I think it's ok for it to go either way.

The New York Times uses "organized by" regardless of what the press release says, but that phrase has its own problems, IMHO. It feels like it minimizes the work put in.

In the era of more widespread independent curating/organizing it probably does behoove the industry to agree on usage, but I think "organized by" isn't quite the correct phrase.

1/15/2009 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Christopher/Mark said...

Interesting though it can be, and usually is, for artists to curate shows, on principle their own work should be excluded.

Interest in the curator/artist's own work will likely be enhanced by an interesting show they curated, by its very absence.

Perfect early (first?) example: Raid the Icebox at RISD in 1970

1/15/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yeah, I knew that would be the focus of this thread.

For every rule (and why "on principle their own work should be excluded" is a rule is not entirely clear to me), there are good exceptions, in my opinion.

This exhibition grew out of a discussion about a new body Joy had shown me. We talked about why the work seemed to have connections with a lot of other work we had seen recently, and the entire genesis of the show was to put all that work into the same exhibition and see what else we learned. It would have been standing on some principle to the exclusion of actually accomplishing what we wanted to do to not include Joy's work.

I guess I could have hidden the fact that she did all the work to bring the show together to appease the purists, but that didn't seem appropriate to me.

1/15/2009 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger eageageag said...

It is your gallery. Do whatever the hell you want to do. Everything is transparent.

If Joy was the "one who ha[d] the care and superintendence of something" then so be it. I would love to see more artists taking over curatorial roles.

1/15/2009 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Julie Sadler said...

It's just these types of things that I read this blog for--Weird gallery etiquette. Honestly, I am a hick artist from upstate seeking to understand the gallery/artist relationship, but I can't see a problem with pulling together a cohesive body of work and having a show, even if my work is included. If the word "curated" already has a definition that can't include this type of situation, then make up a new name for it. Then the format can grow and flourish and create new selling situations! Long live and prosper!

1/15/2009 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Joan said...

All chairs are quite different", he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them "all chairs."

1/15/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher/Mark said...

I simply think that if you have your own work in a show that you have "curated", you don't just say the show is "curated" by you. You find another word.

"An exhibition of work by Joy and some people she wants to have show with her" or something.

But then I'm a person who declines to acknowledge or use the term "gallerist" because there really is no such word.

1/15/2009 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

To insure the integrity of this exhibit I must demand that Ms Garnett remove her work from this show-and I'll be there in a few hours with one of mine to replace it. It's the right thing to do.

1/15/2009 04:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Something tells me that if Joan is here, Zipth is not far. l-_

Love that rendition of Depeche Mode btw,


1/15/2009 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

To my mind, an "organizer" selects the theme and the artists and guides the selection of work, allowing the artists a little leeway. A "curator" makes specific selections of work from each artist.

Depending on how familiar the organizer or curator is to the artist's work, a studio visit may or not be necessary.

Honestly, I don't care whether the artist is in the show or not, as long as it's a good show. Self-serving intentions are usually pretty apparent. I appreciate that in our world there are gallerists who write or make art; artists who write or curate; curators who make art or write; writers who make art or curate. And all of us collect (or trade, at the very least.) We're living outside the box. Why shouldn't we think the same way?

That said, Joy, Ed, Paul and All, have a great opening! I'm house sitting in Massachusetts but will see the show later in the month.

1/15/2009 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I don't see the need for a distinction. In fact, of all the artists in your gallery, Joy is the "natural" curator, and I look forward to seeing it for that reason. (For the record, I would much rather see an artist curate around their own work than a gallerist devise a history for it - and that is a distinction about what constitutes a conflict of interest and what doesn't.)

1/15/2009 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

I like Julie's post- and in that vein, why not a title or description that expresses something specific to this situation like 'Joy's work in conversation with... [or just the title, Joy Garnett: in context, if it was an exhibit to feature her work] Hope you have a great opening, too!

1/15/2009 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Duchamp curated shows and stuff. I'm a little unclear as to the entire curatorial process, but I think if you look at the first Armory Show you will see quite a bit of cross curatorial/artists collaboration/collusion.

What is the real deal?

This sort of ethical concern only means anything within the group - where a curator is seen as having all the power and the individual against the group having none.

This is not the case - artists have power. Even the tender little shoots who will be crushed by being edited out or ostracized.

Imagine being curated out of a show because of a curator/artist who has his ear so far to the ground he is in it?

Do you want to be a part of that?

If that show is seen as being cannonical (like a textbook/catalog summation), of course you should be able to address the omission of your relevant contributions to the scene, or the genre, or the style, or the movement, or the zeitgeist, or the stylistics, or your parallel developments and doppelganger status as a shadow cabinet to the mainstream within the subculture.

Just as the sub culture is the answer to the mainstream of the dominant.

But even if you are a vital part of a community, does not the donut have a hole? Do rivers not have banks? Does sand have consciousness?
Deep the rivers run, sleepless.

In this web of associations we draw lines - and these lines are what get us into trouble, black and white, white and black. Let the red run!

Leap froogies leap; the lethal lines!

Divide and conquer has ever been the strategy of power - and as I mentioned long ago, everyone is guilty, even semi-populist (and very generous) Winkleman, of making distinctions.

Us and them. You can be what you want. Pick a side but don't be both at the same time, it confuses people.

At the least, change your name and wear a hat.

1/19/2009 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve come across this thread quite by accident, but it has been quite an amusing read.

Some things need to be put into perspective, and rated by their importance.

Let’s for example imagine that:

Your “Curator Camp” were Catholics, and
Your “Organized by Camp” were Protestants.
Depending on what part of the world you live in,
you may have murdered each other by now!

Some people find that violent kind of religion just fine, but they have completely forgot the end-game. Christian’s who are more interested in their manmade rules and denominations are going to find out the hard way, that they should have only been worried about God’s opinion. Nothing else counts!

And I would say the same of you lot! There is nothing written here that makes me think you give a damn about the art on display, how well it will be received by the public, or if the review will be favorable or not. Quarreling about the title of the person who has busted his/her ass to put on a show, is pretty low on the “importance meter”. The art needs to move people, the art needs to sell, the public opinion about the show needs to be positive. Nothing else counts!

10/14/2011 01:04:00 PM  

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