‘Kultur ist ein Palast der aus Hundescheisse gebaut ist.’ Spelling out the phrase ‘Culture is a palace built from dog shit,’ in German gives the idea more gravitas. Putting it in blue neon, more consumer appeal. Both are relevant to artist collective Claire Fontaine’s use of this quote by Bertold Brecht via Theodore Adorno criticizing mass culture’s commercialization. How the art world’s own extreme commercialization in recent years changes the equation is the question begged by this piece. (‘Dogma,’ a show more or less about dogs and people runs at Metro Pictures through Aug 10th).
It’s not clever words or phrasing but a pretty, undulating shimmer that make German artist Juergen Drescher’s six-foot wide speech bubble attractive. Silver-plated laminated polystyrene reflects the gallery’s light and the viewer, drawing us into conversation that must surely be intended to charm or impress. (The group show ‘Systemic’ is at Carolina Nitsch through August 11th.)
‘Stand still like the hummingbird’ at David Zwirner is a group show as full of contradictions as it sounds, from Rodney Graham’s upside down oak tree photos to Robert Gober’s bronze slab painted to look exactly like a block of dirty Styrofoam. Musician and comedy writer Mason William’s 1967 life-size silkscreen of a Greyhound bus is a standout for its size alone, but the warning on the side of its box (displayed on a pedestal in front of the print) to avoid opening the artwork in the wind creates an amusing mental image with even more impact. (Through August 3rd).
“Only Queens Museum would have a pile of decomposing tree trunks and branches out front instead of a piece of contemporary sculpture,” I thought outside the QMA the other day. Signage quickly proved, however, that the pile is a sculpture titled ‘Elephant’ by NYU professor Hiroshi Sunairi, one of whose major projects has been worldwide distribution of seeds from trees that survived the Hiroshima bombing. These trimmings come from Flushing Meadows/Corona Park trees, however, and take the rough shape of a reclining elephant (the trunks are its legs). They not only take on the form of an animal known for its good memory, they create a new, mini ecosystem which, it’s hoped, will house new trees of its own. Click here for an installation video, drawings, photos and more as the piece has evolved in the last two years.