Monday, June 29, 2009

"NO SOUL FOR SALE" at X Initiative

I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy myself so much when I attended the opening reception of "No Soul for Sale", the most recent group exhibition at X Initiative. My hesitation came not with the standard of the space's previous shows, but rather from the simple fact that when orchestrating a group exhibition that includes so many galleries or colletives, (38 altogether), the likelihood of finding the right balance between the content, form and placement of all that work is bleak, ( most recent case in point, "The Generational: Younger Than Jesus" at New Museum). Adding to the potential chaos, there is also the unpredictable element of globalism that is heavily integrated into the mission behind the exhibition. The fact that only 5 U.S. cities, (New York, NY, Los Angeles, CA, Marfa, TX, Philadelphia, PA and Washington D.C.), were presented in "No Soul", as opposed to the 14 international cities included, is rather impressive. To my delight, the whirlwind of installations packed adjacent to one another, designated only by rectangular 'spaces' in red tape on the floor, and three floors full of sweaty, excited friends, acquaintances, co-workers, etc. all fanning themselves rapidly, did make for some vibrant chaos, but without the relationships between the work itself ever losing its coherence.
The overlying idea prevalent in almost every cities 'space', was that of interaction. This is something that has been lacking in many smaller exhibitions within individual galleries for some time now, and it was refreshing to see people able to step into, lay upon, touch, play with, listen to and ultimately be a physical part of the work that is so often meant only to be looked at.

Among my favorites:

Top Choice has got to be the K48, New York, cyber, blow up black plastic bubble, that after removing you heels, (what a drag!) and crouching down to fit into a small slit of an entrance, transports you into a strobe lit space void, with a eery beats and chimes booming through your ears. It also helps that K48 is generally the coolest, and the members of the collective could be seen standing in front of it during the opening looking uber cool, sexy and ready to rave! Below, download the soundtrack to the installation by Fatima Al Qadiri (EXCLUSIVE!):
"Grey Magic" by Fatima Al Qadiri

Next up has got to be, Ballroom, from Marfa, TX, whose contribution is what I refer to as the 'soundbed', though in truth it is so much more. Now, it is a bit of a cop out, because who doesn't love a giant bed with three bright yellow pillows on a hot day in the middle of an extremely crowded art opening? But nonetheless, it was one of the most all senses encompassing, relaxing and sensual experiences I have had at an art show. This bed, is set within a pale, wooden box, with three steps up the front. Again, you do have to take your shoes off, but I mean, it is a bed after all... From standing outside the bed, one notices the speakers along the inside, but hears nothing. But, once you climb in the low frequency tones begin to seep out, first humming then growing louder and more abstract. Meanwhile, in time with the intensity of the sounds, varying places on the mattress begin to vibrate, first only slightly, and then eventually enough that were you to try to talk your voice would warble. I stayed in that bed for as long as I could without feeling guilty and selfish for not letting others have a go, and I felt somehow more important than everyone else while my friends and I sat in it while others looked on, not understanding what was so great about it.

The next thing I saw that really pleased me was the inclusion of the collaboration between White Columns, New York and an institute called Creative Growth in Oakland, CA. whose work is entirely made by mentally challenged artists. I also saw a large collection of work by artists from Creative Growth at a new gallery called Partners & Spade, (which is a really interesting space, by the way), and, being the older sister of an unbelievably brilliant and creative brother with Down Syndrome, it is really amazing to see that people, like X and White Columns are taking them seriously, but more importantly, that they have actually made some very cool paintings and sculptures, and that their value actually has nothing to do with the fact that they are technically 'Outsider'artists.

Lastly, I have to discuss this very innovative, video....? that was included in the Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA. room. It isnt' actually a video, but it has incorporated digital video elements within the sculpture, so it is some sort of a hybrid now. The image itself is not all that intriguing, but the structure and the method behind it, which I admit not to really understand, is fascinating. Here, from the front view, you see a digital projection of a girl rowing a boat atop a bed of water made of shredded, blue paper, but when you travel to the side and the back of the structure, you see that the paper, and even the little wooden boat is actually real, and only the girl and her ore are missing. It is not literally interactive with the audience, but it is certainly an interactive and interdisciplinary project for the artist, and the element of surprise that you get when you approach the piece from various angles gives it a multi-dimensionality that only few pieces in the show pulled off successfully.