Dark Paradise

Exhibitions
February 05  - May 03, 2013

Dark Paradise

Curated by Tim Goossens
Patti Smith, Mountain, Iceland, 2006. © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery
Patti Smith, Mountain, Iceland, 2006. © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery

The Clocktower Gallery presents Dark Paradise, an exhibition of photography, video and collage -both by prominent and emerging artists- which exemplifies contemporary discourse and storytelling through the canon of landscape imagery. The artists either engage physically with the landscape, or capture in a poetic -and only at first glance dark- traces of the past within (fictitious) vistas and historically charged places.

The exhibition developed out of a fascination for tracing the tradition of the sublime landscape in contemporary images, a genre that forcefully developed in painting in the late 18th century with masters such as Caspar David Friedrich, who coupled the sublime with awe and fear of nature, and from a search of finding these same emotions in more intimate, local, and poetic images created by artists working with small scale works. All the works in the exhibition exclude human figures and, independent of scale, evoke feelings of an undefined presence of the past or of a world still undiscovered.

The three large photographs of New York based artist Zipora Fried, are a new body of work created from a mix of photographs and hand painted layers of color. Representing fictitious landscapes, they are contemporary interpretations of the historical sublime landscape genre, and vibrate with potential: the dream and terror of the vast and undiscovered territory where anything is possible, or the feeling of a divine presence can be felt in rays of light appearing behind the clouds.

Joan Jonas’s video Merlo is an early piece from the artist’s career, in which she performs alone in several dramatic outdoor locations: a rocky gorge, a wind-tossed river, a balcony looking out over a valley. Cloaked in a dark, hooded robe, Jonas uses a long paper cone as a megaphone, singing melodies and keening, animal-like, into the landscape. The cone figure and the specific melodies Jonas uses are recurring motifs in her work, and their use here may be read against the fact that "merlo" is the Italian word for "blackbird."

Dark paradise is a particularly fitting theme for a video projection by Sao Paulo based artist Thiago Rocha Pitta. In O cúmplice secreto, set in the sea near Rio de Janeiro, the viewer seems to be standing on a boat floating on the water while an unidentified object approaches slowly through the waves. Based on the famous passage in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, where an expedition is faced for the first time with the creature they were hunting, and turns out to be the Nautilus submarine of Captain Nemo, the pieces makes the viewer’s perception shift from an idyllic tropical setting to an increasingly eerie visual. Unease takes over as one never truly discovers what is approaching the bark.

The selection of photographs by Patti Smith includes a set of never-before seen images taken during a 1981 trip to French Guiana, capturing the ruins of prisons and military buildings once built by the occupying leaders. Overgrown in time by the jungle, the scenes still reflect the traces of their (colonial) past, photographed by Smith in her signature, often melancholic, poetic way, as seen in the interplay between the density of the leaves and the appearance of light. The past comes into play even more so in the other images included in the exhibition. This group of photographs were taken in rural settings where the landscapes, seen through the artist’s eyes, are both heavy with memories of artists of previous times -including Virginia Woolf and Arthur Rimbaud- and double as intimate homages to the artistic souls that have inspired Smith throughout her own career.

Nancy Holt’s photographs are three photo stills from her seminal 1975 Pine Barrens video. Shot in a barren wilderness in South-Central New Jersey, the film documents the sandy landscape of the region and captures the feelings and myths of the local people. The most famous of these myths is about a creature known as The Jersey Devil, a being traditionally described as having hooves - its imprints can be seen in one of the stills- and allegedly born as the 13th child of a woman in the 18th Century. The two other images show the lonely trees in the desolate scenery and the traces left behind by Holt as she meanders through the dunes.

The three intimate, small-scale collages and drawings by Antony further address a darker side of nature, or rather, critique how humankind ignores the sacredness of nature. As he explains: “I have become convinced that this place is paradise. Even in ruins, even in all its virulence, you can’t deny the shadows of beauty emerging from things.” Created from mostly found images the artist describes the acts of observing, collecting, and assembling as important parts of his process. The Cut Away the Bad n.2 (Swanlights) collage, originated from the idea of removing a “bad” part of a found image, as a metaphor of trying to protect our emotional and natural world from a destructive human presence, in an attempt to restore dignity to the rest of the landscape.

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Antony was born (b. 1971) in West Sussex, England, and currently lives in New York. Since 2000, he has released four studio albums with his band Antony and the Johnsons. The band's last album Swanlights was included as part of a book featuring Antony's drawings published by Abrams Image. Antony's visual work was presented in a solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum (2012). Antony has also presented exhibitions at the Melbourne Festival (2012). Isis Gallery, London (2009), and Galerie du jour, Paris (2009). His work was included in group shows at the Triennale Bovisa, Milan and Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2010). Commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Antony and the Johnsons' performance Swanlights debuted at Radio City Music Hall (2012). Previous performance projects include Miracle Now (1996); TURNING (2004/2006), in collaboration with Charles Atlas, and now being released as a film (2013); and The Crying Light (2009). Antony is musical director of The Life and Death of Marina Abramović (2011-13), a collaboration with Abramović and Robert Wilson.

The art of Zipora Fried (b. 1964) is an exercise in dichotomy. The work exploits the familial, often layering an object or form to an absurd end, creating new meanings and subliminal associations. In a new body of large-scale photographs, Landscape images and handpainted backgrounds are layered using digital technologies, creating impossible horizons that remain uncannily familiar, obliquely referencing historical painting, 20th c. landscape photography and sci-fi renderings. As in her drawings and sculpture, Fried approaches photography with patience and calculated intensity, hinting at an ever-present potential for violence that lies beneath a sumptuous surface.

Zipora Fried studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. Recent exhibitions include The Locus of Control, ACFNY, New York, NY (2012); Drawing a line in the Sand, Peter Blum Gallery, New York, NY (2012); Salon Noir at On Stellar Rays, New York, NY (2011); Greater New York at MoMA PS1, Queens, NY (2010); Total Recall, Public Art Fund, New York, NY (2010); Zipora Fried, Margarete Jakschik and Sam Windett, Contemporary art Museum St. Louis, MO (2010); Trust Me. Be Careful. at On Stellar Rays, New York, NY (2009); Text at Eighth Veil, Los Angeles, CA (fall 2009); Minus Space at MoMA PS1 (2009); Other exhibitions include Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2006); Guild & Greyshkul, New York, NY (2005); Center for Contemporary Non-Objective Art, Brussels (2005).

Fried's work is represented in a number of Museum collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; The Albertina Museum, Vienna; The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, Stockholm; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA. Fried is also the recipient of numerous awards for her experimental films, which have been featured in festivals worldwide.

Nancy Holt (b. 1938) was born in Massachusetts and lives currently in New Mexico. A pioneer of earthworks and public art, Nancy Holt has also worked in sculpture, installation, film, video, and photography for over three decades. She is best known for her large-scale environmental sculptural works, including Sun Tunnels in northern Utah and Dark Star Park in Arlington, Virginia. In the 1970s, Holt made a series of pioneering film and video works, including several collaborations with Robert Smithson.

Nancy Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1938. She received a Bachelors degree in Biology from Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, in 1960. She has received five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two New York Creative Artist Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Florida, Tampa. She has produced site-specific environmental works in numerous public places around the world, including Sun Tunnels (1976), a large-scale sculptural work in Great Basin Desert, Utah; Stone Enclosure (Rock Rings) in Bellingham, Washington; Astral Grating (1987) in a New York City subway station, and Dark Star Park, in Arlington, Virginia, among many others. She has also completed large-scale land reclamation projects, including Sky Mound (1988) in the New Jersey Meadowlands, and Up and Under (1998), in Nokia, Finland. Holt's works, including her films and videos, have been seen in exhibitions at The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Dia Center for the Arts, New York, and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. In 2010 Columbia University's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery in New York held the major retrospective exhibition Nancy Holt: Sightlines. The exhibition was accompanied by a monograph of the same name and edited by Alena J. Williams. In 2012 she had a traveling exhibition showing an in-depth examination of her early projects from 1966 to 1980 at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City and the Santa Fe Arts Institute, and was included in Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 at MoCA, Los Angeles and Materializing "Six Years" at the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

Joan Jonas (b. 1936) was born in New York and lives there. Her works and performances have been exhibited widely, including recent solo exhibitions at MoMA, New York (2009–10), MACBA, Barcelona (2008), and the Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2006). She has participated in the Biennale di Venezia (2009) and was invited six times to documenta (2012, 2002, 1987, 1982, 1977, 1972). In 2009, she received the Guggenheim Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thiago Rocha Pitta (b. 1980) was born in Tiradentes, Brazil, and lives and works in São Paulo. As a multimedia artist, he develops works in search of an intimate relationship with nature. Pitta was rewarded with the Marcantonio Vilaça award, in 2005, and the Open Your Mind Award, Switzerland, in 2009. In 2012 he participated in the 30th São Paulo Biennial (Brazil) and in 2011 in The Garden of Forking Paths Sculpture Project, an outdoor sculpture project at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Switzerland). The same year, he held an individual exhibition at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (Brazil). Other notable solo exhibitions include Notas de um Desabamento (Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro) in 2010, A Rocky Mist, Meyer Riegger in Karlsruhe (Germany), 2009, Notes on an Inland Shipwreck at Andersen Contemporary in Berlin (Germany) in 2008, Scai X Scai, Arts Initiative Tokyo (Japan) in 2007. A selection of group exhibitions include Nova Arte Nova at centro cultural Banco do Brasil (Brazil) 2008, Time Frame at MoMA PS1 (USA) in 2006, and J’en Rêve, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (France) in 2005.

Patti Smith (b. 1946) began as a visual artist and has been making drawings and taking photographs since the late 1960s. In recent years her practice has expanded to include installation. She is currently the subject of Patti Smith: Camera Solo, a survey of her photographs organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford. Also exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts, it is currently on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (February 9 - May 19, 2013). Patti Smith: The Coral Sea opens this Spring at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and will combine installation and performance (May 17 - November, 2013). In 2008 Smith was the subject of Patti Smith Land 250 at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, and Written Portrait - Patti Smith at Artium Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Strange Messenger: The Work of Patti Smith, a three hundred-work retrospective, was organized by The Andy Warhol Museum in 2002 and traveled to numerous venues including the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Her work has also been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Eki, Kyoto; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Triennale di Milano, Milan; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Just Kids, a memoir of her remarkable relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe during the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies, won her the 2010 National Book Award in the nonfiction category. Her 1975 album Horses, established Smith as one of most original and important musical artists of her generation and was followed by ten releases, including Radio Ethiopia; Easter; Dream of Life; Gone Again, Trampin', and Banga, her latest. She continues to perform throughout the world and in 2007 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In July of 2005 she was presented with the prestigious insignia of Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters, an esteemed French cultural honor. In May 2011, Smith won the Polar Music Prize, Sweden's most prestigious music award. She has been represented by Robert Miller Gallery since 1978.

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