Authenticity? (where is something real, when does it matter and who gets to decide*)
*Reconfigured and partial quote from Simone Montemurno, Hologram of Andy 8-11-12 (source document uploaded below)
Andy Robert proposes an authenticity that is demonstrated when artists “question myth, origin and the everyday through didactic and trompe-l’oeil aesthetic strategies.” In his exhibition Authenticity?, at Untitled Art Projects, Robert presents the work of artists who may and may not be working in the familiar field of realism/photo-realism and who in their maybe yes / maybe no practices pursue the authentically political, the post-Essentialist, and the personally mystic – kind of all at the same time.
In 1906 Charles Ives wrote a piece of music that foreshadowed much of Modernism, and Ives’ music remains vital today. The Unanswered Question is quiet and modest, not quite melancholy – slow strings support one’s emotional body while a horn calls in search of something undefined. After brief, strident urgency, the piece closes softly, and still undefined. In an essay on Ives’ music, biographer Jan Swafford finds in the piece (and defines Modernist music as) “… polytonality, polyrhythm, free dissonance, chance and collage effects, (and) spatial music.” She continues, “…Ives makes a philosophical point: a question is better than an answer, in the immensity of creation. And those determined to force the answers are apt to look foolish in the face of that immensity. (…) In The Unanswered Question we see the elements of his (Ives’) art in a nutshell: a work at once timeless and revolutionary, spiritual and concrete, comic and cosmic.”
In Authenticicy? I see artists whose work reminds me that philosophical concerns in life – Ives’ unanswered questions – can/must be based in one’s life and experience.
“You can perform magic anytime, anyplace, even in the front row of another magician’s performance. But to be polite, you should ask” Nate Young, from a video in Authenticity?
In Young’s video (of which there are two or three playing on a monitor with others in a loop) shows classic magician hands in white gloves performing coin magic while Young reads what sounds like a text on tricks, the voice is jocular and confiding in manner, as though one were a possible colleague, simply by the act of showing interest enough to pay attention. It’s a voice I recognize and that gives me a sense of exchange of, or inclusion in power, in a formula where knowledge is power. In the specific case of Young’s film, I thought that he was referring to art as magic, and I like the thought that knowledge of art is power.
In the film Nate continues, “Never dis a bro. Find something good to say else both people look bad…” More good advice to and among associates.
Jamilah Sabur may be dancing a celebration or consideration of Neil Armstrong’s walk and planting of a flag on the moon, and she might be doing a foxtrot, and her performance in Playing Possum might exist as an ellipsis, leading toward or away (only a direction, for no resolution is prescribed). In this film she wears an enigmatic mask of white material, it sort of pushes forward into a flattened nose-shape, like a gas mask but without the reference to war. Her use of symbols is wonderfully cryptic and, again, enigmatic. The camera captures corners of activity that in their spareness become sculptures: in the bottom corner of the screen her dark hand grasps a length of wood and her masked face rises, looking across the black space. This lasts for moments, while her figure contemplates… something, perhaps the white spheres that lie at her feet on the dusty surface of her moon. Part of her mask then disappears, the balls seem to chase her, she gathers them into a drape of her skirt and spins, with the balls aloft. Behind her stands the flag. This film is less than a minute long, yet there is much more to be found in it. (Jamilah, this is great – I can’t wait to see more.)
Kenyatta A C Hinkle, A Knee Grow Mind and A Knee Grow Brain are drawings in white on black paper or board. Each is a schematic of the referenced thing, with labels that relate to the “real” part and the socially constructed, real part. Medulla oblongata becomes Me Do What I Gotta, another label wryly offers that Knee Grows have a Funkified lobe, and so on. In a phrenology of the mind, one area is labelled “LAPD” and another “Coon Tunes” and another “HIV/AIDS.” All of this is funny, and all of it is serious, and none of it feels like revisiting old identity work, rather it feels like – and looks like – human observations drawn from a personal negotiation of race, and among white people of difference, in our country and our time. What is shocking about the drawings is exactly their ability to charm, and vice versa.
There is considerably more, and equally interesting and good work in Authenticity?. The exhibition closes on October 9 at Untitled Art Projects at 3309 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. http://www.untitledartprojects.com/main.html
Harry Gamboa Jr.
Kenyatta A C Hinkle