Notes on Utopia: Group Exhibition


Notes on Utopia
Group Exhibition


Maya Stendhal Gallery
March 1st – April 28th, 2007
Opening Reception Thursday, March 15th, 6-9 pm

Stendhal Gallery presents a multimedia group exhibition eliciting a discourse on human attempts at establishing utopian foundations. The reality of utopia, now manifested only as an impractical, idealistic scheme for reform, is addressed through realizations of consequence spanning from historical to personal contemplations. Methods of dissection, re-examination, representation, and reproduction are utilized throughout the works as artistic interpretation confronts the sways of utopian permanence and transience resonating even still within contemporary life. A web project will also showcase some of the artists in literary associations advancing access to artwork through the emergence of a cooperative format. Through construction of organizations and movements enhancing the role of artist and community, such as Dada, Fluxus, The Filmmakers’ Cooperative, and Anthology Film Archives, do these artists approach the recognition and grasp of tangible utopian foundations. Notes on Utopia propels a collective, conscious stance upon the livelihood and stagnancy of utopia, always a prevalent, poignant precursor in defining the nature of human understanding and proceedings.

On view: George Maciunas, the impresario of the Fluxus movement originally from Lithuania, desired to record sociopolitical chronological evolutions and developed theories calling for the improvement in methods of transmitting information. Atlas of Russian History (1953) displays phases of origin, prosperity, maturity, and decline constituting an array of epochal, cultural staples culminating with the rise of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and creation of a utopian society. No Smoking (ca.1963) by Maciunas in collaboration with fellow Fluxus advocate, George Brecht, blatantly implies digression toward utopia. The Fluxus Manifesto (1963) written by Maciunas proclaims a radical transcendence of artistic boundaries at the time in collectivization of a revolutionary, united front purging commercialism and promoting a non art reality. Jonas Mekas, avant-garde filmmaker and general enthusiast also a native of Lithuania, contributes diaristic sentiments through a plethora of emotive responses in Notes on Utopia (2005), a film of direct dialogue passionately commenting on utopia in the progression of human thought and action. Concerns of remorse, condemnation, escapism, and perseverance comprise his testament. In conclusion, through dance and declaration, Mekas promises to continue the work of those before him, “to project in personal visions what was seen for humanity and to push humanity out of dreary, dark, useless, realistic activities towards the heavens, towards other dimensions.” Painter, graphic artist, Dadaist, film-experimenter and producer, Hans Richter, early on in his career developed and propagated ideas on art based in a "Universelle Sprache", universal language, free of national frontiers and comprehensible to all people. Liberation of Paris (1944-45) exemplifies this through artistic reaction to the national uprise of the time in protest against German forces of arrest determining the utopian ideal of freedom through an organic palette and rich knowledge of abstract harmony. Accompanying his stern belief in the artist’s duty to be actively political by opposing war and supporting the revolution were innovative, rhythmic themes of structure and movement realized in a piece entitled Triptych x 5 (1960s). Transformation from geometric to organic forms introduced a new, broadening dimension in approaches to abstract and surrealistic art through the progression of irrational happenings, unconscious improvisation, and conscious Constructivism. The maturation from the rigidity of structure to the flexibility of humankind is captured in time binding all the images while eliciting a form of emotional expression. Richter propagated experiments in contradiction expanding artistic design and heightening capabilities of conception. Shigeko Kubota, an active member of Fluxus, brings a singular sensibility of several, often interconnected themes to her video installations paying direct homage to Duchampian ideas and icons, Window (Study Model) (1976-77) and Nude Descending Staircase (Study Model) (1976). Distinctively fused are the organic, the art historical, and the electronic creating a lyrical convergence of the personal and the technological. Extensions of radicalization, exalted by Duchamp through artistic expression, into alternate realities of time, space, and artistic medium may once again revitalize generations towards new modes of representation.

Jose Clemente Orozco was a Mexican social realist gaining specialization as a muralist, painter, draftsman, political cartoonist, and lithographer and recognition for his leadership in the Mexican Renaissance. Attention here is given to his smaller-scale and lesser-known work on easels crafted between 1927 and 1934 while living in the United States prompting the artist to contemplate his own artistic, philosophical, and social vision. Suspicion of the growing separation between the structural elements of buildings and their symbolic value is addressed in World’s Highest Structure (1930) as weariness envelops the concept that skyscrapers could civilize society and elevate the symbolic value of architecture. Orozco remained fiercely devoted during this era of production to the discovery of natural corollaries between modern environments and artistic innovations awakening an original contemporary style and attraction to subversive qualities of humanity. Brooklyn native artist, Duane Stapp, presents a conceptual dissection and reassembly of iconology. Liberty Pole (2001), a three-dimensional drawing hung in space, is a representation of the bottom part of the American eagle. The re-evaluated symbol of power and pride has become an open tracery embracing new resonance in an image that has been drained of meaning through its very omnipresence. Working and studying primarily out of Istanbul, Turkey, Serkan Ozkaya has long been consumed by and devoted to acts of imitation. With the increasing ease of precise mechanical reproduction, Ozkaya exudes geographical dislocation within a defined social object, the newspaper. His hand drawn reproduction of the cover of the New York Times, Today Could Be a Day of Historical Importance (Dec. 15th, 2006), shifts its everyday standardization allowing for the veracity of the source and validation by its citizens to be re-examined rather than disposed of, a copy more of a genuine article than the original. David (2005) captures on film the installation and eventual collapse of the re-contextualized iconic statue of David. Ozkaya aimed to emphasize the idea that icons are considered public property broadening the community of proposed sharing provided by galleries. “We accept them as such because of their long histories, and to judge for ourselves we must reposition our perspective with respect to the work in question,” comments Ozkaya in contemplation of icons as the film illustrates a glimpse into a utopian reconstruction. Multimedia artist, David Byrne, has introduced a multitude of innovative visual and aural approaches from such departures as Talking Heads and PowerPoint. Arboretum (2006), a collection of drawings/diagrams in the form of trees, elucidates and obscures the roots of contemporary phenomena and terminology. A dichotomy of earnest, philosophical digressions and humorous, satirical tricks embody an eclectic blend of faux science and automatic writing in the application of logical, scientific rigor to basically irrational premises. A sort of self-therapy evoked allows the hand to say what the voice cannot. “The result and possibly unacknowledged aim may be to know how much it is that we don’t know, rather than what we think we know.” – David Byrne. 4 works from this collection are featured including Economic Indicators (2002), Who’s Who (2002), The Performing Arts (2003), and The Influence of Mixed Drinks (2003). Yvelyne Wood, scenographer, sculptor, and visual artist from France, with great sensitivity and relevance questions and analyzes the pain and cruelty of our world. Her self-portrait, Nausea (2004), uses her body in photomontage depicting dystopian casualties of tyrannical, political, and religious provocation significantly manipulated within fusion of self and sociopolitical discord. A recurring challenge of the artist is to show how death can materialize itself into a new form of life, perhaps to budge hindrances of disassociation and misinformation.

The web projects arise with Henry Flynt, a philosopher, musician, anti-art activist and exhibited artist known for radical, intriguing investigations within human relations, economics, sciences, and aesthetics. Fiercely contended are his responses to the suffocating grasps of imperialism, commercialism, and many other forms of cultural complacency. Flynt exhibits a comprehensive study, graphic and literary, towards betterment within the Soviet socioeconomic system. In collaboration with George Maciunas, Appendix 1. Soviet Prefabricated Building System (1965) and Appendix 2. Maciunas Prefabricated building System (1965) enhance the revolutionary, collectivist prefabricated building system through highly detailed practicality of supply and demand. Flynt and Maciunas execute beneficial appropriation in domains of workability, economy, adaptability, and durability. 18th century British mathematician and Presbyterian, Non-Conformist minister, Thomas Bayes, displays online one of the two only published works by the author in his life, a discourse investigating as the title states, Divine Benevolence, or an Attempt to Prove That the Principal End of the Divine Providence and Government is the Happiness of His Creatures (1731). How prevalent is such a document in the realm of religious wars now engulfing the world where re-examination and reconstitution of divine benevolence may be of great influence in spurring religious reform. Ken Friedman and Owen Smith have maintained many disciplines regarding the development of Fluxus’ legacy from direct involvement as artists to literary publications as authors. After Fluxus, 40.1 (2006), an issue of Visible Language, a journal dedicated to the study of Fluxus, examines the organizations challenge to art and the art world that takes place on political, social, and economic grounds. Proportions of artistic means, philosophical principle, and various interpretations are the elements reflected as approaches to analysis and aesthetic are cooperated.

Harry Stendhal


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