Mike Cloud

01.23.18

Mike Cloud, Removed Individual, 2013, oil on canvas, 20' x 10'.


 

Mike Cloud is a Brooklyn-based painter. His upcoming solo exhibition, “The Myth of Education,” offers shaped canvases and collages that blend iconography and abstraction in order to address various myths in the art world—from the dichotomy between representation and abstraction to what he calls the “myth of greatness.” Here, Cloud reflects on his teachers and how ideas are passed through generations of artists. The show is on view at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago from January 26 through March 22, 2018.

YOU CAN BREAK art education down into a series of stories. Your teachers might tell you about how Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear, or how Richard Serra could be killed by his work, or how Bas Jan Ader died in the making of a piece. We have a large swath of stories. I think there’s actually a metahistory underneath them: the myth of education—that your professors are actually creating you as a colleague.

I consider my work to be a form of returning. One of my teachers was the abstract painter Peter Halley. My paintings are a critical take on his geometric abstraction. And also on Jessica Stockholder’s work, and on Kerry James Marshall’s, and all these people that were my professors. My goal as a student was not to adopt what they taught me, but to gain critical distance from it and then come back to them with what I thought was an addition.

In the past twenty years or so, art has been deeply connected to education. Halley once said that he saw a greater sense of continuity as a teacher than he did as an artist in the art world. When I was in art school you’d have Kehinde Wiley and Mel Bochner and Byron Kim all sitting in the same room, whereas, in the art world, they wouldn’t all go to the same café or some place like that.

That connection between art and academia moves us away from older ideas about the artist being discovered after death. Instead, my colleagues can actually affect the work I do next. So, the myth that the artist makes a body of work in the studio alone and then we find the art after they die has not been the dominant art myth of late. Although, as a teacher I do think that art’s relationship to academia is beginning to wane. Emerging artists are finding other ways to promote their work online. More and more, artists are looking for new modes for community and interaction.

When I’m teaching undergrads, I always notice the moment when they realize that pleasing their parents with their art is not a goal anymore. To be an artist, you have to sacrifice your financial stability, social standing, personal relationships, and all sorts of things to make your work. The goal is not something immediate or material. It’s not even something that you know you will experience in your lifetime. That’s where the myth of greatness comes to the artist in the studio.

— As told to Jason Foumberg

Dana Yoeli

01.16.18

 

Dana Yoeli, Olympia, a work in seven acts, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 8 minutes 41 seconds.


Dana Yoeli is an Israeli artist based in Tel Aviv. Her current solo show at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art showcases her project Olympia, 2017, which extends her explorations into architecture, Israeli mythologies, nostalgia, nationalism, and catastrophic events. The exhibition is on view through February 3, 2018.

THE HERZLIYA MUSEUM, founded in 1965 as Beit Yad Labanim, was originally constructed and maintained by a volunteer organization to preserve the memory of fallen soldiers and provide care for their deprived families. In 2000, architects Yaakov and Amnon Rechter designed a bypass that blocked the original entrance to the exhibition space that had passed through Beit Yad Labanim, adding a new room and entrance to the museum. This new structure shifted the focus of the building but did not erase its history. The space is, and will always be, infused with a subconscious charge, a latent energy that suffuses the entire complex with the currents of loss, redemption, and ambivalence.

Brutalist architecture, with its poured concrete, exists in Israel as one of the purest expressions of the establishment of the state. It is the visual language of government buildings, memorial sites, Kibbutz architecture, and educational institutions. It is such an effective language that an entire community of individuals recognizes the significance of even its most esoteric details. It is deeply embedded in the Israeli national ethos and sense of community. Olympia was influenced directly by the unique architecture of the museum and the historical connection to Beit Yad Labanim. The exhibition space was selected because of its exemplary status and rich heritage, which layers commemoration with art.

My current show consists of two videos, two marionettes, and a puppet theater maquette. The installation of these works together offers an existential paradox based in the disparity between the personal pain and loss resulting from serving in the military, and the mythical and national mechanism of celebrating heroic actions.

Upon entering the show, you first see the video Olympia, which echoes the epic opening of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film of the same name. Here, the camera moves again and again along tracks I built in my studio, while the landscape seems to be changing as if it had been filmed in a long and uninterrupted shot. The repetition of a distinct section, time after time, creates a horizontal expansion; I wanted viewers to see the entire installation through the prism of a disturbing, silent trajectory—an uncanny view of a dystopian landscape made of miniature models.

On the other side of that same wall the video Olympia, a work in seven acts is framed within a theater’s facade, which is also presented as a sculptural object nearby. In the work, components of Israeli memorial ceremonies—such as the lighting of a flame and the sand burial—are shown and express a collective loss, rather than a personal one.

Like many of my generation, I remember the feeling of my knees being scraped against a stucco surface, my chin splitting on granolithic tiles, and my first kiss leaning against a commemorative wall. My perception of the culturally influenced texture of public space, as always decorated with a plaque or a commemorative site, is a part of who I am as a human being and as an artist. It informs the meta-language that I use in my work. Emotions such as shame, pride, discomfort, and pain are permanently cast with the DNA of communal memory. Furthermore, virtually all of the architects of Israeli commemorative sites are men. By performing the construction and realization of this entire project by myself, I break into the closed club of male model-makers and memorial architects, and challenge the masculine hegemony of these endeavors.

— As told to Naomi Lev

Morgan Wong

01.09.18

 

View of “So Far, So Right: A Study of Reforms and Transitions Across Borders,” 2018, the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei.


Morgan Wong is a Hong Kong–based artist, whose “Dash Series,” 2016, deals with the so-called nine-dash line (also known as the ten-dash line and the eleven-dash line), a vague and disputed geopolitical border used by China and Taiwan to claim a major part of the South China Sea. Two paintings from that series and a commissioned video, The Proposed Boundary, 2017, are currently part of the group show “So Far, So Right: A Study of Reforms and Transitions Across Borders,” organized by the Taipei Contemporary Art Center. The exhibition is on view at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts in Taipei through February 25, 2018. Three canvases from Wong’s “Dash Series” are also featured in “Frontier – Re-assessment of Post-Globalizational Politics” at OCAT Shanghai until March 11, 2018.

I’M INTERESTED IN THE TEMPORALITY OF SOVEREIGNTY, and how it can be examined or illustrated through geopolitical borders. For example, the ongoing debates that have been happening since the late 1940s about the commonly named “nine-dash line,” a territorial claim in the South China Sea that China and Taiwan have maintained over the years, have long intrigued me. Representing the South China Sea border as eleven separate paintings, my “Dash Series” partly taps into the psychology of how we can perceive a series of dashes as a continuous line. It’s a gesture of destroying the border and, at the same time, an act of rethinking the significance of each dash. 

A solo exhibition that I had at KIGOJA Independent Arts Space Initiative in Seoul in 2016, “KIGOJA Standard Time (KST),” presented four installations featuring two steel rails, an open window, six unsynchronized clocks, and a television displaying a silent, spinning globe. With this fictional time zone I created, the works made up a stark tableau that spoke broadly to the role of time in nation building. The show revolved around North Korea’s decision, in 2015, to revert to a precolonial time zone. This setting up of Pyongyang time, on the seventieth anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan, created a new temporal border between the South and the North.

In 2013, I began the lifelong performance Filing Down a Steel Bar Until a Needle Is Made. The title references a Chinese idiom about determination, and the work evolved from my personal determination to become an artist. I am literally filing down a metal bar, which is the same height and weight as myself, by hand. It is also a metaphorical event, in a way. The project was presented as a video in the exhibition “Line of Times” at Mill6 in Hong Kong earlier this year, because I decided it should not be a public performance, but a daily ritual, for me. The metal bar project is already durational in that it’s going to take my whole life to complete, so I don’t feel the need to lock myself up in a room, just filing it every day. If I cannot be with the metal bar, because of work or travel, I just leave it. It also travels with me to residences and other long relocations. 

I think it’s important not to recognize a project as absurd in the beginning, because that kind of defines its function and denies the nature of absurdity. Time has always been a concern of mine. Recently I have been looking into theoretical physics and whether the passing of time even exists. Repeating these actions and gestures almost allows me to create my own currency, my own unit of time.

— As told to Samantha Kuok Leese

Lucas Foglia

01.02.18

Lucas Foglia, Esme Swimming, Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore, 2014, pigment print, 34 x 44”.


The San Francisco–based artist Lucas Foglia just published Human Nature (Nazraeli Press, 2017), his third book of photographs. An exhibition of this work is currently on view at Fredericks & Freiser in New York through January 20, 2018. The same body of work will travel to Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam from February 2 to April 15, 2018 and then to the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago from July 19 to September 20, 2018. Here, Foglia discusses the labor and thought that went into creating the photographs in this series and the idea of a “relationship” that underpins them.

MY FIRST TWO BOOKS featured photographs of specific regions in the United States. A Natural Order focused on people who had left cities and suburbs to live off the grid in Appalachia. Frontcountry focused on the interactions of the mining and cattle industries in the American West and how people use land that is famous for being wild.

Human Nature is a series of interconnected stories from around the world about people, nature, and the science of our relationship with wilderness. It was challenging to sequence the photographs in a way that would feel coherent and relatable without being didactic. I made about a thousand small prints and spent a year arranging them on the wall of my kitchen. The final layout begins in cities and then moves toward wilderness (through forests, farms, deserts, ice fields, and oceans). I linked the photographs by content, color, and composition.

Each photograph is anchored in a specific place, with a shared story. For example, in my photograph of Esme swimming in the pool of a luxury hotel in Singapore, she is surrounded by balcony gardens as rush-hour traffic forms on the street below her. In my photograph of Troy gently holding a small bird, he crouches by the barbed-wire fence of the Rikers Island prison complex in New York. The hotel and the prison garden are dramatically different places, but both of their designs suggest that nature is curative and therapeutic.

Photographers normally portray nature as either pure or spoiled—a pristine wilderness or a disaster. The critique inherent in pictures of spoiled landscapes is clear, but pictures of “pure” nature can also be insidious. As soon as nature ceases to appear pristine, we think of it as broken and unfixable. I want to describe a relationship with nature that is more complicated and more intimate.

“Wild” nature is an oasis—and therefore, as the metaphor suggests, also a mirage. Many scientists argue that there is no place on earth devoid of human impact. I suggest that we internalize that fact and start seeing ourselves in a relationship with nature. As with relationships among humans, if something goes awry, we need to talk it through and act. Arguments are a way to become closer through dialogue. If we ignore a problem or expect an impossible ideal, we will likely end up isolated—alone.

Most of my photographs point to positive examples. We need activism, optimism, and an appreciation of complex beauty.

— As told to Brian Sholis