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Posts by Brent Birnbaum


by Brent Birnbaum on July 17th, 2012

I just returned from a road-trip to Oregon. Before I climbed in the 26-foot U-Haul my friend was moving his life with, I asked around for some Portland gallery recommendations. Fourteen30 was what I got. I checked their roster and emailed the artist I was most impressed with – Jesse Sugarmann. Jesse just moved to California, but I got his insiders guide to spaces and artists. I saw almost everything he recommended, and was very impressed.

Glen Fogel at PICA

My first art stop was the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. I felt disappointed as I entered, learning the show was a New York artist. My skepticism quickly vanished. Glen Fogel’s installation of spinning projected wedding rings was perfect here. I knew the work from seeing it at PARTICIPANT in New York. His Lower East Side installation was strong, but this was the ideal setting. Amongst a turned-off fan floor sculpture and an outdoor vinyl work, there were paintings of letters on another floor. Perhaps it was all the Stumptown coffee or because of all the things I wanted to see in just a few days, but I couldn’t be bothered to read them. I was intimidated by their length and now know I missed out on some good art. Continue Reading More »

Art Basel Miami:Final Photo Recap

by Brent Birnbaum on December 12th, 2011

Images from Basel, Scope, Nada, Seven, Fountain, RiffRaff, Rubell Collection, de la Cruz Collection, Locust Projects, Primary Projects, Spinello Projects, Salem at the Delano, and one director getting her gallery ink. Click images to enlarge.

Featured Artist: Ry Rocklen

by Brent Birnbaum on October 11th, 2011

Second to None

Ry Rocklen has developed a language that is poetic and unique. His originality is an accomplishment considering the thousands of artists who used found objects in their work. Ry inserts old objects with his artistic mojo, giving them new life in a different realm. Perhaps you caught his previous outings in New York City at Marc Jancou in 2009 or in the Whitney Biennial of 2008. Rocklen’s latest New York show is up at Untitled on the Lower East Side until October 16th. Continue Reading More »


by Brent Birnbaum on July 25th, 2011

It is hard to be unique in Chelsea. Enter summertime at Kravets-Wehby Gallery. Making my gallery rounds in May, I wandered in and wondered: is this the output of a kooky old reclusive woman. To my delight it was Justin Samson. His previous New York shows at John Connelly Presents were superb and this show delivered as well. It is such a joy to admire someone’s work and not know you’re walking into view their latest. Samson’s idiosyncratic works consumed the space with labor and passion for his craft blatantly visible. His “Multikulti” was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. There were familiar shapes and colors that led you to historical references, yet his art is going in directions not visited by others. Speaking of directions not visited by others, these shows are on my best of 2011 list as well: Butt Johnson @ CRG Gallery, Nick van Woert @ Yvon Lambert, and David Adamo @ Untitled. Continue Reading More »

Featured Artist: Clarisse d’Arcimoles

by Brent Birnbaum on April 25th, 2011

In the bath (Mother and sister) 2009

Clarisse d’Arcimoles is a 25-year-old French artist living in London. Her work can be found at Saatchi Gallery until April 30th as part of NEWSPEAK: BRITISH ART NOW and in Tel-Aviv at the Alfred Gallery until April 31st. A solo show in London just closed at Degree Art Gallery and she had a busy 2010. BOOM! That’s Miss d’Arcimoles blowing up – and rightfully so. Her powerful images and projects bring to mind a dozen other positive adjectives. The power in her work partially lies in the multiple jumping off points for the viewer. You’re viscerally thrown off guard with emotion, intimacy, humanity, and history. Artcards Review digitally jumped the pond to talk with Clarisse. Continue Reading More »

Featured Artist: Joel Kyack

by Brent Birnbaum on February 8th, 2011

Courtesy of the Artist

Question: What starts with blood and ends with a post-op tranny? Answer: My studio visit with LA based artist Joel Kyack. Luckily there were some bacon strip band-aids on hand. Stepping into the Boyle Heights studio, I felt set up. Was this finger bleeding, paper clip and butane operation staged for me? Answer: No. Joel Kyack is attacking life and art, and sometimes people get hurt. Recently back from a Miami show and departing the following day for Milan, the studio was filled with more convo than recently finished art objects. New York will get its due though come April, when Joel will have a solo show at Kate Werble Gallery in SOHO. Until then, here is my Q and A with the artist: Continue Reading More »

Park Avenue Armory – Half Empty or Half Full?

by Brent Birnbaum on June 7th, 2010

(courtesy: Park Avenue Armory)

Christian Boltanski’s No Man’s Land is a mixed bag. Something more could have been said and accomplished given the space and resources allotted, albeit there are some powerful moments.

Walking into the armory is always a welcome visceral charge. This feeling carried over as I approached Boltanski’s wall of rusted biscuit tins. If you are familiar with his work, you know life and death is his motif. I was prepared for heavy-handed death metaphors, yet succumbed to this first sculpture and let go of my pre-conceived baggage. The placement in this engulfing hall was superb. Through repetition, scale, and the aesthetics of rust, Boltankski delivers this “best in show.”

As you pick which side of the tins to walk around, you enter the remainder of the 55,000 square-foot Drill Hall. Thousands of pieces of used clothing are orderly placed on the ground in numerous square formations. This is where the art goes flat. Rather than lost souls the artist is attempting to reference, it feels more like an outdated thrift store. The systematic placement of the clothes stole any organic relationship to the human body. These clothes do not act as substitutes for people and feel like they never had anyone present. Nobody died; they simply traded in their harvest gold and avocado green wardrobe at Beacon’s Closet and went to American Apparel.

The epicenter of this installation is the 5-story crane going up and down over a 40-foot high mountain of clothes. The operator from the construction claw company estimates he hoists and drops clumps of clothes 800 – 900 times a day. This is a beautiful meditation on life. Boltanski compares the claw to “chance” or life “as a game of dice.” While it seems more poetic than direct like the artist claims, the fluttering of clothes is hypnotic.

Another element, not hypnotic enough is the individual heartbeats playing through speakers throughout the floor. This should have been amped up a few notches. Although Christian Boltanski is more interested in genocide than vibrant colors and childish joy. It’s hard not to think of recent clothing sculptures by Guerra de la Paz or the claw arcade game while in No Man’s Land. You have until Sunday to see for yourself.

No Man’s Land is on view at Park Avenue Armory until June 13, 2010.