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Posts by Cielo Lutino

Artcards talks to David van der Leer

by Cielo Lutino on January 16th, 2012

BMW Guggenheim Lab exterior view from East 1st Street, NYC (Photo: Paul Warchol)

Last winter I stood on a cold subway platform and told Y about my new crush: David van der Leer. “Who is he?” she asked, distracted. She was peering down the dark tunnel, hoping to see train lights headed our way. It was one of those very snowy late nights in New York, and we had fallen victim to the slow timetable of weekend trains. I don’t know, I said. Some curator at the Guggenheim. Y turned her gaze on me. “You don’t even know who this dude is?” she asked. I shrugged and told her I liked what he’d been curating. She shook her head. Who falls for someone’s curation? Continue Reading More »

East Coast Debut: “Tales of the Waria”

by Cielo Lutino on August 11th, 2011

Tiara, one of the film's main characters, applies make-up. Photograph by Kathy Huang.

I know very little about Islam, not much more about Indonesia, and absolutely nothing about being transgendered. These shortcomings didn’t prevent me from relating to Tales of the Waria, however, Kathy Huang’s documentary about four transgendered women in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Filmed in the cinematic coastal region of South Sulawesi, this sumptuously shot narrative follows four waria — a mash-up of wanita, which means woman, and pria, which means man — in their respective quests for love. Continue Reading More »

Featured Artist: Caitlin Masley

by Cielo Lutino on April 6th, 2011

Caitlin Masley at her studio in DUMBO. (Image: Carissa Pelleteri)

Looking at Baltimore’s busted-out vacancies last weekend, with their broken, boarded-up windows and exhausted dereliction, I couldn’t help but think of a phrase the artist Caitlin Masley used when we spoke in January: “monuments to failure.” It’s an interesting description, because monuments tend to valorize failure’s opposite: success and the heroic triumphs of civilization. Beyond recognizing fallen soldiers and epic battles, monuments reserve their monumentality for the great and the good. Yet so much of life is neither great nor good, and if reality is to be preserved in statuary, isn’t it equally worth capturing the sad defeats of life? And if we were to pursue that idea, would we need to go much farther than the half-built developments littering so much of America today? Aren’t their shells evidence of stock market failure and an inability to curb our greed for more land, more profit?

Those are the kinds of questions Masley’s artworks prompt. Her sculptures, drawings, installations, and photography speak to the hoped-for futures humans conjure and then leave behind, whether in their imaginations or here in the material world. There is, for instance, “TWOTOWERSVER2,” a manipulated photo of an imaginary landscape in postwar reconstruction, and “Copperland,” a series of abstract drawings overlaid in copper leafing. In the works, dense clusters of human habitation are seen from a bird’s-eye view, with some sections darkened as if erased, the whole of it suggesting a desert landscape—El Paso at night maybe, or, more likely, bombed villages in the Middle East. Continue Reading More »

The Fame Monster

by Cielo Lutino on March 10th, 2011

"El Triunfo De La Muerte" (courtesy Besharat Gallery)

In the early days of my nerdom, I used to stay up late before the book fairs my elementary school held, marking and then erasing, and then marking again which books I wanted to buy when the fair opened. Our teachers provided us beforehand with a catalogue of the books that would be at the fair, but my mother capped how much I could spend. It meant budgeting. I hated not being able to buy whatever I wanted, but the limitations made me appreciate all the more what my restricted dollars bought and what they could not. I would wander the stacks of books, learning titles I hadn’t known existed, and I would be grateful for my exposure to them; later I would look in the library for those I hadn’t been able to buy. Continue Reading More »

Anywhere But Canada

by Cielo Lutino on March 6th, 2011

"Misty Discovery," courtesy Angell Gallery

With the musical successes of Arcade Fire, Feist, and Do Make Say Think, Canada has been steadily shedding its second-country status and gaining better cultural traction globally. (Don’t know the last example I cited? Focus instead on the almost equal valuation of the Canadian and American dollars, and you’ll realize just how much our neighbor to the north has accomplished in recent years. In fact, the Canadian dollar is projected to surpass its American counterpart in value over 2011. Ouch). Canada pops up in insidious ways, too, with record labels sporting names like Secretly Canadian and, closer to home, the Ontario bar in Williamsburg.

Still, all that hoopla doesn’t mean Cannucks actually want to be in their own country. At least that’s the impression artists Catherine Bolduc and Alex McCleod leave. Both are showing at this year’s PULSE or, more specifically, IMPULSE, the second-floor exhibition that features work made in the last two years. Represented by Gallery SAS and Angell Gallery respectively, the two offer works about imaginary worlds and in the process invite viewers to consider the points at which reality and fiction meet to create the environments we inhabit internally and externally. Continue Reading More »

Artist in Focus: Alec Soth

by Cielo Lutino on December 7th, 2010

Priscilla (from the series The Last Days of W). Courtesy of the artist.

In 2004, visitors to the Whitney were greeted by “Charles,” a large-scale color photograph of a bespectacled man in coveralls standing in the wintry outside beside a house. In each of his gloved hands, he held miniature biplanes, and he did not smile. The image introduced museum-goers to that year’s biennial, but it also heralded the arrival of photographer Alec Soth (pronounced “Sōth”) to a larger public.

The art world welcomed him enthusiastically, heaping praise upon Sleeping by the Mississippi (Steidl, 2004) from which “Charles” was pulled. The book featured 46 photographs taken during a series of road trips along the Mississippi River and which were notable for their sumptuous detail and elegiac documentation of an iconic American byway.  Niagra (Steidl, 2006); Dog Days, Bogota; and Paris/Minnesota followed soon after and, in the jittery election year of 2008, The Last Days of W, which Soth, tongue firmly in cheek, labeled his “Big Political Commentary.”

The young talent doesn’t restrict his work to photography books alone, however. He also shoots for the prestigious agency Magnum Photos, traditionally a photojournalist cooperative, and oversees Little Brown Mushroom (LBM), a blog and small press. (The modest initiative was represented at the New York Art Book Fair at PS1 in November.) Today Soth produces the Continental Picture Show series for the New York Times and is promoting Broken Manual, a collaboration with Lester Morrison that explores the places to which monks, survivalists, and the like retreat. The first U.S. survey of his work is also being shown at the Walker Art Center through January 2, 2011, and on Wednesday, December 8, he travels to New York to speak at FIT. New Yorkers can also catch Soth at The Strand on Thursday, December 9, when he’ll be signing books.

The man is busy, but he graciously took the time to talk to me last month over the phone. I was nervous beforehand, but he’s easy to talk to and we had a good time. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did. Continue Reading More »

Frederick Loomis at White Columns

by Cielo Lutino on November 30th, 2010

images courtesy of Art Agenda

Thanksgiving is over, and the countdown is on: a month left for buying or making gifts, if you’re of the gift-giving persuasion. But time winds faster at White Columns, where the Frederick Loomis show is up for just one more week. Priorities, people. Get thee to White Columns. Continue Reading More »