Installment 3: Kymia Nawabi

kimya-sculptureKymia Nawabi stood out at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space show. Her whimsical, yet somewhat disturbed drawings, paintings, and sculpture have the illustrative quality reminiscent of Tim Burton, giving characters multiple limbs or mix-matched bodies, and overlapping pattern over pattern –a complex world that begs to be dissected. A first generation Iranian-American, which she explains has contributed to her social anxiety disorder, her work addresses the personal struggles of her identity. Her mythology is given the name “The Nincompoop and The Superior Super Senses Stalkers,” as each of her senses is exaggerated and distorted in an episode of anxiety –whether it be in infancy, childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

kimya-moleskinMoleskin sketchbooks, which read like storybooks, hang from the ceiling in one corner, while large scale drawings hang in the hallways and the walls of her studio space. Disfigured small-scale sculptures sit patiently on the table, some housed in their own small cupboards, while larger scale sculptures sit free form outside. Each work seems to represent a different episode, or a different manifestation of her feelings as a new character (or doppelganger, as she says). Incredibly detailed and fantastical, she is right in assuming that “the works are initially understood as playful, cute and humorous, but this is merely a polite disguise, just as one uses a smile to hide a despicable body and mind that has gone berserk. Thus, through the lens of my own experience, I direct the viewers’ visions to the complex, deep-level, make-up of who we are, and make us dwell on the abject nature of being human.”

Swing Space is a space grant program that connects artists and arts organizations with vacant commercial space downtown. Studio, rehearsal, office, installation, and exhibition space awards are typically for one to six months and may be accompanied by a project stipend of $300-$3,000, when funds are available. Housed in an expansive upper-level office floor in a skyscraper in the Financial District, the 10th floor of 77 Water Street is the summer home of the Swing Space visual artist studios. Twenty former bankers’ offices lining the nearly 20,000 square foot floor offers selected artists space to complete proposed projects in the visual arts. With sweeping views of the East River, New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and the office buildings of the Insurance District, 77 Water Street serves the Swing Space program’s goal to place artists in uncommon and unique environments in Lower Manhattan.

Prodigal Suns

Prodigal Suns I met Russell and Carl at their store, RePOP on Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, and then stumbled upon (or, kind of internet stalked them until finding more) this seemingly outdated, but wonderful website of theirs.  Carl, a medical illustrator, and Russell, a painter and self-described closet goth-fanatic, came together as individual artists in Brooklyn and started creating under the name “Prodigal Suns” after they “compiled enough inspiration, confidence and conception.”  Evoking their respective strict Christian upbringings and finding a common bond in the biblical parable, they set out to change the perception of the prodigal son through their collaborative art, as their website explains.

Artist Cheryl Donegan’s recent comment exposes her opinion on the Bible as static: “Modernism should not be seen as Biblical; it should be seen as Talmudic,” the written record of an oral tradition.  As the previously noted Jerry Saltz article notes, Talmudic tradition is inherently collaborative, involving “thousands of people making comments in the margins, debating issues and ideas, shaping tradition, changing it, and keeping it alive.”

Prodigal Suns started their collaborative work with Genesis, a series of 10 pieces, which established a language later refined in The Kansas Group, a series that focused on the deconstruction and reconstruction of Family.

Too much self-reference?… “At first inspired by Louise Bourgeois, Carl and Russell oddly attached themselves to the Book of Acts, borrowing from the character Stephen to rebuild the birthing canal, the loss of innocence, death, reincarnation and the revelation that comes from the stoning of innocents.  In depth it became an opus for the discrimination of homosexuals in the 21st Century.”  …I promise, it wasn’t planned.

The two haven’t stopped collaborating, even though the dates on this website may give that impression (copyright 2005).  Their store is a living “wonderland of vintage finds,” a product that the two of them have nurtured into its own personality.

ART edited by Julia Turshen

Julia TurshenFound this little gem photocopied and folded while moving things around to fit a gem of a dumpster dive.  Wish I could remember where it came from…  This is some pre-Batali and Gweneth go to Spain Julia Turshen humor.  Seems like food has dominated her subject matter since this scribbled piece.  See her July ’09 Interview Magazine article here.

MUSEUMS

American Society of Hot Air: An exhibition of of of popcorn poppers, dry steamers, and blow-dryers.  A show that burns with nothingness.

Beagle Society: Featuring the brown-and-black spotted, howling, and mischievous “Lucy” along with her paler and chubbier collaborator “Scout.”

Cash-Only Museum of Art Decay: “Permanent Collection,” featuring the leftover scraps from many of today’s favorite artists: Richard Tuttle’s snapped wire, Donald Judd’s broken wood, and Tony Oursler’s leftover stuffing (fabric that is not cornbread).

Drool Museum: Remember that you have golashes.

Eyebrow Hall-of-Fame: *Vintage tweezers currently on display. Must not miss the retrospective of eyebrow hall-of-fame’s new favorite trick:  threading. A shoelace donation is requested.

Gourmand Institute: *Don’t miss the exhibition of burned pots, tentatively titled, “The Rice that Wouldn’t Let Go.”

Insomniacs-R-Us: Only open from 12 AM unitl 5 AM. A “hands-on” exhibition currently on display. Participate in “The Next Great American Novel.”

about these listings: written with ‘Le Pen’ –wonderful and overpriced.  Morningside Heights/ October minus a few days, 2006.

Playing hide and seek with Yinka Shonibare

Brooklyn Museum period roomI’ve never quite understood the concept of reassembling historic rooms, putting a red velvet rope around it, and funneling tourists on a counter-intuitive path through a house, castle, or museum. But once Yinka Shonibare placed child figures ducking under desks or rocking on horses in the Brooklyn Museum’s “renowned” period rooms, peeking through an untouchable room’s window became a game.

Leaving his exhibit on the first floor of the Brooklyn Museum, I felt a bit cheated. I didn’t expect the majority of Shonibare’s survey to be film. But the map revealed there was more –the large-scale game of hide and seek brought me through other galleries to find those little figures in their clothes of “patterned Dutch wax fabric produced in Europe for a West African market” inside rooms that could easily have belonged to colonists.  According to the exhibition’s website, another site-specific installation, Party Time—Re-Imagine America: A Centennial Commission by Yinka Shonibare MBE,  will be on view at the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, from July 1, 2009, to January 3, 2010, in the dining room of the museum’s 1885 Ballantine House.  Would it be cheating to use 20th century transportation?

Ayo Technology

Lauren’s post on the awesome World Digital Library reminded us of another impressive online art collection, Google Earth’s Masterpieces of the Prado. These images weigh in at 14,000 megapixels, meaning you get closer to works by Dürer, Bosch, and Reubens in Google Earth than you would be able to in person. It’s pretty remarkable—you can see brushtrokes and cracks in the oil paint, but never any pixelation.

Definitely best viewed in full screen Google Earth mode, but you can also check out some of these massive images in Google Maps.

panoramaramaramama

panoWe are realizing that we are suckers for gimmicky panoramas. After posting the Abbey of St. Florian library in Austria panorama a few weeks ago (big thanks to @BHPLibrarian on Twitter for id’ing the library!), we now present the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Online 3d Panoramas. We recently visited this museum for the first time and were pleasantly surprised–with the dinosaurs, the orchid exhibit (tied in to Darwin and evolution), the ancient sea shells, and most of all, the incredible collection of crystals and gems.

More museum panoramas? How about the Panorama Museum (German). Or a real life Panorama, of NYC, at the Queens Museum (we’ll be visiting this summer in combination with a Mets game at Debit’s Field).

belatedly, morbidly yours

sleeping venusWe’ve been meaning to write about one of our favorite blogs, Morbid Anatomy, for some time now. Last night, our roommate came home and couldn’t stop talking about this amazing event at a new space just down the street in Gowanus, hosted by Morbid Anatomy, and we were like what WHAT WHATWHAT!?!

It was called Sleeping Beauties, it was presented by Katherine Hoffman of U Hawaii, and it involved wax female anantomical dolls made from real human parts (in the style of Sleeping Venus). Damn! This post by a fellow organizer on bioephemera has some incredible images which give us a hint of what we missed.

Sadly, we missed the event, but we’re going to make it to the next one, on Friday April 5:
“Italian Wax Anatomical Models in European Collections”
Marie Dauenheimer, Trustee of the Vesalius Trust and Medical Illustrator
Friday, April 3rd
Doors open at 7:00; Presentation at 7:30 PM
Admission: Free
Location: Observatory
543 Union Street (at Nevins) Brooklyn, New York 11215
Entry via Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery and Reading Room; go through back door of gallery, then take a left to find event. Directions here or call 718.243.1572.

Pretty Art Robots

In recognition of International Kinetic Art day,* we bring you this wonderful project by Dutch artist Theo Jansen. Jansen has created the Strandbeests, a series of mobile sculptures that wander along the Dutch coast, apparently under their own volition (wind power, stored in recycled lemonade bottles, actually propels them; a “binary step counter,” functions as a ”simple brain”). They’re beautiful.

jansen-copy

Jansen explains his project thoroughly in a TED Talk, but it still seems magic. For our money that’s a mark of a good invention—you understand it but you’re still wowed by it (We’re looking at you, flying buttresses).

We’re impressed by the simplicity of Jansen’s work—there is no CPU controlling these things. They don’t even use electricity. Our inner geek loves the new Japanese model robot HRP-4C as much as the next guy, but we prefer lo-fi abstraction to a tour of the Uncanny Valley.

Jansen, who comes off as a mad scientist with a hint of a god complex, has been developing (“evolving”) these things for almost twenty years, and his labor is evident in the creatures’ graceful movement. Most are made from PVC, but one particularly striking Strandbeest is made from 3.2 tons of what looks to be Corten steel. It’s so perfectly engineered that a single person can push it around, its many lumbering metal legs attached to an axis that somehow lets a person move forty times his body weight (check it in the TED video, the second link).

jansen-strandbeesten

It’s like . . . Calatrava plus Skynet. This is very, very hard to describe and this post is nowhere near as entertaining as watching these things putter around the beach. Please go watch some of this footage and delight in the beauty and craft until the Strandbeests achieve full cognition and enslave us all.

(Thanks to another mad scientist artist, Julia Vallera, who brought this to our attention).

*Since writing this post we have been informed that it’s not technically “International Kinetic Art Day” just because Andy and I both wrote posts about sculptures that move. Please note that banks and the Post Office will be open, and you should have gone to work today. Suggesteddonation regrets the error.