New Museum Celebrates Women artists

The New Museum in New York City is highlighting women artists this spring with exhibitions which are part of a series of focus shows concentrating on a single project or body of work within an artist’s larger practice which began last May with presentations by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Gustav Metzger. The details about the artists and their works follows (courtesy The New Museum):

Ellen Altfest- Head and Plant The New Museum features the first solo museum presentation of the work of New York-based artist Ellen Altfest. Altfest is a figurative painter whose intimately scaled works convey a distinct approach to realism and a sustained commitment to looking. Her painstaking depictions result in paintings that expand perception while exposing overlooked or under-appreciated aspects of her subject matter. Painting from life, over a long period of time, she chooses subjects ranging from plants, rocks, logs, and gourds to a more recent fascination with the male figure. The exhibition at the New Museum is presenting a group of works from this latest series.

Folds of skin, an opened armpit, a tuft of hair, the delicate veins in the hand—discrete elements of ordinary male bodies—are intensely scrutinized and rendered in exquisite detail with immeasurable care. A universe of information lies within the shallow depth of field and thin layers of oil paint that comprise each work. This excess of information renders Altfest’s figures unfamiliar and abstract, as if one were seeing these parts of the body for the first time.

Eschewing traditional compositional formats in favor of unexpected cropping and juxtapositions, Altfest creates a compelling friction in the picture plane. Head and Plant (2010), as the title denotes, is a painting of a male head and a potted cactus. The conventions of portraiture are upended, however, by Altfest’s decision to obstruct the face of the male figure with a plant. Instead of an identifiable visage, one is met with the confounding presence of a cactus, whose intrusion appears as matter of fact as it is absurd. The Back (2008–2009) depicts a body on its side, turned away from the viewer. Errant hairs, pink blemishes, and the curve of a shoulder blade serve as landmarks on this vast expanse of corporeality. With a heightened sense of realism and a narrowing of focus, Altfest reveals the extraordinary complexity of ordinary things.

Ellen Altfest was born in 1970 in New York City. She received her MFA from Yale University and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2002. She has been awarded residencies at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, where she presented a solo exhibition, and the Dorland Mountain Art Colony, Temecula, California. Her work was included in “USA Today” at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the National Academy Museum’s Annual Exhibition in New York and will be featured in “It is what it is. Or is it?” at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. She currently lives and works in New York City.

“Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant” is curated by Jenny Moore, Assistant Curator.

Phyllida Barlow: siege “Phyllida Barlow: siege” is the first New York solo exhibition of the work of British sculptor. For her New Museum presentation, Barlow has created a new, site-specific sculptural installation in the Museum’s fourth floor gallery.

Barlow has been a seminal influence on British sculpture for the past forty years, having taught a generation of notable British artists. She began making work in the mid-1960s, breaking away from earlier British sculpture exemplified by the formal abstractions of artists such as Anthony Caro. Inspired by Arte Povera and American sculptors like Eva Hesse, Barlow embraced a mode of working that drew stronger ties between the sculpture and the artist’s body. She also took on a broader and more experimental approach to the materials she manipulates. Her works consist of disparate substances such as concrete, felt, wooden pallets, polystyrene, and fabric, often within the same work. These materials are a reflection of the urban environment in which she works and are often sourced directly from the streets. Barlow’s sculpture takes on an ephemeral, contingent quality as works assembled on site will often be broken down after an exhibition and recycled into future work.

Since the beginning of her career, Barlow’s sculptures have been appreciated for their playful formalism and the relationship they have to the built environment—often inspired by objects that direct or impede our movement through space. Barriers, scaffolding, and security fences are reinterpreted into rough-hewn constructions with exuberantly painted surfaces. Assembling her sculptures quickly and intuitively, they become distant memories of objects rather than faithful reconstructions. In her installations, Barlow scales her work to fully inhabit and transform a given architectural space. Ranging from intimately scaled objects occupying corners and corridors, to works that take on an imposing and overwhelming scale, her installations challenge and parody the heroic monumentalism of her predecessors. Barlow reveals that sculpture can accurately capture the joyfulness, absurdity, and transience of life.

Phyllida Barlow was born in 1944 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. She currently lives and works in London, England. Barlow attended Chelsea School of Art, London, and then the Slade School of Fine Art, London, graduating in 1966. She taught sculpture in London art schools for over forty years, retiring in 2008. She has had solo exhibitions at venues including the Henry Moore Foundation, Leeds, England (1995), Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England (2004), BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna, Austria (2010), and the Kunstverein Nürnberg, Germany (2011). Barlow has participated in group exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland, Bergen Kunsthall, Norway, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, and with Nairy Baghramian at the Serpentine Gallery, London. She is the recipient of the 2012 Aachen prize and will have an exhibition at the Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany, also in May 2012.

“Phyllida Barlow: siege” is curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari, Curator.

Tacita Dean: Five Americans The New Museum also presents an exhibition of works by British artist Tacita Dean—the most substantial presentation of the artist’s work in New York to date. The presentation focuses on a group of recent pieces that capture five important American artists and thinkers of the last fifty years and features Merce Cunningham, Leo Steinberg, Julie Mehretu, Claes Oldenburg, and Cy Twombly. These works are beautifully crafted portraits of each individual, opening a lens onto their artistic processes and personal memories. This installation, organized in close collaboration with Dean, provides insight into the way in which her filmmaking intersects with painting, sculpture, writing, and dance.

Tacita Dean emerged in the 1990s alongside artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, with work that stood out for its formal elegance and intellectual rigor. She has since become one of the most celebrated British artists of the past twenty years, during which period Dean has produced over forty 16mm films and a rich body of drawings, photographs, and writing. She has often attempted to capture subjects—people, objects, buildings, and natural phenomena—at the moment of their disappearance, tracing their contours and fixing their image as they dissolve into painterly expressions of light and shadow. This approach has taken on an increased poignancy as the facilities that produce and process her preferred 16mm film stock have begun to disappear themselves. Dean has been an outspoken advocate of film as a distinct and vital artistic medium, finding in the material properties of celluloid the only appropriate vehicle for her alchemical meditations on light and the beauty of obsolescence.

Portraiture has been a consistent theme for Dean since the beginning of her career. Individuals like artists Robert Smithson and Mario Merz, as well as the doomed explorer Donald Crowhurst, feature in her work as sympathetic figures who share an interest in isolating time and pursuing the impossible. More recently, she has turned her lens onto a group of visual artists whose work initially has little in common with her own. These filmic portraits forgo a biographical narrative of their subjects and instead link each artist to the physicality of their production and the subtle mechanics of their thinking. In Manhattan Mouse Museum (2011), Dean captures the artist Claes Oldenburg in his studio as he gently handles and dusts the small objects that line his bookshelves. The film is less about the artist’s iconography than the embedded intellectual process that allows him to transform everyday objects into remarkable sculptural forms. Edwin Parker (2011) is a portrait for the seminal late painter Cy Twombly. The film, which takes its title from Twombly’s given name, captures the artist as he ruminates on a series of his sober sculptures in his Lexington, Virginia, storefront studio. In Craneway Event (2009), Dean films members of the Merce Cunningham dance company as they rehearse an anthology of the choreographer’s work in an unused factory overlooking the San Francisco Bay—all carefully and magically guided by the hand of Cunningham. GDGDA (2011) is an intimate look at Dean’s peer, the painter Julie Mehretu, as she completes a spectacular, mural-sized work. In her photographic series Line of Fate (2011), Dean follows the hand of art historian Leo Steinberg as he writes quietly in his Manhattan apartment. In each work, Dean uses an economy of means to capture the ineffable creativity and emotion that drives these five remarkable figures. The pieces themselves are fitting and poetic homages to these individuals and their unique ability to capture and shape the way we see and feel the world around us.

Tacita Dean was born in 1965 in Canterbury, Kent, UK, and currently lives and works in Berlin. She studied at Falmouth School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art. She has had solo exhibitions at Tate Britain, London (2001), Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (2000), MACBA, Barcelona (2001), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2006). Recent survey exhibitions of her work include “Analogue” organized by the Schaulager, Basel, in 2006, and “Still Life” organized by the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, Milan, in 2009. Dean’s most recent work FILM (2011) was conceived for the Unilever Series, the Tate Modern’s series of commissions for its Turbine Hall. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Tate Modern, London. Dean was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1998 and was the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize in 2006.

“Tacita Dean: Five Americans” is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, and Margot Norton, Curatorial Associate.

Klara Lidén: Bodies of Society The New Museum presents the first large-scale, American museum exhibition of the artist Klara Lidén, featuring a selection of works in the Museum’s second floor gallery. In her practice, Lidén regularly mines the anxieties of urban space to create ingenious and psychologically charged installations. She scavenges the streets of cities around the world for discarded materials, which she uses to build sculptural hideaways, scaled to her own body, in unexpected places. Following in the tradition of urban alchemists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Lidén uses her body as a tool and a weapon to radically alter the space of the museum and expose it to the material and political realities of the world outside. Lidén consistently engages with the folds and fabrics of cities she passes through, adapting public space to her own needs in the creation of surprisingly intimate, domesticated environments.

This vision of the artist as a subversive creator is highlighted in her work Elda för Kråkorna (2008), where Lidén closed off a portion of a New York gallery and opened the space to pigeons flying in from the street. The viewer was denied access while it was instead offered to the birds. For her show at the New Museum, Lidén will create a progression of spaces that culminate in a site-specific work intervening in the museum’s architecture and creating a place physically and psychologically apart. Her work demonstrates how an individual can navigate a constantly transforming urban landscape and carve out spaces of creativity to imagine new ways of living.

This exhibition will also feature a number of Lidén’s videos realized over the past decade. She has performed impromptu acrobatic routines in a Stockholm subway car in Paralyzed (2003) and moonwalked her way through the streets of Manhattan at night in The Myth of Progress–Moonwalk (2008), which premiered in the New Museum exhibition “After Nature,” (2008) and marked Lidén’s first New York museum presentation. In these works, Lidén moves alone through urban settings gliding at a rhythm separate from the world around her. Also included will be Lidén’s Untitled (Poster Paintings) (2007–10)—minimal objects composed of layers of stolen advertising posters excised by the artist directly from city streets. Finished with a top layer of white paint, the works archive the advertisements that punctuate urban life and encourage viewers to adapt, respond to, and erase these ever encroaching corporate images.

Klara Lidén was born in 1979 in Stockholm, Sweden. She attended the School of Architecture at the Royal School of Technology in Stockholm from 2000 to 2004; the Berlin University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany, in 2003; and the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm from 2004 to 2007. Lidén has been the subject of numerous solo presentations in Europe, including major exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London, and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. In 2009, Lidén’s work was presented as part of an exhibition in the Danish and Nordic Pavilions at the 53rd International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale and she received a special mention from the jury of the 54th Venice Biennale. Her work resides in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and the Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo, Norway; among others. Lidén currently lives and works in Berlin and New York City.

“Klara Lidén: Bodies of Society” is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, and Jenny Moore, Assistant Curator.