Travis Jeppesen

  • picks November 28, 2010

    James Benning, Keren Cytter, Karla Black

    For his performance at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, James Benning, California’s reigning auteur of landscape cinema, used his HD camera to rephotograph and reframe all the portraits of his friends and family depicted in his seminal 1991 road-trip film North on Evers, then slowed them down and projected them onto the large screen of the Arsenale Cinema. Benning then read aloud the original diaristic text that had appeared, in handwritten scrawl, across the bottom of the screen in the original film. The overall effect could easily have been one of weepy-eyed nostalgia, had it

  • picks November 27, 2010

    Karla Black

    Paint-splattered cellophane dangling from the ceiling like shower curtains; mounds of powder, polystyrene, and topsoil molded into giant wedding cakes; colorful bars of soap carved like rock candy—it all may appear sugary sweet at the outset, but Karla Black’s latest sculptures are hardly the aftermath of a baby shower. Rather, they are records of a process that attempts to imbue sludge with delicacy. Much mention has been made of the supposed femininity of Black’s art, and most of this comes, unsurprisingly, from male critics. I don’t buy into this superficial interpretation. Despite her work’s

  • picks November 17, 2010

    Max Ruf

    Embedded within Max Ruf’s work is a mystery yearning to be deciphered, and the difficulty of this task, while frustrating for some, will be a happy challenge for those who enjoy seeing their own endless curiosity about the world reflected in art. Painting, collage, and objects alike are employed in his exhibition “Intelligent and Well Thought-Out Actions to Ensure We Leave the Planet,” the title of which is excerpted from an easyJet press release. The full sentence is, “We all have the responsibility to take intelligent and well thought-out actions to ensure we leave the planet in a good shape

  • picks October 17, 2010

    Ed Ruscha

    With Ed Ruscha, it’s always interesting, even when the threat of boredom might linger on the sidelines. Indeed, that has always been the point. Which is why now, in the wake of his continually prodigious output and a barrage of painting retrospectives, it is a good time to take a close look at some of his early photographic work.

    This exhibition just does that (though a smattering of sketches and the artist’s sole two films are also included). The show focuses mainly on two black-and-white series, “Roof Top Views,” 1961/2003, and “Apartment Houses,” 1965/2003. We get two approaches: straightforward

  • picks August 26, 2010

    Robert Morris

    Robert Morris’s ultimate importance is not as an artist but as a philosopher who happens to stage his arguments in the realm of art. This is not to negate the value of said arguments or even the potential aesthetic value of the objects he chooses to work with. But in comparison to those artists who retain an allegiance to the retinal, it seems only fair to say that Morris works in a relatively new space—or, at least, one whose canonical precedents lie in the realms of the literary and philosophical rather than the art-historical.

    The works, then, serve as illustrations of Morris’s precepts: hence,

  • picks July 21, 2010

    Joel-Peter Witkin

    The limbless, the mutilated, the crippled, the transgendered, the obese—all those who have traditionally been assigned to the “sideshow freak” category by history’s darkest and most misguided forces—serve as models of great and sublime beauty in the black-and-white photographic oeuvre of Joel-Peter Witkin.

    Once the more prudish—er, sensitive—viewer gets past whatever initial shock the photographs may provoke, a multilayered world awaits discovery. There is the quintessential Catholic torment of Poussin in Hell, 1999, and Satiro, Mexico, 1992, the former a massive, busy staged allegory of the

  • picks July 21, 2010

    Vladimir Skrepl

    In the annals of “bad painting,” the great anti-aesthetic that has been experiencing something of a revival of interest since the 2008 “Bad Painting––Good Art” exhibition at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vladimir Skrepl is to the Czech Republic what Georg Baselitz is to Germany or Asger Jorn is to Denmark. While much younger than the other two (Skrepl was born in 1955), and lesser known (having come of age behind the iron curtain), Skrepl is regarded as one of the most important contemporary artists in his home country, even though he remains an obscure figure abroad.

    This is

  • picks July 01, 2010

    Ali Mongo

    Ali Mongo’s first solo exhibition in Berlin consists of thirty tiny paintings. Many are the size of baseball cards, or even smaller, and are characterized by a fusion of figurative and abstract elements rendered in a bright palette. The messy, nearly nonexistent draftsmanship and thematic range—from extreme childlike simplicity to violent perversion—situate the works firmly within the tradition that was once called “naive” painting; the pieces on view here typically feature nude figures and imaginary beings adrift in a colorful, splotchy landscape. In nearly every one of the untitled works, it

  • film June 29, 2010

    Weather Underground

    “IF WE NEED ACTION”—camera pans up toward an ominous gray sky—“we know where to look.” The joke, delivered by George Kuchar about halfway through his Weather Diary 5 (1989), is typical fare for the filmmaker, riffing on his frustration with the lack of sexual stimulation in his cooped-up motel room and the inherent dangers of the locale: the “Tornado Alley” region of Oklahoma that Kuchar has been visiting each May for the past two decades. The result is an ongoing personal theater of absurdity, nonpareil in the world of cinema.

    Kuchar’s career as a filmmaker can be divided into three discernible

  • picks June 14, 2010

    Olafur Eliasson

    In Olafur Eliasson’s first major institutional solo exhibition in Berlin, the Danish-Icelandic artist shows himself to be a master of smoke and mirrors—literally—as artificial fog and reflective surfaces are among the ephemeral materials recurring throughout “Innen Stadt Außen” (Inner City Out). Indeed, it is these seductive tricks—obscuring viewers’ immediate surroundings while magnifying the larger environs—that ultimately expand the work’s appeal to audiences beyond those expected of the contemporary art world. Who doesn’t love a good deception?

    Among other things, the exhibition is indicative

  • diary May 06, 2010

    Exile on Main St.


    IN A CITY that seems to eat, breathe––nay, live art year-round, the idea of a Gallery Weekend seems conspicuously commercial, if not clunkily redundant. (As a friend put it, “Isn’t every weekend a ‘gallery weekend’?”) Granted, it does have the civic advantage of luring the rest of the art world to town, thus concretizing an abstract place-name typically preceded by “lives and works in”––at least for a few nights. And, for those who actually do live and work here, it serves as a reminder that, while Berlin may well be historicized one day as having been the capital of artistic production in the

  • picks April 21, 2010

    Martin Eder

    In the six paintings comprising “Ugly,” Martin Eder’s latest solo exhibition, the artist has left behind the distorted, sexualized landscapes populated with domestic animals and dazed adolescents that characterized much of his earlier work, and has narrowed his focus to concentrate on isolated female subjects in postures of repose and pensive indulgence. One new piece features a young woman gazing out at viewers with an expression of deranged seductiveness, damning them to either look closer or just look away. The work’s title, Falte (all works 2010), can be translated as “Wrinkle,” and may

  • diary April 01, 2010

    Teaches of Peaches


    AROUND CERTAIN FIGURES, it can sometimes feel as though the hype is so pervasive that it is difficult to find anyone capable of formulating a genuine opinion. In Berlin, this is especially true for Peaches, the electropop princess of porn, who many in the local, ever-intertwined art/fashion/music/club scenes consider nothing less than a living legend, if not an infallible god. Call me a cynic (I prefer skeptic), but when I heard that Peaches intended to perform, solo, the entirety of Jesus Christ Superstar, with piano accompaniment by close friend and compatriot Chilly Gonzales, my initial

  • picks February 16, 2010

    George Condo

    You could almost say that George Condo has two solo shows going on at once in “Family Portrait,” his current exhibition in Berlin. On the surface, at least, the two series of paintings each seems created by a different artist. In the smaller first room hang four somber single portraits of strange, characteristically Condo-esque creatures against night-blue backgrounds. It’s all a bit Where the Wild Things Are gone awry: strange beasts with enormous jaw structures that double as necks, heads twisted like balloon sculptures into mutated shapes, each assigned the same stock of red hair and thus

  • picks February 08, 2010

    Felix Gonzalez-Torres

    A joyful insouciance accompanied the opening of the first large-scale Felix Gonzalez-Torres exhibition in Brussels, with gallery-goers posing for pictures in front of mounds of candy, seemingly, through the haze of a communal sugar high, unable to view the work as anything other than a Pop hoax. There was no apparent meditation on what the piles might mean or, more important, what it means to take from them. Yet reflection often takes place after the fact, so we can be hopeful that this monumental resurrection of Gonzalez-Torres’s oeuvre will spur at least some introspection on finitude and

  • picks December 02, 2009

    “British Art Now”

    In “British Art Now,” Edward Lucie-Smith has assembled a small group exhibition that is meant to provide “a snapshot view of what is happening in the London art world today.” Embedded within this curatorial concept is an argument that a new type of YBA has emerged on the scene, one just as deserving of notice as the wine-splashing, headlines-grabbing Goldsmiths crew of the previous decade.

    The centerpiece of the exhibition is inarguably a grouping of paintings by brothers Luke and Sam Jackson. Each works in a diminished scale, arranging small canvases into thematic clusters to form individual

  • picks November 19, 2009

    Wieland Speck and Shelly Silver

    One August afternoon in 1978, painter Per Lüke straddled the western end of the Berlin Wall and played a small harp. Filmmaker Wieland Speck (who would go on to make the 1985 queer classic Westler, about a romance between two men living on either side of the wall) documented this potentially life-endangering performance, which captured the curiosity of passersby—as well as the hostile attention of authorities on both sides of the divide. The footage forms the half-hour-long video centerpiece of Speck’s installation Berlin Off/On Wall, 1978, which also includes photos taken by the secret police

  • picks October 27, 2009

    Nan Goldin

    As a photographer, Nan Goldin has inspired a legion of imitators who tend to confuse certain lifestyle traits with artistic substance, a privileging of content over form with an excuse for taking sloppy photographs. I tend to think of them as the Vice generation, after the magazine that first published many a Goldin copyist under a hipster anti-ethos saturated with attention begging and unwarranted self-destruction. Where one finds a similar mode of annihilative glamour in a Goldin original, it appears more authentic, perhaps accidental. Her subjects, whether laughing or crying, often seem as

  • picks October 15, 2009

    Mat Collishaw

    “Submission” is the name of Mat Collishaw’s first solo exhibition in Berlin, and the work on display assigns Collishaw’s subservience to the altar of art history. Collishaw was never the flashiest of the YBAs, but his most recent work positions him among the more studious—perhaps even the most gifted.

    On entering the massive darkened gallery, viewers are confronted by The End of Innocence (all works 2009), a monumental digital work projected onto an enormous screen. The work hijacks the “digital rain” effect popularized by the “Matrix” film trilogy to present fragmented re-creations of Pope

  • picks October 06, 2009

    Ricarda Roggan

    Photographers are often praised for their ability to work with light; with Ricarda Roggan, one might say that it is her talent for isolating darkness that distinguishes so many of her images. The light in her large photographs typically emanates from mysterious, unseen sources—and like the series of interiors she depicts, it is often unremarkable. But the omnipresent force of darkness—whether it hovers threateningly, annihilates the background, or appears in shadowy splotches to sculpt her blunt arrangements of mundane household objects, furniture pieces, and cars—endows her work with its dramatic