PRINT December 2011

Christine Macel

Adrián Villar Rojas, Poemas para terrestres (Poems for Earthlings), 2011, unfired clay, cement, burlap, wood, metal, 13' 1 1/2“ x 26' 3” x 295' 3 1/4". Photo: Marc Domage.

1 Adrián Villar Rojas Born in 1980 in Argentina, Villar Rojas burst onto the scene this summer at the Argentinean pavilion in Venice with Ahora estaré con mi hijo, el asesino de tu herencia (Now I Will Be with My Son, the Murderer of Your Heritage), 2011, a large clay forest inspired by the hypothesis of multiverses. Later in the year, his Poemas para terrestres (Poems for Earthlings), 2011, a large horizontal obelisk made mostly of clay and cement, occupied a gravel path in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. Despite their size, Villar Rojas’s sculptures tend toward the ephemeral, situated halfway between science fiction and an oneiric vision of great sculptural power. The fleeting-turned-monumental generates strong emotions in the contrast between the size of these fantastical forms and their fragility.

Navid Nuur, When Doubt Turns into Destiny, 1993–2011, still from a color three-channel video, 31 minutes.

2 Navid Nuur (Plan B, Berlin) Originally from Iran and now living in The Hague, Nuur makes multiform work in which an astounding inventiveness emerges. This complex show of the sculpture- and installation-like works he calls “interimodules” attested to a sensibility in which rational principles and intense physicality overlap. One three-channel video, When Doubt Turns into Destiny, 1993–2011, documents a series of nighttime actions in which Nuur walked as slowly as he could through public places where lights are triggered by motion detectors, freezing whenever they were tripped.

John Waters at the Venice Biennale, June 4, 2011. Photo: Francesco Grassi.

3 John Waters (always and everywhere) If a fairy had lent me her magic wand during the Venice Biennale, I would have given Waters, himself a member (as I should admit I was also) of the Biennale’s “international jury,” a Grand Prix for being the funniest, most elegant, and most gentlemanly man of his generation. I hope he hasn’t taken up smoking again, because we’re going to need him for a long time. Merry Christmas, John.

View of “Damián Ortega: The Independent,” 2010, The Curve, Barbican Art Gallery, London. Photo: Eliot Wyman.

4 “Damián Ortega: The Independent” (The Curve, Barbican Art Gallery, London; curated by Alona Pardo) Preceding this exhibition, Ortega made an artwork every day for a month, each responding to a piece of information, an advertisement, or a photograph published that day in the press. The resulting thirty objects—sculptures, installations, sketches, and much else—were presented as “work in progress.” The show filled the very difficult corridor-like space that gives the Curve its name with a brilliant array of works, dazzling viewers once more with the intelligence and humor of Ortega’s practice.

Christodoulos Panayiotou, Guysgocrazy, 2007, color two-channel video, 9 minutes 2 seconds and 8 minutes 27 seconds. Production still.

5 Christodoulos Panayiotou (“Based in Berlin,” Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin) In his art, Panayiotou seeks to reconstruct forgotten moments of culture and daily life. He questions social codes and practices, as well as the viewer’s relationship to memory and absence. With Neverland, 2008, a slide show culled from the archives of a Cypriot newspaper, and Guysgocrazy, 2007, a two-channel video showing the before and after of a night out clubbing, Panayiotou unveiled his vision of a reality populated by traces and what takes place offscreen.

Mariechen Danz, Knot in Arrow: The Dig of No Body, 2011. Performance view, Atelierhaus Monbijoupark, Berlin, July 8, 2011. From “Based in Berlin.”

6 Mariechen Danz, Knot in Arrow: The Dig of No Body (“Based in Berlin,” Atelierhaus Monbijoupark, Berlin) Danz activates her installations with complex performances in which sculptures and drawings come to life in a kind of total opera. Seeing her performances this summer, I felt a similar energy to that of John Bock’s performances in the 1990s. Dressed in her own costumes, Danz sings with her musicians, exploring the body’s organic and ethnological dimensions. Poet, singer, and artist, Danz has more than one string to her bow, and clearly promises to go far.

Etel Adnan, Untitled (Beirut), 2010, oil on canvas, 9 1/2 x 11 3/4".

7 Etel Adnan A Lebanese-American poet and essayist who moved from the United States to Paris several decades ago, Adnan is also a painter. Her captivating oeuvre has recently been rediscovered thanks to the efforts of a younger generation of Lebanese artists; five works were on view this fall at the Beirut-based Galerie Sfeir-Semler’s booth at the FIAC art fair in Paris. For some thirty years, beginning in the 1950s, Mount Tamalpais in California was Adnan’s only subject; she painted it on small-format canvases, carefully choosing her colors to convey the West Coast light. A remarkable consistency of approach was evident during my recent visit to the eighty-six-year-old artist’s studio; her new paintings continue to impress with their freshness and intensity.

Philippe Parreno, InvisibleBoy, 2010. Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London. Photo: Gautier Deblonde.

8 Philippe Parreno (Serpentine Gallery, London; curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones, and Kathryn Rattee) Parreno customized this exhibition so that visitors were guided in a timed sequence from one room to the next. I felt tremendous emotion in front of the wonderful film InvisibleBoy, 2010, which recounts the story of an immigrant’s child in New York. The artist had scratched drawings on the filmstrip, depicting the monsters that arise in its protagonist’s anguished fantasies. After the end of the work, the blinds automatically went up and, through one of the Serpentine’s windows overlooking the park, I saw a flurry of (artificial) snowflakes in the midst of the London fall. The magic was there, once again.

Abdullah Al Saadi, Camar Cande’s Journey, 2010–11, 151 watercolor paintings and video. Installation view, Sharjah Art Museum. From the 10th Sharjah Biennial.

9 10th Sharjah Biennial: “Plot For A Biennial” (various venues; curated by Haig Aivazian, Suzanne Cotter, and Rasha Salti) Despite a profusion of uneven films, this biennial contained several strong and promising works. In particular I was struck by Rosalind Nashashibi’s Shelter for a New Youth, 2011, a mysterious and erotic installation paying homage to Pier Paolo Pasolini; Abdullah Al Saadi’s Camar Cande’s Journey, 2010–11, which reconstructs his travels in watercolor paintings and video; Ahmad Ghossein’s My Father Is Still a Communist: Intimate Secrets to Be Published, 2011, a moving personal story in the form of a video reconstructed from audio clips exchanged by his mother and father in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia; and Hatem Imam’s Vicarious Dreams, 2010–11, a set of seven etchings of construction sites in Beirut. Let’s hope that the biennial can survive the brutal dismissal of its director Jack Persekian.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapple- thorpe in a photo booth on Forty-Second Street, New York, 1969. From Patti Smith, Just Kids (Ecco, 2010).

10 Patti Smith, Just Kids (Ecco) Shortly after the paperback was published late last year, this book won a National Book Award. The prize was richly deserved—especially in the eyes of those who still have a teenager’s romantic soul. Smith writes about living with Robert Mapplethorpe, their beauty, their fragility, their ambitions, their talents, and their love, but also the difficult moment of their separation when Mapple­thorpe died. This memoir brims over with authenticity and purity of soul.

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.

Christine Macel is chief curator of contemporary art at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where she has organized solo shows of Gabriel Orozco and Philippe Parreno, as well as “The Promises of the Past,” a group show of Eastern European art curated with Joanna Mytkowska. Also at the Pompidou, an exhibition she organized with Emma Lavigne, “Dancing Through Life: Dance and the Visual Arts in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries,” is currently on view. Among her projects for 2012 is a retrospective of the work of Anri Sala.