Barbara Ellmann: An Open Book 2 at the Marks Art Center

I had the great pleasure of seeing Barbara Ellmann’s dynamic exhibition, An Open Book 2, at the Walter N. Marks Center for the Arts in Palm Desert, California last month. The exhibition, which ran from February 4 to March 11, was partially funded by the McCallum Theatre Institute’s Aesthetic Education Program, produced in conjunction with the Marks Art Center at the College of the Desert and was beautifully curated by Sophia Marisa Lucas. The Marks always presents terrifically exciting, innovative shows and I am continually impressed by the quality of their curatorial focus. An Open Book 2 was no exception.

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For more information about the Marks Art Center and Barbara Ellmann:

http://www.collegeofthedesert.edu/community/gallery/Pages/default.aspx

https://barbaraellmann.com

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William Perehudoff at Berry Campbell Gallery

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I really enjoyed being introduced to William Perehudoff’s beautiful works on display at Berry Campbell Gallery in Chelsea. Perehudoff, a Canadian artist who died in 2013, was one of Canada’s foremost abstract colorfield painters. You can find more information on Perehudoff’s work on the Berry Campbell website and there’s also an interesting interview with the artist on youtube.

http://www.berrycampbell.com/artist/William_Perehudoff%20(Estate)/works/#!1090

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Seeing Differently

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Joan Miró, Man and Woman in Front of Pile of Excrement, 1935, Oil on Copper, 23 x 32cm

Great work can open your eyes, and Joan Miró’s Man and Woman in Front of Pile of Excrement opened mine to modern art. I first saw the painting in Scotland in 1980 when I was 14 years old. I remember laying eyes on it and feeling the room shift. Artistically, this small painting on copper was tantamount to a new pair of glasses. It was the visual equivalent of someone smacking me on the face and saying, “Snap out of it!” or my first great kiss. I engaged the world differently after experiencing it. I saw myself in the world differently.

 I was visiting my Scottish Grandmother at the time, and she was horrified at my fascination with this work. I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was like looking into my own reflection, at times beautiful, subversive, rude, familiar and yet grotesque. It encapsulated the way I felt at 14.

I know now that the painting was one of twelve “Wild Paintings” that were Miró’s response to the tragedy of the Spanish Civil war. I knew none of that then. I just knew that this picture moved me. I left changed on exiting the gallery after seeing it.

I saw the painting again just recently while visiting the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona. I turned a corner and there it was, suddenly, like a treasured mentor I hadn’t seen in decades and I wept. 36 years had passed since I had first seen that painting but I could still feel the way it moved me when I first looked upon it. Like opening a box of long lost journals it reminded me of the power of freshly seeing. The sensation of blinking until the world comes into focus. The power of looking.

My world, indeed the entire world, is much different now than it was almost 4 decades ago. But the power of seeing never changes, and looking, really looking can change the way we see.

http://www.fmirobcn.org/en/

Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2014

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The element of surprise is a rare commodity these days, but Art Los Angeles Contemporary always hold surprise and this year was no exception. The sun was out and rainbows were shining on a pot of art fair gold in Santa Monica.

Simon Evans

Simon Evans, Jack Hanley Gallery, New York

http://www.jackhanley.com

Art Los Angeles Contemporary takes place every February at the Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica airport in Santa Monica, California. The show has a much more contemporary vibe than the more staid and at times weezingly grey LA Art Show. ALAC presents 70 established and emerging galleries from around the world. Each year I am introduced to new galleries and artists at this fair and its easy relaxed vibe is consistently punctuated with moments of  visual “wow” and a few moments of dumbfounded “what the *@$#”. Both are good things.

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Obtaining information at ALAC is a mixed bag. I like to get to the fair early in the day and as a result some galleries are unattended and in others the gallerist may be busy or shockingly aloof. Wallcards are present at some booths and at others non-existent so it can be difficult to gather information about the work itself. I have included as much text as possible with the images that follow. In most instances I was able to include the name of the artist and the gallery. I have included materials, dimensions, date and some background information or links to more background information in cases where I was able to engage the gallerists directly and ask about the work.

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Alex Hubbard, Standard (OSLO)

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Alex Hubbard (detail)

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Aaron Garber-Maikovska, Standard (OSLO)

http://www.standardoslo.no/en/home

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Despina Stokou, Bad Curating, 2013
oil, spray paint, marker, oil crayon, charcoal, pastel chalk, collage on canvas
98.4375″ x 78.75″, Derek Eller Gallery, New York

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Despina Stokou, Bad Curating (detail), Derek Eller Gallery, New York

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Despina Stokou, Ruin Art (red), 2013
oil, spray paint, marker, oil crayon, charcoal, pastel chalk, collage on canvas
98.4375″ x 78.75″, Derek Eller Gallery, New York

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Despina Stokou, Ruin Art (red), (detail) , Derek Eller Gallery, New York

http://derekeller.com/index.html

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Kendell Carter, Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

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Kendell Carter (detail)

http://moniquemeloche.com

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Shezad Dawood, MGH 09, Acrylic on vintage textile, 2013, Paradise Row, London, UK

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Shezad Dawood, MGH 09 (detail)

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Shezad Dawood, MGH 07, Acrylic on vintage textile, 2013

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Shezad Dawood, MGH 07 (detail)

http://www.paradiserow.com/artists/31-Shezad-Dawood/overview/

There was, as the above and some of the following images attest, lots of great work. One of the themes percolating this year were works that were, in small or not so small ways, decaying or in some cases, partially erased. The following work was not a particular favorite of mine, but it does indicate  one of the present structural themes at the fair. Some of the works literally looked like they were falling apart, and the conservator in my head was taking note of the delicate state of much of the work and especially the fugitive nature of the materials themselves. The ephemeral nature of things and it’s translation into materials, process and the object itself is a story I am seeing from a lot of artists these days. Myself included.

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JPW3 (J. Patrick Walsh 3)  Night Gallery, Los Angeles

I’m pretty sure the above painting is wax based. The gallerist wasn’t terribly forthcoming with information on this artist. There are links below to the gallery’s website and an interesting interview with J. Patrick Walsh 3.

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JPW3 (detail)

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JPW3, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, California

http://www.nightgallery.ca

http://doeasyart.com/artists/studio-visit-and-interview-patrick-j-walsh-iii-los-angeles/

Robert Davis’ works were some of the more striking pieces to utilize not so common painting materials. Many of his organic yet strangely modern linen canvases were colored with rabbit skin glue or coffee.

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Robert Davis, Picture of Silence, Rabbit skin glue and oil stick on linen, 2013, 72″ x 48″

Bill Brady/KC, Kansas City, Missouri

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Robert Davis, Picture of Silence (detail)

http://www.billbradykc.com

https://artsy.net/artwork/robert-davis-picture-of-silence

There were also many works that were striking in their pared down simplicity.

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Dan Bayles, François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles, California

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Dan Bayles, Strip Study, Photo and acrylic on panel, 2013, 20″ x 16″

François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles, California

http://ghebaly.com

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Alain Biltereyst, Untitled, 2013, Acrylic on plywood

Jack Hanley Gallery, New York

http://www.jackhanley.com

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John Houck, Creased archival pigment prints, On Stellar Rays Gallery, New York

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John Houck

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John Houck

http://onstellarrays.com/artists/john-houck/

http://www.johnhouck.com/work/history-of

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Imi Knoebel

From left to right, An Meine Grüne Seite C12-5, An Meine Grüne Seite B 12-8, last work same artist but unidentified.

All works Acrylic on aluminum, acrylic on plastic-coated paper and aluminum shelf

Galerie Christian Lethert, Cologne, Germany

http://www.christianlethert.com

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Lisa Williamson, Tif Sigfrids, Los Angeles, California

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Lisa Williamson, Tif Sigfrids, Los Angeles, California

http://www.tifsigfrids.com

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Ry Rocklen, Dilation Disco, Crewel embroidery, copper and nickel plating, 2013, 17.5″ x 14.5″

Thomas Soloman Gallery, Los Angeles, California

http://www.thomassolomongallery.com

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Juan Capistran, Nothing Everything, Archival Pigment Print

Thomas Soloman Gallery, Los Angeles, California

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York Chang, Greene Exhibitions, Los Angeles, California

http://www.greene-exhibitions.com/Winners_Main.php

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York Chang (detail)

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York Chang (detail)

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Jennifer Nocon, Wool felt and ceramic, Tracy Williams, Ltd., New York, New York

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Jennifer Nocon (detail)

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Jennifer Nocon (detail)

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Mike Pratt, Terracotta Olive, Workplace Gallery, Gateshead, UK

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Mike Pratt, Terracotta Olive (detail)

This last image takes a bit of explaining. When I walked into the booth I saw the plastic jug on the floor and took a photo of it. The friend that I was with had some doubt about the jug being art. I said I thought it was because the placement was so deliberate. When the gallerist returned to the booth we asked, and yes, the jug was indeed a work. It was created by the artist Sean Raspet. Sean often creates sensory environments with signature scents and this jug was one of them. When the gallerist opened the jug I leaned down to smell it. Honestly I couldn’t smell much, but I liked the idea behind the work. Ideas were the highlight of this years ALAC. There were some great conversations about the works themselves and in most instances the conversations illuminated the works in ways that were unanticipated. Another eye-opener from a fair that never lacks for surprises.

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From left Josh Kolbo & Sean Raspet, Société, Berlin, Germany

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Sean Raspet (detail)

http://www.societeberlin.com

“TO BE A LADY” at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore

When I first saw the title for this exhibition I was put off. I’m not fond of the word “Lady”, and honestly, in the art world, when used to refer to an artist the term makes my stomach churn. “Lady” carries many subtle and not so subtle cultural signals, but the first thing that springs to mind is politeness and gentility which is, in the mind of this artist, death to the exploratory impulse. Great work is most certainly not polite. So, I was relieved to learn from the press materials that the title of the exhibition was meant to be a provocation of sorts. Still not in love with the moniker, but in this context it makes sense as a linguistic counterpoint to what is so obviously not a ladylike grouping of artists and work. It is simply strong work and the thread that happens to bind the work together is that it happened to be created by some of the greatest visual voices of the 20th century both past and present.

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To Be a Lady was organized by Sundaram Tagore Gallery in collaboration with the Brooklyn-based non-profit Norte Maar. A previous iteration of the exhibition was presented in New York in 2012 at the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Art Gallery in collaboration with 1285 Avenue of the Americas and Jones Lang LaSalle. Both the current and 2012 versions of the exhibition were curated by Jason Andrew.

Sundaram Tagore Gallery has two galleries in New York, and one each in Hong Kong and Singapore. The Singapore gallery is in a gallery district called Gillman Barracks, which is an old regiment barracks that has been converted into a collection of contemporary art galleries in the heart of Singapore.

http://gillmanbarracks.com

The photos that follow are some of my favorite works that were included in the exhibition. There was also an exquisite Helen Frankenthaler, but unfortunately I was not allowed to photograph it.

For more information about the exhibition please consult the websites of Sundaram Tagore Gallery and also the website of Norte Maar.

http://www.sundaramtagore.com

http://nortemaar.org

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Janice Biala

Red Still Life, 1957

Oil on Canvas, 35″ x 46″, Estate of Janice Biala, courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York

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Installation View

From left, Janice Biala, Hermine Ford, Elizabeth Murray, Jane Lee, Lynda Benglis, Ruth Asawa, Viola Frey and

Ghada Amer

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Foreground:

Lynda Benglis

Beatrice, 1979

Chicken wire, plaster, gesso and gold leaf 39″ x 19″ x 9″ Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York

Background:

Dorothea Rockburne

Copal #14, 1977

Kraft Paper, copal oil varnish, Prismacolor pencil #3, 3M 415 tape 39″ x 29″

Courtesy of the artist and Van Doren Waxter Gallery, New York

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Hermine Ford

Bird Music, 2012

Oil paint, ink, watercolor, gouache, pencil and colored pencil on canvas on shaped wood panel 87″ x 38 3/4″ x 3/4″

Courtesy of the artist and Norte Maar

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Hermine Ford Bird Music (Detail)

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Yin Xiuzhen

Body Temperature No. 6, 2010

Clothes, aluminum plate 85.8″ x 25.4″ x 3.9″ Courtesy of the artist and Pace Beijing

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Yin Xiuzhen Body Temperature No. 6 (Detail)

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Ruth Asawa

Plane Tree #16, 1960

Green ink on coated paper 19″ x 25″ Courtesy Amy Wolf Fine Art and Elrick-Manley Fine Art, New York

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Foreground:

Ruth Asawa

Background:

Jane Lee

The Jane Lee piece had been taken off the wall for a small repair. It is meant to be wall mounted.

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Jane Lee

Juju, 2013

Fry acrylic paint, acrylic heavy gel on fiberglass base canvas 110″ diameter

Courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery

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Jane Lee Juju (Detail)

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Jane Lee Juju (Detail)

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Pat Steir

Painting with red and gold in the center, 2012

Oil on canvas 60″ x 50″ Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York

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Kristen Jensen

Untitled, 2012

Unglazed porcelain and white oak 31″ x 15″ 19″ Courtesy of the artist and Norte Maar

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Grace Hartigan

Pomegranate, 1961-62

Oil on canvas 62 3/4″ x 50″ Private collection, New York

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Visible from left: Nancy Grossman, Vanessa German, Shirin Neshat, Dorothea Rockburne, Judith Murray and Niki de Saint Phalle

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Niki de Saint Phalle

Study for sculpture Tyrannosaurus Rex, c. 1963

Marker, ink, pencil on paper 14.2″ x 19.3″ Virginia Dwan Collection, New York, courtesy Norte Maar

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Niki de Saint Phalle Study for sculpture Tyrannosaurus Rex (Detail)

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Judith Murray

Elements, 2011

Oil on linen 36″ x 40″ Sundaram Tagore Gallery

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Shirley Goldfarb

Orage, 1955

Oil on canvas 51″ x 76 3/4″

Shirley Goldfarb Estate, courtesy Loretta Howard Gallery, New York

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Shirley Goldfarb Orage (Detail)

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Shirley Goldfarb Orage (Detail)

The Singapore Biennale

I had the great good fortune of experiencing the Singapore Biennale recently. 2013 marked the 4th Biennale and this year’s title “If the World Changed” was an invitation to the included artists to consider and rethink our world and the world we want to live in. The curators also asked  visitors to contribute their thoughts to the dialogue via an interactive installation.

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The 2013 Biennale highlights the works of 82 artists and artist collectives from the Southeast Asian region and beyond. A 27-member curatorial team selected the artists and shaped the vision for this year’s exhibition, and the event is spread across nine venues with the bulk of the work being presented at the Singapore Art Museum, SAM at 8Q, the National Museum of Singapore and the Peranakan Museum. Many of the included works were commissioned for the event.

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Zulkifli Yusoff, Rukunegara 1: Belief in God , 2013, Paint, varnish and screen-print on fiberglass, 6 pieces

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Rukunegara 1: Belief in God : Detail

It took me two days to see most of the exhibition and some of the works deserved a second visit. Sound was a common element. Many of the works had sound components and some, like the work of Angie Seah, invited the viewer to create their own sound environment. Seah explored the idea of sound as memory. She created a sound console so that the viewer could create their own memories with sound.

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Angie Seah, Conducting Memories , 2013, Multimedia Installation

Another work to include sound was Anahata by the artist Kumari Nahappan. The piece is comprised of over 4,000 kg of saga seeds and explores the idea of change in the abstract as potential embodied by the seed and the possibility for growth that seeds contain. In addition to the seeds and the room, there was the subtle sound of a heart beating which heightened the deep red pulsating color of the room.

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Kumari Nahappan, Anahata, 2013, Saga seeds, sound, Dimensions variable

There was a lot of video, and many installation works included a video component. I particularly loved the installation Monument for a Present Future by the artist Kiri Dalena from the Philippines.

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Kiri Dalena, Monument for a Present Future, 2013, Single-channel video and mixed media installation with wood, clay and stone, Dimensions variable

This work included video that documented the dirt road where 58 people were found after the Maguindanao massacre of 2009.

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Monument for a Present Future (Detail)

Many works were interactive and some of the more striking works included sensory elements like smell that heightened their impact. The Great Puddle by Nguyen Huy An used smell to great effect. This work is comprised of a large pool of Chinese ink in the shape of a writing desk. The shimmering reflective surface of the ink and the smell of the liquid magnified the visual impact of the work and added an organic element to what was visually quite stark.

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Nguyen Huy An, The Great Puddle , 2009, Installation with Chinese Ink and Plywood

I also really loved the Lam soon soap mops from Leroy Sofyan.

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Leroy Sofyan, Chalk & Cheese, 2013, Marble, Lam Soon soap and wood

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Chalk & Cheese (Detail)

Many works included text like the work of Iswanto Hartono & Raqs Media Collective.

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Iswanto Hartono & Raqs Media Collective, The 5 Principle No-s , 2012

There were also quite a number of works that were composed of collections of objects installed both environmentally and collectively as sculpture. Nasirun’s work Between Worlds used a collection of Wayang puppets inside lit glass vessels to mimic and reference television and popular culture.

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Nasirun, Between Worlds , 2013, Installation with leather puppets in glass bottles

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Between Worlds (Detail)

Another dynamic collection of objects was the stunning installation created by Oscar Villamiel. Oscar planted a rather macabre garden where thousands of dolls excavated from a landfill in Manilla literally bloomed like damaged and forlorn flowers. The work is called Payatas after the landfill from which the dolls were salvaged. The landfill is home to 200,000 people. Many residents scavenge for anything that can be recycled, re-used or resold, including toys. Payatas is one of the most disturbing and beautiful works I have seen in a long while. I wasn’t able to capture the full impact of the work, but the photos give a small idea of what it was like.

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Oscar Villamiel, Payatas , 2012, Mixed media installation with excavated dolls, bamboo rods, zinc shed, wood chips and drawing

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Payatas (Detail)

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Payatas (Detail)

Another ethereal collection of objects were the “Nuclear” Chandaliers created by Ken and Julia Yonetani.

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Ken and Julia Yonetani, Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nuclear Nations , 2012 -2013, UV Lights, uranium glass, 31 pieces

This piece was conceived in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The 31 chandeliers represent the 31 world nations with nuclear power and the size of each fixture represents the number of nuclear plants belonging to each nation.

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Crystal Palace (Detail)

But above all the human element prevailed at the Biennale. Two works particularly resonated. The video cutouts of Nguyen Trinh Thi captured his artist friends eating as a way to investigate the artists right to freedom of expression and peaceful existence.

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Nguyen Trinh Thi, Unsubtitled , 2010, Video projections on wooden cutouts

This piece also used sound to great effect. One could here the figures eating throughout. When one entered the room one could feel the presence of the figures.

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Unsubtitled (Detail)

The work of TeamLab also used technology beautifully. They created an interactive environment exploring dance and indigenous festivals in Japan.

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teamLab, Peace Can Be Realized Even Without Order , 2012, Interactive digital installation.

This work allowed the viewer to actually interact with the figures. Motion sensors throughout the room caused the work to shift both visually and musically as the viewer moved throughout the room.

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Peace Can Be Realized Even Without Order (Detail)

After walking through Peace Can Be Realized Even Without Order several times I came to the conclusion that “if the world changed” I would want the world that teamLab created to remain exactly the same. Each moment in that space was pure magic.

Here is a link to more information about the Singapore Biennale

http://www.singaporebiennale.org

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