Genres Archives



San Francisco Opens a Walk-In Human Cloning Agency

[slideshow id=2]For millennia people have struggled to craft the human form in materials from clay to silicone. But while there have been some popular hits such as Michelangelo’s David, nothing in the world’s museums shows the subtlety to be seen in the living body. In our scientifically advanced society, the optimal way to create a portrait is to clone the human subject.

Conventional genetic cloning is technically problematic, but only because cloners apply antiquated genetic concepts. Recently biologists have learned that the genes you inherit don’t determine who you become. What matters is which genes are expressed, and gene expression depends on your environment. Epigenetics takes into account environmental factors from diet to pollutants. By evaluating these factors and replicating them, I’m pioneering the field of epigenetic human cloning.

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Integrating the West with the East: ‘Phantoms of Asia’ at Asian Art Museum

Aki Kondo's "Mountain Gods" (2011) Oil on panels. © Aki Kondo.

Last year, Chinese scroll artist Zhang Daqian raked in $506 million in auction sales, surpassing Andy Warhol by a good $175 million. This is significant.

Asia’s appetite for art has expanded in direct proportion with the region’s rapidly developing economy, which has been largely unfazed by the U.S. financial and European debt crises. China, which is opening museums at a rate of about 100 a year, now accounts for 41 percent of total world art revenue, up from 33 percent in 2010, and shows no signs of slowing. At this point, it is not unthinkable that New York might give way to Hong Kong as the world’s art capital.

While this market boom and the artistic excitement it has stoked is certainly thrilling, it also saddles museum curators, especially in the West, with a gigantic responsibility: to tell a story of contemporary Asian art independent of the one the market does (and media broadcasts), delving into the nooks between the numbers and exposing phenomena to which the metrics may be blind.

Phantoms of Asia” at the Asian Art Museum is a historically significant show in this regard. With 60 contemporary works by 31 artists, it is the largest contemporary exhibition to date at the museum—one of the largest institutions devoted entirely to Asian art in the Western world. As such, the exhibition had a number of important choices to make and questions to answer: among them, how to delimit the show thematically (if at all), and how to define Asia in the first place.

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Convex Circular Plates as Medium: circlesaints at Johannson Projects

Michael Meyer's "Drumscape," wood, plastic, thread, bells, 7 feet by 11 feet by 5 feet © All rights reserved by johanssonprojects

When an artist adopts a particular device as ardently as Yvette Molina has convex circular plates (25 of her 27 works at Johansson Projects’ “circlesaints” exhibition are painted on these), one has to ask, “What is it doing for her art?”

Molina’s works depict scenes of nature in varying states of abstraction. In the best works, the convexity of the surface serves to privilege the abstract over the representational. In the 3-foot in diameter “Akashic Recorders,” for instance, a refracted sun of magnificently unnatural yellow, emitting stylized, geometric lavender rays into the cloud-streaked atmosphere, occupies the bulging center fore; a nub of carefully rendered forest terrain is relegated to the plate’s lower in-curve. In effect, through a kind of misdirection, the piece successfully conveys a sense of wonder toward the natural world.

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The First Copernican Art Manifesto: A New Paradigm

Science began with the Copernican Revolution. Recognition that the world is an average planet, and that our place in the cosmos is nothing special, has allowed humanity to make generalizations about the universe based on local observations. Yet while the Copernican Revolution has enlightened scientists for centuries, art remains Ptolemaic. The work most cherished is esteemed for being atypical. Whether admired for academic skillfulness or avant-garde boldness, the masterpiece is our artistic ideal. If art is to foster universal understanding – and be more than a cultural trophy – the great works must be abandoned. We must banish masterpieces as distracting anomalies, just as scientists routinely discard artifacts from their data sets. Art ought to be mediocre. The art of the future must be Copernican.

1.  Painting must have the average color of the universe. Let it be beige.

2.  Sculpture must have the predominant composition of the universe. Let it be gaseous.

3.  Music must have the gross entropy of the universe. Let it be noisy.

4.  Architecture must have the fundamental geometry of the universe. Let it be flat.

5.  Cuisine must have the cosmological homogeneity of the universe. Let it be bland.

6.  Film must have the mathematical predictability of the universe. Let it be formulaic.

7.  Dance must have the characteristic motion of the universe. Let it be random.

8.  Literature must have the narrative arc of the universe. Let it be inconclusive.

This new Copernican art can be made by anyone. To achieve complete mediocrity, everybody must participate. In all genres, new work is required. The Ptolemaic past must also be reexamined, standards reconsidered, masterpieces rectified.

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The American West, in Norway: Marius Amdam at Trondheim Kunstmuseum

Marius Amdam's "the great train robbery" (120 cm by 120 cm)

A dozen museums dot the city center in Trondheim, Norway. There’s the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Tramway Museum, and the Norwegian Resistance museum, which favors dioramas—plastic destroyers, cotton balls painted black. Downtown is a peninsula, tacked to the mainland with spidery bridges. Cranes swing out over the canals from the tops of boxy warehouses. The buildings, even the new ones, are all in the same style—wide and low painted clapboard boxes, in colors at once saturated and muted: poppy red, ocher, mustard, powder blue, and sage. It has a more vibrant art scene than you would expect in a city of about 175,000 souls: more galleries than you can shake a salted fish at. The current installation at Trondheim Kunstmuseum — “sacro e profano,” which in Italian means, of course, “sacred and profane” (in Norse it’d be hellig og profan) — comprises fifteen paintings and three sculptures by local artist Marius Amdam.

The first thing you notice as you begin to move about the installation is texture: Amdam’s not afraid of it. The second painting clockwise from the entrance, “stor våt hund i øyekroken” (“big wet dog in the corner of my eye,” according to Google Translate), depicts a skeleton dripping with gold jewelry. At the bottom of the panel is a crusted wad of black paint so thick it sticks out from the canvas like a shelf. The next panel, “just like honey,” is three-dimensional in a more subtle way. The canvas is three-quarters filled with a pale, feminine face, her expression vacant and almost moronic, like a still frame of Clara Bow or an anime princess. She wears an impressive, powdery-white, Marie Antoinette updo. Inky tears spill from her enormous eyes. At her throat, a chain of loops and whirls draws the eye downward and to the left. There’s something irresistible about the necklace—you can’t stop looking at it. From a distance it looks like old bronze; up close, you can see that the chain is made up of three-dimensional hoops of black, purple, orange, and mud-colored paint, washed with a thin coat of white that shows brightly against the turbulent colors beneath it, giving an overall look of burnished metal.

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Approaching the Omega Point: Aron Meynell and Erik Otto at White Walls

"Beached" by Aron Meynell, oil on canvas, 36 x 60 inches

The work of San Francisco artist Aron Meynell doesn’t immediately command attention. His tones are muted—“somber” is how White Walls gallery owner and curator Justin Giarla put it—and his subject matter that which might be swiftly passed over in the work of a less-skilled artist: trees, animals, the occasional person. But to round down the quietude of these pieces to silence would be an underestimation of their power. Instead of choosing to shock or scream, the carefully constructed landscape studies comprising Meynell’s first solo show hum along almost inaudibly, their worlds not quite plausible but not easily rejected as fantasy.

Framed inside White Walls’ cavernous space on Larkin Street, Meynell’s interpretations of ruin and renewal amplify themselves. With its extensive canvases and clear mastery of the properties of light, the show creates a cathedral-like vacuum within the gallery. The sense of absence is so magnetic that it warps into a sort of presence. And though the overall palette might be slated as post-apocalyptic, each piece in the collection resists sure definitions; at times, the environments are so surreal as to be alien, while at others they’re clearly the remnants of a realm much like our own. Given Meynell’s background, it’s easy to decode the genealogy of his influences: before graduating from the San Francisco Academy of Art, he grew up in Detroit and became fascinated by the structures left in the wake of the Motor City’s once-booming industries.

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The Famous Artist as Art: ‘Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories’

"Gertrude Stein" (1926) by Man Ray

In a 1924 print by Henri Manuel, featured as part of a new exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Gertrude Stein is at work. Avoiding the camera, she sits dressed in a dark jacket and regal brooch, a pen in one hand; before her, a single sheet of paper glows luminously against the desk. The retrospective show, which examines both the biography and cultural influence of the lauded American-Jewish writer, contains innumerable inventions of both portrayal and homage. Stein, a patron of renowned artists from Picasso to Thorton Wilder and collaborator with musicians such as Virgil Thomson — with whom she wrote the play Four Saints in Three Acts — becomes a creation of art herself, the subject of paintings, photographs, and sculptures, obfuscating the same boundaries between artistic disciplines as she did with her life and work.

Over the course of five sections, “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories” weaves a narrative that covers everything from Stein’s birth in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and upbringing in Oakland, California, to her relationship with Alice B. Toklas. What emerges is a portrait of an individual who possessed a power singular in the art world, a disposition both feared and revered. Picasso’s 1906 painting of Stein depicts a woman whose ponderousness is tempered by resolve; likewise, American sculptor Jo Davidson’s bronze Buddha-esque evocation of a cross-legged Stein emanates a sense of authority. But the woman at the center of “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories” takes on a mythic aura because of her straightforwardness, not despite of it. “When they ask me why I don’t write what I saw, I answer quite simply that of course I write as I saw because I talk exactly as I write,” said Stein in a 1934 video in which she reads from the libretto for Four Saints in Three Acts.

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Naomie Kremer: The Vocabulary of Obsession and Obsessiveness

Naomi Kremer (photo by Dennis Letbetter)

Naomie Kremer has been described as “a remarkable and innovative colorist, with a subtle mastery of intimating interior meaning.” Her current exhibition, “Multiverse Part I,” at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco through April 23, showcases 12 of her densely layered oil-on-linen paintings, all characterized by Kremer’s sensuous use of color, her energetic and meticulous brushwork, and a complex, detailed sense of structure. Yet her work in black and white is integral to her craft, and equally compelling. ZYZZYVA sat down with the Bay Area artist in her bright and inviting studio in Oakland on a recent stormy day. As the rain poured down outside, Kremer discussed the inspiration behind her current show at Modernism, the important role that drawing has played in the development of her craft as a painter, and her innovative collaboration with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.

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Day and Night

From Michael Light’s “LA Day/LA Night”

Twenty-five years or so ago, when I first started coming to Los Angeles on a regular basis, I used to stay with a friend who had a satellite’s eye view poster of the city in his breakfast room. It was then — and remains, I think — a vivid metaphor. Not for the sprawl of Southern California, although you can certainly see it there, but rather for the odd tension of the built environment, which can only push the natural landscape so far. If sprawl is an expression of our attempts to control our surroundings, the satellite photo reveals just how limited, how temporary, such interventions are. There is the basin and the San Fernando Valley, full of the flat gray outline of the city. And then there are the mountains and the desert, undeveloped and unforgiving, ringing it all in. Continue reading

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