Month: March, 2014

Pierre Huyghe Brings Spiders, Quails, and (Hopefully) Rats to Lower East Side Gallery


“Spiders do not like living in galleries,” says curator Jenny Jaskey of the Artist’s Institute on New York’s Lower East Side. “They just don’t want to stay.”

Jaskey is referring to the group of nimble, brown cellar spiders crawling around the Institute’s intimate Eldridge Street basement space. She released batches of these spindly arachnids into the gallery three weeks ago as part of Pierre Huyghe’s current exhibition there, and many have since disappeared—venturing outside, burrowing out of sight, or getting stepped on at the show’s opening. But a few remain, slowly scaling the gallery’s matte-white walls.

The four-part show, or “exposure to witnesses,” as Huyghe calls it, examines the ways that spiders and other small organisms like flies and rats change, grow, and adapt over time. Inspired by chemistry, natural history, and evolution, the French artist’s scientific investigations have transformed the gallery into an experimental laboratory.

Huyghe’s meticulous program adheres to the distinct objectives of the Artist’s Institute, a non-profit organization established by Hunter College in 2010. Each year, the gallery mounts two six-month exhibitions of works by individual artists, which are supplemented by series of lectures and films, and aided curatorially by Hunter College graduate students. Past seasons at the Institute have been devoted to the work of Haim Steinbach, Lucy McKenzie, and Rosemarie Trockel, among others.

The aim of these long, but ever-changing shows is, as Jaskey says, “to give more time and attention to an artist’s work.” The gallery becomes an immersive space dedicated solely to the roots of the artist’s practice and process. This first installment of Huyghe’s show, titled “Il y a” (It is), reflects his fascination with physical processes like birth, death, and generation.

Jaskey reaffirms this on the second stop of our tour. After locating the spiders, she pointed out a large, metal grate hanging above the front desk. Two fluorescent, blue lights shine from within, resembling an indoor/outdoor space heater. It’s actually a fly zapper, she explains, by Mexican artist Fernando Ortega.

Every time an insect flies into the fly electrocutor device, the gallery’s lights are tripped, creating temporary darkness. The dead flies provide food for the spiders, and the darkness offers an opportunity to showcase Huyghe’s stunning, glow-in-the-dark creation Dress For Radium Dance . . .

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Anna Hyatt Huntington: The Most Famous New York Sculptor You’ve Never Heard Of

Flanking the Fordham Road entrance to New York’s Bronx Zoo are two sculptures of crouching jaguars. The beloved limestone creatures, which arrived at the zoo in 1937, are seen by countless visitors each day. Yet, the legacy of their prolific creator, Anna Hyatt Huntington, is unknown to many.

An exhibition opening tomorrow at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery aims to change this. Titled “Goddess, Heroine, Beast: Anna Hyatt Huntington’s New York Sculpture, 1902–1936,” the show will reintroduce audiences to the artist’s work, which can be found in numerous museums, parks, and institutions throughout the city. In addition to the Bronx Zoo, these locations include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New-York Historical Society, the Hispanic Society of America, and the National Academy Museum. The show will feature a selection of small bronzes from these venues as well as images of Huntington’s larger public projects, and videos of the artist at work. Curated by Barnard professor Anne Higonnet, “Goddess, Heroine, Beast” is the first exhibition to showcase Huntington’s early New York works.

The daughter of a Harvard zoology and paleontology professor, Huntington—born Anna Vaughn Hyatt in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1876—had a keen interest in animals and anatomy. She took private art lessons and learned to make small animal sculptures, before moving to New York City in 1902. There, she enrolled in the Art Students League. The artist quickly found a market for her statuettes in the city and worked with local foundries such as Gorham & Company to cast, stock, and promote bronze editions of her work. Her small sculptures sold from between $25 to $335 and larger works were priced at $1,500, allowing Huntington to make a comfortable living for herself . . .

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How Artists Across the Globe Are Saying ‘Yes’ to Picasso

“Picasso is not the greatest artist of our time,” says art historian Michael FitzGerald. “He’s not the one you have to take down—he’s someone to engage with as an equal.”

During much of Picasso’s lifetime, his works were regarded as the gold standard of modernist art. Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, Arshile Gorky and other 20th-century artists channeled his style, while figures like Jackson Pollock competed with it directly. In an exhibition opening March 6 at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, FitzGerald showcases works by a diverse ensemble of international artists, who, rather than challenging Picasso’s art, have engaged in conversation with it.

Titled “Post-Picasso: Contemporary Reactions,” the show features sculptures, photographs, paintings, and video installations by more than 40 artists living in 12 different countries. Faith Ringgold, Armando Mariño, Dia Al-Azzawi, Goshka Macuga, and Tadanori Yokoo are among the artists represented in the exhibition. By recycling, repackaging, and riffing on Picasso’s internationally recognized works and trademark techniques, these artists have made raw material out of what was once a definitive touchstone.

Here is a sampling of artworks that will be on view in the show:

“Bembe,” by Romuald Hazoumé
Just as Picasso employed unconventional materials to create his collages, Hazoumé crafts masks like Bembe (2012) using discarded gasoline canisters. By repurposing these plastic containers—which are symbols of progress and development—to form objects styled after traditional African artifacts, the Benin-born artist comments on the blending of cultures taking place in modern-day Porto-Novo.

“Quel avenir pour notre art? (What future for our art?),” by Chéri Samba
Congolese artist Chéri Samba examines Picasso’s legacy in this 1997 triptych. In the first scene (below), Samba replicated a 1952 photograph of Picasso by Robert Doisneau on the left side of the painting, and executed a portrait of himself on the right side. Unlike Doisneau’s original image, in which the artist’s hands are under the table and out of sight, Picasso’s right hand is seen here holding a pencil. He looks to his left toward Samba, who is situated at a table with a wooden log, a ceramic pot, and two wooden masks. As the work’s title suggests, it is unclear how these artifacts will factor into the future of art.

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