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Art Beat- July 2011

by Lindsey Peckham

Only the Lonely by Laurel Nakadate

I hinted back in June that there were quirky exhibits accompanying the epic dance parties at MoMa’s Queens outpost, PS1. This month I want to feature the work of Laurel Nakadate, whose corner of the museum I found the most fascinating exhibit I’ve seen in recent months. A combination of photography, video, and performance art, her work brilliantly straddles the line between inquisitive and perverted.

An attractive young woman herself, Nakadate explores the sexual power of the adolescent female in the eyes of older men, often using herself as bait and as an object of desire for complete strangers. Her early video work centered around her entering the homes of older men to dance, pose, or even play dead at their request. What struck me most was the balance of power in these encounters; Nakadate’s camera allowed her to maintain a certain control while being overtly victimized by these men.

Her feature film, “The Wolf Knife,” follows two adolescent girls as they travel from Florida to Tennessee and it is well worth a full viewing: the movie meanders beautifully through the girls’ evolving relationship with themselves and the world around them. Be sure also to check out her photo series, 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears, in which she photographs herself before or after weeping every day. As a complete work (chronicling ten years’ worth of exhibitions), it is a moving and haunting experience, and definitely not to be missed.

The Frick: Turkish Taste at the Court of Marie-Antoinette

The Francophile in me has lain dormant for a little while, but resurfaced in full force when I dropped by the Frick on one of these muggy afternoons and was instantly transported to the boudoirs turcs of none other than Marie-Antoinette. Le goût turc was in full force at the end of the 18th century, as neoclassicism was gaining popularity, and any African influence in art and architecture was seen as an exotic and almost private taste. As such, the pieces in this collection were not from public court apartments, but from private boudoirs. This particular exhibit is an intimate, ornate, and impressive array of artifacts that were considered slightly taboo in their time, and fascinating in ours.

Ai Weiwei

By now, Ai Weiwei is well known for his dubious arrest on charges of “economic crimes,” or tax evasion. The Chinese government has long been a target of Weiwei’s politically charged works, which has provoked a significant amount of retaliation. And in the middle of this firestorm, New York City is lucky enough to have a collection of photographs by Weiwei from his years in New York. The Asia Society is currently showing a series of photographs taken over the span of a decade (from 1983 to 1993), mostly in and around the East Village. The pictures chronicle a burgeoning Chinese art movement in New York City that existed on the fringes of the Basquiat/Haring years. It’s always fascinating in a retrospective such as this to watch a young artist develop a voice, and this example is particularly interesting as we have a good idea  what he is going after.

Collette Blanchard

On a sad note, the Collette Blanchard Gallery, one of my personal favorites, has, sadly, officially, closed its doors. The small gallery on Clinton Street will be sorely missed. All the best to the owners and artists who for more than two years were a source of fascination and inspiration for myself and thousands of others.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Met

One of the more interesting exhibits of the season is certainly Alexander McQueen’s current show at the Met. It is a monument to both his technical and creative brilliance, and is one of the better arguments I’ve ever seen for fashion as a true art form. The textures and colors of his avant-garde pieces are breathtaking in person; neither film nor video do them justice. It is an incredible opportunity to see these clothes up close, as they are truly works of art in both design and execution. McQueen’s technical prowess was equaled only by his vision of what fashion could be: “Savage Beauty” is truly the perfect title for this touching exhibit. It is well worth the substantial lines that form outside this show.

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