Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Top Artworks of 2008

What I mean by "top artworks of 2008" means either what did I find and like during 2008, or what did I look at at lot during 2008, whether in an exhibition, gallery archive, or late-nite image search, etc. So I guess this is really "my top favorite images of 2008", wherein some of these are artworks existing live out there:

(Asia Argento)
(Al Pacino in 'Panic in Needle Park')
(from 'Warhol's Frankenstein')
(some swooning, maybe 'Young Werther')
(Helen Cho)
(Chitra Ganesh)
(Alice Evensen)
(Sammy Harkham)

(Luigi Ghirri)
(from 'No Country for Old Men')
(Huang Yan)
(Robert Dale Anderson)
(Doctor Who and Sarah)
(James Ensor)
(Thomas Rowlandson)
(Toby Ziegler)

(Anselm Kiefer)
(Jean Fouquet)

(Ergül Cengiz)
(Cecily Brown)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ghent - Day 2

It was Halloween, and Breakfast in the breakfast-room (another branch of the ‘parlour’) was like a slightly great, eccentric buffet composed by a family with a few good ideas but mainly bad ones. Top-40 music was playing with a bit of lite-80s stuck in (‘Raspberry Beret’). There were a million jams and pastries, but some kind of pre-dried ‘toast’, half-cooked eggs, and very strong salami with bland cheese (maybe butter cheese). Someone had wiped their fingers or their mouth on the hanging tapestry beside our table, leaving a white-yellowish caked-on smear that operated as a peripherally optic balance, as my other eye kept wandering over to a fussy German man complaining with his mouth full.

We needed groceries like laundry soap, and we found an everything-store called ‘Hema’ at a nearby Markt, which had Pope-shaped cookies and ready-made pancakes in a creepy preserved form. We caught a taxi back at our hotel, which took us to S.M.A.K. and the Museum of Fine Arts of Ghent. At the museum, the best finds were Joos van Cleve, Daniel Seghers, Cornelis de Vos, and most of all, some large drawings and delicate prints by James Ensor, with titles like ‘Death Chasing the Flock of Mortals’, ‘My Mother or Sloth’, ‘The Vengeance of Hop Frog (Hop-Frog's Revenge)’ (based on E.A. Poe’s tale), ‘Haunted Furniture’, and ‘Peculiar insects’. In these prints, and especially the drawings, was a nervous line accompanied by leaden scrubbing, creating boiling crowds that seemed of heads with jellied bodies. In the story ‘Hop-Frog’ there is a strong texture created by the description of teeth gnashing, or in the sense of looking at the Ensor print, the ‘chandelier’ of burning bodies seemed like a hairy, woolen form chewed into shape by giant molars.

The café in the museum was too posh for tired visitors like us, so we tried the restaurant at S.M.A.K. and were very pleased. In the museum lobby, a stately man resembling Gary Oldman gave us exhibition guides, adding sincerely, “but let your imagination be your guide”. Like Willy Wonka at the entrance to the chocolate factory. The sound of Pipilotti Rist’s 'I'm a Victim of this song' filled the first floor of exhibition rooms; the piece was groovy and floaty while a kid was screaming along to the lyrics of Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Game’ (a recomposed, low-rent version was recorded for the piece); I really liked how the screaming was so mundane - it brought out the cheesiness of the song like trying to pull an arm out of its socket. Similarly, Johanna Billings' ‘Magical World’ was a mixture of forced ceremony and resigned frustration made limp and helpless by the inane lyrics sung by awkward and bored kids. There was a large collection of work by Marcel Broodthaers, including the shadow puppet of a cat and the assemblage of black portfolios, white goo, and fleshy orb-boob (with the wonderful association of medical ‘equipment’ as melting paperweight).

(Marcel Broodthaers)
(Marcel Broodthaers)

Anne Wenzel’s ‘Sweet Life’ was so violent, visceral and elegant that it made me ashamed of my usual slapstick ideas of iconic horror. Nedko Solakov had assembled framed art and mainly enormous tacky gifts he’d collected from other people over the years, all nestled in a pile of sand and glowing in a dark room under a cheesy beach parasol; one piece resembled a teratoma made of hair, burlap and the rim of a plastic visor. Within the upper galleries, a collection of student work mainly complained about art school (while a nearby exhibition seemed to be complaining that Belgium ‘buried’ its contemporary art), one exception being a kind of see-saw stuck in the wall, and titled the very funny ‘wip-wap!’ (I wondered if it was like Snowy in Tintin saying ‘whoa! whoa!’, or a kid back at the hotel who'd been yelling ‘yoopy-yoopy-yai-yay!’), which became our favorite phrase.

Continue to Part IX (coming soon).

Go back to Part I.