[NYC] Alt art fair Cutlog inhabits Lower East Side landmark

As the high-profile Frieze Art Fair raged on Randall’s Island and the Whitney Biennial wrapped up its very last weeks on the Upper West Side, new kid on the block cutlog New York celebrated its second edition from May 8-11, 2014, inhabiting every hidden nook and cranny of the iconic Clemente on the alternative Lower East Side.

The venue itself was something to behold from the inside. The former 17th century public school, officially renamed the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center after a local Puerto Rican poet who believed in community empowerment, is an extremely versatile space that seems to breathe along with those who inhabit it. In this case, cutlog occupied its ground and second floors with obliquely angled partitions that offset the building’s ancient corners, creating an organic, free-flowing maze of emerging galleries and curators, further complemented by live performances in the little (55-seat) theater and video gallery, amidst site-specific installations in the passageways in between.

The few tame, subtle and conceptual pieces of digital—and indeed, digitally inspired—art rarely overshadowed the more spectacular showpieces on display, but they still generally held their own and blended in with the environment.

“Thank You, Now Get Out” by Joshua Knoblick 

For example, KiloWatt Gallery co-founder and artist Joshua Knoblick’s “Thank You, Now Get Out”, a wiry web of jagged aluminum “chimes” seemed to accentuate the industrial, unpolished feel of the high cement ceiling and walls; it takes on new meaning when you learn that these are physical manifestations of WAV sound files encoding the closing announcement from Art Basel in Miami Beach.

Another conceptually visualized piece was manifested on the black-painted brick wall by The NOISE INDEX’s Horizon, in three solemnly computer-generated portraits of the horizontal stillness of data flow in the age of information overload.

As if in counterpoint, The Hole gallery owner/director, curator and writer Kathy Grayson provided otherworldly eye-candy with her colorful paintings on canvas of algorithmically distorted analog broadcast images of a tennis match. Figuratively unrecognizable but esthetically pleasing, the two works resemble a giant pixelated map of continental drift, with stray islands overflowing onto an accessory checkerboard.

Keun Young Park, Right Hand, 2012, torn and pasted photo on paper, 16" x 18”, courtesy of Accola Griefen Gallery 

Also beginning with a highly stylized digital image but taking almost the opposite approach in representing it, Keun Young Park’s pointillist collages of floating faces and disembodied limbs recreate her subjects with all the tactile precision of hand-shredded paper. After adjusting the digital image to the desired hues, the artist carefully printed and tore up the photograph, only to reassemble the pieces into pastel portraits that seem to spectrally emerge from the blank canvas.

Ciaran Tully 

Irish photographer Ciaran Tully presented beautifully shot, often iconic prints of his lovingly adopted New York City, with a retro twist on the small ones—he cut out the original pictures from old polaroid prints and used them to frame his colorfully lush, exceptionally high-resolution, professionally polished photographs. The results are very tourist-friendly yet full of affection, toying with our nostalgia for formats past, just as we crave always higher, sharper technology in image production and processing. His subjects range from digitally multiplied skyscraper cityscapes to a blurred sunset on a watery horizon to a black-and-white farm dog in Ireland.

Anthony Haden Guest 

Best known for his socialite cartoons, Anthony Haden Guest was the beating heart of the four-day show with daily live performances and short films inspired from his book of cartoons The Chronicles of Now downstairs, while an upstairs installation curated by Tony Guerrero for the Whitebox Art Center displayed his drawings and iPhone photos. The amateur, low-res, red-eye, spontaneous smartphone shots were originally done for a commission by DuJour magazine, complemented by sketches that highlighted the interesting detail in a composition, and of course, captioned with the author’s characteristic humor.

Camera ready to photograph the resistance on Clara Feder’s “Wall of Temptation” 

Further exploiting the photographic medium as documentation, Clara Feder tempted visitors with her transmedia Wall of Temptation, by inviting them to enter an individual booth and decide whether or not to scratch a real lottery ticket, which the artist had already purchased with her own money. The experience was free, but the moral choice was not. Those who resisted the temptation to scratch were photographed along with their virgin ticket posted onto the Wall, as the candid portraits were uploaded to a website for posterity, while those who simply scratched were free to walk away with their potential winnings in private. Here the artist seems to equate the lottery itself with the evils of consumer society. But then, doesn’t temptation lie in the choice of whether or not to buy a ticket (i.e. gamble) in the first place, rather than in the more playful, less predictable, gracious and gratuitous gesture of scratching one that has been offered to you?

“Free Roam” (2014) by Naomi Campbell 

Among the few interactive works on show was “Free Roam” by Naomi Campbell the artist, who enhanced her drawings on plexiglass with a lightbox that changed color as if remote-controlled by a mobile smartphone application.

Also represented by Yellow Peril Gallery, Paul Myoda’s “Constellation #1” reacted to a visitor’s presence by spinning into a loud whir of light and shadows, slowing to a stop when the visitor stepped out of the sensor’s range.

Much more serious in concept and discourse were two augmented-reality paintings by veteran Net artist G.H. Hovagimyan, whose series of AR Paintings were exhibited in a solo show at Transfer Gallery earlier in the year. While the paintings themselves were very much paint on canvas, the abstract compositions also integrated AR markers that directly linked the virtual AR space to the physical gallery space through the frame of a rolling iPad, which was configured with proprietary code that overlayed augmented text, 2D and 3D images in reference to Joseph Albers.

Rendez-vous at Atelier Richelieu on October 23-26, 2014 for the 6th edition of cutlog Paris!


Cherise Fong