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Baseball, Jazz, and the Anticipation of Happiness: in the Lobby Gallery at Deutsche Bank New York

There's a group show in the Lobby Gallery at Deutsche Bank New York that sets the tone in the true sense of the word. With its ten different positions, not only documents how up-to-date drawings and works on paper currently are. The show also proves that a young, conceptually oriented generation of artists is coming to fore in New York that will have to be reckoned with internationally in the near future, says Oliver Koerner von Gustorf .

Alejandro Cesarco,
When I am Happy Drawings, since 2002, Copyright Alejandro Cesarco

Unhappiness has seldom been portrayed in such gay colors: "When I am happy I won't have the time to make these anymore" can be read in glowing letters on Alejandro Cesarco's "When I am happy drawings." The Uruguay-born artist has been working on his series since 2002. Hundreds of colored-pencil drawings have arisen on which he lovingly and conscientiously writes the same words again and again in different color combinations. Even if it's only one section of the series that can be seen in the Lobby Gallery at Deutsche Bank New York, the impression it makes is overwhelming. Cesarco's sentences cover the wall like a shimmering pattern, with single letters or words catching the eye for a few seconds, only to disappear again just as quickly into the colorful mass. For all its childlike cheerfulness, Cesarco's work suggests that fundamentally he is not happy. And it also suggests that his art production is pointless, because it doesn't succeed in making him happy – an absurd Sisyphean work that may never arrive at its goal.

Carrie Moyer, For Sister Corita, v. 1, 2004

"We have to imagine Sisyphus as a happy person," wrote the existentialist writer and philosopher Albert Camus in his Myth of Sisyphus. In his portrayal of the antique hero who was damned by the gods to roll the same rock up a steep cliff again and again, Camus posits precisely the extreme and obdurate meaninglessness of this effort as a token of human self-realization. Cesarco's works do not express this existential attitude through an image or painterly gesture, but through the mechanical act of repetitive drawing. While his series addresses the transformation of words, signs, and language in all its miniscule variations, it also resembles a diary of his efforts. "I think neo-conceptualism has a lot to do with infiltrating the work with biographical references", says Cesarco. "At the same time, I don’t think I am really making any new, original statements, I am just making connections."

Chitra Ganesh, The Question Mark, 2005

"Openness" is a concept that could also describe the thematic essence of The exhibition, curated by Holly Block and Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy, deliberately resists creating a homogenous overall image. The traditional definition of "drawing" is juxtaposed with a variety of approaches to the medium of paper that include biographical, narrative, and conceptual strategies as well as a critical investigation of art production and authorship.

Jennie C. Jones, from the series Record & Listen in Yellow and Brown, 2004
©Jennie C. Jones

At a time when paintings by young artists are commanding top prices, and the question as to when the bubble is finally going to burst excites both markets and art scenes, comes across as amazingly unexcited, reduced, and fresh – if not to say cool. Yet the history of the exhibition's development has also surely played a role: arose out of a collaboration between Deutsche Bank and "Art in General," a non-profit organization in Lower Manhattan that supports young artists living in New York as well as the presentation of their works. In order to finance the exhibition, around 65 works from the company's collection were auctioned off in the summer of 2005 to the staff of the bank headquarters on Wall Street. A committee will use the proceeds to purchase a selection of works from the current exhibition for the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Mika Rottenberg, Dough (Video still), 2005-2006
© courtesy the artist & Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery

The value of supporting the local scene is proven by the exceptional quality of the show. Like Alejandro Cesarco, other artists represented in will certainly be making their appearance on the international scene very soon. The young Israeli artist Mika Rottenberg just received the Cartier Award 2006, which includes a solo show at the next Frieze Art Fair in London. In her videos and installation works, she shows women in box-like structures performing simple and often bizarre work in a kind of home industry.

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