Deutsche Bank New York introduces its
Presenting new acquisitions is often
a mere formality. Yet hiding behind the simple title “Recent Acquisitions”
is an exhibition that shows how a young generation of artists uses the
medium of paper to explore cultural identity and traditional art
disciplines. Oliver Koerner von Gustorf on the show at the Lobby
Gallery of Deutsche Bank New York.
Westphalen, Ohne Titel (Snowmen), 2005,
Bank Collection, © Galerie Michael Neff, FFM
set, go: Iron Chef is
the name of a popular American TV show in which two teams of cooks compete
for 45 minutes to see who can create the most opulent menu out of
ingredients they have brought themselves. And if gourmets can pull it off
in such a short time, then artists should be able to do it too, don’t you
think? At least that’s what the makers of Iron
Artist thought this past June when they invited teams of artists
to the sculpture garden at P.S.1 in New
York to perform before a professional jury in a spectacular event where
contestants produce art works in a race against the clock. The absurd
competition in "real-time art production" attracted more than 1,200
visitors, who cheered on the opponents. The artist who won the most points
was Olav Westphalen
, a German living in New York who appeared with his co-competitors in a
silver boxer’s outfit and within minutes carved a gigantic and elegant
snowman out of Styrofoam, which was then turned upside down in an
improvised wooden frame.
The art world is completely
nuts about entertainment right now, as Westphalen remarked after his
victory; he wanted to address this idea in both a humorous and provocative
way – particularly because art usually pales in comparison with "real"
entertainment. Westphalen’s sculpture reminded the enthusiastic reporter
from the art magazine Cabinet of
a film scene from Dumb and
Dumber in which Jim Carey
used carrots and coal to fashion not a snowman’s face, but his genitals.
Despite his humor, Westphalen is interested in the irritation that arises
out of a dislocation of visually and culturally loaded signs. This is also
evident in a silkscreen from his Snowman series, which can
currently be seen at the Lobby Gallery of Deutsche Bank New York.
Westphalen’s paper works explore a wide variety of images such as tourist
snapshots, Internet reports, articles, ads, and caricatures. The cartoon,
which is exhibited in Recent Acquisitions, shows two snowmen
talking, but apparently not communicating with one another. While the one
mistakes the other’s turban for a big bandage, and the red cross in his
text balloon signalizes an offer to help, the half-moon symbol of Islam
forms the prompt retort in the text balloon of the other. Westphalen’s
works operate with a disarming wit; they question cultural, religious, and
social patterns, and – in an era when battles are being fought over
newspaper caricatures and headscarves – they touch upon the prickly
question of the power of an image.
Carlos Amorales, Archive Hybrid XXVIII,
Deutsche Bank Collection,
© Carlos Amorales
"Drawing is taking
over pop culture," the artist stated in 2003 in Artforum.
"The majority of new TV comedies are cartoons, and Hollywood is producing
animated features for adults left and right. These examples are proof not
only of drawing’s beauty, but of its singular ability to approximate how
the mind creates reality: through perception and conception, which – like
drawing – are linear affairs."
With its ten different
positions, Recent Acquisitions embarks on a trip through global pop
culture and, at the same time, shows how ambivalent artists’ reactions can
be to the visual codes and mass media images Westphalen diagnoses as being
"streamlined." The medium of paper forms the show’s center of attention.
Carlos Amorales, Archive Hybrid XXI,
Collection, © Carlos Amorales
In contrast to Westphalen’s ironic approach, Carlos
Amorales’ way of working with graphic codes appears almost
martial. His 2005 series Hybrid, also shown in Recent
Acquisitions, was originally made for the exhibition An
Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary Life shown at the REDCAT
in Los Angeles. Together with 16 other artists, he was invited to select
individual works from the archive of the Mexican muralist David
Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), which comprises 11,000 photographs, and
to use them to create new works. Among the pictures Siquerios collected as
image material for his murals, Amorales chose images of Gothic madonnas,
Communist parades, and camels in the desert, which he transformed into
historical backdrops punctuated by abstract negative forms. These motifs
from various eras and cultures seem as though they’d been skillfully
destroyed with a razor blade and translated into a modern rock aesthetic.
Amorales’ historical reflections look as graphic as a record cover – and
this makes perfect sense, considering that he was co-founder of the
artists’ project and alternative band label Nuevos
Ricos. His works pick up on elements of Mexican folk art and pop
culture and often cross boundaries between performance, installation,
political action, and public event.
The artist, who lives and works
in Amsterdam and Mexico, is one of the stars on the young scene; his work
has already been shown at the biennials in Venice
Arce, Tigre con sol, 2006,