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September 2009

Michael Najjar

Michael Najjar  "There is no real and no imaginary except at a certain distance. What happens when this distance, even the one separating the real from the imaginary, begins to disappear and to be absorbed by the model alone?"     - Jean Baudrillard

Established German photographic artist Michael Najjar is introducing his high altitude work series this year. In this body of work, Najjar continues to weld fact and fiction. Exploring vocabulary of the romantic sublime, including paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, and informed by the artist's own climb up to the 22,800 foot summit of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, high altitude features breathtaking panoramas. Picturing spaces in society driven by networked financial data, these virtual landscapes are a meditation on the global market structure, its sophistication, and vulnerability.

The spectacle of elemental forces at play in mountainous vistas has been an enduring source of fascination for people, and especially artists, across the ages. Relating a parable of risk and cataclysm, Michael Najjar's nine large format photographs draw a visual comparison between the forces of nature and those in the modern economy driven by computer networks. Cliff and rock formations in these sweeping horizons portray development of the world's leading stock exchange indices over the past 20 - 30 years. Like a graph or blueprint, Najjar suspends the performance charts of indices such as the Dow Jones, Hang Seng, Nikkei and Dax over the mountain peaks, and then alters the natural course of each mountain range. Pairing pure natural beauty with the development of the global financial system, a virtual value system is mapped.

"The current economic crisis has dramatically highlighted one thing in particular - that we now often deal not with real goods and commodities but with chains of signifiers" says Michael Najjar. The irrational - something which defies our powers of imagination - in turn shapes the reality of our daily lives. In this way a symbiosis is created between reality and virtuality. The expressive power of mountains and stock markets share certain aspects in common. Both have an emotional force; they can awaken feelings of happiness (reaching the summit, windfalls from speculation), yet they also carry components of risk within them (injuries, losses). Both have the power to destroy lives. This is most strikingly revealed in the work entitled "Lehmann Brothers_92-08" which shows how the high degree of complexity in our present-day virtual world can lead to a total system crash. The shared course climbs and climbs, and ends abruptly - leaving only emptiness and the sloping mountain plateau behind.

Najjar's works are also concerned with exploring the nature of the sublime, the ineffability of perception. According to Edmund Burke, sublimity is compounded delight and horror in equal measure. We may encounter feelings of the sublime in our everyday lives, in nature, or indeed in the financial world whenever the benchmarks by which we usually measure and gauge experience are invalidated or transcended. Such views and experience of sublimity are also reflected in the new works by Michael Najjar. The mountain has proven a consistent theme across the history of art, although not all artists have been interested in rendering an exact portrait. Caspar David Friedrich, for instance, painted the "Watzmann" peak without ever actually seeing it. His painting was not intended as a mere reproduction of nature but rather as a means of arousing feelings of awe and wonder "too deep for words". It was scientific curiosity that drew Leonardo da Vinci to mountains, while Gerhard Richter painted them for the atmospheric conditions they offered, their unclear contours bathed in diffused light. The motifs chosen by Michael Najjar are mystically haunting moments with craggy cliff plateaus, fragile cloud formations, frozen snow-clad summits or crisp views of mountain ridges against an ice blue sky - yet always with the jagged lines of the mountain's silhouette - a monument of stock market quotations, hewn in stone, rising majestically over the world.

The work series is based on the photographs Najjar shot during his three week expedition up Mount Aconcagua in the Argentinean Andes whose summit he reached in January 2009. At 22,800 feet, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas. According to Najjar, "The reality of nature and the life rhythm of a mountain cannot be measured on any human scale and thus becomes a virtual experience. Such experience of virtuality can also be found on the international economic and financial markets where the staggeringly large sums of money circulating the globe in real time defy our powers of comprehension."

About Michael Najjar
Michael Najjar was born on 31 October 1966 in Landau (West Germany) and has lived in Berlin since 1988. He is a graduate of the Bildo Academy for Art and Media in Berlin where he studied experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to photography, video and computer, and where he first came into contact with the cultural theorists and philosophers Jean Baudrillard, Vilém Flusser and Paul Virilio, who were to have a decisive influence on his later work. This was followed by working stays in Brazil, Cuba, Spain, England, Japan and the USA, which added a global dimension to his projects. Najjar's creative focus lies in scenarios dealing with the future of humankind, as in visions of society driven by computer and information technologies, which his current "high altitude" series also exemplifies.

Sara Greenberger Rafferty

Who would have thought that manipulated photgraphs could look so interesting and involving? Sara Greenberger Rafferty has a new photography series that, as in her past work, explores the subject of mid to late 20th century comedy, using it as an entry point to approach a set of broader thematic preoccupations. The portraits – selected and printed in CMYK ink on a desktop printer, then manually worked upon, digitally manipulated and reprinted as exposed photographs – depict signature comedic personalities and props, such as Bill Cosby, Goldie Hawn, Madeline Kahn, as well as a rubber chicken, a whoopee cushion, and Groucho glasses. Rafferty’s modest interventions into the images create a washed out palette – evoking the colorful but faded feel of watching 1970’s television in 1980’s reruns.

Sara Greenberger Rafferty Paradoxically crisp at points where fluid has damaged the printed image, rather more pixilated at the points that have remained untouched, the portraits’ disfigurement evokes the injured, often female, body. Stains reminiscent of blood, saliva, pus, ejaculate and tears all interrupt a portrait’s meaning as it might have been understood in its original, commercial context. The gag chicken becomes a grimy, forgotten toy, or, even more ominously, road kill; comedic sidekick Vicki Lawrence appears to be weeping; a girlish Goldie Hawn’s lips are extended into a moist grimace; and even the whoopee cushion now evokes the usually repressed scatological. As in the show’s title, a heteronym, the works operate doubly: the body intervenes (“tears” into) just by being a body (shedding “tears”).

Hovering between photography, collage work, and watercolor, Rafferty’s portraits examine the hangdog undertones of the humorous and the hilarious overtones of the mournful; the presence of the gendered body in actions ranging from the quotidian to the extraordinary; and the ability of pop cultural artifacts to generate not just nostalgia, but a comment about the here and now.

Sara Greenberger Rafferty has exhibited solo projects at The Kitchen, New York, The Eli Marsh Gallery at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, and Sandroni Rey, Los Angeles. She has participated in several group shows, including exhibitions at The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Oregon, Gagosian Gallery, New York, D’Amelio Terras, New York, and is currently exhibiting an outdoor sculpture with The Public Art Fund, New York. This January, she will be the Artist in Residence at Amherst College for the spring semester. She received her MFA from Columbia University, and lives and works in Brooklyn.

William Blake

William blake 1 William blake 2 William Blake is considered to be an English Renaissance man in that he was a poet, philosopher, polemicist, painter, printmaker and a bit of a mystic and romantic.

As his wiki suggests, Blake is unclassifiable in terms of an art movement or school. I love his work for its originality and spirituality:

Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced".

Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterized as part of both the Romantic movement and "Pre-Raphelite" for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England, Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions, as well as by such thinkers as Jacob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg. Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake's work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a "glorious luminary,"[9] and as "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors."

Miru Kim

Miru Kim  Miru Kim is fearless. She ventures into places to make her art that most of us would neither enter nor risk arrest to be in: underground tunnels, sewers, abandoned factories, power plants, the tops of bridges and churches. Once she arrives at these hidden and desolate places, Kim explores the setting, finds the best point of view, puts her camera on a tripod, and removes her clothes — in order to take some of the most engaging photographs of the moment.

Miru Kim is a New York-based artist who has explored various urban ruins such as abandoned subway stations, tunnels, sewers, catacombs, factories, hospitals, and shipyards. She was featured as one of America's Best and Brightest 2007 in Esquire magazine. Her work has been spotlighted in various other media such as The New York Times, TED.com, The Financial Times, NY Arts Magazine, ARTE France, Ovation TV, Time Out New York, PopPhoto.com, The Korea Daily, La Stampa, Berlingske Tidende, VanityFair.de, and Dong-A Daily. Public collections of her work include Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.

Miru was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts in 1981 and was raised in Seoul, Korea. She moved back to Massachusetts in 1995 to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, and moved to New York City in 1999 to attend Columbia University. In 2006, she received an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute.

She has illustrated the book Women A Celebration of Strength

Charlene Weisler

Charlene Weisler is an urban photographer whose current project is inspired by graffiti and reflects the transience and impermanence of street art.

Weisler, Cherry Heart,11x14, photo

Concentrating on the evolving nature of layered graffiti, Weisler’s art captures a timeline of competing efforts and messages. The result is a rich compendium of texture, color and form that juxtaposes energy with urban decay. It is a unique expression of environmental art which is made all the more beautiful by time and weather.

The transitory, impermanent nature of street art arguably stands as this generation's art movement. Steeped in tradition of portraiture, landscape, collage and abstract expressionism, urban montage street art is, in fact, more than the sum of its historical parts. It is one of the few art movements that shifts its tactile physicality on a minute by minute basis. Street art has a limited lifespan and, more frequently, shortly after creation, changes or is totally destroyed. Weisler's haunting photographs maneuver between these worlds doing so in a way that makes the viewer see something totally new and self-contained. It is a brand new work created from the competition, chaos and erosion of the old.

Weisler is a New York City based photographer who has been chronicling street art since 2005. Her perspectives on the subject have been featured in a video at The Wooster Collective, in The Soho Journal Magazine, The New York Sun newspaper and featured in Time Out New York.

Weisler, Bathing Beauty 2, photo, 11 by 14 1024x760 Weisler, I Can't Believe It's Not Art, photo Weisler, Life on a Mailbox, photo

She has just published a book on love themed NYC street art:

Sandow Birk

Sandow Birk has just completed a project involving the Koran called the American Qur'an. The pages I have seen are beautiful. Known for his controversial subject matter, his newest project is projected to generate great interest.

Birk koran

"Birk is unafraid to engage the ugly truths of our time and ranks among the more sharply satiric artists of our era.” - Art ltd. Magazine

Los Angeles artist Sandow Birk is a well traveled graduate of the Otis/Parson's Art Institute. Frequently developed as expansive, multi-media projects, his works have dealt with contemporary life in its entirety. With an emphasis on social issues, frequent themes of his past work have included inner city violence, graffiti, political issues, travel, war, and prisons, as well as surfing and skateboarding. He was a recipient of an NEA International Travel Grant to Mexico City in 1995 to study mural painting, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, and a Fulbright Fellowship for painting to Rio de Janeiro for 1997. In 1999 he was awarded a Getty Fellowship for painting, followed by a City of Los Angeles (COLA) Fellowship in 2001. In 2007 he was an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2008.

Sandow is represented by the Koplin del Rio Gallery in Los Angeles, Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, and P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York City.

Annick Ligtermoet

Annick ligtermoet Annick Ligtermoet is a photographer that reminds me of John Heartfield. Strange worlds exist and there is a sense of despair and solitude. In her recent show "De Verontrustende Wereld" (The Uncanny World), institutional grey boxes protrude from the wall containing small photographs, collected trinkets such as personal diaries, letters and vanity mirrors.  In general, these items do not signify "fine art", but the personal, the used, mementos one carries and inevitably "collects" by simply living in the world.  Indeed, Ligtermoet's work can feel "authorless" in that her images and objects evoke the feeling of something you have seen or encountered before.  Yet, understanding where or when that might have been is where her work confounds.  One is always befuddled when encountering the uncanny, locating the origin of one's memory the work of a lifetime.

Along with the boxes, photographs are scattered on the gallery walls.  Several pictures of children, a modern looking piece of architecture seemingly plopped in a field, another of what appears to be several drowning animals in turbulent waters.  Each seemingly disparate picture is allotted its own position within the gallery.  Some are simply pinned on the wall; others are inset into it, each one demanding a distinct encounter from the viewer thus heightening their impact.  Understanding the affect of these images may not be possible, yet in Ligtermoet's "Uncanny World", the work quietly threatens the viewer, asking them to understand why and how these images are so calmly violent, and why it seems so disturbingly natural for the images to appear as they do.  

Annick Ligtermoet (b. 1983, Putten, The Netherlands) lives and works in Amsterdam. She received a BA from the Royal Academy of Visual Arts, The Hague, The Netherlands. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at KABK, Fotomuseum, Nuthuis, TodaysArt, and Filmhuis, The Hague; Plantagedok, Amsterdam; and Berline Messe, Berlin, Germany. De Versontrustende Wereld is the artist's first New York solo exhibition. 

Raoul De Keyser

Raoul de keyser Raoul De Keyser is a painter whose recent show, Replay: Paintings 1964-2007 at Kunstmuseum Bonn, is the first comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work in Germany. Comprised of 50 works spanning over 40 years, this extensive exhibition brings together loans from museums and private owners in Europe and America.

De Keyser was included in the 2007 Venice Biennale, curated by Robert Storr, and recent solo exhibitions include Museum van Deinze en de Leiestreek, Deinze, Belgium (2007) and FRAC Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France (2008). In 2009, both Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal and Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland exhibited the artist’s watercolors. From 2004 to 2005, De Keyser was the subject of a major solo retrospective exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England, which traveled to Musée de Rochechouart, Rochechouart, France; De Pont Museum for Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands; Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal; and Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland. Other important solo exhibitions include S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium (2001); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (2000); and Kunstmuseum Luzern, Luzern, Switzerland (1999). De Keyser’s work is held in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe.

Born in 1930 in Deinze, Belgium (where he still lives), Raoul De Keyser is one of Europe’s leading painters, yet only over the past two decades has he received much-deserved attention outside his native Belgium. Like many European artists to come of age after World War II, De Keyser’s career began tacitly negotiating developments in American high modernism, from abstract expressionism through minimalism. He gained notoriety during the 1960s as part of Nieuwe Visie (New Vision), a group of painters that included Roger Raveel, Etienne Elias, and Reinier Lucassen.

Enjoying a long-standing reputation as being a ‘painter’s painter,’ De Keyser has been a leading influence on the next generation of painters, including Luc Tuymans, Rebecca Morris, and Tomma Abts. Modest in size, De Keyser’s spare works have a special intimacy that derives from the physical characteristics of the medium itself, as well as the tension created between plane and depth, figure and ground. As noted by Hamza Walker of The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, where De Keyser had his United States museum debut in 2000:

De Keyser’s pictorial logic is one in which conclusions regarding composition, color or manner of brush handling are confidently proposed but never asserted to a degree suggesting the evolutionary terminus of an art form . . . Although De Keyser has managed to merge various contradictory elements — figuration and abstraction, gesture and geometry, the garish and the restrained — his work in no way exhibits tendencies of a postmodern eclecticism that would reduce the history of painting to a mere collection of styles. If anything, De Keyser’s work, in modest proportions, has the spirit of painting when abstraction was celebrated for opening new possibilities within the realm of pictorial expression.

Pictured above: Drift, 2008, oil on canvas, 13 5/8 x 17 1/2 inches, 34.6 x 44.5 cm