Art as Lifesaver
2010 California Biennial
The California Biennial provides a good opportunity to discover the contemporary art scene on the American west coast. This year, numerous projects address current social issues. The show at the Orange County Museum of Art is once again supported by Deutsche Bank.
||Sarah Bancroft visited nearly 150 artist's studios before finally selecting the 45 artists for the current California Biennial. The curator has set herself high standards for documenting the state of affairs regarding innovative west coast art. Many of the artists presented in the Orange County Museum of Art are young; their works bring together a variety of cultural identities and traditions. The participants react consciously to current social phenomena, such as the dire situation on the border to neighboring Mexico. For many migrants, the dream of a better life in the USA ends terribly: they die of thirst in the desert surrounding the border area. The Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) of the collective Electronic Disturbance Theater/ b.a.n.g. lab seeks to prevent this by implanting new software into cheap used cell phones containing a GPS. These phones then guide the illegal migrants to water supplies which the human rights activists have hidden for them.
Compared with TBT, the paintings of Taravat Talepasand might seem conservative at first glance. Yet the artist of Iranian descent combines old Persian miniature painting done in a painstaking egg tempera process with controversial themes. One of her works, Censored Garden (2008), explores sexuality and censorship: a woman cloaked in a black chador stands in the midst of decorative and colorful flowers. Yet her body is composed of flesh-colored pixels-her figure appears naked. It is a mode of representation that seems ambivalent: on the one hand, the pixels offer protection against prying eyes, and on the other the image reads like a challenge to look more closely and decode the hidden motif.
Whether it's Tino Sehgal staging his "situations" in the rotunda of the New York Guggenheim Museum or Marina Abramovic sitting on a wooden chair for over 700 hours at the MoMA-performance works that directly involve the public are currently undergoing a comeback. This also goes for the California Biennial, for which the Los Angeles Urban Rangers have organized discovery tours in the environs of the Orange County Museum of Art. The collective, comprised of artists, writers, and geographers dressed in special khaki uniforms, explore the various, primarily urban "biotopes" in the area, ranging from Hollywood Boulevard to the public beach of Malibu. Another artist, David Wilson, also calls upon visitors to the Biennial to enter existing locations on foot. He has designed a map that leads to places exhibiting a particularly evident blend of traffic-ridden suburb and industrial area so typical for many Californian communities. And while Agitprop interviews museum visitors, Flora Wiegmann, who works at the intersection between dance and art, will put on 13 performances over the course of the Biennial.
Fans of painting and photography can also count on exciting discoveries at the California Biennial. The abstract compositions of Patrick Wilson seem to transport Hard Edge and Color Field painting into the 21st century. His precisely traced lines and surfaces evince an enormous sensitivity to the effects of color, form, and texture. "This is how it might look if Donald Judd
had designed rainbows," writes the L.A. Times. On the other hand, the photo works of Dru Donovan remain in a classic black and white, presenting their young protagonists in scenes that can never be fully deciphered. Evidently, the numerous studio visits Sarah Bancroft made have paid off. This year, the California Biennial once again presents a vital scene that can perhaps only emerge in the multicultural environment of California.
2010 California Biennial
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach
10/24/2010 - 3/13/2011