Friday, May 2, 2008

Carnegie International: The Opening

Millions of dollars, nearly three years of one man’s life, and hundreds of thousands of air miles have been invested in building the 2008 Carnegie International art exhibition and starting tomorrow the public will get to see the fruits of those labors.

Curator Douglas Fogle writes in his essay for the Carnegie International, “Underlying each of the works is an attempt to come to grips with what it means to be human today.” But that search carries a signature piece by artists Paul Thek who died in 1988. As you walk through the galleries you get a long look at Thek’s painting of the earth from space on newspaper done in the 70’s. Fogle says Thek’s work carries many of the sensibilities of the show.

As you walk into the main gallery a wall of 60 repetitive, works by Mark Bradford greets you. He uses advertising posters as the foundation for his art, building them up and sanding them down. In this instance he has collected posters for a lawyer working with dads to get custody of their children. Bradford also has two large works that almost look like a city streetscape from a satellite.

Turn around that imaginary satellite and you have the work of Vija Celmins. She builds layer after layer of blue and white paint until she comes up with what looks like a sky full of stars. They look like scientific photographs but the star fields never existed.

Objects not being what they seem is a theme that runs through the show. Peter Fischli and David Weiss have created a room filled with objects you might find in an industrial break room. A dusty vinyl couch, parts of an engine, cigarette buts. However, none of them are real. They are all made of Styrofoam and weigh next to nothing. Another artist’s makes minimalist couches out of ceramic where each “cushion” comes in at more than 200 pounds.

The Carnegie international continues outside in the courtyard where Scotland native Susan Philipsz has installed a sound piece. Philips recorded herself singing “The Banks of the Ohio.” The work is solar powered and it slows as the sun goes down. That is when another work is just getting started. Doug Aitken’s film “migrations” will be projected on the building’s façade.

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