1. Hank Willis Thomas: Unbranded: A Century of White Women, 1915-2015 is open at Jack Shainman Gallery until May 23, 2015.
Building on ideas explored in his celebrated Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968-2008, here Hank Willis Thomas’ unbranding technique tracks notions of virtue, power, beauty, privilege, and desire in mainstream America. Spanning the rise and decline of print advertising, the work provides a spectrum for the ideal feminine type that has been marketed to individuals across gender, racial, and socio-economic lines throughout the past hundred years. In Rhetoric of the Image, Roland Barthes called the advertising image the most intentional sort of image. The advertising message is direct and emphatic, stating the product’s attributes succinctly yet enticingly. In Unbranded, Thomas unmoors advertisements from their commercial context, leaving the viewer to grapple with what remains. An image from 1963 depicts a young woman smiling sweetly, a cigarette in her hand tucked satisfactorily beneath her chin. Although a black eye blights her otherwise unblemished face, she looks completely unaffected—proud even. Only the title, Aggressive loyalty hints at the original pronouncement of brand allegiance. An image from several years earlier, She’s somewhat of a drag, 1959/2015, is similarly unnerving. Two men in alpine climbing gear stand exultant atop a rocky cliff. One man mindlessly holds a rope that a woman at the bottom edge of the photograph is using to pull herself up to the summit. The men engage in casual conversation, indifferent to the struggle beneath them.
2. Robert Irwin: Cacophonous is open at Pace Gallery until May 9, 2015.
Since the 1960s, Robert Irwin has emphasized experience as an extension of the perceptual. The pioneer of the Light and Space movement in Southern California, Irwin’s work draws focus to ambient environmental conditions, making them palpable by heightening the viewer’s awareness in the context of the work. For his exhibition at Pace, he has produced eight works that advance his use of fluorescent light, a material he first used in the 1970s. Irwin installs rows of columnar lights, coating the different tubes with colored gels that alter the transmission of light. Other tubes remain unlit taking some advantage of the reflected light. The walls, as well as the contiguous elements that constitute the piece, are perceived as a whole. The physical materials are subordinated by the phenomenological effects of light, shadow and reflection. Irwin has previously exhibited site-conditioned fluorescent works the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pace London, where he presented Piccadilly in 2013, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, which includes one in its permanent collection. On June 1, a new version of Irwin’s site-conditioned installation Excursus: Homage to the Square3, originally presented in New York between 1998 and 2000, will open at Dia Center for the Arts, Beacon, NY, where it will remain on view through May 2017.
3. Simon Denny: The Innovator’s Dilemma is open at MoMA PS1 until September 7, 2015.
The Innovator’s Dilemma adopts the architectural typology of the industry tradeshow, staging literal platforms for content drawn from various recent bodies of Simon Denny’s work. Drawing its title from Clayton M. Christensen’s 1997 book of entrepreneurial theory, the exhibition will include Denny’s projects created around the 2012 Digital Life Design conference in Munich (ALL YOU NEED IS…DATA? ), the Internet copyright infringement scandal involving Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom (The Personal Effects of Kimdotcom ) and Samsung’s 1993 international announcement of supposedly watershed business practice shifts (New Management ), among others. Denny’s work often refers to the psychology and abstract language of the new media economy, invoking “clouds” of big data and the constant pressure to “update” our lives. He typically finds the sources for his work within the materials, advertising, and packaging produced by technology and media companies, and often deploys graphic interfaces borrowed from commercial display to highlight connections between the utopian goals of the new media economy and those of historical modernism.
4. Jeremy Hatch: Matter of Time is open at Jane Hartsook Gallery until May 8, 2015.
Jeremy Hatch, an artist based in Montana, has done the unimaginable – cast a chain link fence. In this large-scale installation Hatch has reimagined the space into a porcelain virtuosic performance bisecting the gallery space with the fence weighted down with locks. During the exhibition, visitors will be able to add their own locks to the fence. “‘Matter of Time’ (affection affliction) builds upon my use of the physical and psychological properties of porcelain as a means to explore themes of memory, relationships, nostalgia and failure. The installation consists of a cast porcelain chain-link fence running the length of the gallery and relies on viewer participation in order to complete the work. From a library of plaster molds, gallery visitors are invited to cast a lock, inscribe it, and attach it to the ceramic chain-link panels. At the conclusion of the exhibition, the fence and amassed locks will be fired, fusing the objects together, serving as a permanent record of the event. Over the past decade the ritual of attaching ‘love locks’ to public bridges, fences, gates and other urban structures has become an international phenomenon.