Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chelsea Crawl - Part II

After getting a quick bite to eat, I popped over to Jeff Bailey Gallery. The gallery itself was a really small room tucked away on the second floor of a nondescript building in Chelsea… But, the trek was well worth it. ‘Awakened in the Peaceable Kingdom’, an exhibition of new drawings and sculpture by Jon Rappleye is a sight to behold.

Jeff Bailey, 'In the quiver of the kingdom', 2007, Acrylic on paper, 40" X 51"

“The exhibition’s title is inspired by Edward Hicks' (1780 – 1849) series of paintings, Peaceable Kingdom, where the worlds of nature and humankind coexist symbolically in a peaceful idyll. Hicks’ vision was reverent and hopeful, but tempered with concern for the darker and destructive impulses of both animal and man. Rappleye’s drawings feature abundant and extraordinary groupings of animals, birds and plant life. There are no humans. Birds and animals are combined into new, unfamiliar creatures.”

These renderings on paper have been masterfully executed and most of them left me staring into the detail for a long time trying to decipher the inner meaning behind a lot of the representational forms. Of course, having the artist there to walk you through a lot of the paintings would have helped immensely, but it does seem that Rappleye is obsessed with adding a blind owl and a large hairy rabbit in almost all his paintings. I guess the owl represents some sort of continuity in this post industrial landscape. I also did not understand why he did not include any humans in the supposed idyll of a peaceable kingdom if the reference to Ed Hicks is so strong. Strains of a post industrial Thoreau was also heard in my mind eye. All of these unanswered questions still did not stand in the way of his technique – a very original and striking artist whom I highly recommend. I have a funny feeling Chris Reiger would be interested in this sort of thing… I could be wrong here.

“This is Jon Rappleye’s second exhibition at the gallery. His solo exhibition, Out of the Silent Planet, is on view at the Jersey City Museum, New Jersey, through August 12. Upcoming solo exhibitions include, Strange World, at the Salina Art Center, Salina, Kansas (fall 2007) and the Clough-Hanson Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee (early 2008).”

Jeff Bailey, 'Nightwood Bloom', 2007, Acrylic on paper, 42" X 87"

Finally I trekked up all the way to the western end of the island in Chelsea to get to Point of View gallery. I went there purely because I have an enduring interest in human faces and the photographer Matt Hoyle seems to have masterfully captured a whole host of them in various poses of striking emotive power. The name of the show is Icebergs and the name refers to a certain winter swim club where individual members gather at a designated time in the winter to what else – swim…
Matt has managed to masterfully photograph the members of this club in a early morning light with a natural frozen gleam that seem to permeate his HDR enhanced shots. Yes, that is right, I have a fair idea that he uses the techniques behind HDR photography.
Matt Hoyle, 'John'
“Every artist needs to find his or her voice and if I had to describe mine, it would be of quirky empathy that I feel for my fellow human. From the humorous to the heartfelt, I try to look deeper within the subjects I photograph to draw something out that is unique. In doing this, I try to let you look a bit deeper too. What has always interested me as an advertising creative has been stories. Beyond the pure aesthetics of a really nice photo I find what makes me look longer is the hint of a story in the person. And the diversity of subcultures within any society interest me. The fine detail of character in each one that makes them stand out from the rest. I hate wallpaper people, the pretty plastic set in every fashion magazine. For me the interest lies in the raw colourful humanity of us all. People say that they can see through my shots a unique closeness I have with each subject. It really brings me joy to hear this, as that is exactly how I feel when I'm shooting. Photography has been a sort of ticket, I believe, that lets me into the lives of so many I otherwise wouldn't have even known about.”

On looking at these photos in the gallery, I believed that his reliance on HDR photography alone may not take him too far (look at some of the superlative images of HDR enhanced photography on Flickr and you will see what I mean). Of course, I was proved wrong when I went got back and decided to visit his website. It seems to be a treasure trove of narrative pieces waiting to be discovered. He does not disappoint.

Matt Hoyle, 'Vladimir'
I remember feeling a strong urge to paint these faces on walking out of the gallery. The emotions and character depicted on these faces were very strong and I was very moved by the people depicted. I might try and paint them in the coming months.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Chelsea Crawl - Part 1

I went to four shows in Chelsea last week and wanted to share my thoughts details here.

Daneyal Mahmood Gallery is showing the Italian artist Davide Cantoni in a show titled 'Burn Drawings' and it sure is hot (and it was a revelation). Davide has managed to use a magnifying glass, concentrate the sun’s rays and burn vellum in a detail that needs to be seen. The rendering coalesces into a hazy, nether world scrawl that has you thinking about the social issue depicted as well as the technique employed in creating these works.

Most of the works are small scale but the one that blows you away is ‘Luna’ – a square work 6 feet X 6 feet has you thinking of the lunar surface and other worlds rendered with cunning detail on six individual pieces of vellum.

"This exhibition includes Mr. Cantoni's new drawings including his largest to date "Luna" and his first video "Sol," an animated rotation of the sun rendered as burned drawings. Setting up Sun and Moon at either ends of the gallery Cantoni activates the space in between these two works as the stage to present us with images from our daily existence. Everything laboriously burned, this rite of fire, exposes us to these images for a second time this time demanding more attention. It is this active act of looking, that the artist is interested in engaging us in.”

The paintings (burnt vellum drawings?) has to be seen for someone to feel and be engaged with the work – no image will do justice to his pieces. The fragility of the vellum also hints at some of the ethereal psychological underpinnings behind Davide’s art.

SUN - paper burnt using sunlight

'Looters - Baghdad' (Not part of the show)

I was chatting with the assistant director of the gallery when I caught sight of this huge canvas (must have been at least 9 feet in height) in her inner office. On shamelessly enquiring about it a little more, I found out that Daneyal Mahmood Gallery will be exhibiting the work of Farhad Moshiri in October. His large scale oil/acrylic canvases with Arabic calligraphy are a sight to behold and I will very much be going to his opening in a couple of months from now.

The texture resembles cracked ice (as if millions of ice particles were clinging onto the surface of the large vase). He is said to crinkle up the canvas on completion. Not too sure how he does this in such a predictable way but the results scream randomess and controlled. The gallery was kind enough to send some jpegs my way and I have posted it here…

Farhad Moshiri, 'Gray Target', 106" x 72” . Oil and acrylic on canvas

Farhad Moshiri, 'Brown and Pink Urn', 60" x 42” . Oil and acrylic on canvas

Farhad Moshiri, Brown and Pink Urn - detail

My second visit was to Bodhi Art where a Paris based artist of Indian origin Jayashree Chakravarty was having her show titled ‘Where The Sand Meets the Sky’.

“Chakravarty creates elaborate maps of consciousness. The pictorial language of her works reflects her deepening inquiry into the secret life of memories, their pervasiveness and intensities. Disparate worlds are layered together with great panache – the effect of pigments, texture, personal and historical connotations, and the imagistic registers are orchestrated together in a magical network that creates a telling language of associations.”

I was not too very impressed. A couple of pieces that stand out are posted here, but for the most part were insipid renderings of ducks, sparrows, beetles, butterflies, spiders and fish over a background of acrylic/oil worked finely with a palette knife. The problem with these works was that all of them were much too similar and I got bored after looking at the first three pieces. They were fairly expensive too....

Jayshree Chakravarty, 'Untitled', acrylic and oil on canvas 72" X 70" 2006-2007

Jayshree Chakravarty, 'Untitled', acrylic and oil on canvas 72" X 54" 2006-2007

I will post my travails/travels to a couple more galleries tomorrow.

Ernst Ingmar Bergman (1918 - 2007)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Newspaper writeup on my art...

Carrying on the shameless bit of self promotion started off here, I was happy to find a nice writeup about my art and a bit about our family in today's issue of the Central Jersey newspaper Home News Tribune.

Newspaper article:

- Front Page teaser.
- Page 1.
- Page 2 and a picture.

The online article without pictures here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Growth - Boom - Bust

The New York Historical society has a superb exhibition going on at their sprawling museum close to Central Park. In an exhibition titled “Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School at the New York Historical Society”, the museum has managed to roof paintings from the likes of Asher B. Durand, Albert Bierstadt, Gil Stuart, George Henry Boughton, and Thomas Worthington Wittredge under its auspices.

The real reason why anyone around the area need to make it to this show is because they have shown Thomas Cole’s five work masterpiece "Course of Empire". This set of paintings has been compared to the creation of the Central Park.

The five paintings are:

"The Savage State" (hunter gatherers foraging under forbidding skies)
"The Pastoral State" (natives acquire temple and landscaping skills)
"Consummation" (nature overrun by classical architecture)
"Destruction" (the state is swallowed by tempests of smoke and fire)
"Desolation" (state - a rubble pile with decayed humanity)

Sitting on the shoulders of giants, see here for a description of Ed Ruscha's 'Course of the Empire' paintings at the 2007 Venice Biennial.

It is funny when you consider that the United States of today is in one of these states.

Which one depends on your point of view…

Gesso that I know...

Sometimes gessoing a board can be real fun. Think about it, you do not have to concentrate too much, just make sure that the gesso brush moves evenly in vertical or horizontal strokes and make sure the edges are evened out. Of course, it could also take a toll on your back if you are not too careful about the postures, but I try to stretch out every once in a while when I am at this..

The process itself at once it brings to mind Pollock sitting down over his canvases thinking about where to let go the next drip, only here you do not contemplate that much, of course you could get lost in the wavy patterns of thickly built up pigment the moment they form and then follow their evaporative course until they dry, but I don’t have that much time.

I tend to use a professional grade of gesso that I manage to get from the Utrect outlet store about half hour from our house. A couple of coats over two days will get the board or stretched canvas as smooth as a baby's bottom...

Like I apply the oil paints, I like to lay the gesso thick so much so that the ridges and furrows give the final painted-on surface a special texture that I enjoy very much. All said and done, it was well worth the effort. Now to slap these four pieces with some meaningful paint on is another matter altogether...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Art and some Indian history

I am continually amazed at the amount that art can teach when it comes to history... This week I learnt something about the country of my birth – India.

I was surprised to learn that certain kingdoms in India were ruled by people from Africa. A lecture hosted by the Sundaram Tagore gallery in Manhattan last week focused on this very eclectic phenomenon that highlighted the fact that India was the only country outside of Africa where Africans ruled over non-Africans.

A 17th century Mughal style painting from Alwar represents more dramatically and with greater fiction the so-called house of Timur. Jahangir's figure forms the axis, around which are portrayed his eight ascendants, each contained in a medallion.

Detail of the above painting showing Jahangir shooting Malik Ambar through the head.

They originally came to India either as slaves or mercenaries and later (either through luck or circumstance became small time rulers in their settled areas). A couple of incidents that were highlighted at this lecture were as follows:

In 1486, a group of African mercenaries fought the Sultan of Bengal and eventually won the throne for a good 100 years. The descendants of this class of people came to be known as the Sidis.

“After their conversion to Islam, the African freedmen of India, originally called Habshi from the Arabic, called themselves Sayyad (descendants of Muhammad) and were consequently called Siddis. There are identifiable Sidi communities in Gujarat, Maharashtra (around Bombay), and Hyderabad. Most of the Sidis live in Gujarat, a state in western India. Jambur, a village in the Gir forest is an exclusive Sidi settlement. The Sidis here have retained their lineage of music and dance – their only link now with Africa. A smaller group of Sidis lives in Junagadh, a town not far from Jambur. According to Professor Amy Catlin, an ethno-musicologist from UCLA, who is making a special study of Sidi culture, "In Gujarat, affinities with African music include certain musical instruments and their names", she says, "and also the performance of an African-derived musical genre called "goma".”

The rise and fall of Malik Ambar between 1560 and 1620 was the crowning achievement of Africans in India. This former slave after being freed slowly collected a small army and managed to rule the Nizam Shahi kingdom in central India with relative prosperity (so much so that the Mughals who ruled in the north were so incensed that they produced artwork that showed Jehangir taking archery pot shots at Malik Ambar's head). It is said that the revenue system that Malik Ambar developed when he ruled the kingdom lasted till the early days of independence (1940's) from British colonial rule.

Painting of an African Indian merchant - circa 1600

Indian painting depicting African Indian

Additional references:

- A Social History of the Deccan, 13001761: Eight Indian Lives (The New Cambridge History of India) (Hardcover)

- Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates (The New Cambridge History of India) (Hardcover)

Of spools and reels - an interesting quote

Mathias Grünewald, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1515

“In the States, it’s like we’re in the last half of the third reel of a three-reel movie, and all we have to do is decide we’re done here, and the credits come up, and the lights come on, and we leave the theater and go on to something else," he said. "Whereas out here, you’re just getting into the first reel of five reels,” he added, “and as ugly as the first reel has been, the other four and a half are going to be way, way worse.”

--US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, as quoted in the New York Times

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Little bit of self promotion

I have been a bit busy with work at work, work at home and some miscellany. Have not had much of a chance to post here but a couple of things to look forward to are as follows:

On Sunday, the central New Jersey newspaper (Home News Tribune) is doing a story on my art and a bit about me. The interview was revealing in and of itself for me as well as the reporter (maybe I should talk about my art more often) - it clarifies things in your mind about the work you undertake... If you get your hands on this newspaper by any chance, do not forget to check the story out. They have an online story as well (is what the reporter told me)...

Also, I have been conformed for my first solo exhibition at the Gourgaud gallery in Cranbury, NJ. The show will run for the whole month of October 07'.
I will post more details as and when they turn up.

I have a couple of pictures that my son and I took yesterday afternoon in our garden.


Burnt Umber

Monday, July 23, 2007

DC Diary

We spent the weekend in Washington D.C. The Hirshhorn museum was closed when we got there at dusk, but that did not stop us from enjoying some of the sculpture outside and taking some pictures.

'Clouds over Congress (pun unintended)'

'Washington Monument', Robert Mills, marble granite and sandstone, 555 feet high, 1884

Mark di Suvero, 'Are Years What? (for Marianne Moore)', welded steel I beams, 1967

Gaston Lachaise (1882 - 1935), 'Standing Woman', Bronze, conceived 1932 (cast 1981)

Jean Arp, 'Evocation of a Form: Human, Lunar, Spectral', Bronze, conceived 1950 cast in 1957

Friday, July 20, 2007


Andrew Wyeth, The Stone Fence, 1946, Tempera on panel, 25 X 18 in

Andrew Wyeth: “Tempera is a dry pigment mixed with distilled water and yolk of egg. I love the quality of the colors: the earths, the terra verde, the ochers, the Indian reds, and the blue-reds. They aren’t artificial. I like to pick the colors up and hold them in my fingers. Tempera is something with which I build - like building in great layers the way the earth was itself built. Tempera is not the medium for swiftness.

Note: Some critics dislike his work simply because it is so popular and appeals to people because it is representational in nature.

Visit to Max Protetch and Freight - Volume galleries in Chelsea

Introspection, spirituality and surrealism were the themes covered by two gallery shows that I went to this week in Chelsea.

The concept of spirituality and asking oneself questions about the nature of the individual thus figuring out larger answers about the world was the angle probed by the group show at Max Protetch. The show curated by Aaron Williams and Stuart Krimko does not disappoint. Some of the pieces installed were very reflective and lived up to the deep emotions probed while some were the usual painted doormats that are typical of shows in and around Chelsea these days.

I liked the following (all of the pictures were ripped from the gallery sites as I did not get my camera along).

Saul Chernick CURE ALL 2007 ink on paper 15 x 18 1/4 inches

Saul Chernick IMMACULATION 2007 ink on paper 24 x 19 3/4 inches

Alfred Jensen MAYAN HEAD 1963 oil on wood 19 x 18 x 18 inches

Ed Blackburn Saul and David 2006 colored pencil and ink on paper 22 x 30 inches

At Freight – Volume (a dingy looking room on West 24th - they seem to have some amazing lineup of shows in spite of the 'dingyness') Marlene Mocquet, a recent graduate of the School of Fine Arts in Paris uses a combination of surrealistic imagery, outsider art influences and some doses of primitivism to produce some fantastical images that are compelling. Her painting technique seems slapdash but on closer inspection is very controlled considering that most of the canvases are fairly small (all her canvases have an aged and mottled look and I am sure she has a secret recipe for giving them this faded look) and pretty detailed in a strange way. I liked the following from the show. I wish she had made her paintings a little larger.

Little Red Riding Hood Pees (Le petit chaperon rouge fait pipi) 2007 39 x 63 in mixed media on canvas

The Bird Fingered Hand (La main aux doigts d’oiseaux) 2007 13 x 9.5 in mixed media on canvas

The Hair Caught by the Clouds (Les cheveux attrapés par les nuages) 2007 23.6 x 28.7 in mixed media on canvas

The White Vampire (Le vampire blanc) 2007 9.8 x 9.8 in mixed media on canvas

Unused Lines

by Chelsea Rathburn

While words we pamper and protect
march off in search of meager fame,
these lines like bastard kids collect,
skulking through our notes in shame,

the discards of our intellect,
false starts, limp rhymes, feet bruised and lame,
condemned to suffer in neglect,
half-breeds that we refuse to name

for fear they’ll prove what we suspect:
the damned and saved are much the same.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Post over at A&P on societal satisfaction with art.

I have a post over at Art and Perception that talks a bit about the degree of satisfaction that society would derive from each of the art movements that we have had from the 1880's onward and upcoming changes in societal satisfaction over the coming years because of a growing trend towards personalization, lower barriers of entry and easier access to art.

This would translate itself to art (and related movements) percolating itself over wider swaths of society because of the effect of greater numbers of small, specialized art movements resulting in society learning to appreciate art and deriving greater satisfaction from art in diverse ways…

I created a little graph to clarify the thinking…

Of 'soft partitions' and history repeating

When I read a recent report from the Brookings Institution about future solutions for the failed state of Iraq, I was a little saddened to see that one of the main options laid out for consideration by the institution was 'soft partition'.

If the U.S. troop surge, and the related effort to broker political accommodation through the existing coalition government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fail, soft partition may be the only means of avoiding an intensification of the civil war and growing threat of a regional conflagration. While most would regret the loss of a multi-ethnic, diverse Iraq, the country has become so violent and so divided along ethno-sectarian lines that such a goal may no longer be achievable.

This essentially means splitting up the country into three parts governed independently by the Sunni's, Shia's and the Kurds. It also involves transferring between 3 - 5 million people to their 'respective' areas of affiliation.

It bought back visions of a bloody partition of the Indian sub-continent into three parts (India, Burma and Pakistan) in 1947 when the British decided that it was in their best interests for India and the best way to get out of India after occupying the country for about 300 years.

A page from the Fraser Album: 'A trooper of Skinners Horse'; circa 1815; Pencil and opaque watercolor on paper; Delhi, India.

In the two months during the process of partition, about a million people were slaughtered during a religious rioting that took place.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White captures the endless sufferings of India divided and the subsequent mass migration. © 1947 Margaret Bourke-White, Life Magazine

Interesting how we human's never seem to learn from history...

The full report is here: http://www3.brookings.edu/fp/saban/analysis/june2007iraq_partition.pdf

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fun etymology

I ran into this bit of lightness on the Monitor that consists of words whose meaning was deduced by the author by using an extraneous knowledge of common English words, prefixes, suffixes and roots. Some of ones from this list that set me laughing were as follows:

unctuous – having the characteristics of an uncle
gyroscope – an instrument for examining sandwiches
blunderbuss – a mass transit faux pas
placebo – the site of a gazebo
quotidian – a person fond of repeating the words of famous people

Full list here.

Whack a mole! Another pops!

I was in two minds, actually write about it and give it a little more light or keep quiet and make sure that the less covered an event, the better (especially if the event in question tries to take established theories of evolution, folds it into a thick wad and shoves it up your backside)...
That is kind of how uncomfortable I feel when I see the latest crap creationist contortion from the Muslim world. I had talked about this mumbo jumbo sometime back here, but this one tries to best the levels of stupidity as yet achieved our home grown variety.

This one comes from Turkey and is the brainchild of Mr. Harun Yahya. This person has so much money that he does not try and create a book that will hit the book stores and sell based on its popularity/content, instead, he decides to mail the book for free to just about anybody who cares to have a copy and has already carpet bombed the mailboxes of leading US university professors by sending each one a complimentary copy. The New York Times estimated the production costs of each book to be at least 100 dollars apiece (given the glossy pages and detailing in the pictures).

Mumbo Jumbo - a page from the book.

The crux of the book lies along the following fault line and it seems to crumble the moment you read it...
Fossils reveal that life forms on Earth have never undergone even the slightest change and have never developed into one another. Examining the fossil record, we see that living things are exactly the same today as they were hundreds of millions of years ago—in other words, that they never underwent evolution. Even during the most ancient periods, life forms emerged suddenly with all their complex structures–with the perfect and superior features, just as do their counterparts today.

This demonstrates one indisputable fact: Living things did not come into being through the imaginary processes of evolution. All the living things that have ever existed on Earth were created by God. This fact of creation is once again revealed in the traces left behind them by flawless living things.

It does look like our scientists are taking this in stride..

So far, no similar response is emerging in the United States. “In our country we are used to nonsense like this,” said Kevin Padian, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who, like colleagues there, found a copy in his mailbox. He said people who had received copies were “just astounded at its size and production values and equally astonished at what a load of crap it is.

William Sartorius (1754 - 1785), 'Still life of fruit, birds and insects in a grotto', Oil on canvas, 23 in X 26 in

Just when the world needs more rational thinking than less, we seem to be assailed by people who seem to be bent on distributing propaganda that is outright false…
How far will these guys go?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Artworld: The Russians are coming...

With Khodorkovsky out of the way and with growing clout displayed by Russians in the Litvinenko episode and the US missile shield brouhaha, it seems that the next place to assert for the Russians flush with oil cash is the arts world. The latest edition of the Economist reports that Russians are buying and stocking up on art like there is no tomorrow. From Art Moscow (a contemporary art fair with 60 exhibitors) to the fourth Moscow World Fine Art Fair, art is the thing to possess there....

Fabergé egg is any one of sixty eight jewelled eggs made by Peter Carl Fabergé and his assistants for the Russian Tsars and private collectors between 1885 and 1917.

The Russian art scene was bustling in the 1910s with major art movements like Rayonism, Constructivism and Suprematists ruling the roost but gave way to decrepitude on the imposition of Stalinism and the effects of Social Realism. The art for the next 50 years was stereotyped into scenes of rosy and healthy looking citizens roaming/stoking the communist enterprise.

Does this resurgence with the top dollars from oil and nuclear deals translate itself into newer art movements coming out of Russia or would it only involve the snapping up of works mindlessly by collectors without too much regard to fostering home grown art movements?

A post by Edward Winkelmen comes to my mind in this regard.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Palimpsest(ic) deviation

Palimpsest; Housepaint on MDF; 48" X 48"

Sometimes you work on a painting for a month and it does not turn out the way it is supposed to. Recently I had an opportunity to experience this sinking emotion. I usually destroy work that I do not like, but this time I could not really fold up the canvas and throw it away as the painting was done on gessoed MDF (and a large one at that - 48" X 48").
I decided to throw a little bit of abstraction on top of the painting that I did not like. This way, I could escape from dumping a large block of MDF on the street and have a bit of fun splashing house paint all over it. The above picture was the result. The funny thing with house paint is that it settles and coalesces a bit on drying. Will be interesting to see this in a weeks time after all the coalescing and blotting is complete... I named it after reading Tree's post on roadways as a palimpsest(ic) surface.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Thomas Moran (1837-1926), ‘Moonlight, Icebergs in Mid Atlantic’, 1910, Oil on unlined canvas, 20 X 30 inches, Private collection.

In late April of 1890 on a trip to Venice, Moran's ship was en route to Antwerp when it passed an iceberg. He made a rapid pencil drawing and as he could not sketch quickly enough, he described verbally: 'water pouring over the sides of the berg, deep blue water and rollers capped with foam'. This was painted about twenty years after his sighting of the icebergs in the middle of the Atlantic.

Thomas Moran was an extremely famous landscape painter and this one was one of his lesser known 'sea' paintings... This painting is a riot of clouds, waves, floating ice mountains with the ice resembling rocks and vice versa. By confusing the distinctions of a foamy head of a wave with the sharp edges of ice, Moran artfully engages us in deception of visual detail that can be so reminiscent of an open raging sea.

A gallery visit that made me think

Marina Abramovic; Role Exchange; 1975; published in 1994; 2 black and white photographs with 1 letter press text panel. 3 AP's framed: 29 3/4 x 39 1/2 inches; framed text:10 1/4 x 7 1/4

Themed sims or simulations around a particular theme abound in Second Life at this point in time. They combine elements of art and roleplay. The participant will need to enter an environment where the participant will play the role of the character s(he) dons and then interact with the themed situation in an appropriate manner. I have not been into one, but I hear that they are a lot of fun.

Role playing has been around/functional since time immemorial. I am sure this was a evolutionary trait refined and developed to ensure that the right functional aspects of a personality are utilized efficiently at the right times to ensure our survival as a social species. Sometimes we don the roles unconsciously and sometimes of our own volition. While the former may be part of the everyday life we lead (roles such as mother, father, manager, husband, wife etc), the latter is indulged for the purposes of make-believe by people who would like to indulge and live out in their own private fantasies.

Artists, given their creative nature have experimented a lot with roleplay. Marcel Duchamp explored the possibilities with Rrose Sélavy in 1921. It was with a lot of hopes and expectation that I approached the exhibition at Sean Kelly yesterday to look at some of these artistic explorations (the exhibition winds down on August 03). Fortunately, I was not disappointed in the least. In fact I came away from the show thoroughly stimulated and made it a point to tell the gallery managers on the selection and groupings of the works included in this excellent exhibition.

Themed around a point in time when the performance artist Marina Abramovic (see above) exchanges her artist roles with a prostitute in Amsterdam in the mid 70's, the show does not disappoint. Abramovic strutted her wares at the prostitute’s booth for four hours while the real prostitute went to an opening reception of the real artist. The idea is both revelatory and exploratory.

Most of the pieces in this show are of a similar nature where artists are trying to explore the issues of identity and self through assuming other roles and genders (in some cases fictional identities). Among the greatest hits at this exhibition that I wholeheartedly urge you to attend are pictured below (the pictures have been ripped from the gallery website or from public websites):

The pictures below are but a minor selection from the 27 artists on display there. A fascinating exploration that will leave you thinking a little more deeply into the roles we play (and do not / ought not) over the courses of our everyday lives.

My only wish was they had included some paintings, but I am not complaining.

Douglas Gordon; Staying Out and Going Home; 2005; two Polaroid photographsframed: 8 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches (21.6 x 36.8 cm)

Yinka Shinibare; Dorian Gray; 2001; 11 black and white resin prints, 1 digital lambda print; each print: 30 x 37 1/2 inches, overall: 130 x 175 inches

Andy Warhol; Self Portrait in Drag; 1981; Polaroid photograph

Samuel Fosso; The liberated american woman of the 70's; 1997C-print on Aluminum; Framed 51 X 51 inches

Douglas Gordon; Monster in the Making; 1995; 6 minute color video

Gavin Turk; Bum; 1998; Wax mixed with resin and polyester; 65 X 27 X 27 inches