Elizabeth Pence has written articles and art reviews for national and international publications such as artUS, Angeleno, Artweek and Coagula Art Journal. A Pacific Northwest native, she is a graduate of Calarts.... [more]
Elizabeth Pence has written articles and art reviews for national and international publications such as artUS, Angeleno, Artweek and Coagula Art Journal. A Pacific Northwest native, she is a graduate of Calarts. [show less]
William Pohida: Sellout
Working out of a Williamsburg, Brooklyn studio, William Powhida thinks of his projects as alternative forms of writing, such as a faux New York Magazine spread, where the images and text are drawn and painted. Similar to that work is “Rolling Stone: Sellout,” (graphite and gouache on panel, 54 x 44 inches, 2008), a counterfeit feature article that was part of his exhibition “Sellout,” at Seattle's Platform Gallery in 2008. He continues his tableaux mordant of celebrity status, but here he switches templates from the contemporary art world to the etiquette of the music scene, wherein he charts one William Powhida, a fictional character who is a rock superstar.
A compendium of ersatz album covers, set lists, suicide notes, a detailed catalogue of character types featuring musicians, actors and artists, record reviews and the politics of ass are all subjects of William Powhida's (the artist) drawings and paintings which explore the landscape of stardom with its derigueur misbehavior(s). “Be cool with excessive drug use,” is one of the lines in “Show Demands,” (graphite and gouache on panel, 14 x 11 inches, 2008), which is in the form of a checklist that also addresses performer’s legendary level of insecurity: “absolutely no recognized opening acts – no good ones either,” is followed by “must have legit sound guy who can make me sound okay no matter what.”
Scraps of things that he collected and describes as “bad personal narrative,” constructed his 2002 MFA show, and forms the armature for his work, as does his background as a writer: he wrote criticism for The Brooklyn Rail for three years, and worked with writers while at Syracuse University. In an interview on Badatsports, a weekly podcast produced in Chicago, he says that he is, “driven by middle-class desperation, and the non-meritocracy of the art world,” with its notorious egos and etiquette, (such as the demand that a collector buy two works, one going to the museum). Previous works include “The New York Enemies List,” and “The New York Allies List.” Some of the candidates elected to these works shrilled, notably gallerist Zach Feuer, upon whom Powhida placed a hex.
Something imperfect and delicate is conveyed in Powhida’s brittle lines of text and gossamer, angular washes which contain very precise moments of subjectivity: it’s easy to see the artist’s engagement with each moment as he labored to produce the painted words and images that cross the roiling, bilious movement of the ‘pages’ of the Rolling Stone feature article.
He’s adept at using (and bending) the templating of mainstream entertainment publications: the ‘group’ photograph taken on a roof-top, slacker-eight-ball style, with its enforced idiosyncrasy; text used as a framing device for portraits and pull quotes (“There were strippers, musicians, midgets, artists and celebrities rolling in and out of the place. I’ve never seen so many drugs.”). Powhida weaves a densely detailed web that is as much a function of expectation as an attempt to describe the desires of the situation at hand. In nearly all the works there is some detail that coheres around a sort of disturbance or flux in the scene that moves the subject matter into the symbolic register, such as the rehearsal session that’s improbably adorned with nude chicks arranged like quotation marks in “The Bastard Album Cover,” (archival inkjet print, 30 x 17 inches). In “Rock Wall,” (graphite and gouache on panel, 54 x 44 inches, 2008) Powhida conflates two standard-issue ‘items’ of rock - the groupie with tour dates arrayed across her skin (rather than on a T-shirt).
While the previous work was a kind of cartography of the New York art scene, the newer work borrows that aspect and continues through it by the fabrication at the edge of persona and alter ego. Therein exists the elegance, the punctum of Powhida’s work: he uses these larger issues, the templating of form and its object nature, as if it had a plasticity, that he sees and uses, and helps his viewers to.
Tracy + The Plastics
On The Boards
Wynne Greenwood’s exhibition “Sweated,” at The Lee Center for the Art’s Hedreen Gallery in Seattle, WA, is the second installment in a year-long trilogy exhibition curated by Yoko Ott, “Void Blank Blank Void Sweated Blank,” that addresses the gallery’s unique character as an exhibition space and a theatre lobby. Adam Putnam’s show “Void Blank Blank,” for which he produced “Untitled,” (2009) a provocative light-based sculpture in the form of a Magic Lantern projection of the red portal that leads to the theatre, was the opening exhibition to the series.
"Sweated," includes a series of makeshift curtains placed down the length of the gallery in two rows. One row, titled "Hair Dye," (2009) hangs against the windows and features white sheets stained with paint that purposefully correspond through the use of a similar palette and compositional counterpoints with the interior row of hangings that are titled, “Sandcastle Turtle" (2009). The geometric or even somewhat representational shapes, such as an unraveling golden braid stretching out horizontally, are sewn onto this series of sheets rather than painted. Arrayed along the length of the storefront, the exhibition is a kind of public work as well as a gallery treatment; as with Bellevue’s Open Satellite, work can be viewed well from the street, easily available for the public to encounter.
When seen from across the street and through the windows of the gallery, the graphic relationships in Greenwood’s painting installation become the focus. It serves as the off-site backdrop for her performance, “Sister Taking Nap: A Meditation on Human Evolution,” that took place in April at Seattle’s On The Boards theatre. Aesthetically and conceptually, the Hedreen show was made in relationship to the performance. Greenwood states, “it’s in conversation with the performance, which is about intuition, instinct, these deeper levels of knowing and how they’ve gotten reduced to decoration. The performance is about listening to that voice. These curtains are a representation of that instinct.”
Greenwood retired her well-received video performance work, “Tracy + the Plastics” in 2006, and faced down the discomfort of reestablishing her relationship to performance and audience. She produced a new series of works in spring 2008 for an exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects titled “Face It,” comprised of a single-channel video and large, cartoon-head sculptures that she used for her music video that was filmed at the gallery site, “Big Candy.” A critical aspect of Greenwood's work is that she explores how and why objects are present in a work, whether it's installation, video, and in performance, how the performers interact with them. The set pieces (which were made prior to establishing the narrative of the performance) for “Sister Taking Nap,” included a huge pink suitcase, an animal cage, and the sleeping sister (a cloth figure), and are meant to be stood on in the one-act performance, used by Greenwood as a personal stage.
In the performance, a casual narrative evolves of a young woman who is staying with her sister, a poet and former radical. She hesitates to disturb her sister’s nap when there’s a phone call. She can’t find a pen to leave a note, wondering why, in the house of a poet, there aren’t any pens. All of this is made oblique through Greenwood’s expansive relationship to narrative structure, objects and media, where the repetition of dialogue, pre-recorded and experimental sound produces language in the plastic, sculptural terms of an object, that helps to manage and shape the space. Another live performer, Gina Young (of Team Gina), in Greenwood’s terms, “occupies this space between sculpture and live person, taking on the role of metaphor and symbol.” As Greenwood's character searches her sister’s home for food, she opens the refrigerator door (Young’s arms) and repetitively intones, “jam…jam…jam. There’s, like, ten kinds of jam here, there’s like, ten kinds of jam. There’s like…managed…expectations.” This layered text is punctuated by slivers of varied, nonverbal vocalizations (the “voice” of the dormant sister) and chipping sounds that stay just fragmented enough to avoid a sense of rhythm. Greenwood resisted putting songs as such into the performance, and music is treated more as sonic design, and as with her approach to video, objects and text, are layered into complex articulations that fuse artistic hierarchies with the autobiographical.