Seeing John Smith’s Hotel Diaries again was the highlight of my night at the Independent fair. They’re short – 6 to 16 minute – single-take videos shot by Smith on his travels, accompanied by rambling narration that typically manages to cover both international politics and the contents of the minibar. The incidental details and accounts of his day serve to particularize and humanize the mass media nightly news, but do so as a spectator rather than a victim. Smith has some wonderful insights, and that, combined with his sense of humor, gives the works a natural appeal. If you like these, be aware that The Girl Chewing Gum (1976), a classic work of Smith’s, is in P.S.1’s “The Talent Show” through April 4th; if you haven’t seen it, you should (it’s also online). So what else? Three more works that stood out:
This collage might more properly be called an anti-collage: it’s huge, for one thing, and the content collage is meant to deconstruct and unveil is instead wholly subjugated to the formal will of, well, a bunch of swooshy gestures. They looked to have been formed by removing the top layers of newspaper-on-newspaper, and the resulting tears had a wonderfully visceral texture. It should be noted that Gambaroff has mostly worked with paintings until recently – though less as a painter per se than as someone in need of a common language. In a statement last year, Gambaroff said, “The actual question that I want to get at is not located in painting materially; it lies outside of it and painting is just a good way, because it's such a prominent and nearly banal form of art.” If I have one reservation about this work, it’s that collage isn’t contested enough as a medium to sustain the sort of conceptual dissection Gambaroff seems to intend for it. For the moment, at least, all’s well.
I wasn’t familiar with Maximilian Zentz Zlomovitz, but this little mixed-media piece caught my eye. The combination of digital print/aluminum mesh/spraypaint puts it in some danger of looking too much like contemporary art, perhaps, but I enjoy the play between internal violence and external order – which is to say, its edges are really square but I have faith that Zlomovitz knows it.
I didn’t catch the name of this artist (can anyone lend a hand?), but this series of understated paintings of mundane subjects (garlic, a fishing rod) on plain canvas has been growing on me. I’m pretty sure I would hate the same content on a white canvas, and I like that I don’t know why.