DECADE Theme Preview: L.A. Angels
Work 4: Justin Beal’s Untitled, 2010

Justin Beal is one of a group of Los Angeles artists who create works that involve darkly funny, wicked, and satirical themes. In his untitled sculpture, two reflective panels are wrapped tightly with black plastic wrap. Beal, in essence, transforms a functional object—a mirror—into a non-functional object, while simultaneously referencing eroticism and bondage.

© 2010 Justin Beal


DECADE Duo: Linda Besemer and Jim Lambie

In their works featured in DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, Linda Besemer and Jim Lambie expand traditional notions of painting through their use of vivid lines of color. In Linda Besemer’s Fold #88, painting is pushed into the realm of three-dimensionality as acrylic paint is transformed into a solid, rubber-like material that is draped from an aluminum rod in long, brightly colored vertical lines. Jim Lambie’s Zobop (Stairs) transforms stairs in the museum’s 1962 Knox Building into a work of art by the deceptively simple means of colorful vinyl tape installed in a dazzling linear pattern (see photos from the installation here).

DECADE Theme Preview: The Wayward Line
Day Four: Nancy Rubins’s Drawing, 2007

From a distance, Nancy Rubins’s Drawing appears to be a metal sculpture, but as one moves closer, it becomes clear that it is, in fact, a work on paper. To create this work, Rubins heavily applied graphite onto large sheets of paper which she then tore and attached to the wall with pushpins. Evoking images of splayed skin and crumpled metal, this piece is an example of how contemporary artists are pushing the spatial and dimensional limits of drawing.

Image: Nancy Rubins (American, born 1952). Drawing, 2007. Graphite on paper, 139 x 121 inches (353.1 x 307.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Pending Acquisition Funds, 2011. © 2007 Nancy Rubins.

DECADE Theme Preview: L.A. Angels
Work 3: Liz Larner’s 2001, 2001

Liz Larner’s large-scale fiberglass and steel geometric sculpture 2001 is coated in automotive paint, giving the work an iridescent quality that makes it appear to change color from green to purple, depending on the angle at which it is viewed. Larner is part of a group of Los Angeles–based artists who use elements of dark humor in their creations. Some viewers are unsure how to feel about this sculpture, with its part-playful, part-foreboding, and slightly sinister qualities.

Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles. © Liz Larner

DECADE Theme Preview: Psychology of Space
Day 2: Catherine Opie’s “Surfers” Series

Catherine Opie’s work often reflects her fascination with people who are living outside the mainstream. In the fourteen untitled photographs in her “Surfers” series, members of the surfing community in Malibu, California, appear as barely visible dots in the vast expanse of the ocean. The horizon line serves as a metaphor for the margins of society these surfers are a part of.

IMAGE: Catherine Opie (American, born 1961). Untitled #9 fromthe series “Surfers,” 2002–03. Color print, edition 5/5, 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 2004. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles. © Catherine Opie.


DECADE Duo: Tracey Emin and Jason Rhoades

Text, neon, and sexuality are the commonalities shared by the two works in this DECADE duo. British artist Tracey Emin is perhaps best known for the witty and highly sexual text that appears in her work. The white neon words that spell out the title of Only God Knows I’m Good suggest that Emin’s bad-girl image has become so ubiquitous that only a higher power could be aware of her more angelic side. Sexual references are more overt in Jason Rhoades sculpture Highway to Heaven. In this work, various words describing female genitalia are depicted in colorful neon lights. These, combined with plexiglass, ceramic donkeys, cable, and extension cord, are piled onto a chrome shelving rack, practically beckoning the viewer in for a closer look.

DECADE Theme Preview: Film/Photography/Fiction
Day 1: Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled (boy with hand in drain) from the series “Twilight,” 2001–02

Beginning in the 1960s, artists have explored how film and photography intersect, creating works that—while sometimes abstract, non-narrative, conceptual, or self-reflective—vividly straddle the gap between fact and fiction. The DECADE theme Film/Photography/Fiction explores this intersection.

The distinction between reality and fiction is blurred in a grandiose cinematic style in Gregory Crewdson’s photographs, including the Gallery’s Untitled (boy with hand in drain), above. The artist doesn’t take the photographs himself, but assumes a directorial role, overseeing the creation of the sets, costumes, and props, and the actions of his assistants. Crewdson’s works—which often focus on American suburban landscapes—offer a slightly sinister, unsettled view of everyday life.

IMAGE: © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012 opens in full tomorrow. The exhibition is organized around ten themes: Film/Photography/Fiction, Insidious Humor, L.A. Angels, “Language Is a Virus from Outer Space,” Psychology of Space, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” Shape of Space, Social Space/Private Ritual, The Wayward Line, and What Happened to Painting?

Over the course of the exhibition—which is on view through January 6, 2013—we’ll be posting a preview of each theme and some of the works that illuminate it. First up is Psychology of Space, which addresses the human need to understand one’s place in the world. The works in this section explore the relationship between an individual and the environment in which he or she lives.

One such work is Victoria Sambunaris’s Untitled (White train on salt flats, I-80, Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah), 2002. Sambunaris captures images of the American West on solo journeys across the country. Elegant and powerful, these photographs show the intersection between man and nature and depict how landscapes have been forever changed by human industry and development.

Check back each day this week for a preview of another work featured in Psychology of Space.

IMAGE: Victoria Sambunaris (American, born 1964). Untitled (White train on salt flats, I-80, Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah), 2002. Chromogenic color print, edition 1/5, 39 x 55 inches (99.1 x 139.7 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. James G. Forsyth, Charles W. Goodyear, Sherman S. Jewett, Gerald S. Elliott and Charles Clifton Funds, 2011.

DECADE Theme Preview: What Happened to Painting?
Day Two: Mark Bradford’s Mississippi Gottdam, 2007

Taking as his subject New Orleans and Mississippi after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Mark Bradford expands upon and pushes the boundaries of traditional painting in his large-scale work, Mississippi Gottdam. Debris the artist collected from the streets of New Orleans are collaged to give the appearance of a surge of water sweeping everything away. The work serves as a powerful visual statement about post-Katrina New Orleans and its inhabitants and a striking criticism on the slowness of recovery efforts in low-income areas.

Image: Mark Bradford (American, born 1961). Mississippi Gottdam, 2007. Billboard paper, photomechanical reproductions, acrylic gel medium, comic-book paper, wrapping paper, and additional mixed media on canvas; 102 x 144 inches (259.1 x 365.8 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 2008. © 2007 Mark Bradford

DECADE Theme Preview: Film/Photography/Fiction
Day 5: Thomas Ruff’s Nudes hk29, 2001

As an artist, Thomas Ruff is interested in the interplay between a camera’s recorded moment and how that image can be altered and romanticized. In his series “Nudes”—which Nudes hk29 is part of—Ruff takes images from pornographic websites and manipulates them to create secondary works. The blurred, abstract forms in each work reinforce the notion that all images are objectively rendered, though perhaps to varying degrees.

IMAGE: © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

DECADE Theme Preview: Insidious Humor
Day One: Erwin Wurm's Jakob/Big Psycho VII, 2011

The use of humor by artists in their works is explored in the DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012 theme Insidious Humor. In its many forms, humor can be playful, witty, dark, sad, and sometimes sinister. Contemporary artists have found humor an attractive element to incorporate in their art as it can add an additional layer to the work’s content, disguise a serious social statement so it seems light and playful, and highlight the potential comedy inherent to the human body.

Upon first glance, Erwin Wurm’s sculpture of a figure enveloped in a sweater, Jakob/Big Psycho VII, has a light, comical feel. As you move closer, this humor turns slightly dark, and the struggle of the two arms attempting to poke out of one sleeve while the two legs peek out from the other seems more serious. The fact that the head of the figure is not visible, perhaps even trapped, reinforces the limitations of the human body.

Image: Erwin Wurm (Austrian, born 1954). Jakob/Big Psycho VII, 2011. Aluminum and paint, edition 5/6, 47 ¼ x 15 3/8 x 42 1/8 inches (120 x 39 x 107 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Sherman S. Jewett Fund, by exchange, Gift of Baroness Alphonse de Rothschild, by exchange and Gift of Mrs. Seymour H. Knox, Sr., by exchange, 2011. © 2011 Erwin Wurm/Courtesy of the Artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York

DECADE Theme Preview: L.A. Angels
Work 1: Ed Moses’s Blue Velvet, 2008

While many believe that the center of the art world is New York, a strong contemporary art scene also exists in Los Angeles. The DECADE exhibition theme L.A. Angels features works by Los Angeles–based artists, most of which were created during the middle of the twentieth century, the period when the city’s contemporary art scene was at its peak.

Ed Moses—a member of a group of Los Angeles–based artists known as the Cool School—creates works in the abstract expressionist style. While non-objective, surface and process are a focus in much of his work. In the abstract diptych painting Blue Velvet, one can almost see the hands of the artist at work on the canvas, which is complete with vertical streaks of blue and green that appear to radiate light.

This is the last theme preview for DECADE, which closes this Sunday, January 6. Select works will be on view for a little while longer in the 1962 Knox Building as new exhibitions are installed upstairs. 

Image © 2008 Ed Moses

DECADE Theme Preview: Psychology of Space
Day 3: Andrea Zittel’s A to Z 1994 Living Unit II

Andrea Zittel’s A to Z 1994 Living Unit II, 1994, contains artist-designed items, including utensils, an open range, and furnishings. This work demonstrates Zittel’s desire to design every aspect of her life and to use her art to create a self-sustainable existence in the California desert where she lives.

IMAGE: Andrea Zittel (American, born 1965). A to Z 1994 Living Unit II, 1994. Oven range, upholstery, utensils, saucepans, bowls, and glass jars, 57 x 84 x 82 inches (144.8 x 213.4 x 208.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Gift of Mrs. George A. Forman, by exchange, 2007. © Andrea Zittel.

With all eyes on London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, we at the Gallery are busy installing a work with a very special London connection: Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Domestic), 2002. This massive sculpture was cast in plaster from the negative space of an interior fire escape stairwell in what is now the Haunch of Venison Gallery in London, about seven miles west of the Olympic Stadium and only a mile from Hyde Park, this summer’s venue for the Marathon Swimming 10km and the swimming element of the Triathlon.

Untitled (Domestic) is one of many new acquisitions featured in DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, and will be on view starting Tuesday, August 21.


With Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-garde in the 1970s closing on July 8, the Albright-Knox is gearing up for our next big exhibition, DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012.

Here are some shots from before, during, and after the installation of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Untitled (Double Portrait), 1991. This work will be on view in one of the ten themed sections of DECADE, Social Space/Private Ritual, which opens this Friday, June 29. The complete exhibition will open on Tuesday, August 21.

DECADE Duo: Sol LeWitt and Nancy Rubins

In addition to highlighting works in the ten themes of DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, we will also be doing a series of posts about two artists included in the exhibition whose works share certain commonalities, whether it be materials, subject matter, or even just proximity in the exhibition.

We chose our first “DECADE Duo”—Sol LeWitt and Nancy Rubins—because both their works currently on view employ graphite to create mesmerizingly complex surfaces.

In a process documented on this blog, a team of sixteen artists used 1,717 pencil leads to create LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #1268: Scribbles: Staircase (AKAG), conceived 2006; executed 2010, according to the artist’s instructions: Line, continuous gradation, and feel of steel. The work is composed solely of scribbles of varying densities and covers three walls surrounding the Gallery’s main staircase.

In her aptly titled Drawing, 2007 (background), Nancy Rubins heavily applied graphite to large sheets of paper, then tore and attached them to the wall, pushing the usually two-dimensional realm of drawing into three dimensions.


Image: © 2012 The LeWitt Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. © 2007 Nancy Rubins. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

DECADE Theme Preview: Social Space/Private Ritual
Work 3: Rineke Dijkstra’s Coney Island, N.Y., USA, June 20, 1993, 1993; printed 1998

Artists often use portraiture to explore notions of public and private identities, as can be seen in Rineke Dijkstra’s Coney Island, N.Y., USA, June 20, 1993, featured in DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012. Photographing boys and girls from various countries against the background of the ocean, Dijkstra presents the awkward moments of adolescence before one’s public identity is fully formed.

Image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

DECADE Theme Preview: Social Space/Private Ritual
Work 2: Kara Walker’s Emancipation Approximation, 2000

Notions of race and the history of slavery are explored in the twenty-seven screen prints that compose Kara Walker’s Emancipation Approximation, featured in DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012. Referencing the earliest form of portraiture, Walker used silhouettes to create this series of works, which brings the private horrors of slavery into the public realm.

Image © 2000 Kara Walker