Because the internet no longer accepts that I am capable of making my own decisions, I am constantly susceptible to what are called “helpful suggestions,” which even the more liberal websites are guilty or inflicting upon one. These suggestions are not always limited to advertisers – art websites suggest artists and galleries to follow (synonymous with that most loathsome of terms, “like”). The internet sculpts the browser (in both senses of the word) as it shapes itself into an interface which fits the user, moulding itself into what is now an approximation of an extension of the user. The keyboard is now the second point of separation between the user’s consciousness and the tactile world. Twitter feeds are unique to each individual, giving the illusion of a thing which is beheld by one person only at any given time, or an information feed meant only for one pair of eyes.
Why have I allowed my cynicism to stop just short of deactivating my account? We are each of us in the thrall of this convenience: who wouldn’t want that amount of information at the touch of a button?
In truth, we are now incapable of returning to that world of a mere two decades ago, when information was still mainly analogue. Newspapers, books, magazines and terrestrial television could never offer the smoothness of informational exchange which we get from the online world, and we have had (for some, just under and for others, just over) twenty years of this Information Superpower. Once a power is taken for granted, as the internet now is, it is impossible to go back.
All of which is a round-about way of saying that my browser (or, more specifically, my bookmarks bar) is at any given time playing catch-up to a massive backlog of things which I fully intend to digest properly, but which dromology will not allow for – the best I can ever hope to do is to speed-read what I consider important and demote the rest to some kind of cache, to be caught up with in the event of a major catastrophe preventing me from doing anything other than catching up with such a thing. Although I shied away from the art world this Summer, this did not prevent me from keeping one eye out for something to catch it, and inevitably some things did – I have a bookmarks folder entirely devoted to artists, and as I write this I can count more than fifty of these in an oblong box which drops down to far beyond the lower limits of my screen. Easily half of these artists can be dismissed with a “why the Hell did I bookmark that?,” however some things are worth a second look (and the are even a few which merit a third and fourth look).
An artist duo who fall into the second category are Tokyo collaborators Ken + Julia Yonetani, whose Close Encounters, Sweet Barrier Reef and Crystal Palace tick most of my aesthetic boxes, even though their themes and motivations, laudable as they are, cannot help but come across (to me) a little too much like that pompous Yoga-Geordie, Sting. Granted, I am cynical, but The Police killed punk. This antithetical niggle notwithstanding, there is much to be enjoyed visually from such works as the aforementioned Sweet Barrier Reef, with its Jean Painlevé-esque subaquatic mimicry, or the gorgeous Crystal Palace, which manages to turn a motif of nuclear power into something enchantingly ethereal.
Mix Claes Oldenburg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Allen Ruppersberg and Robert Raushenberg together and one might come up with the organised visual chaos of French artist Nicolas Pol, who again falls into the second category precisely because I can pick out those four influences without even trying. Art Povera, Art Brut and Pop with Egyptian and Caribbean overtones – naturally, some of it works, some of it doesn’t.
In the second (for his collages) and third category (for his neon assemblages), I can easily place Evren Tekinoktay, a Danish artist who is clearly himself not averse to the same species of “colour-POP!” which always suckers me in. 2015’s Ulalume at London’s The Approach Gallery has the look and feel of an 80’s after-hours jazz bar punching a temporal hole through to the present day. I’m thinking Gallon Drunk with Yello on the bill; I’m thinking high voltage Kandinsky; I’m thinking “I’m in”.
Again, teetering between the second and third categories is Calgary-born Christian Eckart who, while presenting nothing earth-shatteringly original (even when one bears in mind the virtual impossibility of such a prospect today), does nothing earth-shatteringly original with a boldness and confidence I feel terribly endearing. Once more, the colours have claimed me.
Martí Cormand does something with old bits of cardboard that is both simple and effective, peeling away its strata to reveal its inner geometric components and exposing its stark abstract qualities. More traditionally beautiful are his graphite and watercolour drawings of leaves, icebergs and glacial fissures held together by multi-coloured steel poles and wires, and what’s more, the Spanish-born New Yorker has also rendered in graphite and oil such pioneering works as Duchamp’s Fountain, Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs and Weiner’s To See and Be Seen, thus bringing Conceptual Art’s refusal of pictorial representation full-circle. Oh, yes, he’s got my vote.
Speaking of Lawrence Weiner (which I have been for an irritatingly long time now, to anyone who sticks around long enough to listen), I have often strived to bridge the distance between my love for his work – with its simple, Zen-like poetry – and the work of Peter Halley (who, along with Weiner, comprises the joint first-place in my personal Artist of Choice poll). Somehow, Airan Kang has beaten me to the challenge by resembling neither of those venerable artists yet recalling them both. Her Luminous Words at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York last year astonishingly electrified the printed page. Words are my thing, but those bright colours always get me in the end.