Carsten Holler’s latest exhibit at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, New York, explores the topsy turvy world where science intersects with art. From rotating mushrooms to spinning mirrored doors, this is a world designed with a celebration of mechanics as much as it’s also a reverence for the natural world. Carsten takes elements like bugs and mushrooms that we normally overlook or even dismiss and celebrates them by positioning them to giant, larger than life proportions.
Holler is considered the Willy Wonka of Contemporary Art. Despite getting a doctorate in biology, where he focused on the ways aphids navigate the earth, he now wants the world to stop making sense and to play in a space of nonsense. It’s about reversing the trappings of a dull predictability and embracing the unexpectedly delightful that disrupts the norm.
Höller gave up on formal science in 1993. The following year a friend gave him one of those books that changed his life. The book was by R Gordon Wasson, a former employee of JP Morgan investment bank, who devoted 25 years of his life from the 1950s to the study of the hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms and their anthropological history. In particular, Wasson speculated that the substance “soma”, which forms the basis of pagan and shamanic societies in certain ancient texts and oral traditions, was derived from the fly agaric mushroom.
One part of Höller’s life, ever since, has been an experimental kind of artistic homage to that theory. In one of his most memorable shows, he installed 14 live reindeer in a gallery in Berlin at Christmas time. Seven were fed on fly agaric mushrooms, seven, as a control, not. The urine of all of the reindeer was collected, bottled and stored in fridges in the gallery. Couples could rent an elevated bed in the room overnight and, if they liked, drink the fabled hallucinogenic urine and see if they believed Santa could fly. Half of it, of course, was simply reindeer piss.
Joseph Grazi explores the reasons why we seem to care more about certain animals over others. Having worked with lions in Africa, Grazi brings a different perspective on conservation of the ‘wild.’ In Grazi’s view he questions the hypocrisy in why we mourn and celebrate certain animals, and yet vilify or disregard others. What is it about the lion that seems to captivate us so?
Georg Baselitz confronts the limits of color, material, and composition by inverting his subjects and depicting them upside down. His paintings are typically very cryptic in color and texture, but when combined next to large scale sculptures he strives for a balance of directness.
Roy Fowler has created a series of small and large format oils and watercolors celebrating waves and surfing culture. He finds the color and structure of his paintings by breaking down the components of a wave: where the color of the sky reflects on the surface of the wave and where the light goes through the watering refracts from the sand bottom. The lightness and colors emerge and as Roy Fowler puts is, “a kind of memory is embedded in the surface.”
Roy Fowler was born in Santa Barbara, California and moved to New York City in 1976. He has lived in the same Chinatown studio apartment since the 70’s.
This Halloween I got to explore Pedro Reyes’ Doomacracy – a house of political horrors at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. It’s a very immersive experience where the moment you get whisked away into the experience you are part of it and the line between art and reality starts to fade. Pedro Reyes, the artist behind all this creativity, was born in Mexico City in 1972. He designs ongoing projects that propose playful solutions to social problems. From turning guns into musical instruments, to hosting a People’s United Nations to address pressing concerns, to offering ecologically-friendly grasshopper burgers from a food cart, Reyes transforms existing problems into ideas and conversations that prompt for a better world.
Ugo Rondinone has spent decades exploring the relationship between the natural world and the human condition. In this piece he imagines a world of desert rocks with the 4pm glow of sun shining upon them and then he exaggerates those colors and the intensity of how it feels to witness this in nature by painting the rocks in bold neon colors.
Ugo Rondinone was born in Switzerland and currently works and resides in New York City. This past May, his large scale public work entitled seven magic mountains opened in the desert outside of Las Vegas.