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Artnet News
June 17, 2008 

Globetrotting curator Okwui Enwezor swooped through town last Wednesday, June 11, for a press conference at the Ludlow 38 art space in New York’s Lower East Side, touting his work as creative director of the upcoming Gwangju Biennale, Sept. 5-Nov. 9, 2008. A city of some 1.4 million people in South Korea, Gwangju has hosted a biennual art exhibition since 1995 with a particular focus on themes of globalization. This year, the show promises to be especially ambitious under Enwezor’s stewardship. "The 21st century is certainly the Asian century," he declared confidently, citing as evidence that there are some 11 major biennials coinciding in Asia in November. He went on to praise the "scale of building, the scale of the imagination" in the East.

So what is Enwezor doing to capture this cultural dynamism? He’s importing the greatest hits of the rest of the world, of course! In an ambitious play to create a sort of meta-exhibition -- Enwezor claims that there is a "crisis of legitimacy" for the international biennale format, to which he is responding -- he is appropriating important exhibitions from all over the world from the 2007 art season, with a particular focus on exhibition formats and artworks that explore "theatricality."

Most notably, visitors can expect a complete restaging of the critically lauded Gordon Matta-Clark show seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Apr. 1, 2007-29, 2007. Also set to be imported to Gwangju is the "African Cities" exhibition seen at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Apr. 2-May 23, 2007, featuring photos of African capitals taken by British starchitect David Adjaye, and "The Asian Shore," a show by Italian artist Stefano Arienti at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, June 29-Oct. 14, 2007, which responded to the institution’s collection of Asian art.

Those familiar with the New York gallery scene might have a sense of déjà vu at the Korean fest. Among Enwezor’s reborn exhibitions are aspects of the recent Hans Haacke retrospective from Paula Cooper Gallery, Jan. 11-Feb. 17, 2008; Kohei Yoshiyuki’s suite of night vision photos depicting couples having sex in Japanese parks, seen at Yossi Milo Gallery, Sept. 6-Oct. 20, 2007; work by Jan Henle seen at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., Sept. 8-Oct. 13, 2007; and Huma Bhabha’s sculptures from Salon 94, Sept. 12-Oct. 26, 2007.

Still other U.S. shows getting a second life in Gwangju include Matthew Monahan’s exhibition "Five Years, Ten Years, Maybe Never" from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, July 26-Oct. 29, 2007; John Zurier’s "Night Paintings" from Philadelphia’s Larry Becker Contemporary Art, Mar.1-Apr. 26, 2008; and site-specific videos and sculptures by Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla seen at the San Francisco Art Institute -- where Enwezor is dean of academic affairs -- last fall. Other shows are pulled from Le Plateau in Paris (Hassan Khan), Lisson Gallery in London (Gerard Byrne), as well as a variety of venues in Korea itself.

As if this weren’t enough, Enwezor has also delegated five mini-shows to international curators, who he has asked to showcase five artists each via innovative presentation and conceptual strategies. The results range from the "Bokdulbang Project," curated by Sung-Hyen Park at one of the city’s traditional markets, to Claire Tancons’ decision to stage an artist-designed procession in the streets. The other curators involved are Partrick D. Flores ("Turns in Tropics: Artist-Curator"), Jang Un Kim ("On Jouissance for Those Without Places to Return") and Abdellah Karroum ("Expedition7 (Patries relatives)").

The Gwangju Biennale garnered some unwanted press last year, when the project’s proposed co-director, Korean curator Shin Jeong-ah, was dismissed after it was revealed that she had forged her degree from Yale University [see Artnet News, July 12, 2008]. With any luck, Enwezor’s ambitious undertaking seems likely to put this association firmly in the festival’s past.

The Anthology Film Archives in New York is presenting a week-long retrospective of films by Danny Lyon, the celebrated photographer known for chronicling the lives of bikers, prison inmates and other marginalized American subcultures. The series includes Soc.Sci.127 (1969), Lyon’s 21-minute-long study of eccentric tattoo artist Bill Sanders; Little Boy (1977), a 54-minute-long "grand summa" of the American scene in New Mexico and the Southwest; Dear Mark (1981), a 15-minute-long homage to Mark di Suvero using film shot in ‘65 and ’75; Five Days (2004), a 60-minute-long documentary of the demonstrations against the 2004 Republican Presidential Convention in New York City; and Murderers (2006), a 30-minute video telling the stories of five murderers in three states. 

Concurrent with the Anthology retrospective, the Edwynn Houk Gallery at 745 Fifth Avenue is presenting an exhibition of Lyon’s photographs, June 20-26, 2008. PowerHouse Books has published Lyon’s Like a Thief’s Dream, a chronicle of two men imprisoned for murder in the 1980s and ‘90s. For Lyon’s own website, see

The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (LACDA) is holding an open call for its upcoming "DigitalArt.LA" show, Aug. 14-Sept. 6, 2008, which kicks off with a new media expo in downtown L.A., Aug. 14-16. Applicants are to be judged by Howard Fox, curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the call is open to all "styles of artwork and photography where digital processes of any kind were integral to their creation." Deadline for submissions is June 30 -- but be warned, there is a $30 entry fee. See for more info.

Stephen Spielberg’s 19-years-in-the-making Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may have made $275 million at the box office to date, but it has received only so-so reviews from critics and fans. Meanwhile, the art world is embracing another long-in-the-making Indiana Jones project -- Eric Zala’s Raider’s of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, which just screened at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Conn. and is set for another showing with the director at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, June 27, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, July 10.

At any rate, the film has a scrappy ethos that is more appealing to art types. The project was begun in 1982 by Zala and friends Chris Strompolos and Jayson Lamb, who were 12 at the time. They spent five years meticulously restaging the original 1981 Indiana Jones film with themselves as stars -- the film’s website features side-by-side comparisons of stills from Spielberg’s movie and their own scenes staged in backyards, churches and Zala’s mom’s house. These days, in addition to touring the museum circuit, Zala and Strompolos have formed their own film company, Rolling Boulder Films, while Lamb is launching a website to showcase his limited-edition fine art photography.

Beginning on July 1, 2008, admission to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia is free, thanks to a donation from art collector Glenn R. Fuhrman, a Wharton grad and longtime ICA patron. Typically, adults pay $6 to visit the museum. The gift supports free admission at the ICA for the next five years.

Jacob Lawrence’s "Hiroshima" cycle of eight paintings, made in 1983 to illustrate John Hersey’s award-winning 1946 book Hiroshima, goes on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Aug. 1-Dec. 28, 2008. Done in tempera and gouache on paper and measuring ca. 23 x 18 in., the works were recently acquired by the museum. The terms were not disclosed.

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