I’d never previously heard of Leo Valledor (1936–1989), a West Coast Filipino-American minimalist modernist painter with a jazzy edge, until I was asked to handle this bit of publicity. Not as cool as Ellsworth Kelly, maybe, in the aesthetic sense, but as cool as someone who grew up in San Francisco as part of the Beat Generation surely could be. What is apparently to be an excellent selection of his work is on display at WhiteBox, opening May 1, for just one week. —John Isaacs
As the world of print is increasingly digitized, the music business already fully so, and the movie business almost entirely (where that leaves the other performing arts, we’ll have to see), it’s Biliana K’s expectation—perhaps vision—that the visual arts will in due course, or are even soon to be subject to the same total dematerialization process. The work of Geneva-based, Bulgarian-born artist Biliana K Voden Aboutaam resides on the cusp of this revolution. Long an astute riffer on cultural transformation, her upcoming show at WhiteBox promises to address the trend provocatively (and fully in line with the gallery’s consistently off-kilter approach to curation).
Algerian-born, Paris-based Fred Forest is a self-taught performance and new media artist well-known in France as a fierce critic of the contemporary art establishment. Forest’s show last year at the Centre Pompidou was loaded with controversy, so now he’s returning the compliment by exhibiting the “Pompidou” itself, so to speak, in New York. WhiteBox, known for its activist curatorial initiatives, is an apt venue for this renegade interpreter of the aesthetics of communication. JID put together the publicity. Forest will be at WBX for the opening and a public debate, when sparks will likely fly.
Paul Harbutt is a Claverack-based British painter with remarkable virtuosity and an international reputation. His most recent project, executed over some three years, is a series of 50+ paintings that document the family history of a pioneer settler in Papua New Guinea, who went on to make a fortune. The entire work, embracing a vast range of styles and references, is collected in a soon-to-be-published large-format catalogue to which John Isaacs contributed two extended essays – one on the family, and one on Harbutt – as well as the book design.
FilmColumbia is an extraordinary annual weeklong event, in Chatham, New York in October, that magically succeeds in combining an astute sense of which soon-to-be-released films are likely to be award-winning and a selection of superb films from off the beaten track that are unlikely to get an airing anywhere else. Plus, it all happens in an exquisitely restored 600-seat village theatre, right out of the thirties. JID has developed a unique branding for the event each of the last three years, and now a fourth is in the works: programs, posters, publicity, badges, T-shirts … the whole works. This year, a modern riff on Russian Constructivist posters.
As WhiteBox marks its 20th anniversary, the Lower East Side alternative art space has scheduled a series of four exhibitions celebrating the spirit of international collaboration that has guided its programming for the past two decades. “EXODUS: Émigré Artists and the New York Vanguard” will showcase the contributions of artists from four countries/regions — Japan, China, Latin America, and the former Yugoslavia — who have immigrated to New York City in search of new artistic communities, freedom of expression, exchange of ideas, and greater visibility. The series will explore the role of these artists in changing the city’s cultural landscape and course of artistic expression. The first exhibition of the series, “A Colossal World: Japanese Artists and New York 1950s—Present”, curated by Kyoko Sato, opens on March 6. JID is responsible for graphics for the entire EXODUS series.
In his almost half-century-long career, the esteemed ink-wash artist Jizi (1942–2015) created a vast body of work during a dynamic period of Chinese history. Opening next week at WhiteBox on the Lower East Side, “Jizi: Journey of the Spirit,” a memorial retrospective curated in association with the artist’s son, includes a selection of large-scale paintings (and a monumentally-sized, rarely exhibited, scroll) that reveal Jizi’s decades-long search for a synthesis of styles, cultures, and ideas that honor tradition, reinforce the ideal of the universal oneness of all things, and embrace personal expression. In its abstraction, its expressiveness, and its spiritual dimension — packed with painterly instincts that recall Kline, Motherwell, and Dzubas — Jizi’s luminous work can claim particular resonance for New York audiences. JID designed the promotional materials, including a movie-size poster.
A great artist and a good friend, Tim Rollins, died suddenly a week ago. Tributes to Tim, and his important work with the K.O.S. collective he founded, immediately appeared all over the arts press, and today the Times published a long obituary that appropriately honored his extraordinary career and personality. I had the privilege of getting to know Tim at WhiteBox, where in 2003 we showed his large-scale installation “War of the Worlds”, and where he showed up at just about every opening and event, in his signature black suit and cowboy hat. For several months I worked with him developing a book surveying the huge body of work he generated with K.O.S., a group of gifted but underprivileged student/collaborators to whom he was devoted, as they were to him. Sadly, that book never got published — it was presented to major publishers at a dip in his career — but, aside from MIT Press’s 2009 history of the group, no retrospective catalogue of Tim’s art has since emerged. I’m sitting on a pile of archival material that Tim provided me, and I’m thinking, since his star has risen in every sense, that it might now be time to pitch the proposal again. —John Isaacs