While most of the street art that I discover on my adventures is clearly tagged, sometimes that tag is hard to decipher, and I need some assistance identifying the artist. By connecting with artists on Instagram, I’ve learned that they all seem to know and support each other, which is cool and very helpful. If I don’t know the artist behind a work that I want to put on the blog, and the first person I ask doesn’t know, then they know someone who does. This is how I ended up connecting with the creator of an unsigned series of works that I’ve been seeing on the streets, and documenting, since around Christmastime last year. Each of the paste-ups in this very distinctive series features one to three still life images accompanied by a one-word title, and the artist’s signature conspicuously absent. If you live in the east village or downtown, there’s no way you haven’t seen them. All I can say is that they speak to me.
Giorgio de Chirico’s work represents an unexpected form of classicism in early avant-garde painting. The Philosopher’s Conquest (1913 – 14), one of six in a series, combines a Mediterranean cityscape with familiar still-life objects that appear in many of the artists’s paintings, including a classical arcade, a cannon and cannonballs, a clock, chimney and a train. The stage set is an Italian piazza, virtually deserted except for the menacing, shadowy figures outside the edge of the scene. Rendered with a matter-of-fact — though intentionally crude — precision, de Chirico’s paintings seem rife with meaning but are resolutely enigmatic. Indeed, by juxtaposing incongruous objects, he sought to produce a metaphysical art, one that “resembles . . . the restlessness of myth.”
Photographed in The Art Institute, Chicago.
Surrealism was identified by its proponents as a way of reuniting the conscious and unconscious realms of experience so that the world of dream and fantasy could be joined to the everyday rational world — or what one critic called “an absolute reality, a surreality.” René Magritte accomplished this by merging dreamlike imagery and naturalistic detail, as in his iconic canvas Time Transfixed (1938). He also worked carefully on his titles, and he was ultimately unhappy with the English translation of the title of this painting. The original French, La Durée Poignardée, literally means “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger.” Magritte hoped that when his patron Edward James purchased this painting, he would install it at the bottom of his staircase so that the train would “stab” guests on their way to James‘ ballroom. In an ironic twist, he hung it over his fireplace, to Magritte’s great dissatisfaction.
Photographed in The Art Institute, Chicago.
National Times (2016 / 2019) by Augustina Woodgate (b. 1981) is a closed-circuit network of clocks synchronized directly by the power grid. Since the Industrial Revolution, schools, factories, hospitals, and offices have used this kind of network architecture — referred to as a “master/slave” configuration — to keep consistent time.
A single digital master clock sends power signals to a series of analog slave clocks, commanding synchronized measure across an entire institution. The master keeps steady time based on a pulse transmitted directly from the local power grid, whose frequency is aligned with the atomic clock at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which establishes official United States time.
Here, the hands of the slave clocks have been outfitted with sand paper. As National Times progresses, the minute hands of the slave clock scrape away the numerals on their faces until they are completely erased. Conditioned by the current state of labor and power, the slave clocks progressively erode their functional value, collectively reclaiming autonomy in the process of disintegration.
Photographed as Part of the 2019 Biennial Exhibit at The Whitney Museum in NYC
Pablo Bronstein (Born 1977) is an Argentine artist based in London, who specializes in architectural sketches in ink and gouache, set in ornate frames and depicting imagined buildings incorporating styles from 18th century France and the 1980s. His Horological Promenade II (2008) installation consists of two ornate clocks, displayed on tall on plinths, and a framed drawing of those two clocks.
Horological Promenade II is part of the collection of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, on exhibit at The Whitney Museum through March 6th, 2016.