Dikeou Superstars: Royal Art Lodge

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Christmas is a time of year when a sense of childlike wonder and enchantment can brighten even the surliest of souls. It is also a time when the most spirited of folk can descend into nihilism. The members of the Royal Art Lodge – specifically Neil Farber, Michael Dumontier, Drue Langlois, and Hollie and Marcel Dzama – wrote a letter trying to articulate these sentiments that reads, “Dear zingmagazine, we have tried to understand Christmas.” And to accompany this letter are the collective’s Christmas Drawings, which consists of 41 small works on paper that synthesize this magical mixture of mayhem and merriment to poignantly encapsulate the spirit of the season. While they may appear cute and childlike on the surface, the Christmas Drawings possess a level of dark humor that only comes with the jadedness of adulthood.

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The Royal Art Lodge was an artist collective formed in 1996 that later dissolved in 2008. Its founding members, Michael Dumontier, Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, Drue Langlois, Jon Pylypchuk, and Adrian Williams, were all students at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada who would meet on a weekly basis to create art using the Surrealist methods of collaboration and spontaneous response. A completed work highlights yet blends each artist’s distinct style from/with one another. The Christmas Drawings, of which there are 41, are chock full of Santas, candy canes, reindeer, and snowmen, but there are also ghosts, monsters, prostitutes, and other dangerous figures who wield guns and other weaponry. For every picture-perfect postcard vision of Christmas, the Royal Art Lodge finds a way to subvert it simply by adding a decapitated elf or termite-infested tree.

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The drawings at Dikeou Collection appear in issue 18 of zingmagazine , but it’s not the first time the Lodge clan dug their claws into the yule log. They also created “Christmas Story” for issue 11 . The focus on one specific subject is key to the group’s conceptual underpinnings. Flick Harrison wrote an in-depth article on the RAL, and in it he states, “The drawings themselves pretend at pointlessness, isolated moments, useless knowledge, but the critical mass of a dozen or so of the images viewed in any sequence begins to create something entirely other, an Eisenstein montage which maps itself onto your subconscious.” The amount of jokes, characters, and scenarios presented on the walls of Dikeou Collection and pages of zingmagazine are but a speck in the RAL universe. And, if that weren’t enough, each of the artists work independently as well in various media. Marcel Dzama has worked in film, sculpture, design, and theater. Drue Langlois does animation and creates dolls and larger soft sculpture, like his Polio with Palsy which is also part of Dikeou Collection. Neil Farber and Michael Dumontier still do weekly art sessions in Winnipeg and create music together as Eyeball Hurt and The Medicine. They even made a tape of Christmas songs, some of which refer specifically to drawings found at Dikeou Collection. So if you get tired of hearing the same old Elvis or Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums, just click here to rock out to some “Christmas Deity” and “Sugarplum Fairy from the Soviet Union.”

- Hayley Richardson

Dikeou Superstars: Anicka Yi

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Biology, decay, feminism, narrative, systems, exchange - these are a few of the themes analyzed by Anicka Yi in her art practice. Though these topics are not uncharted territory in artistic exploration, her approach is exceptionally unusual and stimulating. With the art experience so dependent on the visual, Yi carves out a unique space where smell, taste, and touch become the primary vehicles of expression and consumption. Her philosophical interests in space, materiality, time, and relationships manifest as bacterial paintings, ground Teva sandals, and dried shrimp flakes, or some combination thereof, creating an orchestra of the senses. On October 20, Yi was lauded for her innovative work by receiving the Guggenheim’s prestigious Hugo Boss Prize. In a statement from the jury, “we wish to highlight the singularity of her vision and the generative new possibilities for artistic production offered by her practice.” Yi’s installation, L’Haine, at Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax encapsulates the core elements of her work – smell, erosion, femininity – all of which create an ecosystem that calls into question the language and understanding of art.

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L’Haine is comprised of five turtleneck sweaters mounted on the wall with bouquets of deep fried tempura battered flowers placed in the neck. The earthy, muted tones of the sweaters and flowers contrast with the neon graffiti covered walls of the pop-up basement, but the deteriorated brick serves as a nice backdrop for the dredged and droopy blossoms. Ask any art preparator in a museum or gallery if they have ever had to fry flowers for an artwork, and you can be guaranteed that they would say no, unless, of course, they have engaged with Yi’s work. Frying the flowers in the parking lot of the Dikeou pop-up was surreal, exciting, and memorable. The activity attracted much attention and questions from those witnessing the act, creating a unique opportunity to engage with the public and discuss the work. Her installation instructions are meticulous and urgent. She writes, “Please be aware that the entire process of the installation is not easy. It’s actually downright difficult because the process is reliant on skilled instinct and timing all while requiring the right instinct of texture, color composition, and ‘cooking’ … It’s an all encompassing hyper focused process from beginning to end.” And indeed it is, and so worth the effort.

To take the tantalizing and uplifting scent of a flower and mask it with the smell of oil, as well as hide its beautiful color and soft petals with the rough texture, heavy weight, and bland color of fried Panko crumbs is to destroy all identifying properties of the flower itself. All that is left a grossly preserved shell of what it once was. There is also a sense of violence associated with the piece, where the delicate, lilting flower is essentially tarred and feathered and then tossed into a boiling vat. The title, L’Haine, is French for “the hatred,” and in Romanian the word translates to “clothes.” The play on words and paradoxical treatment of the materials is indicative of the artist’s desires to question and potentially reorder the language of art, as well as develop a new vocabulary.

In a 2014 interview with the Taipei Fine Arts Museum , Anicka says that the tempura fried flowers are her most deliberate scent works. Her interest in olfaction stems from the fact that so little is known about it and it is a hugely powerful sense that doesn’t have any real lexicon to describe it. In a recent interview with W Magazine , Yi states, “If there was more information or more objective truths around [smell], I wouldn’t have to be so vigilant. Because it’s hard to agree, and the language just isn’t there. We don’t have a way of talking about all things olfactive… It’s always analogy based. Like, ‘Oh, that smells citrusy.’ But if you’ve never smelled citrus, how would you know what that is?” Scent is also interesting because it is typically something that exists temporarily, yet is the sense most closely ties to memory. While perishability is inherent within Yi’s art, it is impossible to forget.

-Hayley Richarson

Dikeou Superstars: Johannes Vanderbeek

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Statistics show that people tend to look at a work of art at a gallery or museum for 15 to 20 seconds. Johannes Vanderbeek’s Newspaper Ruined at Dikeou Collection is a highly complex sculpture that draws viewers in to look closer, and longer, than the average 15 to 20 seconds, and rewards those with an attention to detail with its trove of hidden metaphor. Originally exhibited at MoMA PS1 as Newspaper Ruins in 2005 and subsequently recreated as Newspaper Ruined in 2008, the sculpture functions like a time capsule from the year it was created. Each structure within the expansive newspaper city is made with a single sheet of The New York Times, highlighting the headlines, trends, and events of that particular day. The array of articles, photos, letters, and advertisements makes each edition of The New York Times a fascinating object to behold. With Newspaper Ruined Vanderbeek brings these disparate clippings together to create a unified vision of a fantastical world where global political leaders, fashion models, top athletes, movie stars and small town folk coexist.

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Newspaper Ruined is full of visual metaphorical relationships that are clever, poignant, and delightful. On January 5, 2008 , Roberta Smith reviewed Dia Art Foundation’s presentation of artist Francis Alÿs’ collection of St. Fabiola portraits at the Hispanic Society of America. Vanderbeek incorporated the image from the article into one of the structures of the newspaper city, utilizing the dramatic one-point perspective shot of Alÿs’ installation as the crown of an art temple of sorts with Neoclassical sculptures and historical paintings below.

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Antonio Canova’s marble statue of Napoleon’s sister Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victorious, which appeared in a January 8, 2008 article by Roderick Conway Morris, reclines with Jeff Koons’ Michael and Bubbles and filmmaker Lizzie Gottlieb. These once unrelated subjects now lounge as a lifelong trio.

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There have been numerous instances where I have encountered visitors ruminating over Newspaper Ruined and are so eager to share their thoughts and discoveries. There is much I have learned about this work through the eyes of others, especially children. When I give tours to elementary school students I like to initiate a game of “I spy with my little eye…”. Given that they are much smaller and see the work from a lower eye level, they are able to notice things that adults tend to overlook, thus adding to the story of the piece.

Vanderbeek’s generation of meaning between seemingly unrelated subjects is like a contemporary version of Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas constructed into three-dimensional form. “Begun in 1924 and left unfinished at the time of his death in 1929, the Mnemosyne Atlas is Aby Warburg’s attempt to map the ‘afterlife of antiquity,’ or how images of great symbolic, intellectual, and emotional power emerge in Western antiquity and then reappear and are reanimated in the art and cosmology of later times and places, from Alexandrian Greece to Weimar Germany… Warburg hoped that the Mnemosyne Atlas would allow its spectators to experience for themselves the ‘polarities’ that riddle culture and thought.”

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Warburg’s atlas existed as black-clothed wooden panels pinned with images from newspapers, books, magazines, and other ephemera and were arranged thematically. Some of the structures in Newspaper Ruined have strong themes related to culture, politics, and nature, but most are left open to interpretation. It is as if the work is a hyper-condensed version of our real global society, where there is a balance between the objective and the subjective. And, as in the real world, the sculpture is fragile and prone to decay but can always rebuild.

- Hayley Richardson

Dikeou Superstars: Lizzi Bougatsos


To speak about the artwork of Lizzi Bougatsos is to speak about Lizzi Bougatsos herself.   Multidisciplinary, punchy, and ephemeral, Bougatsos’ art is the child of an urban wasteland. The world is her oyster and her apartment is her studio. Her visual art is conceived in short bursts: give her a month and she will give you an art show. Bougatsos is a performer by nature, which means that being a fashion icon and noted queen of the underground is a part of her art practice. It is impossible to find an article about her that leaves out the fact of her sweet witchy vibes and her celebrity friends. She works quickly, touting a plethora of different art works and collaborations, often made with found objects and smashed together with the brilliance of a quick wit. Bougatsos is most known for her performative capacity both in her musical work with bands Like Gang Gang Dance and I.U.D., her performance art at venues such as the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as her sculptural work that is represented by James Fuentes Gallery in New York.

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In both her zingchat interview with zingmagazine and her lecture for School of Visual Arts, she describes an encounter she had with artist Suzanne Anker that would come to define her personal philosophy of art. “She [Suzanne Anker ] said to me, ‘This is sculpture’ [throws a no. 2 pencil in an arc]”.  This pedagogical moment was a profound one for Bougatsos’ career.  In truth, the aesthetic and metaphysical tendencies of her art can be traced back to this juncture: that of performance and sculpture. For Bougatsos, there is no distinction between those two mediums. A sculpture is just performance over a longer period of time. Each physical part of the object takes up space in a particular place for a particular moment in time be that the movement of a dancer’s body, or the time it takes for a material to disintegrate. Self-Portrait (2012) is a mold of the artist’s leg cast in ice which slowly melts as it is put on display in a gallery setting. The sculpture becomes a personal performance in destruction; Strange in its disembodiment, and beautiful in the natural slowness of its change from one state to another. Suzanne Anker’s observation about the nature of sculpture is so apt in describing Lizzi Bougatsos’ art not only in its philosophical implications, but in the fact of its humor. It suits Bougatsos’ style to have a story that is all at once funny, surprising and performative.   

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The Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax location houses six pieces by Bougatsos dating from 2010 and 2012. Her piece Good Hair (2010) encapsulates these elements of humor, performance, and sculpture that dominate her art practice. The piece consists of a large stage-vanity scene with bright lights surrounding a frame. Where the mirror would be is a poster of comedian Tracy Morgan from his 2010 film Cop Out. Below the “mirror” is a shelf strewn with lipstick, a hair straightener, a half finished cigarette, a glass filled with red wine. As a viewer, the piece forces you to participate in the narrative of a person readying themselves for a performance. For a moment, you are the main character of the scene. You stand in front of the mirror and you laugh because for a moment you see yourself as the brashly funny Tracy Morgan.  

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Good Hair is a physically static art object, and yet it feels more closely related to a stage set than a marble statue. Bougatsos is able to soften the rigidity with which we usually see physical art objects. It is also important to mention that Good Hair is a self-portrait. Bougatsos considers herself to be a comedian: a purveyor of the same kind of Saturday Night Live, yo-momma defacing, character-driven humor that is associated with Tracy Morgan. Her art reflects a character wrought with celebrity. And yet, she is not the revered, godlike kind of celebrity, but rather the archetypal jester figure that asks for attention with an exposed tongue and thumbs in its ears.

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Indeed many of the Bougatsos’s pieces that reside at the Dikeou Pop-Up read as one-liners. Pussy For Rent (2010) consists of a For Rent sign with the words “my pussy” scrawled in marker on the blank space. Bougatsos makes a sort of feminist joke about her own genitalia being real estate in a world where women’s bodies are constantly being objectified. In God We Bust, also created in 2010, is a green neon sign that that displays those words. The piece references America’s catch phrase, satirized with pun, written in the medium of a late night city. The sign reads like a quip uttered in the wake of silence after political debate meant to tease out some laughs to ease the tension of the room.

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In Happy Ending 2 (2012) Bougatsos presents a large scale version of anal beads. Five large reflective silver balls are connected by a rope and hung from the ceiling. At the bottom a pink rose trails to the floor. This piece exemplifies the dichotomy between objects and their referential, societal meaning. The title of the piece and the rose component can be symbolically understood in more than one way. The saying “happy ending” conjures relations to both fairytale stories and sexual climax. The rose is a symbol of natural innocence and is also used as innuendo when related to taboo body parts. By changing the scale of a sex object Bougatsos allows the viewer to consider each part of the piece in the context of erotic imagery and also in a societal vacuum.

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The pieces in the collection at the Dikeou Pop-Up also include the controversial Dick Toss II (2012) which involves an upside down American flag hung on the wall, overlaid by a poster depicting the body of an explicitly clad and faceless woman. She offers the viewer a game of beer pong and the caption reads “ATM: Get your balls wet”. Where the woman’s breasts would be, two toy sized dildos are placed with removable rings. The title invites the viewer to play a game, toss the rings and incriminate themselves in the overt sexual objectification that dominates American culture. Once again Bougatsos’s art is performative. Just as Suzanne Anker suggested, the second half of the sculpture is created when the viewer engages physically with the work, throwing the ring in an arc and playing a part in the performance. Thus we implicitly participate in the cringe-worthy imagery that Bougatsos’s wants us to admit to.

-Liana Woodward

Dikeou Superstars: Simon Periton

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The Dikeou Collection is housed in a historic building in the heart of downtown Denver. Known as the Colorado Building, it was originally constructed in the early 1890s and served as a department store and later was converted into an office building with a diverse group of tenants. One of those tenants was Morris Jewelers, which could have likely occupied a suite on the 5th floor where Dikeou Collection is located because there is a large, walk-in safe which is now home to Simon Periton’s Radiant Anarchy Doily. Created in 1998, Radiant Anarchy Doily is a brilliant representation of Periton’s dexterous papercutting abilities and personal perspective on popular culture. Periton’s three Barbed Wire Target cut outs, exhibited just outside of the walk-in safe, again serve as a nod to the artist’s interest in the intersections between art, history, and popular culture. Beyond his intended references, Periton’s grouping of works at Dikeou Collection magnify the historic elements of the space where they exist and contribute to the already rich narrative of the Colorado Building and the artwork within.

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Frieze Magazine featured Radiant Anarchy Doily on the cover of its 1998 September-October issue. Writer Michelle Grabner describes the work as “thin, beautiful and exact. The concentric rings of ‘A’s which comprise its doily pattern have as much revolutionary promise as a capital A inked out on the back of a teenager’s notebook, suggesting neither a spoof nor a call to arms.” The contrasting pink and black colors reaffirm this inherent contradiction within the anarchy symbol, as does the highly controlled pattern of the doily itself and its history as a feminine, domestic item. This work’s placement within the safe, symbolic of capitalism and monetary regulation, adds another layer to Pertion’s roguish dualism.

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Barbed Wire Target I, III and IV allude to Jasper Johns’ seminal target paintings/assemblages from the mid-1950s. In her curatorial statement Devon Dikeou observes , that Periton “cleverly attacks the idea Johns addressed: formal space and color in terms of literal recognition (of the target as recognizable icon) and formal resolutions of space and color as one sees them. Periton’s iconographic use of Pop imagery, one that bespeaks a certain youth and culture, fuses image and space, whereas Johns meant to defuse it through the use of images that provoked no meaning.” Additionally, while a target is something to be aimed for, to be struck, and represents a specific goal, barbed wire is a defensive tool meant to prevent intrusion. The metallic foil from which these are made is shiny and attractive, and draw the viewer toward these symbols of danger and exclusion. In a sly curatorial quip, the targets are exhibited adjacent to Vik Muniz’ Milan: Last Supper, extending their symbolism into religious territory as they become references to Christ’s crown of thorns.

Periton’s astonishingly precise cut outs have earned him the title “punkish maestro of the scalpel,” and they were published for the first time anywhere in zingmagazine issue 12 . In his most recent exhibition at New Art Centre in Roche Court, UK, Periton created sculptural renditions of Radiant Anarchy Doily and the Barbed Wire Targets out of cardboard. By reconfiguring their structure and materiality, Periton continues to give new meaning to these works and the symbols upon which they are built.

-Hayley Richardson
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