Volume 78 - Number 30 / December 24 - 30, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

© Lisa Young

A detailed shot of Lisa Young’s “Flocking” (2008), made up of 418 sheep figurines.

Perfection when we least expect it
Everyone’s a winner at CUE Art Foundation

LISA YOUNG
Curated by Cabinet Magazine
KATE MANHEIM
Curated by John Zorn
Through January 24
CUE Art Foundation
511 West 25 Street
212-206-3583; cueartfoundation.org

By DEBRA JENKS

Like the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lisa Young is a collector of moments. But for Young, however, all moments are decisive, the magical and the “mundane” are inseparable and hence, equal. There’s nothing to be missed. And in the era of the instant replay, we can see it over again, alongside differing angles or perspectives, simultaneously if you like, ad infinitum.

Young’s objects reflect the potential in any given moment or circumstance. In the split-screen video “Lyra Angelica” Young pairs four different occasions of Michelle Kwan’s skating program, drawing attention to the subtle and the not-so-subtle differences in Kwan’s execution of the “same” movements from the separate performances.

Young’s synchronizing of multiple performances of “Lyra Angelica” contradicts the notion of any single performance as definitive. We hear the commentary of sportscasters, disappointed when she misses a difficult jump or elatedly relieved when she lands it—the “routine” landing becomes the measure of success

Similarly, in “Practice” we hear the muffled groans of a golfer when he misses a putt, which he proceeds to do from a multitude of changing positions and distances. There’s a mesmerizing and anticipatory compulsion to watch putt after putt. But the unending hypnotic succession of hits and misses in “Practice” also feels Sisyphean and evocative of an existential dilemma.

Another meditation on golf is “Drives.” Here Young composites footage of golf balls sailing mid-air (the sort of shot usually edited from televised professional golf). Tossed about by the wind, the ball becomes a white dot in a blue sea, an unidentifiable and erratic flying object with an uncanny lightness, suspended like a moon. Detached from the game and set free of the constraints of gravity, everyday familiarity collapses. There’s no way to judge the perfect drive from the imperfect one. At this viewpoint, they’re all sublime.

“Flocking” presents another form of suspension. In this piece Young displays a collection of 418 sheep figurines—each a different species in the sheep figurine family—arranged in rows on two long tables. The stationary herd parades towards an invisible greener pasture of possibilities, or chases the proverbial carrot dangling just up ahead and out of sight.

Young’s “Flag” and “Buoy” are cleverly placed next to each other to create a dialog between the two images. For opposite reasons, both “Flag” and “Buoy” are hard to read at first glance. “Flag,” which is only 4 by 4 inches, appears to be shot through a filter of dense smog and is only discernable up close. “Buoy” is enlarged beyond recognition, except when viewed from a distance. Both objects are metaphors for something held onto or held up like belief or spirits.

Other works by Young, include, “Fortune Hunting,” an online archive and searchable database of a collection of fortune cookie texts (fortunecookie.org), and “Transcendent Machine.” In the latter, an abject material is transformed into something divine. Streamers released from a rooftop during a tickertape parade, resembling lighting bolts or kite tails, are actually toilet paper.

Kate Manheim is perhaps best known for her work with Richard Forman and the Ontological-Hysteric Theater. Manheim was also a lead performer in stagings of the work of Heiner Muller. In 1987 she retired from acting to pursue a life-long interest in visual art, which began at the age of eight when she was a student at the Academie du Jeudi, a progressive art school in Paris.

Manheim’s show is an eclectic mix of styles and mediums bound together by a leitmotif of religious, mystic and mythological iconography. Like Young, Manheim’s images also draw a connection between the lowly and the divine. Her VD prints are digital montages of religious paintings from the Renaissance, overlapped with anatomical images culled from a 19th century medical textbook on venereal diseases. Like an occult object, they are freighting yet strangely beautiful.

Manheim’s “Totem Loki” resembles something Mayan or Aboriginal and the compulsiveness of Art Brut. Loki, a god in Norse mythology known for changing his shape and gender, appears as an outline in each of these digital “paintings” (there are over 100 of them), which are hung on the wall like a mosaic. Manheim describes them as “what it would look like if you cut people open and found kaleidoscopes inside.”

The most striking work in Manheim’s show is a group of ethereal and ghost-like self-portraits that look like outtakes from film. The photographs are the only images in the show that directly reference Manheim’s theatrical work.

There are two photographs of Manheim dressed as a man, and in “Electric Wire going through my head,” she seems to be channeling a supernatural event. Likewise, in “Black tongue #3,” the artist appears possessed, and in “Zombie #1” she transforms herself into an eyeless specter of Greta Garbo. In “Mouth gargling water+bubble” Manheim’s disembodied face and open mouth are posed to reveal a pearl-like treasure perched on her tongue. Like the Loki, Manheim is a shape-shifting trickster changing her appearance from image to image, metamorphosing from actor to artist.

Cue Art Foundation is unique among the non-profit spaces in its mission to showcase the work of under-recognized artists, and in their selection process. Curators are selected by a rotating advisory panel. Lisa Young’s work was selected by Cabinet Magazine (cabinetmagazine.org) and Kate Manheim was selected by the composer John Zorn.

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