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After Sebald: Art in New York Summer 2008

[Still from Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness, 1992]

Two new exhibitions in New York claim W.G. Sebald for inspiration. The first is the New Museum’s After Nature. According to their website part of the exhibition will be viewable as of July 9 (the 3rd and 4th floors), while the dates for the full exhibition (including the 2nd floor) are July 17 – September 21, 2008. Here’s a blurb from their website:

Departing from the fictional documentaries of Werner Herzog and drawing its title from W.G. Sebald’s visionary book of the same name, “After Nature” unfolds as a visual novel, depicting a future landscape of wilderness and ruins. Bringing together an international and multigenerational group of contemporary artists, filmmakers, writers, and outsiders, many of whom are showing in an American museum for the first time, the exhibition is a feverish examination of humankind’s relationship to nature. Organized by Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions, the show spans three floors and includes over ninety works.

Part dystopian fantasy, part ethnographic museum of a lost civilization that eerily resembles our own, “After Nature” brings together artists and artworks that possess a strange, prophetic intensity. When seen in this context, Zoe Leonard’s giant sculpture of a crippled tree, Maurizio Cattelan’s fallen horse, Reverend Howard Finster’s delirious sermon cards, and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s apocalyptic finger paintings resonate like a requiem for a vanishing planet.

Artists such as Fikret Atay, Roger Ballen, Robert Kusmirowski, Diego Perrone, and Artur Zmijewski seem fascinated by mystic apparitions, arcane rites, and spiritual illuminations, while Allora and Calzadilla, Nancy Graves, and William Christenberry depict a universe in which the traces of humans have been erased and new ecological systems struggle to find a precarious balance.

The works of Huma Bhabha, Berlinde De Bruyckere, and Thomas Schütte share an archaic quality. Their magic realism transforms sculpture into myth-making and gives birth to a cast of fantastical creatures, including sylvan beings, totemic figures, and neo-primitive idols. These elements also find life in Tino Sehgal’s intricate choreographies: for the duration of the exhibition dancers carry out gestures that could be seen as mysterious rituals and states of ecstasy. Recuperating ancient techniques, Pawel Althamer uses grass and animal intestines to produce vulnerable sculptures and puppets to arrive at a new form of storytelling. Other works, like the animations of Nathalie Djurberg, the imaginary maps of Roberto Cuoghi, or the video travelogue of Erik van Lieshout, guide viewers to the edge of the earth, taking us for a walk in the fictional woods of our near future, while expressing a sincere preoccupation for the world as it is now.

The exhibition will include work by Allora and Calzadilla, Pawel Althamer, Micol Assaël, Fikret Atay, Roger Ballen, Huma Bhabha, Maurizio Cattelan, William Christenberry, Roberto Cuoghi, Bill Daniel, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Nathalie Djurberg, Reverend Howard Finster, Nancy Graves, Werner Herzog, Robert Kusmirowski, Zoe Leonard, Klara Liden, Erik van Lieshout, Diego Perrone, Thomas Schütte, Dana Schutz, Tino Sehgal, August Strindberg, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, and Artur Zmijewski.

“After Nature” is made possible by the Leadership Council of the New Museum. Major support provided by David Teiger. Additional support provided by Kati Lovaas, Randy Slifka, and the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.

The second exhibition occurs across the East River in Brooklyn at a place called Jack the Pelican Presents. It’s a collaborative exhibition between artists Tyler Coburn and Sebastian Craig called Ghostwriters and it runs only from July 10 – August 10, 2008:

The first collaboration between New Yorker Tyler Coburn and Londoner Sebastian Craig, “Ghostwriters” is an imaginary account of Brooklyn narrated in drawing, architecture and prose.

Building upon the work of Robert Smithson and W.G. Sebald, among others, Coburn and Craig will transform Jack the Pelican Presents into a sparse visitor center, populated with an evolving array of objects and interventions, including Craig’s projected 3D models of the gallery space; oversize, folded halftone prints of local buildings; and a binder filled with text documentation of improvisatory performances that Coburn staged, at Craig’s request, throughout the neighborhood.

The collaboration is long overdue: Coburn first met Craig in London in 2006 at i-cabin, a project space and publisher Craig oversees. In i-cabin’s peripatetic activity and in Craig’s work, which has been exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery, London, and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, Coburn observed refreshing, innovative approaches to institutional critique. So after completing his first New York solo show, this past spring at MARCH Gallery, and rounding out screenings and exhibitions at CRG Gallery and Gavin Brown’s passerby, respectively, Coburn invited Craig to collaborate.

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