William Cannings at Okay Mountain

by Ivan Lozano March 18, 2009
William Cannings at Okay Mountain
William Cannings‘s solo show for the 2009 Texas Biennial, on view at
Okay Mountain, might be a formalist‘s wet dream. Of course, I am aware
that these gorgeous metal forms are somehow cast from actual objects and that there’s no essential shape here. While this might be a deal-breaker for
the more fundamentalist minimalists, but a big boon for us reformed,
more flexible ones. Listen, I’m aware that the work is not a revelation
to anyone, that it’s not going to change the universe or anything. But
as with most of the Biennial shows I’ve seen (I’m about 3/4 done), the
point seems to be that just because something isn’t new or revelatory
doesn’t mean it’s not great art. It’s a pretty good lesson for Texas
(cf Bill Davenport’s lambasting of Texas provincialism ).

William Cannings at Okay Mountain

obvious reference point for Cannings’s work is Jeff Koons, who has used
at different points in his practice both inflatables and cast metal
sculptures of balloon animals
. However, the work isn’t so much
derivative of Koons as it is  a derivation of it: while Koons
seems to choose balloon animals for their kitsch factor, Cannings’s
inflated forms feel more like a reference to a previous group of artists who
were more interested in the purity of shape and material than the
relative Pop appeal of things. Cannings’s shapes remind me of
bastardized Donald Judd and Richard Serra shapes; the inflatable cubes
to the former and the burst tires to the latter’s torqued metal.
Detail of William Cannings's tire

allure of these pieces then stems from the ways in which Cannings
recontextualizes the reference points by rejecting repetition and
painting his forms in gorgeous shining hot-rod colors. These
alterations yield highly seductive explorations of the material quality
of metals and paints. It’s all surface considerations, empty of meaning
beyond the seductive way that the paint refracts, bends, reflects light
and the way thin metal skin can look simultaneously soft, pliable and
light while retaining its weight, hardness and presence.
William Cannings's glowing colors

And yet, these
objects still manage to make us aware of the space they inhabit. It was
a great decision to have this solo show at Okay Mountain, arguably the
gallery with the best natural light out of the 4 venues. Cannings’s
sculptures appear to glow and extend beyond their physical borders,
reflecting varying gradations of color onto the walls and floor and
creating a real awareness of the space they inhabit, what they call
"activating the space."



festoonedbaboon March 20, 2009 - 11:54

Cannings does not cast from inflatables. Rather, he fabricates the work from scratch by welding sheetmetel together, then he inflates the metal.

Ivan L March 20, 2009 - 17:31

yea that makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE. i was really confused about the casting situation. i got that from the texas biennial website.

kdeaver April 7, 2009 - 14:08

Yes Ivan, they were solid steel casts that were then tediously hollowed out with a dremel to 1/8 inch thick and then finally inflated with air – that would be my first guess too??? I just lost my last thread of respect for your reviews. I guess you didn’t actually go look at W. Cannings’ work. Never make the mistake in thinking that “fashionable” contemporary art means the future of art. Formalism is just as important and meaningful as anything and is actually a fertile and unexplored area if you knew what you were talking about. I don’t know what it is but it must have something to do with Austin thinking it is somehow more hip and central to the Texas art scene (which is true in some respects) but just because we are surrounded by big pickup trucks in Texas doesnt mean we need to prove postmodern theory is valid, or rehash long accepted and well know ideas about art. I think the people that actually read this blog are smart enough that you don’t have to start off each sentence with ” I am aware ” and ” it is obvious” its sounds too self conscious and snide. Couldn’t you find some hideous paintings done in menstrual fluid that would have been more suited to your aesthetic? I think there are many mulitdimensional metaphors in Cannings’ work that you didn’t bother to look for. I never knew that formalism had such a bad rap. When I read through the subtext and see the implications of what you write it sometimes pisses me off to no end. Who the hell is Ivan Lozano to say what is and what is not important subject matter? You are talking about people’s views and art making, it’s the same thing as saying certain peoples views are not as important or as urgent as others.

bruce April 7, 2009 - 15:30

Smart blonds are infinitely more interesting than the dumb ones. ( But only to those certain smart types.)
I’ve also heard that menstrual fluid isn’t archival, dude.
Ivan can well say what he thinks is important, deaver. Up to us to decide. Carry on, Ivan.
I just wish I had cast those inflatables in 1976 when I wanted to!

bruce April 7, 2009 - 15:39

And, certain people’ s views AREN’T as important as others. Art is indeed like Science and Math.
And if you don’t see or get that, you aren’t worth the time it takes to type this response.

bruce April 7, 2009 - 15:52

Me, I love formalism. Like my daily vitamin. Always there.
Along with other stuff.
Someone besides me should tell him it doesn’t matter how it was made or how long it took. The making of something is so much easier to spell out as to why the thing was made in the first place.
Texas has an inferiority complex. Best to ignore it until you can talk them under a table. The best artists here cringe at me even saying that. They know it already.

kdeaver April 7, 2009 - 21:38

I think that some things go without saying. Not so in the art world! To clarify to BRUCE:
Who the hell do you think you are Bruce? Think about it, not just the tiny circle of artists you look at and know but look at the whole realm (past and present) of visual art. I don’t think its a matter of a single individuals good or bad art– smart or dumb blondes being given a value. Thats not what I am referring to, and why would you say that, or make this about that? Cannings’ work has already been deemed worthwhile by a group of qualified peers.
I dont think formalism is something you can “love,” like or dislike like a movie star, a candy bar or an ice cream flavor. Thats like saying you like or dislike math or science! Its simply wether or not you understand those ideas. (maybe we should start requiring the GRE for the MFA and we would get rid of some of those who shouldnt be making art, thats sounds good to me huh Bruce?) I am talking about a realm of thought, an “ism” that is bigger than one single person being written about by Ivan as if it was inherently flawed or lacking in its capacity for “revelatory” value – if you read above that is some of what is implied about artists who explore formal aspects of visual language. So BRUCE, get off my ass and maybe take a look what Ivan wrote above! What I am saying is a rebuttal.
BTW BRUCE, contrary to what you said above it is indeed true that HOW something is made is quite IMPORTANT! The how can answer the why so go back to school “dude” or smoke another doobie or whatever it is that you do. I cant even believe you said that. Of course the technical aspects of creation are easy to talk about, of course, of course, of course, of course. The PROCESS of inflating flat, steel cutouts into 3d form is vital to Cannings’ concept. Ivan didn’t even figure out how they were made, which was part of the point. So I have very good reason to question his assessment. There are some rich metaphors that are overlooked and not even considered in Ivan’s lame, self conscious review and I have the right to point it out BRUCE!
I dont think he looked at the work or gave it much thought simply because it didn’t hit him in his myopic face. THis isnt the first time that I have read his criticism.To me that is bullshit criticism!!!!!! Its about Ivan’s hyper sensitivity to what is edgy and fashionable in art that I m annoyed with. I havent heard him offer an original insight recently that hasnt been the same old cliched shit that all mediocre critics blowhorn. I have the right to speak my opinion about it and you have the right to make yourself heard as well.

Everyone give Bruce a hand for cheering on Ivan he really took a risk with putting someone like me down.
PS it doesnt need to be “archival” to be art “dude”, i can think of some really great works that are not going to last. Enjoy your tea @#%%$*

Ivan L April 8, 2009 - 22:05

kdeaver: are you on meth or something? Chill out. It’s a blog post, not an official decree. I think you take my opinion way more seriously than even I do. I really really loved Canning’s work!

A direct quote from the Texas Biennial page on Cannings:
“Cannings creates hard-shell steel and aluminum sculptures by casting plastic and rubber inflatable objects.”
My knowledge of how to work with metal is very limited, so I believed what I read in the Biennial website. I racked my brain for DAYS trying to figure out just how you would cast these damn things. I was more than pleased to be corrected by festoonedbaboon. And I agree with you completely about how “fashionable” art is not “the future of art.” That was what the link to Davenport’s blog post on provincialism was all about. I also am a gigantic believer in the power of Minimalism, and if you would have googled me instead of just asking to yourself who the fuck I am, you probably would have seen that I am very influenced by it myself, take it seriously, and am aware that there are many unexplored possibilities in it. I also agree that process and materiality are VERY important.

So while you were busy reading in between the lines, you missed the points I was making: that the material quality, the way the shapes are made, the way in which they work in space, and how they relate to each other as manifested forms is absolutely vital and beautiful.

What I don’t agree with is your hostile tone, not because I’m fragile but because it seems that it comes from weird insecurities you might have. It’s poor form, and form is important, right?
Don’t take it personally when I don’t write what you want to hear. There’s a reason comments are allowed in this blog, because we expect people to offer up their own point of view, especially if it’s different from what I write. However, to quote Tyra: “keep it cute or put it on mute.”

Asshole April 9, 2009 - 09:03

Oh, it just occurred to me, William “Canning”.

kdeaver April 9, 2009 - 11:01

Yeah, there are sooooo many blogs like this for Texas art????

Doesn’t the loudest voice= majority opinion these days? Unfortunately, when it comes to human nature, I think the guy with the loudest, most repetitive voice (no other factors involved ) will sway a larger group of individuals. I’ll admit my hostility has ebbed and flowed and slowly been building up for a couple of years. I’m not gonna apologize for feeling what I think is legitimate. I think it may have been bad form to get personal, but you pissed me off. I wish more people would call you on it because it does matter and it is serious.

Ivan L April 9, 2009 - 13:07

Like you, I’m not going to apologize for feeling what I think is legitimate. If you don’t like what I write, there’s a really easy remedy to that…

Yeah, exactly, there aren’t that many blogs like this for Texas art. Start your own if you really think it does matter and it is serious. You can have a voice too. If you type in CAPSLOX it looks louder. You can copy paste what you write and seem repetitive. I’ll even link to you whenever we end up writing about the same thing. And yes, I also wish more people would offer differing opinions, but you can’t force them.

titus_obrien April 10, 2009 - 05:25

This is so awesome to read and not be directly involved.
Well, said Ivan – we now know who your muse is; Tyra! Deaver, you have issues, dood. Chillax.
That said, I think Canning is possibly the worst artist in the universe.
His last Dallas show at Pan-American was absolutley shameful. He made big metal letters using his nifty trick to spell “Infl-8” on the wall. Holy fucking christ. How could he even show his face after that?
He made two sex dolls, male and female – but didn’t have the guts to have them doing it, like the Chapman brothers did three years earlier, having made the exact same thing only better.
He had that show in Houston with a bunch of daisies and crap.
Formalism? His work has absolutley nothing to do with formalism. He is a one trick pony, apparently without a single decent idea about what to do with it (but plenty of bad ones), and visually they are as cloying and sick-inducing as a state fair-winning cotton candy wrapped deep fried candy bar dipped in corn syrup. Embarrassing for Texas.

kdeaver April 10, 2009 - 11:09

This might not have been the best entry to blow up on Ivan about but I had my reasons. I am not the only one to think that some of this is getting out of touch.

I think Ivan was specifically talking about the work at okay mountain, I’m sure that we could probably find some really bad work for a lot of good artists out there maybe even you.

Ivan L April 10, 2009 - 11:19

“I am not the only one to think that some of this is getting out of touch.”


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