Sunday, January 30, 2011

A 'second' take on Turkish art

Flip, flip, flip. Stamp, stamp, stamp. Flip, flip, flip. Stamp, stamp, stamp. The hands move fast on seven wall-mounted flat screens, mindlessly shuffling through paper in a way familiar -- and likely at least a little bit funny -- to anyone who's spent time hacking through the bureaucratic tangle at any of Turkey's many müdürlük (directorate) offices.

Across the way from Ali Kazma's video installation (titled "O.K."), a small grouping of museum-style cases hold drab-looking documents, including the Turkish Constitution and the country's Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works -- each spiral-bound on both sides.

This kind of sly humor is too often lacking in Turkish contemporary art, which I generally have found to be overly obscure, self-referential, or hammer-to-the-head blunt. There's plenty in ARTER's "İkinci Sergi" (Second Exhibition) that falls into those categories as well, but it's a good step up in accessibility from the new art space's first show, "Starter," which I wandered through in a daze after being drawn in by the super-cool inflating/deflating green tank in the main-floor window, unable to connect emotionally or intellectually with a single piece. OK, the dismantled piano looked kinda awesome, but the point escaped me.

"Second Exhibition" has a similarly eye-catching piece in its "shop window," Ayşe Erkmen's installation of colorful hats -- a work I thought was just fun eye candy until I learned that the building used to hold a milliner's shop, and that the hats themselves are reproductions of a 1920s style by a local woman still practicing the trade.

TO VISIT: "Second Exhibition" is on view until March 13 at ARTER on İstiklal Caddesi in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district. The gallery is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Monday.

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