Well hello friends, I'm back from my seasonal New York trip
(actually, that was 2 weeks ago, but I was busy elsewhere).
I've counted over 70 shows seen in a week, and it could have been more
if I didn't opt to spend a whole afternoon sitting in front of a Granular Synthesis video, or wander for hours at the Barry McGee show at Deitch, babbling with a few locals.
I will come back later and review a few of the shows that perticularly attracted my interest, if you allow me the whole summer to sort things out.
For now let just say that the city was packed with a lot of painting,
to a point when the smell of the medium started to irritate me.
Photo was also huge, as they were a few major photograhs retrospectives
Here are samples of what I saw, by category of preference:
THE BAD / BORING SHOWS:
Passport To Painting (Rodney Graham, Shannon Oksanen, Derek Root) (Gallery 303): My biggest disappointment was to go see a show featuring Rodney Graham (one of my fave artist) only to found out he's now doing tiny, boring abstract painting that he terms "modernists". To be exact, he erases source texts and I suppose magazine images with painting, but the result is still not much more than some kind of dead joke. Shannon Osaken (they are all from Vancouver)is doing small portraits of her friends on minimalist backgrounds, as though she hopes to be the next Elizabeth Peyton, and finally the best of the lot, Derek Root, is reactualizing the canadian landscape by focussing on lands touched by factories, but I couldn't tell if the cute postcardish look was purposeful or not.
HobbypopMuseum (Deitch): a messy mix of paint canvases, conceptual pieces (traces of gold on the floor) and sound in an exhibit that regardless of figurative elements absolutely didn't make sense. Apparently this "in-situ" work is suppose to reflect the space, but I simply can't see how figures of campers or leisure-hotel bathers have to do with a reknowned Soho gallery. Confusing.
Richard Phillips (Friedrich Petzel): It is not a cool text by Seth Price about the glory of californian bohemianism (and other attempts to stick with utopia) that will convince me to enjoy these lame kitsch-pop portraits of idealized women. With an absolutely pompous title ("Law, Sex, And Christian Society"), it is almost as if the painter expected you to be shocked, but the result is so superficial from first sight that I'm not even attracted to seek anything further about it. "Sex, Drugs And Rock N' Roll" would have been a better title, or anything sounding 20 years late on Terry Richardson.
"Landscape" (Whitney): this show presents nearly anything but. This is a case of a curatorial theme totally depriving from what some works are trying to do.
For this show, any work that can use the term "field" in their description means it can be read as a landscape. A Rothko becomes a landscape, because it plays with "notions of space". Popular schoolbook rhetorics that I find ridicule.
Mark Mann (Laurence Miller): four pictures of what seems to be redisplays of old tourist photographs, made the ironic title "Four Easy Pieces" turn the show against itself. I've seen similar work by many photographs before so I had a hard time caring. Or maybe I just felt there were still 20 missing pictures from that roll. The accompanying self-explainable show "Surface" only had a couple stand-outs, that is, elaborate handwritten scapes by Lalla Essaydi, and architectural relectures by Stephane Couturier (and a few intriguing patchworks from the Nasa (!)).
Portrait Of An Age: Photography In Germany And Austria, 1900-1938 (Neue Galerie): this is where I am getting totally unfair, because this exhibit is in fact
elegantly curated, and regardless of geographical limits, can serve as an excellent introduction to the early history of portrait photography. Therefore I recommend it as a didactic lesson. My only problem is that I got easily bored watching faces of unknown people one after the next, people of which no descriptions helped me understanding who they were, apart from a few rare celebrities. My guess is that a similar show that would be curated outside of geographical limits would include a fair deal of photographic masterpieces, that were missed by this show. As a "portrait of Germany and Austria", you aren't getting a lot of historical insight.
THE OK / CORRECT SHOWS:
"Sculpture" (James Cohan): A rather eclectic group of 6 works that readjusts the notion of sculpture. I actually wished this show would have been all Roxy Paine, as they are two major recent works of him pursuing his uncondemnable
theme of entropy. His steel dead tree, that I first took for a Rondigone, is as splendid as his mushroom garden is mesmerizing. A tiny wall-house by Acconci and a candle-filled video altar by Paik are also on view.
Bryan Crockett / Jennifer Steinkamp (Lehmann Taupin): a chaos of crafty biomorphic sculptures and drawings surrounding a couple larger sculptures showing people biologically trapped in trees (or mutant trees morphing into people). The ensemble is at times, messy, and I wonder if this artist shouldn't focus on tightening his imagery to whatever he wishes to convey the most. Steinkamp, on her side, is still working on computer renditions of vegetal movement, but her focus on flat monoband wall pieces (her previous work at least seemed to function as an installation) make the whole seem too decorative and market-oriented.
Sue De Beer (Whitney Altria): Not exactly as good as her Whitney Biennial 2004 work, but this otherwise ambitious project (you need to enter a giant dollhouse, and there is a garden of sculpture at the entrance) proceeds from the same form at providing the spectator the most comfort possible, in order to enhance the visioning of yet another fragmented double-video short film, delimitating yet another passage between childhood and adolescence. This time, 3 chapters recall different stages of a young adolescent girl struggling with desire, but though De Beer's points are made obvious with the addition of sugar-teen narrative texts (that I was surprised to learn were all from Dennis Copper as there was a definitely girlish quality to them), the overuse of symbols and micro-narratives renders the whole a bit confusing, like reading the accompanying booklet in which the artists and curators are exchanging impressions promulgated by their recent readings.
Chuck Close (Pace Wildenstein): more of the same for Mr. Close, where he mocks his neo-realist tag by additioning colored geometrical fragments in order to fullfill the illusion of portraitude. The tableaux are alas less impressive than the woodblock versions we had seen at the Metropolitan recently. The technique is
marvellous but the exhibit seems a little to methodic after 10 minutes. Or after 10 years.......
Monet's London: Artists' Reflections On The Thames (Brooklyn Museum): Well, this is an exhibition covering, you guessed it, artists renditions (representations) of the Thames river in London over the ages, including a full segment on Monet (less than 20 paintings). But though the curatorial idea made sense judging from the amount of works there was to cover, I couldn't help but wonder what was it all about the goddamn Thames that all these artists found so fantastic. I haven't seen the Thames myself since a while but I can only remember a vast area of grey water. At any rates, if you love romantic views of London in the fog, you will love this show, but grey water isn't my cup of tea.
Sophie Von Hellerman (Greene Naftali): she is doing better on her own than with Hobbypop, if you ask me. But these cute, whirly-ish semi-figurative paintings, like a fluffy, neo-retro, child comic book version of Kippenberger, didn't surprise me as much as the way she decided to install a bunch of them in the gallery-s backroom, which was a genuine wink at a strategy too used by gallerists these days: to hide some of the recent works of an artist in the vaults during an exhibit.
Hiroshi Sugimoto (Sonnabend): all retro and nothing too groundbreaking about these recent hommages to the architectural splendour of the miniature. These shots aim at abstracting the sculptural beauty of 20th century's mechanics and other scientifical appareils in an essay format that seems to borrow from the surrealists..
Roger Fenton (Metropolitan Museum): a fair retrospective of one pioneer of photography, but which regardless of historical merit, got me a little too bored too
fast. A couple astoundingly pre-modern "modern" photographs (moscow domes or an ackward "Queen Target"), and a couple lushful landscape are all that I retained, amid series of brittish churches and institutional buildings or pseudo-exotic arrangements. The wall texts are full of interesting anecdotes so it is not an unpleasing stroll if you are tempted by a visit. They make Fenton sounds like the Indiana Jones of photography.
Jasper Johns (Matthew Marks): the mathematic theory of the catenary leads to assume that within two different points, a flexible line will hold together into a curve, and so this serves as the major metaphor that Johns is conveying here, cradling his art within time and history, amassing autobiographical fragments with details of influential works into tableaux and drawings that always keep a certain sparsity, while affirming form with the recurrent motif of a suspended string attached to the canvas (often adorned with some sort of wood ruler on their sides). The result is a bit over-ambitiously cutting a sharp ambivalence between modernism and post-modernism, but the puzzles and secret meanings of these works are not often inviting. It is as though the painter had painted these works for himself.
Here comes The Bogey-Man (Chelsea Art Museum): a terrific chance to see the original Los Caprichos series of prints by Francisco De Goya (luv that brown paper look), adorned by a series of pseudo-grotesque ackward works by various artists (Marcacio, Pondick, Morimura, etc..) apparently homaging Goya, but who all pale by comparison. Since I already had seen the Caprichos, I left rather rapidly.
Richard Prince (Barbara Gladstone): a semi-retrospective helped gather together different mediums, styles and approaches that Richard Prince experimented over the years. From comic strip paintings to car hood "sculpture-paintings" to "check" paintings (huge phrase sentances stenciled over patches of money checks) to photographic documents of his recent project "Second House", recently acquired by the Guggenheim, the installation felt almost like its different sections presented works by different artists. While some paintings definitely revealed Prince's skill, I wasn't amazed or astounded by anything. Some of the works cut as short as the mundane jokes and sentances they depict. Prince, the person, what he says in interviews, may be more interesting than his art.
Hillary Harkness (Mary Boone): I think I prefer when Harkness concentrates on 3 or 4 very complex paintings. This show continues her obsession with worlds filled with lesbian amazons, but this time these small canvas seem less achieved, more hastened than her bigger works. The drawings included some preparatory models for these works I had in mind. You rarely see studies as intricate as these. I wonder how this artist describes her work ?
Pierre Soulages (Robert Miller): More of the same with Pierre Soulages, with a little deep blue at times interfering here and there within the usual, quasi-sacred, self-imposing majestuosity of his black paintings, which at moments look so heavy that I wonder if we shouldn't call them sculpture. It would be a greater show If
I didn't expect it that much, but still, I respect an artist who developed such an intense sense of technique.
THE FINE / VERY GOOD SHOWS:
Sophie Calle (Paula Cooper): Have you heard about her late book Exquisite Pain ? Well it's all present here, as an installation. 92 photographs and objects recounting a travel in Asia in the 1980's, stamped with "XX days before unhappiness", as the work countdowns the chronology before Calle was abruptely abandoned by her boyfriend at the time. The second part part of the show presents 21 double-panels juxtaposing the diary of the events surrounding Sophie's life after this rupture (adorned with the repetitive photograph of an hotel room), with different texts of the memories of family and friends recounting harsh moments in
their life (each with a different accompanying photograph). All this to say that this work is VERY "Sophie Calle", but nonetheless too rare an occasion for us to
see a major work of her on this side of the sea to not feel somewhat rejoiced by it. In this work, both the personal and the conceptual reaches some extremes, what could annoy more than one visitor. But than.. it is so rare than an artist asks you such a question as: "what is the most painful event that occured in your entire life" ? Not any expensive gallery price can take that away. Call it "redeeming".
Panamarenko (Ronald Feldman): a collection of retro, "Jules-Vernian" surreal machine models (some of them ready to function) and scientific drawings from an outcast Belgium artist that exhibits so rarely on this side of Atlantic. Most of these items are about flight (wings for man, mechanical mosquito, model for a flying island, etc...) and aims to defy "conventions of scientific utopia" (!). There is a retroactive Walt Disneyesque look to some of this gadgetry (Walt Disney took themselves from early representations of mechanical fantasies), but it is never bereft of charm.
Sturtevant (Perry Rubenstein): For those who are missing the retrospective in Boston, this single installation covering all of this artist's replicates of Duchamp's works constitute to my understanding her best theoretical achievment (though part of her work is also about technical achievment, as she reproduces other people's art with her own hands). This artist took upon issues of cloning way before the term was in vogue. For that alone she deserves your curiosity. The point where she fails is that she insists on keeping an aura around her work. She is depreciative of the idea that anyone can replicate art. I would say to people to create their own Fontaine instead of buying mine. Give the aura back to concept, not object. I think Sturveyant aims at bringing it back to object.
Sport (Socrates Sculpture Park): a funny park exhibit presenting "sportive" art or art preoccupied by sportive themes. Socrates Sculpture Park succeeds where Metrotech Park fails (Public Art Fund) at instauring a fresh-aired, convivial way of experimenting art. Most of the art here is light and humoristic (there's even a box ring in case you got a dispute to solve), but nonetheless unfolds into a sweet criticism of a variety of underlying themes, such as the question of territory.
There's never enough public outdoor art, period. The SSP crew are doing a terrific job.
William Wegman (Hudson Guild): photos of his dogs presented in circus context. Predictable yet I'm falling for them. Circus dogs is a reality that these photos only made stranger. They make Wegman look like an artist again instead of an illustrator for kid books. Actually they made me want to buy this next book with these circus dogs photos... When is it coming out ?
Coco Chanel (Metropolitan): some 25 cubicles chronicling Chanel couture over the years, with expensive dresses and ensembles wore by classy white mannequins, added with an extra few vitrines of accessories and jewels. They are no drawings or anything that could give any insight about the tailor's methods, but the dresses all resplenish one next to the other, as fashion is slowly turned into monumental. Chic and swell. I insist.
Fiona Tan / Contagious Media (New Museum): Fiona Tan goes Willian Wearing in her panopticon video portrait of people living within prisonal institutions.
Sort of a depressing work, contradicting with the various smiles seen on the screens. By chance, a couple other media exhibits nearby come as a relief for
dwelling on the humoristic. Most of those are web art, so you can try a visit in your home right now, as it is. (I said.... Go, now.)
Banks Violette (Whitney): this is the best work I've seen yet from Mr. Violette. And if you are not too upset about a church ruin built in salt (the church of Sodoma ?), than you are engulfed by an installation both emblematic of the "neo gothic" aesthetic and of Violette's punkish take on modernism. Simple, slick, perfect sculptural environment that will take you only a minute to contour but that you will keep in memory for much longer.
Malcolm Morley (Sperone Westwater): some critic argued that this was probably the only great painting gallery show these days in New York, within the profusion that is on offer. While there are some others that I preferred, Morley is probably the one that reached the better craft technique, in these equations of car accidents, earthquake debris, and fantastic sport imagery. This artist works with a grid method that helps him alter the events that he is transcribing, formulating an art that takes advantage on the ambiguities of form, to linger subtly with the abstract. Skillful.
Friedlandler (Moma): this exhibition of over 500 photographs arranged in salon style from the 60's photograph master is a bit exhaustive to visit, but then you can play (like I did) the exercise of passing fast and see what photo's attract your eyes the most. Not every photos are of equal qualities, to be honest, but the curators seemed to have took fun at agencing them in concise groupings of style, themes, or graphic matches. The self-portraits are there, the sublime national parks photographs too, and example of the many luxurious books that the artist published during his life. "Land Markings". Err.
Bruce Colbert (Nomadic Museum): I am saluting here years of living with people who dance with wild animals, the technical achievement of photographing them in the most visually stunning positions, the exquisite printing on handmade paper, and the originality of building your own museum. While many of the photographs are poignant, the (feature long) film feels a little bit too self-imposing, quasi narcissistic, and tend to oscillate with orientalist kitsch. Sort of a lyrical, choreographed, black and white version of Baraka. It attracts so many people that I suppose criticism is relentless. You decide.
Julie Mehretu (Projectile): I had never seen so many Mehretus all at once. This exhibit of "unimportant" works, being the first in a new gallery called "Projectile",
could be perceived as mocking a certain collector named Lehmann who recently sued the propriétaire for not getting the "important" Mehretu paintings. Nevertheless, Mehretu is in top form with her delirious agencies of what seems like cosmographic planes added one on top of others. Multi-dimensional skies from another horizon is how you could describe them if you forget for an instant that this is pure abstract play at mixing different style and layers of "pen strokes". The result marvels the spectator into chaos.
Matthew Buckingham and Joachim Koster (The Kitchen): a fiction film that looks like the video-diary that a girl made about a trip to a city in Denmark, documenting all sorts clues about the history of local politics (including the insurgence of a local anarchist group). The feature-lenght film is separated into five segments, which you can cross from one another to reach phono-globes that emits the soundtrack. What is interesting is the way the film is fragmented in a way that liberates the narrative, and lets you grasp a sense of the whole film in 20 minutes by perusing all the screens at once. Do we insist on learning details or are we satisfied with a general sense of the whole ? There is this formal strategy that you are forced to question. And estimate.
Daniel Buren (Guggenheim): a rare occasion to visit an architectural work by an artist who rebelled against museum institutions since so many years. A rebellion that has not so much to do with politics than with pure form (I'll let you decide which took from which, eventually). And so the only retrospective part of this exhibit consisted in a full wall upon which were assembled many of the artist's early stripes canvases (themselves rebellious against the traditional canvas for presenting stripes over the bland surfaces), and a couple videos that documented his ephemeral street interventions, architectural projects, and exhibiton in-situ projects over the years. Many spectators seemed in fact shocked that the centre spiral of the whole museum was left empty to respect Buren's intervention. But because this is an artist impossible to retrospects (he will empty your museum instead of allowing it), I consider this the rare chance to evaluate a very original career, that expanded minimalism and conceptual art into the living sphere.
Neo Rauch (David Zwirner): these tableaux takes from a retro-socialist aesthetic but mix all sorts of scenes together into a surreal mess (as if the communists hired surrealist painters to convey political propaganda). It is not always clear what they are about, but they always seem so full of precise mythologic and historic references. They seem to want to extract and exorcise all the sadness of political times past. Honorable.
Gregory Crewdson (Luhring Augustine): these photographic tableaux take a whole cinema crew to set up. They're sort of a meeting between David Lynch and Jeff Wall. People in spooky deserted neighbourhood, or caught in contexts of intimacy, as if hiding some secret tragedies. Intriguing.
Tony Oursler (Metropolitan): Well this new installation is definitely one of the landmark pieces in Oursler's carreer. A sculptural, spatial, take on
Gustave Courbet's "The Artist's Studio", which includes, among many objects, a video-canvas on which are projected a good numbers of interventions and commentaries by the artist's family members and friends. If you missed this artist's theatrics, they're certainly back in full. The other piece, a giant video ball of explosion that murmurs, is also worth a glimpse.
THE EXCELLENT / FANTASTIC SHOWS:
Diane Arbus (Metropolitan): I don't think there is any photograph from the 60's that influenced more the collectiv unconscious than Arbus. Like it or hate it, her focus on the uncommon and bizarre helped gather many famous images that weren't to be soon forgotten. I heard a visitor say "there is no one on any of these pictures that I feel like I want to be next with, or relate to". Actually, they are a few that I would like to know what they have become. The exhibit, thus, complies with three sections filled with instructive notes and paraphernalia, that functions like a real laboratory about Arbus's life, as though the camera had been turned on her. These sections are exhaustive to visit and will make you ponder about buying the book. But this exhibit is certainly the most important solo photograph exhibit I've seen in the past 5 years, if not 10.
Julian Schnabel (C + M): Well, a few major pieces are brought together in yet another cool and handy survey from the people at C + M. I can only hope that when you visit they are a couple other people in the rooms, because when you are totally alone like I was, the guard keep walking with you and this is really disruptive to quality viewing. At any rates, these giant paintings are masterpieces of a genre that
you could refer to as "mixte media", as they often incorporate residues from all sorts of source, including kitchen dishes or mexican potery, or use ackward material as source paint, such as oil, wax, or animal hide. Using archetypal themes of landscape, religion or portraits, these works seem to aim at transcending art history. Fabulous !
Hilla Rebay (Guggenheim): fantastic work from a lady that got too easily underestimated for copying both Kandinsky or her husband, Rudolph Bauer. Nevertheless, these early abstract tableaux are like pieces of jewels, especially her collage pieces (both abstract or portraying women). It seems Hilla Rebay sacrificed her career in order to gain attention to the artists (and friends) she admired. By convincing the collector Guggenheim, she became head of the first museum dedicated to abstraction in America, then called Museum Of Non-Objective Art. A fair replicate of the legendary first show of that museum, "Art Of Tomorrow", is also on view, what to me constitute a great celebration for art lovers, especially since this is happening inside a worldwide known spiralling museum that was also a folle idea of miss Rebay. Not to miss.
Andy Warhol (Shrahazi): I had the chance to visit a magnificent show of self-portraits by Andy Warhol at Van De Weghe, after it was officially closed.
But I wasn't prepared for this fabulous, museum level, exhibit of Warhol portraits across the ages. They are positioned in a mosaic fashion around 5 large rooms,
and they cover everyone from Joseph Beuys to Michael Jackson, often (evidently) in duplicate versions. The range of colours is so flamboyant from one portrait to the other that you easily excuse the appropriatedness of this art, at the same time as you can savour how stars and non-stars are put to an equal level by the simple gloss of painting. In the end, regardless of the theories about an industrial art closer to the appeal of mass media, Warhol's art, it seems, was all about color.
Max Ernst (Metropolitan): A bit too much white (the walls and the hard light) wasn't the best suit for the otherwise gloomish somptuousity of these
exotic paintings from one of the master of surrealism (the preferred surrealist for many). The show consisted of a great introduction to the various techniques, often evolving into as many themes and styles, used by the artists. To illustrate this, nothing less than a corpus of landmark paintings from every of the artist's periods, from the early onanist surrealism, to the symbological use of birds, to the pervasive obsession with dark forests presenting glimpses of ruins from archetypal architectures. Genesis' Eden and visions of the Apocalypse never looked so intertwined.
Little Boy (Japan Society): A compact but complex exhibit about japanese otaku and kawaii culture, daringly linking the interest of Japan for sci-fi and mutant cuteness with Second World War (more precisely the devastative effect of Hiroshima). After stacks of toys, mascot costumes, and original drawings from landmark artists of otaku or kawaii, including a panoply of Hello Kitty toys and a cool selection of adolescent figurines by Oshimah Yuru, the exhibit presents the new trend of japanese contemporary arts influenced by these pop phenomenons. Murakami, curator of the event, is there alongside many artists from his own "factory" (Nara, Aoshima, Takano, etc...) and a couple others. This show is really marking for blurring a distinction between children and adult material. At moments it lingers with the Hentai.
Sarah Sze (Marianne Boesky): In a time where every gallery is opting for the saleabilty of painting, one gallery dares to present an installation artist, and ends up showing some of the best art you can see in New York these days. Sze presents complex systems where anodin objects are gathered together in emulations of organic environments, sometimes involving a few biologic elements like water or flowers, such as in here, the reaching point of the gigantic triangular setup, the main of the three installation proposed here. What is to make of the piles of box infiltrated by all sorts of constructions behind a wall, up to an unreachable section in the gallery's storage room ? It looks like her art is attempting to parasite the place. The various forms, textures, and shapes invented by men spread into nature like a cancer spread into a human's body. This work is as fertile as it is intrusive.
Basquiat (Brooklyn Museum Of Art): there's no doubt this painter is one of the most intriguing ever coming out from New York. Sort of like a mixture Cy Twombly, Keith Haring, and indeed, Picasso, for the reactualization of africanitude. It is actually quite a virulent exhibit, from an artist who did so much in such a short period of time, and more than Twombly I'd say that Basquiat convinces us that doodles can be transformed into a master's art. The urgent oozyness of the words spread across his canvases only match his use of very bright, explosive colours. This is sort of an ugly art that turns out to actually look very beautiful (meant in the most ancient aesthetic jargon possible).
Remote Viewing (Whitney): This was predictable. Return of painting there ? Return of abstract painting over there ! This show supports the emergence of a few strong abstract painters in the last 10 years as they continue, through very personalized forms and approaches, to revitalize an evergoing tradition. Most of the works here are dense, methodic, at times quasi-scientific, and use motifs that could be referred to as "organic". Julie Mehretu steals the show from Franz Ackermann and Matthew Ritchie (among the best here, but showing work not any better what they usually do), for presenting, above a couple gigantic and graphically complex painting, a jawbreaking in-situ wall drawing. This exhibit only prove that with abstract too, skills and craft can matter, and this is exactly what these artists are going to show you. Some of them I think might become your new important painters for the next 50 years. Did I say Mehretu rocks ?
Casasola (Museo Del Barrio): impressive photographic documentation of mexican life at the time of the Zapatist revolution, this show also surveys the emergence of the political movement up to its downfall, with the assassination of Emiliano Zapata. There's no way around it: it is as if you were there! A categorically intense show about an intense period of mexican history that will surely be the subject of future blockbuster movies, without ever catching a glimpse of the virulent authenticity that is presented here. A must if you still believe in photography's power to recount history.
Andrea Zittel (Andrea Rosen): yet another excellent show at Andrea Rosen (one of my fave of the Chelsea galleries), Zittel is presenting more examples of her post-hippy, neo-craft rebellion, art that stands at the conjecture with the utilitarian, and that is presented as extensions of her own ethically-informed living project in the middle of the desert, where she creates herself most of what she uses in everyday life. Dresses, furnitures, landscapes made of wool, and watercolours of prototypes form this incomparable art from one of the most fascinating artist alive.
What Sound Does Color Make (Eyebeam): a collection of flickering and noisy video pieces, including a rare occasion to stand for over an hour (as I did) submerged within a Granular Synthesis piece. Most of the works had the slick aspect of avant-techno, presenting shapes created by light play over ambient or techno soundtracks (if not the pure glitch of video noise). Added with the obvious reverence to early pieces by the Vasulkas or Paik, it was all very expectable coming from the technology-oriented Eyebeam, but nevertheless refreshing in the context of Chelsea.
Anthony Gormley (Sean Kelly): a rare occasion to see new work by this important brittish sculptor, still focussing on the human body after so many years, but
lingering also on the abstract. The spectacular piece here is a gigantic slinky inserted into the gallery space, or rather, what seems like a slinky since the
spiralling illusion is actually created by a series of separated circles, which I guess renders a cosmogonic appeal to the experience. Most of the other sculpture
use similar schemes of the construction of the universe (nothing less) to represent the body in shapes of metal, at one point even alluding to the cubic christ of
Dali (again, nothing less).
Make It Now (Queens Sculpture Center): a very sexy survey of recent New York sculpture that beats all the other surveys of recent, young, new york art you
might have heard about. Whereas others only prove that with recent painting you needed to dig to find the good stuff, this show prove that the sculpture scene is
quite revigorating. Most of these artists transform scrap into the most imaginative configurations, creating systems of erosion, carton cities, or leopard neons. One sculpture seems to re-address Manzoni by proposing towers made with medicine bottles containing what looks like piss (but certainly just colored water). The monument to hip hop glitters by Luis Gispert is a top. I should come back on it.
Barry McGee (Deitch): a crazy installation glorifying the scapes of graffitists, including a spectacular pile of broken minivans and cars still attempting to function. Also, secret hidden squats, video tower showing images of graffitis, and a few animatronic mannequins acting as gallery's graffitists, all this within a room
surrounded by a relentless mosaic of sharp and brightly-colored geometrical shapes that provides the set of a rendez-vous between hip hop culture and either psychedelism or techno culture. I'm not sure yet what I think of the youth american generation idea of fun, but it was nonetheless irremediably eyecatching.
Aida Ruilova (Greenberg Van Doren): minimalism meets trash-goth in these absurd video loops made of edits of everyday passive expressions such as "ummm", "oh", or "ok"...The protagonists all seem trapped in bland closets, while the seconds-short video pop one after the other. It gets weirder with the "Countdown" piece when constant "Viscontian" zooms reveal numbers marked in the scenes they originally take from, often inhabited by characters in the most bizarre z-movie situations, such as a girl nude with a fat man's grey underwear standing on rocks inder a bridge. This is the death of video art as you will enjoy it ! Please !!
Thomas Demand (Museum Of Modern Art): as the king of fabricated photography, his skill is incomparable. So much that most of the time, we can't even see
that these images of various scapes, from the domestic to the industrial to the natural, are all miniature models made from paper and carton, unless we come really close to them and scrutinize for half a dozen minutes. There weren't that many works in the show (around 20 huge sizes), but given the intricacy of their details they probably each take a lot of time to bricolage. The activity of representing the banal never looked so harsh. Brilliant !
Walton Ford (Paul Kasmin): With the radical genre of neo-old-masterism, I rarely get as convinced as with this painter, who imitates the style of ancient illustrations of natural history books (including the method of handwritting over illustrations) to present pictures of animals in position of prey, being attacked by other animals. Together, they form an allegory about life being in eternal warfare with itself. The contrast between the cuteness of some of these pictures and the inherent violence of their subject matters is otherwordly poignant. A show that prove that application and a simple focus can lead to some great art.
There is about a third of the shows I've seen in New York
that aren't listed above, and these omitted shows cover
any of the four preference areas that I just categorized.
I may come back to some of them ulteriorly,
but for the moment I think my very top favorite ones
are included. I tend to change my mind on these aspects.
(Ps...as it is I haven't revised and corrected
the ugly english mistakes in this text yet)