Impressions

Tom Friedman @ Luhring Augustine, Jeffrey Gibson @ Participant, more

Given my underwhelming art show attendance record in NYC, I took a quick jaunt through galleries in Chelsea today, followed by a pilgrimage to the East side for an LES space. I’ve linked to gallery photos when available, to spare you and the artists from my low-res snapshots.

Doug Wheeler at David Zwirner 

This light-and-space artists’ major installation is this month’s must-see show, but I couldn’t see it.

Last weekend, I tried to get in line one hour before closing time, but was told to come back another day.

Today, the wait time was estimated to be about 90 minutes, with a growing line outside, and a longer line inside. Unlike Disneyland, there weren’t signs estimating the wait time; I came by this information covertly, and I promptly gave up.

The gallery ought consider extending the show as well as opening hours.

Photos on DavidZwirner.com.
Read Randy Kennedy’s review on NYTimes.

Terry Winters (borrowing from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) at Matthew Marks

Big abstract paintings in the big space, small transparency-and-Xerox collages in the smaller storefront. The collages were fun and psychedelic with rainbow-colored data visualizations.

What made me stop was recognizing a chart borrowed from  psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose research on flow and creativity has inspired many of my Positive Signs drawings. Winters appropriated a X-Y graph on how challenges and skill can lead to apathy or flow. He overlaid it on a paint chip page. Worked for me.

Photo at matthewmarks.com.

Klaus Weber at Andrew Kreps

Sun Press looked cool, and would have been really cool if the sculptural contraption was working. Sunlight streamed in the windows and hit a mirror attached to hydraulic pistons on a wooden base. Several yards down a hall, another mirror (actually silver mylar pulled taut on a frame) was meant to catch the reflected light and re-direct it onto glass-plate-mounted transparencies, which would have acted as masks for incredibly slow, one-at-a-time, sun-bleached reproductions. Architecture and astronomy conspired against Weber, however, throwing the solar rays inertly on a wall.

The rest of the show was very good, however. A wall of death masks had two subtle surprises—humorously, a cartoonish character, and unnervingly, an empty spot with lone, expectant nail. I also liked some large, black-on-black screenprints made with honey, more for the food materials, á la Ed Ruscha. In an anatomical model, real produce filled in for organs, updating Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s veggie portraits, plus real-time decay. The brain, so inscrutable, is a cauliflower. As in my fridge, the cucumber, which stands in for the esophagus, mutinies first, shrinking as if in anaphylactic shock.

The gallery site hasn’t got any photos yet, so enjoy my grainy mobile phone photo.

A sculpture from Klaus Weber's show, "if you leave me I'm not following" at Andrew Kreps Gallery.

A sculpture from Klaus Weber's show, "if you leave me I'm not following" at Andrew Kreps Gallery.

John Miller at Metro Pictures

Puzzling theatrical sets made with b/w vinyl murals, fake trees and rocks, and sparkly automotive-painted file cabinets.

Photos at MetroPicturesGallery.com.

The carpet that spells “NO” reminded my of Amanda Curreri’s Leveller. Similar materials, very different intentions and effects.

Tom Friedman at Luhring Augustine

Really superb show by the master conceptualist-craftsman. Friedman’s sculptures and wall-works seem epitomize idiosyncrasy. There is hyper-realism, psychedelia, minimal text works, and miniatures; all result from a persistent attraction to labor. Friedman is a artistic daredevil, unafraid of the impossible.

Thankfully, full photo documentation is at LuhringAugustine.com.

Over and over, I thought of other artists who might appreciate this show, whose works resonates with specific projects. For example, I thought Steven Barich, who has made tiny pixel graphite drawings, might appreciate this pixellated acrylic painting. Anthony Ryan, who was painstakingly inlaying and weaving paper the last time I visited his studio, might enjoy this interpolated paper collage. This wrinkled photo of itself was not unlike Zachary Royer Schultz’ Crumple projects. And for yours truly, who has been dreaming about a kite project, there was this tiny figure, and his far, faraway kite (not pictured, and actually, it’s so tiny it’s barely visible in person).

AIGA’s 50 Books/50 Covers 2010 Competition 

[Full disclosure: my husband contributed to the interactive components of this exhibition.]

Graphic design aficionados who find themselves ogling covers rather than shopping for books in bookstores, this is the exhibition for you. Come and ogle away.

Graphic designers, beware: visiting this exhibition will only whet your appetite for expensive and unusual printing and bindery—gloss varnishes, rich textiles, and extraordinary boxes. Come anyway; this is the best way to see them, better than the mind-numbing sameness of printed catalogs.

Too many covers were stunners, but I especially loved the covers for Frank Rose’s The Art of Immersion and the book series, Themes of Psychoanalysis, elegantly illustrated with only one or two letters, symbols, or ornaments. The affect and emotion book, for example, bears a mirrored ampersand, which looks like two figures in intimate exchange.

Also: good spurs for home town pride: Rebecca Solnit’s The Infinite City, Mark Dion’s OMCA monograph, McSweeney’s, Tartine, etc.

Info and installation photos at AIGA.org.

Selected book covers can be seen at AIGA.org’s design archives.

Jeffrey Gibson at Participant, Inc.

[At one time, Jeffrey was a studio neighbor in Oakland, CA.]

Jeffrey, who is Native American, populates Participant’s not-insubstantial space with sculptures using rugs, beadwork, masks, leatherwork, and drums. As soon as I saw these tchotchkes, painted to look like art, I thought of another LES installation/performance wherein white artists appropriated Native American culture to articulate nature-inspired mysticism. Americans in general are guilty of participating in this ongoing cultural imperialism; it’s just that the conscious acts seem so overt, privileged, and repellant. I wondered what Jeffrey would have made of them.

A series of circular drums are painted with hard-edged geometric shapes and stripes, with some whisks of aerosol. These seem to most clearly convey the show’s inspiration, a 1940s exhibit of Native American art situated in modern art history. Other works, like the pink fluorescent tube shooting out of a hide satchel adorned with two beaded balls, queer up the theme. A b/w video displays time-lapse photos of the drum-paintings in progress. Moving blankets, heavy with paint and Native ornamentation, ground floor works and, as a flag, worry a hardwood dowel.

More info at ParticipantInc.org.

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Art & Development, Values

Criticism v. opinions

I really wish I was in NYC right now to see Charles Ray’s show at Matthew Marks. It sounds amazing.

I also appreciate Jerry Saltz’s write-up of Ray’s installations:

all brilliant examples of post-minimalist/conceptual sculpture, each created in the late eighties and new to New York, rattled my perceptions, jangled my faculties, and made me go “Wow!” … Ray’s sculptures, part of a long tradition of minimal installations, are also forerunners to much of the theatrical Festivalism of recent times (e.g., Maurizio Cattelan and Olafur Eliasson). Each piece is nearly invisible and formally economical. Yet each is outrageously labor-intensive….

–Jerry Saltz, “Dude, You’ve Gotta See This”, New York Magazine, June 7, 2009

Brilliant! I’m impressed with how concisely Saltz formally and historically situates the art, and conveys his viewing experience, enthusiasm and rationales.

And, I love that Saltz seems to be taking a stand. The public (including artists!) can harbor so much skepticism (if not outright antipathy) towards postmodern/minimalist/post-minimalist art, it’s nice to see a critic try to bridge the gap, and say, Yes, this is art, even if it looks like nearly nothing. And it’s hard work to make this kind of art.

He goes on to tell the viewer You have to look closely and think before you get your rewards.

All three of Ray’s pieces … are more than Merry Prankster sight gags. Each makes you ultra-aware of spaces outside the one you’re in, of rooms above and below you, the things that make these rooms and effects possible, and how your own body relates to all of this. They put you back in the realm of the unknown, of double vision and oddity.


Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for great art and arts coverage is sometimes marred by readers’ comment boards.

It takes a lot of time, work, consideration and nerve to make art and to write art criticism. So when it’s met with knee-jerk reactions from people who are convinced they could do the job better, I’m reminded of drunken ringside smack-talkers. The reality is that few people have the heart to wake up for 6am runs, much less step into the ring–not just once for their fantasy Rocky moment, but again and again, in spite of the anxiety, exhaustion, injuries and the constant availability of easier paths in life.

Likewise, in art, anyone can make an expressive gesture, but few have the nerve to dedicate themselves to a lifelong creative pursuit.

And in art criticism, any yahoo can have an opinion, but few have the patience and skill to form thoughts into well-reasoned, timely essays.

Recently, I’ve heard from artists who believed that MFA programs are scams, grad students are mindless sheep, and if they leave with anything, it’s how to regurgitate trends. Attacking participants in order to critique a system is lazy and immature. I attribute this attitude to learned helplessness and inadequate self-actualization. When you see the art world as a separate entity from yourself–rather than a group of people that includes yourself, in which you participate and shape with your words and actions–you cease to be accountable for it. You’re free to bash it, thereby legitimizing your own disappointments.

As one of my esteemed professors liked to ask,

What’s at stake?

When it comes to offering knee-jerk reactions, I’d like to see more armchair critics toe the line. You think you can make better art? Write better criticism?

Game on.

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