Chelsea jaunt

Made lemons out of lemonade today: Sidelined from running, I took up biking, and I rode down to Chelsea and up to Columbia for some art shows. Perfect weather for it.


Three of the four shows I loved have to do with mirrors. So sue me.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lavoro - Atelier, 2008-2011, Silkscreen on polished super mirror stainless steel 59 X 59 inches (150 X 150 cm). // Source:

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lavoro - Atelier, 2008-2011, Silkscreen on polished super mirror stainless steel 59 X 59 inches (150 X 150 cm). // Source:

Michelangelo Pistoletto at Luhring Augustine
Thru April 28

The Arte Povera mirror-maker depicts construction workers, bringing the past of each building these are shown in into the present. I liked these a lot. Baffled why the statement said that the images are “adhered” when the image captions, and the works themselves, suggest screenprinting as the medium. These are not my favorite Pistolettos; I liked some of the older ones at the Walker and Brooklyn Museum better, but it’s still great to see so many of them in one place. A treat.

Greg Smith at Susan Inglett Gallery
ners Banners Banners Ban
Thru May 26


If you can’t make it, read on…. (Spoiler alert.)

I made a point of going into galleries that aren’t on my usual route, and this one paid off. There are drawings and mixed media assemblages with a harness, all very cruddy and rough. The best thing, though, is a video that documents a performance in which the artist produced and installed the works under and on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. There’s a belt of canvas that goes completely around the car, and shots of the artist operating a sewing machine while driving (not recommended!). He used copious amounts of sweetly colorful dots, and also made some fabric-and-cotton-batting pennant flags. It’s a bizarre experiment with lots of physical and legal risk for crafty, yet un-crafted, artworks. Super thought-provoking for thinking about what is at stake in a work or practice, and what is success or failure.

Grey Peak of the Wave, Installation view, 2012 Alicja Kwade, Alexandra Leykauf and Florian & Michael Quistrebert. Source:

Grey Peak of the Wave, Installation view, 2012 Alicja Kwade, Alexandra Leykauf and Florian & Michael Quistrebert. Source:

Grey Peak of the Wave at Harris Leiberman
Group show of European artistst
Through April 28

I love this kind of work. Subtle, open-ended, perceptual, quiet. My favorites were:

Alicja Kwade’s taped glass sheets with two lamps, one on, one off (above, on ground). In the glass’ reflection, the unlit lamp appears convincingly illuminated.

Alicja Kwade’s bent mirrors, as if drooping down off the wall like a sheet of paper (also seen above, in the rear space). Surreal. Materially simple, disguising what I’m sure was laborious or expensive fabrication. Manipulating common materials in uncommon ways never gets old to me.

Alexandra Leykauf’s wall vinyls and framed photos (also above, back wall). Who doesn’t love a b/w photo of geometric abstraction made with real objects? And then complicating commodification with both framed works and site-specific, one-use vinyl? So simple, so good.

IRAN do ESPÍRITO SANTO, Installation view of SWITCH at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York March 21 - April 28, 2012 Photo: Jason Wyche, New York. Source:

IRAN do ESPÍRITO SANTO, Installation view of SWITCH at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York March 21 - April 28, 2012 Photo: Jason Wyche, New York. Source:

Iran do Espírito Santo at Sean Kelly
Thru April 28

I loved this Brazilian artists’ subtle, perceptual, materially sophisticated works ever since I saw a few at Altman Siegal in San Francisco. This show is a brave selection of 3 major works: a large wall painting, a series of marble replicas of glass bulb covers, and this series of “mirrors.” In fact, these are all made with two sheets of plate glass sandwiching a reflective tint. They look like mirrors until you spend a little more time with them, and realize that they are slightly transparent. They don’t, as the press release states, look like they’re folding, the way Kwade’s bent mirrors do at Harris Lieberman. But they do achieve something else, which as to do with how the leaning piece and the floor piece allow slightly different amounts of light and reflectivity. It’s sort of like the difference between a 100% printed CMYK black, and a “rick black,” which is a mixture using more colors, and hence, more saturation. The mirror on the floor looks as if you could fall into it.


Post-Minimalism for All

In yesterday’s New York Times, Roberta Smith champions painting, and states a formal history of–and argument against–the idea that painting is dead (“It’s Not Dry Yet,” March 26, 2010).

This is a positive follow up to her negative opinion, “Post-Minimal to the Max,” (, February 2, 2010), in which Smith takes aim at the current slate of exhibitions at NYC’s major museums. Exhibitions of the work of Gabriel Orozco, Roni Horn, Urs Fischer, and Tino Seghal

…share a visual austerity and coolness of temperature that are dispiritingly one-note. After encountering so many bare walls and open spaces, after examining so many amalgams of photography, altered objects, seductive materials and Conceptual puzzles awaiting deciphering, I started to feel as if it were all part of a big-box chain featuring only one brand.

…Instead [of individuation and difference] we’re getting example after example of squeaky-clean, well-made, intellectually decorous takes on that unruly early ’70s mix of Conceptual, Process, Performance, installation and language-based art that is most associated with the label Post-Minimalism. Either that or we’re getting exhibitions of the movement’s most revered founding fathers: since 2005, for example, the Whitney has mounted exhibitions of Robert Smithson, Lawrence Weiner, Gordon Matta-Clark and Dan Graham. I liked these shows, but that’s not the point. We cannot live by the de-materialization — or the slick re-materialization — of the art object alone.

Smith put it rather bluntly (I don’t think we could live by expressionistic painting alone, either), and I relate to feeling bored by monotony in exhibitions. At the same time, however, I take issue with her points, and my reaction is grounded in my identities and environment.

First, if the post-Minimal programming of New York’s art institutions sync up, who cares? In the end you still got to see the Tino Seghal show at the Guggenheim, and the Urs Fischer show at the New Museum. The phrase “embarrassment of riches” comes to mind.

Second, this is a generational and coastal difference, but I never really perceived any serious threat to painting. San Francisco’s unique history in conceptual and performance art is known amongst specialists, but many more know about Barry McGee, and the San Francisco Mission School of painting that he helped to popularize. I found the arguments against the death of painting fatiguing in my studies–along the same lines as eye-rollers like “So what is art?”–so I find it perplexing that Smith would take up arms for painting now.

To state the obvious, painting’s not going anywhere. The Everyman still considers “painting” and “art” synonymous, to the exasperation of non-painters everywhere. Most art museums house room after room of paintings. Most art stores feature a prominent aisle of paints and brushes. Ask people to draw the idea “art” and I guarantee that three of the top 10 responses you get will be: a palette with paints (you know, the round one with a hole for your thumb), gilt picture frame and canvas on an easel. Extending “pictorial history” is just not my priority, nor should it necessarily be curators’.

Third, I’m reminded of something the artist Paul Chan enigmatically said in his SFAI lecture, about “those who’ve been left behind by Modernism” — subcultures who are developing their own Modernisms, not to speak of tackling Post-Modernism (or Post-Minimalism, for that matter). I think that if thousands of tourists and students get to see the retrospectives by Roni Horn (the only female artist on Smith’s lists) or Gabriel Orozco (the only artist of color and person from the Global South; not splitting hairs about Gordon Matta-Clark, OK?), good for all of them.

Smithson, Matta-Clark, Graham and Weiner form like a board of directors of Post-Minimalism, and though I’d wonder what makes a Weiner show urgent or necessary, I’d guess that scores of art students and artists are grateful for the chances to see Smithson’s, Matta-Clark’s and Graham’s work in person, a small ameliorative for the feeling of being born too late to see Earth works and site-specific interventions of the 1960s and 70s. Smithson and Graham are significant influences for young contemporary artists, especially when you look at the resurgence of cheeky Romanticism in the curatorial work of Lawrence Rinder, the earthy Transcendentalism of shows like Alchemy at Southern Exposure and the emphasis on viewers in social/relational art.