Brian D.'s Profile
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New York, NY 10011
I came to Andrew Kreps with great expectations as a fan of Darren Bader's work but this show--or three shows, he says it is--left me sighing with a tinge of melancholy. Bader is a sculptor, I would say, and what I've liked about his work in the past was the feeling of an organic synthesis forging a deeply resonant and closeknit connections among disparate objects, while employing unexpected materials such as animals, living plants, dead vegetables among images and products and the other usual elements of sculpture today. It's a really thrilling sculpture that electrified the space around it, making all the environment alive and me excited to be in it. Or it was.. now, in this show at Andrew Kreps, the materials are atomized, disconnected, and the space of the gallery is just ordinary gallery white space that's there to separate objects and set them apart from my life and life outside. The walls, floor, and air were there between things to isolate them from each other, and isolate me from them.
It was a show of photographs and objects--photos on the wall, objects on the floor. (Already a significant separation, a categorization keeping everything apart in its own conceptual cubbyhole.) For the most part the photographs don't have a lot going on in them, or at least not anything that really caught my interest. They look like fashion shots or ads or stills from movies I wouldn't want to watch in full. And they are framed in black on white walls, very isolatory. The objects, as I said, are all on the floor, some of them are plain like a can of beans whereas a limited number are big and crazy--a panel printed with a weird text about celebrities along with collaged images, which appeared to be a full-fledged work of art in its own right, and a big plexiglass box with black rubber gloves reaching inward, perhaps a kinky torture chamber of some sort? These were interesting to look at but looking at them only reminded me of the plainness of all the rest of the objects, how little there was to link any of them together, just this analytical picking and choosing that just repeats what any gallery in Chelsea does instead of transforming it and making it a worthwhile space to be in.
New York, NY 10002
It wasn't so long ago when the Lower East Side galleries were the place to see delicate and minor works--drawings, photo collage, or little assemblages of whatever with garbage dangling off. But those days are quickly receding into the past as LES galleries move into bigger digs and put on more ambitious shows to hold onto the yougn artists they've been working with who want to make granger gestures. "More weight" by Sam Moyer at Rachel Uffner is exemplary of this trend. This is a heavy show indeed. I felt like I was at Paula Cooper!! Maybe it was even too heavy for me--Sam moyer's studies of stony textures is so cold, but tactile touches warmed it up. The main gallery is impressively vast and cave-like in its current dimly lit state, a great rock slab taking up most of the floor and a warm off-white luminescence from a stately marbled lightbox of commensurate size on the ceiling. It should be said that the architecture of the gallery itself, which is beautiful, lends a lot to the effects of the art, with white wooden beams, dark floors, a rich lived-in old feel to all the walls and materials. But what I liked best were the smaller works on the upper level, the unevenly cut small rock slabs jointed with textiles stretched on uneven frames. The ancient grooves of geological movement improvised with the quicker, newer lodes of dye in fabric, and what I liked best was how this play of texture and surface continued through the slanting skylight above, which showed the rise of the building next door and the winding paths of vines and cracks as if an extension of the works on view. Made me feel small, and light, in a good way.
New York, NY 10002
I didn't spend long at Jayson Musson's show here before leaving in disgust. This collection of truly terrible art is presented with a knowing sneer, making it an unfunny joke of a show that makes fun of everyone but the artist, when it's really he who should be the butt.
The walls feature some stupid abstract painintg: discrete pastel blobs sitting flat on the surface, absolutely no movement or volume or life at all in them. These are just static ugly decoration. Scattered around the floor there are some cartoonish sculptures, which for all their real volume are so toy-like and boring they might as well be flat. It's all just a caricature of what some rich guy with childish tastes might put in his house. There are some screens in the front window and along the stair leading down from the front desk to the gallery with messages in a Comic-sans-looking font, saying things like "Art Museum Next Door!" "Exhibition of Modern Art!" and so on, which implicitly compares Salon 94 itself to those tables outside the Metropolitan Museum or MoMA selling souvenir prints and overpriced postcards--I took it as a rib at Salon 94 for (arguably, somewhat tackily) moving into a space right next door to the New Museum to heighten its own profile. I wonder, what was the conversation between artist and dealer like when this piece was proposed?!
A friend told me that I should check out the press release and learn about the critique that the artist was intentionally hiding in the work, but screw that. That would just be capitulating to the requirements of bad modern/conceptual art that the artist seems to hold in such low regard even as he is exploiting them to his own personal benefit in order to shit on viewers, collectors, dealers, other artists. There is nothing visually or physically interesting about this art world joke that would make it redeeming or sympathetic and I wish that, since the artist obviously hates art so much, he would just give up, go away, stop it, leave me alone.
New York, NY 10011
Franklin Evans' show here is called paintingassupermodel which could mean painting gets photographed, looked at, admired, airburshed, photoshopped, has its pores removed and so on. But painting here is still a mess: thick, complex, riddled with rough textures, covered with masking tape and confused with print. When it's photographed it's distorted, stretched into wallpaper, blown up too big so the pixels show, or the editing tools otherwise show in ways that aren't pretty. But maybe I'll never understand what Franklin Evans was thinking when he chose this title for this epic installation and that's ok, the title doesn't really matter anyway. What I liked about it was how it shook up perceptions of two-dimensional space, creating a variety of ways of looking at and relating to images on a wall, by mixing prints and collage and painting, inverting one through the other and mashing them all up. It's a fun journey through the artist's process of looking at paintings and making them, with some references to data and web pages and excel spreadsheets in the form of wallpaper that reminds you of computers and offices and networks and markets, the numerical atmosphere that art is made in and exhibitions are organized in, but not in a way that's boringly archival or demands calculating examination on the viewer's part. As I approached the desk to check out the press release a man behind it, barrel-chested in a pink oxford shirt, said "hey how's it going" in a gruff but amicable way that made me feel welcomed.
New York, NY 10013
apexart is the only non-profit exhibition space in New York that doesn't let visitors use the restroom. Artists Space, White Columns, Art in General, the museums--they all have places where people can relieve themselves. But not apexart! If you ask at the desk they will send you across the street to the Tribeca Grand hotel. (Does the hotel know about this, I wonder?) So their behavior in that respect is more like a commercial gallery, which tends to be very guarded about its private spaces. All over New York people's bodily needs only are recognized when those people are paying customers--"restroom for customers only," except for like, White Columns and Starbucks. Apexart is weird because there's no way to be a paying customer (they don't sell anything) but they don't want to imagine their viewers as having bodies either. If you have a digestive system, go to the Tribeca Grand!!
So that's a general commentary about the space and its attitude toward visitors, but what's funny about it is that the last show I saw here was called "Private Matters," an exhibition that purported to explore issues of privacy in contemporary life. But all of the works in it were about public space, and how information circulates in them. An installation by Stephanie Syjuco was tiled with sheets of paper featuring the names of books and essays of leftist thought and art criticism with scissored fringes of urls that you can tear off, like on the DIY ads found on bulliten boards and bus stops, so you could take them from titles of books that interested you to look them up later when you get home. (I tore off a bunch but then forgot to download the pdfs and then I think I lost them, oops.) Then there was a big installation of T-shirts with emails printed on them, all about activists trying to protest at EU buildings with slogans on T-shirts but being removed because of some EU laws about protests, and the emails had the ensuing discussions about what was allowed under free speech protections. It was boring to look at, also like the PDF url installation it had nothing to do with privacy! Isn't privacy all the things that have been kept out of public--secrets of bodies, faiths, personal problems, etc.? It's not about copyright and free speech, which are part of the public sphere. But if figures that apexart, for the reasons discussed in the first paragraph, would be totally clueless about this. The only work included that had something to do with private life was a vitrine of garbage collected by Kathleen Hanna (!!) and someone else. This junk that was discarded on the street, while it had a past connection to inner or indoor existence, had already been ejected outside, however, and anything concerning the people who had touched it was gone.
New York, NY 10012
I've never been a major lover of Donald Judd's work and learning more about it on a tour of the recently opened Judd Foundation (such as, he based many of his sculptures on mathematical formulas) didn't do much to curry him favor with me. I just don't think there should be that much math in art! But nevertheless I really enjoyed touring the space and would recommend it to anyone who can get a reservation (it's by appointment only, and tours are booked far in advance). What's great about it is seeing some of the pieces in Judd's personal art collection, works by his friends who can be found in any big museum of modern art, but here they've been lived with. The art has grown into the house, which makes looking at it a very different experience than a museum. The huge geometric paintings by Frank Stella, an orderly puzzle of angles and curves, where the fruity kitchen colors of the 70s--avocado, oatmeal, lemon, peach--had faded into a lighter, odder palette, or in the bedroom, Dan Flavin's serially off-center array of fluorescent arches, whose red and blue light extended endlessly in the glass dorr on the elevator shaft and yellowed the picture windows with their shine. Curiously, the walk-in closet/dressing room had a caricature by Daumier about the 19th century art salons of Paris, not the kind of thing one would normaly associate with Judd! Also interesting to see the artist's obsession with order domestically applied to his kitchen counters, where all the forks and spoon lay out in a lengthy series.
New York, NY 10002
Soak or stroke? Stroke or soak? This is the question that continuously, but pleasurably, bedeviled me as I viewed the exhibition of paintings by Matt Connors at Canada gallery. Many of them had thick stripes that looked like the trail of a broad brush drawn briefly along the surface of the canvas but on closer inspection they revealed no trace of brushhair or the direct application of a hand, instead having a wet look suggesting that the canvas had been dipped in wet paint so as to leave a stain. But in some the approximation of a brushstroke shape was so close I could almost see the ahirs tingling at the pigment's edges like hairs on an excited neck! Here and there I would see drips lefts by a splash yet they were so rich and saturated I imagined the paint falling on the canvas in slo-mo like in a commercial for absorbent paper towels. In my favorite painting of the lot the strange soak/stroke stripes--in soft shades of the primaries, red, yellow and blue--danced in a configuration that was architectural but also like a quilt, somewhere between a map's legend and patchwork. Connors' paintings more than any others I've seen lately remind me of mid-century abstraction and its jazzy play of paint on the surface, and yet it's not like the old expressionism at all because it doesn't have that aggressive approach to the plane, instead there's a tender treatment of the canvas saying that the painting isn't just a surface, it's a depth, and I felt my eyes sinking into it, drowning in love for these paintings.
Williamsburg, NY 11237
Three-word review: L. O. L.
I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in a gallery as I did at Joel Holmberg's exhibit here. This is a good thing. The gallery just had seven monitors with video, plainer than a display aisle at BestBuy, but the content on them was something else.
One of my favorites was "Unattended Macbook Airs in Juice Store, 2013." It's just what the title says it is. Through the storefront window we see a Macbook Air, its screen black from disuse, unattended on a small round table without seating, where one would drink juice standing. The camera zooms in for a closer look--it is indeed a Macbook. A few steps further, past the door, and on the ledge is ANOTHER Macbook, similarly abandoned, black-screened. The camera pans up for a long view of the first computer, from behind, zooming in and then swinging around rapidly for another view back where it started. I think what I found so funny about this video is the voyeuristic quality of peering into windows but without any attention to people, who are usually the object of peeping. (Where are the humans anyway? Drinking juice?) Instead you have the machine eye of the camera scoping other machines. Of course there's a person (Joel Holmberg) behind the camera, but except for the part where he walks past the store door and you glimpse his shoe he's invisible, and the flourish of movement at the end swooping from one window to the next is so fast it seems inhuman. So it's funny to think that machines want to study each other when no one is around. Also, it's crazy that there are two computers just sitting there.
I could go on and on describing all seven videos in the show but I'd run out of space, so I'll just talk about the piece de resistance, which is a collection of shots of people talking on CNN and the labels that say who they are. Some examples I wrote down: "Pete Wilson: Car Hit By Boulder" "Deziray Chick: Filmed Owls" "Amy Corey: Banned from McDonalds" "Nilly Mauck: Condo Trashed" The grammar of how they are described doesn't always matched. It's like dangling modifiers. That, plus the stories people are telling, if you listen (it was kind of hard to hear in the gallery--but I was there at the opening when people were talking) are very ordinary and boring, and that gets you thinking about how CNN is trying to create and sort through so much info, how pointing the camera is one way to get people to talk about themselves, and the person back in the studios writing the descriptions is working from the other side to figure out what to do with it. And the descriptions, when seen one after the other, are just so funny. "Cathy Wunschel: Found Pearl" "Marc Rosenthal: Was Lost In Apple Orchard" Like the juice store video, and the rest of the ones in this show, the collage of CNN footage approached the way humans and technology participate in communication from a fresh and fun perspective and I loved it.
New York, NY 11222
Light Industry calls itself a venue for "film and electronic art" which is something of a misnomer. To my knowledge there hasn't been any of the latter since 2009, maybe early 2010. When it first opened six or seven years ago they would show new work by young artists working with electronics but at some point they decided that 16mm film is the bee's knees and since then every event at Light Industry is some kind of structural or conceptual reel from the 60s or 70s. I made an effort to get into it but honestly, pretty much everything they show is really boring to me, or just plain bad. There are people who love bad old art films though, and if you're one of them Light Industry is great for you.
New York, NY 10001
The hard thing about making art is coming up with an image that will impact people in a meaningful way. It's easy to think of an image that means something to you--but how do you communicate that feeling to hundreds or thousands of strangers? Pop art made things a lot easier: use an image that already means something to a lot of people, and change it to make it your own . I think pop art works best when a popular, mass-culture image is changed in a way that communicates a very individual, personal relationship to it--and it's a personal relationship that a lot of other people can relate to.
Bad pop art is almost too easy. Take a popular image and change it in an obvious way--make it something it wasn't, make it the opposite of itself (i.e., the cute and familiar becomes strange and scary). Make it really big, in an expensive and monumental material. This is what was happening at the KAWS show at Mary Boone was about. A few huge wooden statues, of a Mickey Mouse-type figure, with a head that had been modified to look uncanny: no eyes, split ears, standing in poses of shame and disappointment. I didn't like it at all. But it's certainly popular. I visited on a Saturday and the gallery was swarming with people, all of them admiring this giant junk. I felt like I was in a scene from that Banksy movie, "Exit Through the Gift Shop." What do they like about it so much, I wondered? Maybe for some people it's just cool to see an easy way to make an art. they know it encourages their fantasy that they too could be an artist, if they just put in some effort and money. Maybe what they admire is the will the artist has to make art work for himself.
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