Brian D.'s Profile
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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.
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.
I went to this gallery to see the Robert Buck show. It had sculptures that reflected the visuals of the southwest U.S. and the Native American experience--lots of concrete and barbed wire and earth-tone paints. It was just OK. But I give it four stars because apparently the artist used to exhibit under the name Robert Beck but changed it to Robert Buck, which is much cooler. Also I love the front doors at this gallery--the handles are thick and square and have a nice burnished copper look. Thanks to the doors, I always enjoy going in and out of this gallery!
Very cool gallery! There's a great slogan painted on the facade: "the whole world + the work = the whole world." I know this sounds corny, but every time I see it I feel inspired.
Last time I went the inside also had words on the walls--not painted on but put there by a projector for an installation by Frances Stark. The work was based on her internet chats with Italian men. As far as I could tell the text was a transcription of video chats where Italians were showing her their dicks and vice versa. But the words made it into the art, and I was glad that Gavin Brown's Enterprise put big couches in the middle of the gallery so I could get cozy for 30+ minutes of reading.
Frances Stark made this work for an important exhibition in Venice last summer and the guys she chats with--as I mentioned before--are Italian, like the people in Venice. The projections are timed to the rhythm of music from a Mozart opera, which has lyrics in Italian, even though Mozart spoke German. But the lyrics are gone, just like the images of these Italian guys who were typing to Frances Stark in English. All these removals and reminders of geographical distance really made me think about the distance between an artist and her audience, because in most cases the artist "isn't in the picture," so to speak, when the audience encounters the work. But, at the same time, the audience wants the artist to expose a private side of herself so they can have a vicarious experience of the genuine emotional connection that's missing from their everyday lives. That expectation for art is basically the same impulse that sends people to sites that promise spontaneous and exciting random encounters, like Chatroulette, even though (or maybe because?) all these sites have to offer is a bunch of dicks. There's something like a "lost in translation" problem there when you can't match your desires up with the desires of the guy who wants you to look at his dick. Same thing with the artist's anxiety over whether what she wants to show is what people want to see. Or when you tell an Italian guy that stab is a verb and he thinks it's a dick. I'm pretty sure that's what Frances Stark was thinking about when she made this work, given the way she mixes together "I'm gonna chat with guys in Italy" with "I'm gonna show my art in Italy."
I got a little carried away there but I thought this was super interesting and also somewhat relevant to my point, which is: Gavin Brown's Enterprise is a good place to have an intimate experience with some good art.
This is a good space. I went during the Art Walk and they had a Quisqueya Henriquez show will collages and prints: op-art lenticular effects, shimmery pixelated screen shots, digital renders of architectural fragments, sticky Rorschach-test paintings laid on top of some of the prints. She is taking some interesting ideas that other artists have explored in greater depth and putting them together in her own way. This isn't incredibly exciting but, honestly, that's what most art is and at least Quisqueya Henriquez has a nose for what's relevant.
Tip: Don't even look at the press releases. The pretention is over-the-top. You will gag.
On my last visit to this location of Gagosian Gallery in October the best thing was the cables. They were draped across the floor in long, slender coils that got smaller and accumulated in little piles near the display equipment. Very nice. The videos they were powering, not so much. They were by Douglas Gordon and were shot in the Scottish highlands: views of a lone grand piano in the hills, set on fire and burning. A wannabe-lyrical platitudinous parable about nature and culture.
According to Yelp three stars is "A-OK" so this isn't a *bad* review. In fact I will start out by saying something positive: I am so happy that the Whitney's management has decided to move! They are opening a new location near the High Line in 2015, and that will be great for them. Maybe by now you can already guess what I don't like about the Whitney... it's that the building sucks. Every time I go there I feel depressed. It's a dark, heavy place, with the vibe (and smell) of a mid-century institutional building. When I'm on the stairwell between floors I have flashbacks to junior high and it's generally unpleasant.
But despite that I can't give the Whitney a bad review because they have (and especially lately they have had) so many great exhibitions! I'm always impressed when the artists manage to take the gross building they've been given a space in and turn it to their advantage. Last summer when Sharon Hayes was there the oppressive & somber atmosphere of the third floor--with its low brutalist ceiling--was actually a good accompaniment to her documentations of protests and interviews with ordinary people. The raised platforms that brought viewers even closer to the ceiling really emphasized that. Wade Guyton, who had a show on the same floor, made a series of mirrored U's in various sizes, and the cement squares that tile the ceiling turned into viscuously moving holes in the reflections. Plus the gallery was reorganized with temporary walls in a visually dynamic layout that made me forget about my surroundings. Also the recent Richard Artschwager exhibition was one of the best retrospectives I have ever seen, and his work is all about the psychology of interior spaces. It led me to think about how the Whitney's building has a bad effect on my psychology, which was better than just feeling it.
In short, there's almost always a couple of must-see shows at the Whitney and I hope that in 2015 when it moves seeing them won't be such a downer. I also hope they install working water fountains there. The water fountains here never eject more than a weak trickle and it's impossible to drink from them.
Sometimes I think that putting a group of paintings of the same size at the same height on a gallery's wall is a boring way to hang an exhibition. But shows like Charline von Heyl's are a good reminder that this is only the case when the art is boring! (and complicated installation techniques are often only compensating for the art.) She is my favorite living painter and this new work at Petzel Gallery is truly remarkable, with gaunt-yet-bold palettes--pink, gray, pale green in one, black, yellow and purple in another and so on--and the hints of figuration and patterning that always invite some kind of identification or familiarity but never satisfy it, because it stays on the hint level. What I really love about von Heyl's paintings is that when you stand back and observe them they look so complex and layered, with otherworldly depth and aura, but if you look close up you can see there's nothing particularly mystifying or ghostly about the way she paints. The brushstrokes are evident, there's nothing that hides her hand. You can see the roughness, dare I say clumsiness, of the painting's application, and the marks of the palette knife where she cuts the paint into shapes, where applicable. It's just something about the way she combines all the elements to produce an organic whole that is breathtakingly brilliant. The one thing technique-wise that remained a mystery to me was the scratchmarks on one painting; the checklist said there was charcoal among the meida so I asked the guy at the desk if the artist had scratched into the surface of the dried painting with a knife or something, or if that was just what the charcoal looked like when it was drawn on. He didn't know, so he went to ask the director, but the director was in a meeting. He said I could email him with the question and he'd get back to me, which was very nice of him, but I doubt I will. It's not that important anyway.. just curious!
I'm going to pretend I didn't see the Allan McCollum exhibition in the small gallery--Allan McCollum is always a snoozefest, this show even moreso than usual, which I didn't think was possible--and the Charline von Heyl show is so excellent, I don't want to bring this review down.
"Museum" is not really the right word for this place, as it has no permanent collection. It shows works by living artists and sells them. So it's a gallery that is subsidized by the city, as a way of supporting the local arts community. That's fine. Just not what I was expecting when I first entered this "museum." Most of the works deal with some Rhode Island-y themes: lots of beaches, views of Narragansett Bay, landscapes, etc. with various "modern" twists to them, as well as some crafts (i.e. jewelry). That's fine, too--but for me, ordinarily what catches my attention is edgier/more conceptual stuff. I did get bewitched, though, by a quilted piece by Michele Leavitt, a bay scene created from ragged, irregular scraps of fabric, with the bits of thread that hold them together hanging from the surface and adding to the already wild texture. So many different, vibrant hues of blue! I didn't pay much attention to the boat-shaped sculptures, assembled from big, found pieces of wood and metal, the maker of which--I learned from the museum's binder--taught engineering at the University of Rhode Island and started making art a couple of years ago, after his retirement. I was with my father--an engineer like the artist, and someone who doesn't usually look at art--and though I didn't pay much attention to the boats my dad said he really appreciated the craftsmanship that went into them. He actually lives in Warwick, so the museum is there for him, and that's a good thing.
The Queens Museum recently opened an expanded space and it looks fantastic. The old galleries had an awkward shape. The panorama totally dominated everything, being so much bigger and taller than everything else, and the main galleries were just filling it out in a square. The exaggerated height and curved walls tapering into narrow corners were just completing the building, not serving the interests of displaying artwork.
But the new galleries, in a former ice rink, are spacious and rectangular and very amenable to displaying all kinds of art. The NYC watershed map and tiffany glass collection (which always seemed like somewhat odd companions for the contemporary art that the museum usually shows) are still around but separated from the other exhibits in a more coherent fashion. Now there's a permanent display of memorabilia from the World's Fair, which maybe had been in the museum before, but I had never noticed it in the old configuration. The old, oddly shaped galleries are still in use, but the way movement flows into them from the central court feels elegant and now the variety of spaces that they contribute to spices up the experience of the museum visit. On my last visit a rounded wedge-shaped gallery featured works by Cuban artists, highlighting the diversity of artistic communities on display at QMA that you don't always find at the big NYC museums. Upstairs in the education area there was a small collection of unlabeled works--a project that encourages people to look at art without consideration of names, a gesture I appreciated. There was a denim jacket with punk stuff painted all over the back that held my interest for a while, and a painting that I'm pretty sure was made by Philip Guston (not that it matters).
One of the exhibitions in the main space was the Queens International, a biennial exhibition featuring artists who live or work in Queens. There was a lot of good stuff here, and great variety. I won't go into detail about it but I remember one video piece with a hip hop soundtrack and a women shimmying around a kitchen in their underwear with hands duct-taped behind their backs that made my friend say "Art is the best!"
The real highlight for me though was the exhibition "Peter Schumann: The Shatterer," which is about the activity of the Bread and Puppet theater, which has been doing performances and participating in activist demonstrations since the 1960s. There are larger-than-life paper-mache puppets, masks, books... It's so richly textured and full material - i felt like I would walk around, take a look from another perspective, and see a whole other layer of drawings and objects that I hadn't noticed before. From nonsense words and stories to grotesque body shapes, pointed renderings of expressive gestures and wistfully dashed-off ephemeral fragments, the two big galleries are packed floor to ceiling with details that are all worth stopping and pondering. It's up through March 30, 2014, and I would urge any art lover to check it out.
All in all, the Queens Museum is great and keeps getting better. I feel proud to live in its borough.
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