Brian D.'s Profile
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I actually lol'ed when I entered this gallery. Raw concrete floors, exposed pipes and other utilities--I'd just entered from a corridor in a very nice Upper East Side office building but suddenly I could have been in Bushwick. Apparently that's the feeling that this gallery is going for, trying to import some grunge style to Madison Ave for cool points.
Unfortunately I can't even remember what the art here was, except that it involved the kind of big messy painting that you would expect to see in such a space. It was like the art was made for the brand of the place and beyond that it's unremarkable. Two stars is "meh" and that was how I felt about this gallery. First lol, then meh
The big advantage that LA museums have over New York Museums in terms of architecture is the weather, which makes it possible to have all the gorgeous outdoor spaces--the courtyards, the gardens, the promenades--featured at the Getty, the Hammer, and of course, at LACMA as well. These really improve the museum-going experience, in my opinion. (But weather alone doesn't excuse all the terrible designs of NYC museums... get it together, New York!)
So that was one thing I really liked about LACMA. Another part of it is the variety of buildings on the campus, and of the approaches to installation found inside them. I loved the 1980s feel of the Japan building, with its ponderous gold-and-black elevator and the bonsai angles of the vitrines and the pale greenish tinge of the light in it, which complemented the objects on display therein, ranging from chunky medieval vases to delicate miniatures and inked assemblages on paper from the late 20th century. Other noteworthy displays are the pre-Columbian artifacts, where the walls are undulating stacks of thin wooden slats, and short curtains bordering the tops of the walls work with the colors of the vitrines' interiors to modulate a rainbow as you pass through the galleries, and also the South Pacific galleries, where the graceful curves of the wooden totems and tools are replicated in the benches and the arcs in which the objects themselves are positioned.
So yeah. I like the separation of the buildings and the variety that goes with them, but LACMA needs a ticketing system to go with it! They give you a paper ticket which you have to show every time you enter one of the galleries on the campus, which is a hassle, and what if you lose it? I got really annoyed when I went to the fourth floor of the American building and the security guard demanded to see my ticket. Look buddy, I showed it when I entered on the plaza level!! How did he think I got in?? I don't like a museum to make me feel like I'm in a police state where I constantly have to affirm my right to be there. This could be easily solved if they just gave people stickers to wear, like at some other museums. Please look into it LACMA.
Also I'm sorry but the Broad contemporary building at LACMA is really bad. Just a stack of huge galleries showing huge installations that have nothing to do with each other. Because of the galleries' size there are lots of stairs between each level, and the gigantic elevator is incredibly slow, so I feel like I spent more time moving among floors than I did looking at the art (exaggeration, but still). And I thought about the construction site for another Broad museum downtown, where the ads named a litany of the most famous artists: Damien Hirst! Takashi Murakami! Jeff Koons! YAWN!! How many Broad Museums does a city need??!? I think LA would be fine with none.
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.
I've never been to Egypt but I can imagine how the mystery of seeing the Sphinx rising from the desert is somewhat mitigated by all the trappings of the tourism industry around it--tour guides, the lines, souvenir stands, finding bottle water, etc. Postcards and pictures make it look like an Ozymandias experience of encountering ancient history amid the sands but I'm sure the real experience is more tightly managed. That's how it is with the mammy sphinx at the Domino Sugar Factory, "A Subtlety" by Kara Walker, where you wait in a long line (fast-moving, but took me about 45 minutes to go three blocks on a Friday afternoon) and then sign release forms absolving the organizers of any guilt should you inhale an asbestos and then go inside, where there are guides observing you and you're surrounded by tourists, people posing and snapping the object, which is so huge and mysterious albeit somewhat detracted by all the hullaballoo I've just described. I've read a lot of articles about how, although this work deals with the legacy of slavery and racism, most of the people who go to it are white and they take goofy pictures pointing at the sphinx's ass and so on, but when I was there were a lot of people of color and though everyone was taking photos of the sculpture they seemed to me to be posing solemnly, not silly--I remember one man who dropped to a half squat and pointed a sober, thoughtful gaze at his friend's phone, holding it for two or three minutes while his friend staged the perfect shot. So, maybe reports were sensationalized, or maybe I just lucked out to be there on a day when the atmosphere was chill, and people were taking pictures not to make light of it but because that's all people know how to do when confronted with a monumental sublime moment, the enormity of an important piece of art that will later dissolve, the importance of it swells their longing to capture it in an image and tag themselves to that moment to think of it again later. I couldn't resist getting a photo either but it all seemed too big to fit on my iphone so I just got some details of the dirty sugar at the sphinx's feet, the lodes of impurities lodged in her sugary flesh like dirt in shoveled snow.
I saw a delightful little Terry Winters show here last week--all small works, pages torn from textbooks or other informational text materials with colorful charts and diagrams printed on transparencies and laid over the top. Very nice to look it. I hadn't even been planning to come to this show but the gallery is on street level and has all glass on the front wall, which is a great way to welcome visitors.
This review refers to the gallery at 502 W 22nd St. but I couldn't find a Yelp entry for that location so I'm putting my review here. Matthew Marks has several locations all over Chelsea and I'd say that the quality is pretty consistent among them.
I saw an exhibition here by Jutta Koether, a painter who likes to apply fluorescent colors with an expressionistic/primitivistic brushstroke. She mixes in some strange material once in a while, too--one painting had pools of clear gelatinous liquid that looked like it had been spilled on there to harden. Also the floor of the gallery was covered wall to wall with gravel the color of dried blood or cedar chips. The contrast of the rusty rocks and the paintings' fluorescent pinks and oranges from a totally different part of the "hot" palette created the kind of visceral gross-out effect that a lot of artists are using these days to try to make painting seem like a relevant and compelling medium. Works for me! Four stars.
Art about architecture seems pretty hot right now and Nicelle Beauchene had an exhibition of photographs of buildings by Chris Wiley. The images framed parts of modernist buildings that had become worn down, discolored, covered up with trash. All the images had clear geometric lines of perspective that were disrupted just enough by everyday wear-and-tear. Everything was cool and aloof and depopulated. Overall the show was easy on the eyes but nothing special. Two of the best images were hanging in the office--a bit of an odd choice because a lot of gallery visitors are probably too shy to peek in an office but I guess if that's where the actual clients go you want to impress them.
On the artist's CV it says that Chris Wiley is an art critic who has published his writing widely. He wrote his own press release and I remember it being more fun to read than the usual press release but it didn't give me a fresh perspective on the work. Still, I think it's a good idea for galleries to have artists write their own press releases--even (or especially) if they aren't critics.
The first time I walked into Galerie Suvi Lehtinen I was like "... What?" There was a video installation, which was not surprise in itself, but the sequences of clips on all the channels were from thirty-year-old Hollywood movies, and it had the kind of soundtrack and female voiceover you'd hear on an insurance commercial. There were bursting fireworks and swelling music. What sort of gallery was Suvi Lehtinen, I wondered, to show such kitschy stuff? But it got to me emotionally, because even when they are all cut up Hollywood movies always make me have feelings. I just can't help it! So I kept watching, and the installation looped back to the beginning. There was an audio track (added to seem like diegetic sound but it wasn't in the originals) with reporters on the TV and radio talking about the AIDS crisis. That's when I understood that Allese Cohen (the artist) was grounding the time when the movies were made in political history, and using the movies to communicate the history of the AIDS crisis with Hollywood's techniques of manufacturing emotion instead of the usual didactic, agitprop way. It was very smart, like contemporary art usually is, and very moving, which contemporary art usually is not. I'm glad Galerie Suvi Lehtinen showed this work.
The only problem with this gallery was that the press release said the installation included a fragrance developed by the artist in collaboration with the perfumer. It seems like "smell art" is becoming popular now and that's cool. The problem with Allese Cohen's smell art was that I only learned about it from reading the press release. I didn't notice it when I was there. If you're going to show smell art it has to be bold! So minus one star for faintness of scent.
Very interesting gallery. Over the summer it featured a program called Films & Windows, where every few weeks it showed an artist's video(s) inside the gallery and another artist's sculptures or installation in the big vitrine that faces the sidewalk. I have been here a few times to check out what Mathew was showing as part of this program. The first time I went I really liked the window pieces, by Kerstin Braetsch (sp?), but I absolutely hated the video inside. It was an interview with an American woman, an artist apparently, who was talking about Berlin and how it had changed over the last decade. She was rehashing every possible cliche about gentrification, talking about how things were better when she was younger with zero self-awareness of her own role in the gentrification process. And she spoke with that dippy Californian intonation pattern that I can't stand listening to. So after about three minutes I went outside to look at the sculptures some more.
When I returned the situation was reversed, in that I wasn't crazy about the window installation (by Taslima Ahmed, there were lots of pictures of cows, like in the tunnels of the trains you take to get around the Zurich airport) but I enjoyed the videos. They were made by the artist Ken Okiishi around the year 2000, when he was a student at Cooper Union in New York. They weren't amazing or anything but very good for undergraduate work, and gave an unpolished look not only at the New York cityscape of ten years ago but also the media environment (internet and movies) of the time. As I understood it, the theme of the Films & Windows series was gentrification, and it was approached in subtle ways. Showing this older work was one of them. Using the storefront as a gallery space was another.
I should note that on my second trip to Mathew I talked to some people about the video I had seen on my previous visit and I learned that the Californian woman had in fact been an actress, reading a script that was deliberately written to sound extremely irritating. It fooled me!! I guess that makes it more interesting as an artwork but I still hate it.
I went to Spinello Projects on opening night of Manny Prieres's exhibition: graphite drawings on black paper of covers of banned books, from the Bible to Salman Rushdie and Daddy's New Roommate. These were small, not-too-expensive works that look good in any minimal apartment and have an air of bookish importance that turns them into easy conversation-starters. The show was obviously calculated to sell by looking slick while capitalizing on cultural conflicts--in very poor taste, if you ask me. It got worse on the second floor, where in addition to the book covers there were slogans drawn in the same technique, including "Work will set you free," from the gates at Auschwitz. Gross. It's a cool space though.
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