Brian D.'s Profile
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This is a very small gallery that shows smart, handsome conceptual work, which is pretty standard for the neighborhood. When I went in April there was a show with pictures of buildings and newspapers clippings and other printed text. It all looked nice but I couldn't quite figure out what was going on, nor did I feel compelled to look close enough at the words to understand it. Fortunately a guy came out of the office and told me that it was about architecture of financial and retail spaces--how banks built neo-classical facades earlier in the twentieth-century to project an image of sturdiness and reliability but are now occupying light-and-mobile looking modernist spaces, while retail companies are taking over the old and weighty vaulted buildings. Very interesting, I was glad that this got explained to me. The artist's name was Jason Simon.
My parents are not big art lovers but they have a poster on their mantle that reproduces a painting of a fisherman on a beach, and the poster has a weird finish on it that imitates the surface texture of brushstrokes. They become visible when the light catches them, and their direction and length have nothing to do with the image underneath it. It is supposed to make the poster look fancier or more expensive but if you're paying attention it's just weird and fake.
You will not find anything like this poster at Metro Pictures but nevertheless I couldn't help thinking about when I saw Cindy Sherman's exhibition here. The backgrounds in the photos are dramatic landscapes, with forests, mountains, and volcanoes, and they have been treated to have a feathered, brushy look that reminded me of my parents' poster. Cindy Sherman stands in the foreground of each image wearing fancy dresses that have elaborate textures of their own, but they are photographed normally (I mean, the quality of the photography is obviously very high but the dresses don't look like they have been altered). The way the dresses look against the backgrounds is out of control! I loved it!
In the Cindy Sherman retrospective that was at MoMA this spring you could see how she has used digital retouching to put herself in the frame of a single photograph multiple times. But the settings are normal--expensive houses, parties, and so on. The relationship between the figures and the background makes sense in those pictures. In the new ones it doesn't make sense and that is why it's so exciting. I was really happy about this new direction in the artist's work.
The inside of Metro Pictures is shaped like a horseshoe and visiting the gallery can feel like going to a haunted house or other amusement-park ride: go in one end, follow the path, look at the stuff, go out the other end. When a show is so-so this can make it seem even more trivial than it actually is. But Cindy Sherman's new work was so good that I didn't even think about on that particular visit. I may have felt a little dizzy--but it wasn't from walking in circles!
Isabella Czarnowska is a fancy gallery in an upscale part of Berlin, among some office buildings and in walking distance of the main tourist attractions. I saw an exhibition there of works by two artists, Paul Thek and Luc Tuymans. It seemed like a strange pairing because they are from different generations and work in very different mediums (Thek does more sculpture with resin and plastic, Tuymans is a very good painter). But the exhibition helped me see things about each artist's work that I hadn't really seen before--things about surfaces, materials, and bodies that are too complicated to get into here.
I saw a summer group show here and it was basically the ideal summer group show: very smartly put together with works in all sorts of mediums. One or maybe two works were "outsider-ish" (i.e. hard to sell), and all of them could be related to a single keyword (in this case, PLANTS) that has a loose relationship to a broader issue (ecology) and also a buzzy philosophical trend (object-oriented ontology). Shows like this are great if you are looking for stuff to buy but otherwise they don't bring a lot of insight into the work. Overall I had an average gallery experience here, not very exciting but not bad either.
This is a good gallery, for Miami. The front room had some elegant furniture pieces with glass and mirror tops resting on rounded zigzag legs. The smaller back room had a group show of works on paper and small objects that included pieces from the furniture designer as well as like-minded artists. Separating the two shows kept the works in the back from looking like props in an interior-design magazine shoot, which was a wise move.
Very classy. With wooden floors, gray walls, and low lighting, it's set up more like a small private museum than the average photography gallery.
The exhibition up when I visited juxtaposed paintings and pastels by Charles Burchfield and photographs by Ralph Eugene Meatyard from the 60s and 70s. I really enjoyed the pairing--they were two idiosyncratic takes on the pastoral genre, and Burchfield's washy brushstrokes and folk-art compositions were tempered by the eerie effects of splintering and shattering in Meatyard's prints.
In the back there is a showroom, which on my visit had a selection of works by Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Hiroshi Sugimoto. Fraenkel shares a floor of an office building with several other photography galleries but clearly stands far above the crowd.
I saw a show by Devin Leonardi here. The paintings (gallery statement called them "exquisite"--maybe a tad presumptuous?) depicted quiet scenes--minor landscapes, views from porches and windows. I liked the way that Leonardi turned leaves and branches into monochromatic negative space, without shading, to give these intimate paintings the flatness of impersonal graphic design. There was a relatively small number of paintings spread out in a fairly large gallery, giving each work a lot of breathing rom. I would call the overall effect precious (in the best possible sense) but probably not exquisite.
This is a special museum. The first time I came here, which was in 2006, I was really excited about a collection that combined contemporary art, folk art and applied art from different parts of the world, and painting from the first half of American history. It almost exoticizes painting and "the fine arts" by featuring paintings from when the medium was still developing in America while making the work from the southern hemispheres and Native American societies that is usually exoticized feel like the mainstream tradition of the world's art.
On a recent visit, in September, I didn't enjoy myself as much. Maybe it was because the composition of the collection was less of a surprise or a novelty, or maybe it was because some of my favorite pieces had been rotated out of the permanent display. One thing that really bothered me was a temporary exhibition of the Paley collection--a private collection assembled in the mid-twentieth century that belongs to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. MoMA is a good place for it: it includes works by Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, Cezanne, Derain... all the big names who figure in the standard history of modern painting and sculpture. Seeing it at the DeYoung felt weird, because this is a history that the museum's permanent collection ignores. The fact that these works were assembled by a private collector, the large-format photographs of the paintings hanging in the Paleys' home, and the exhibition's title, "A Taste for Modernism," made it seem like an exhibition about interior design--an appropriate theme for the De Young, given its focus on applied art, but it seems like the wrong way to handle these masterworks. In general, I don't like exhibitions of private collections because it becomes about the collectors--not the work of the painters but the money that bought all of it. Sometimes when I'm at major museums I find myself thinking about the structure of the art market and its influence on museum displays, and I like the De Young because it engages a wider variety of art's social contexts and economies. The exhibition of a private collection of modernist masterpieces makes me concerned about the direction the museum is taking, and this is a fairly young museum so it's vulnerable to missteps.
It was hard for me to choose between three and four stars for me personally, but I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from coming for at least one visit, so I'll give it four.
Webster's dictionary defines art as "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced." But these days a lot of art isn't about the production of objects, or even the conscious use of skill. It's more about creating an experience for the viewer. (That's what makes it fun to Yelp about!) New York's best museum, the Museum of Modern Art, is built around a history of objects, but fortunately they have the resources to support an outpost in Queens at PS1 where they can showcase performance and sound and other various kinds of experience-oriented art. It's a place for happenings that keep people coming back again and again throughout the year. While PS1 is well known for the summer WarmUp series (and I mostly agree with other reviewers that this used to be a fun party but is now overcrowded--the organizers need to rethink it a bit), there are plenty of other events, including readings and book launches, and they aren't just limited to things of interest to the art world. It seems to me that PS1 is trying to be a hub for contemporary culture, inclusive of music and literature as well as art, and I think they're doing a good job of it. The ambience of the old school building gives it all a sense of humility. There can be some esoteric stuff here, but it's all in the spirit of learning and discovery.
There tends to be a broad variety of art up at any given time--plenty of objects to anchor the events. Some recent stand-outs for me were Darren Bader's series of rooms with living animals and vegetables, with a pair of burritos basking in the sun at the end, and Janet Cardiff's motet playing from forty speakers. The latter piece was gorgeous and moving and it always had a big audience of people sitting on the benches and walking slowly in circles, listening carefully. It stayed up for so long that I thought PS1 might make it a permanent installation, like James Turrell's skylight. Alas, it had to come down, but other good things will come in its place.
A final note about the café: The reviews talking about how bad it is are obsolete. In 2012 the M.Wells diner took it over and now the food is amazing. It's not cheap, but it's a decent value, unlike the standard museum café (such as PS1's old one) that charge ridiculous prices for mediocre-to-poor-quality fare.
This gallery features all Korean artists. When I visited they had a group show: "Permeated Perspective: Young Korean Painters." It was organized to look like a museum exhibition, with a nice brochure on heavy stock and everything. I personally was not impressed. For one thing, I couldn't figure out what about the perspective was "permeated." It all looked like regular old perspective to me. Even when the painters were mixing traditions of Asian ink painting with Western styles it looked way less flattened and squashed than the Korean stuff I've seen at the Met. One of the artists made ink portraits of Bond villains and other movie characters in a semi-traditional style. Another did contemporary interiors where the brush strokes were softened for some depth and domestic warmth. She was my favorite in the show, but even she couldn't move beyond gimmickry in her approach to painting and her subject matter. I wonder why when Chelsea has so many galleries showing artists from all over the world, Doosan needs to pigeonhole itself and its artists as specifically Korean, even to the point of limiting its show concepts to national origin.
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