Brian D.'s Profile
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I've lived in NYC for six years but I only made it to the Bronx Museum a couple weeks ago, and wow. What a great little museum! I feel guilty admitting this but I was not expecting to enjoy it so much. After visiting I really feel certain that the "neighborhood" museums (Studio Museum in Harlem, Queens Museum, and this one) are the best places to see art in New York--not as sterile or predictable as the famous ones in uptown and downtown Manhattan.
There were three exhibitions up when I visited. One was of a Brazilian artist, Paulo Bruscky, in two galleries. The first one featured works where the artist inserted himself in maps, urban space, and the postal system with his drawings, collages, and performances. I really liked one piece called "I'm Pickling Myself (1974) where he put a photo of himself in a pickle jar, as well as his experiments putting his head and body parts in a copy machine, a new office technology at the time. It all had a do-whatever, anything-goes spirit. The second gallery was more somber: about the artist's use of medical technologies to record his existence as a biological organism, shuffling through the qualities of life and archives. I liked the work in the first gallery better but the shift in tone was a smart way to highlight the range of the artist's work.
The big galleries had sculptures by Tony Fehrer, which were colorful, simple, ingenious, and delightful. He's the kind of artist who looks at the properties of ordinary things and finds beauty in them. The walls were almost bare, except for some small pieces of cardboard torn off boxes, and so viewers ended up navigating the space by encountering all sorts of assemblages on the floor or hanging from the ceiling, which animated the gallery. Tables of colored glass bottles, filled with various levels of liquid, doodads and washers arranged in a circle--there was a shamanistic aura around this dollar-store detritus. I noticed that several visitors seemed particularly enchanted by a collection of colored mop sticks laid out like a sunburst or a blooming flower.
The last gallery featured photographs taken at a beach in the Bronx. They were large-format, high-quality photojournalistic images. I personally preferred the other exhibits but this was a cool thing to have at a community museum and rounded out the experience with another kind of art-making. Everybody takes photos at the beach so in a way, like the Paulo Bruscky and Tony Fehrer, the photo exhibit is encouraging viewers to find (and make) art in everyday life and that's great.
Shifting Chelsea's center of gravitas southward, this new gallery features a dramatic entrance--a broad, not-too-steep staircase which when you get to the top ends in a big reveal as you turn left. There it is--the cavernous gallery with vaulted wood beams, lots of natural light, and some really good art! I saw the Paul McCarthy show there. It's big wooden sculptures and drawings based on the artist's twisted vision of Snow White. Everything is warped--you can see Prince Charming on his white stallion, but the figure of him on his horse is split and repeated several times, fused with trees and dwarves, turned back on itself and sliced up into separate pieces, each with a smooth grain of wood that suggested no cut was ever made--that these weird fantasias just emerged into form. Decapitated heads of Snow White herself litter the floor, with blank, pupil-less eyes and a whorish hole of a mouth--actually not a hole but a divot with a rounded bottom, the right size to hold an apple, whole and unchewed. Here too the polish factor on the wood is very high, but the shallow oral cavity suggests a digging into the surface by a wood carver, without the possibility of penetration or a real inside. The imagination is twisted and broken up into pieces but each fragment emerges into being as if whole.
All around, this is a great gallery to visit. I didn't interact with the staff directly but overheard them talking and they seemed nice--one of the desk girls was so nice she even expained scallion cream cheese to her coworker. She told her about how an onion-like bulb has green shoots that get cut up and mixed with cheese. First week in new York honey?
I wanted to update this review, not to change the star count (this is a solidly good gallery, maybe not every show is five stars but definitely in the upper range) but because the character of the gallery has changed a bit in the last year and a half. It used to focus on conceptual work of mid- or late-career artists but more recently it has been showing a lot of younger artists and become a magnet for smart and cool stuff. So it's a good place to visit if you want to learn about art trends. Recent exhibtions have included a really great installation by Sergei Tcherepnin (sp?) a theatrical sound artist, and a group show called "Screens" that featured different sculptural treatments in monitors, putting them in mannequins or shopping bags or shop vitrines, a 1994 Jon Kessler installation using a motorzied billboard apparatus.. there was even a work in the bathroom, which I didn't realize when I went to use it. Surprise! In one corner there was a video mashup of actors in war movies saying "shit" "shit" "shit" and in the toilet, a laminated postcard with a photo of George W. Bush that circled and bobbed as I urinated on it. When I finished up I checked the date of the work on the checklist and it was from 2006--of course. Political work like that gets so dated so quickly. Couldn't they have at least updated it for the current installation? Bush isn't exactly a controversial figure in the art world anyway. It would be much more interesting to piss on Obama.I went to Murray Guy a few weeks ago and saw an exhibit with works by Dan Graham and Corey McCorkle.… Read more
I was walking down 23rd street thinking about how it's too bad Paula Cooper closed her little space near the corner of 23rd and 10th Ave, because so many galleries are expanding these days, it's a shame Paula Cooper scaled back because it really is the best gallery in Chelsea--and then just an hour later, I was walking up 10th Ave and noticed a new gallery I hadn't seen before, and it's Paula Cooper space that just opened two weeks ago! I didn't even know when I walked in--I just saw on the window that they were showing Alan Shields, whose work I had just read about that morning, without knowing there was a show of it in Chelsea. Serendipity upon serendipity! The show is really amazing--it is some kind of totemic, shamanistic free-spirited assemblages, the best "hippie art" I've ever seen. (Coming to it straight from the Anne Truitt show at Matthew Marks makes poor Anne look so pathetically boring.) One piece I really loved was a huge tapestry, with a fabric that looked like it had been tie-dyed in a rusty blood red, and the color richly saturated the textile and made illusionary folds and fissures all over it--it looked like skin from the inside. Beads and strings were strung across it, in bright and pastel colors and some pieces with a metallic sheen that seemed like a weird combo with this rich crimson cloth but that just makes the throbbing of the surface more magical.
I read on the web site that this space will be open through January 2014--so catch it while you can!At the moment Paula Cooper has an exhibition up by Sherrie Levine, who I think is just fantastic. A… Read more
I did not expect to see ancient Egyptian artifacts in an artist-run gallery in Greenpoint but with Real Fine Arts, you never know. The first time through the gallery I didn't even know what they were, maybe just some outsider-y metallic sculptures inspired by the vitrines of poorly preserved and rusty everyday objects at the Met (seems like a lot of artists are interested in fake museum artifacts these days). Whenever I go to a gallery I always just look at the show first, then go back and consult the checklist later. So when I saw that they really were from Egypt I was amazed! Apparently you can buy these things on eBay. Even before I had learned that bit of information I thought it was a really good, very richly textured show, with various grades of reflectiveness and protruberance on each of the surfaces--paintings, collages, objects, etc. It was all enclosed by a gallery within a gallery, a tight and quiet temporary structure, and walking around it to get to the back in order to view a film on display involved passing through a narrow and dimly lit corridor. This contributed to the sense of these objects being located somewhere outside of time.
I would give this six stars if I could... the Paul McCarthy show there is beyond amazing. This is art that takes questions of representation and the figure head on, without any abstruse conceptual games but with a lot of spirit and guts--the result is a visceral wrenching experience. [Note: This review contains SPOILERS so don't read it if you're going to go see this Paul McCarthy show (closes July 26)] When you walk in you immediately see a young woman, so still that you know it's a sculpture, but so lifelike you have to make sure it's not breathing. She's on a rectangular pedestal, naked, leaning back on her palms, her legs stretched forward and spread. She has a highly expressive vagina that raspberries the viewer, its pouty outer lips loosely gripping the protruding tongue of the inner ones. There are several copies of her, making it all the more uncanny as you begin to recognizes the traces of craftsmanship and artifice.
But still when I got to the second floor and saw all the monitors showing footage of the casting process, for a split second I couldn't believe that it wasn't animation. They were so HD that this woman, whom I'd seen sculpted downstairs and now alive and moving--the brightly rendered digital image of her body looked UNreal. I spent a good twenty minutes watching the model as she sat still on the podium, surrounded by fabricators and camera men working quickly to capture her image, both on video and in the mold. She got covered in blue goo and caked in plaster... and in the end they finally cut it all off, and she crawled out of her floppy blue skin like a molting snake.
Finally, I went back downstairs on my way out... and was stopped in my tracks by the sculptures, which I now saw with totally new eyes. These things that had looked so lifelike to me upon first encounter now seemed pathetically fake. I could clearly see all the imperfections, the rubbery properties of the silicone flesh, all the differences between the mold and the model's HD body. Suddenly the whole thing reeked of death. Shivers down my spine.
(note: this gallery is commonly known as Reena Spaulings.. reenaspaulings.com)
There's always something interesting happening at Reena Spaulings! This time it's... dishes. The latest exhibition is by Georgie Netell, whose paintings--let's be honest--aren't all that special. They are vigorous abstractions in off-white and gray-blue on brown, burlap-looking linen, whose rawness contrasts with the smooth matte surface of the paint. Quirky little paintings like these are everywhere these days. But it seemed like the ordinariness of them was the point, because they were interspersed with bins full of dirty dishes. Art (or eating) is an everyday thing, the paintings (dirty dishes) are what's leftover from it. Art comes off as a kind of routine, which makes the show sound boring but I actually found it quite exciting to look at the dishes and the food remnants caked to them. The dish trays are installed in weird places, like the windowsill, and on a big black couch in the middle of the gallery--another bit of domesticity that you don't always find in a gallery--which I sat on for a spell while contemplating the work. Also for Georgie Netell's show the gallery's front desk was moved from near the door to within the exhibition space, as if the receptionist's work was on display, too, like the dishwasher's. nice touch. Reena Spaulings is always doing stuff like this to keep you on your toes and capture the imagination. I would highly recommend a visit to anyone with adventurous tastes in art.
A new space for Zwirner right next to the old one with a semi-domestic vibe--the entryway is narrow and carpeted, the door closes so tightly it makes a little sucking noise and you feel hermetically sealed inside, and there are warmly earthy wood and stone materials/colorings. There's a second floor and when I went up the stairs I felt like I might stumble across the master bedroom but no, just the office. I imagine that the buildings Zwirner's clients build for showing off their collections look a lot like this one. The shows i've seen here are all classic stuff--Judd, Flavin, Serra, Blinky Palermo--and it looks good here. Hard to complain!
Great gallery. I recently learned that on Saturdays, members of the gallery's staff (and even Andrea Rosen herself) stand in the gallery and talk to visitors about the work. It's very generous--I got a full tour of a fascinating show, "Counter Forms," with works by Tetsumi Kudo, Alina Szapocznikow, Paul Thek and Hannah Wilke, all of whom worked in different parts of them world, died youngish and were forgotten in the 90s but making a comeback now. And they deserve it: weird materials and biomorphic forms, industrail waste and synthetic pigments, intriguing use of slightly sickening colors and textures--a fertile mix of mad-science lab and contemplative poetry that seems to speak to the ways in which artists are dealing with the relationship between bodies and technologies now.
Usually Andrea Rosen has a few shows up at once - a big one in the front, medium in the middle, and a selection of works by different artists in the showroom in the far rear, which means you're guaranteed to find SOMEthing to like on any given visit. For 'Counter Forms," however, the whole gallery was devoted to this single group exhibition. But it's definitely worth it! so much to see.
There is also a small appendix across the street. I feel like the narrowness of this space makes it slightly awkward. It's smaller than any of the spaces across the street, even the little showroom in the back. I haven't felt really impressed or moved by a show here yet but, it's new so maybe they'll get the hang of it (no pun intended!).
Have you ever felt elegant as you exited a parking garage? I did at the Hammer, which has my favorite architecture of any museum I've ever been to. The airy, gracious atrium leads up the main enfilade of galleries that encircle a courtyeard, connected by a broad balcony. Only in southern California, I suppose, could a museum have its visitors going outdoors between each exhibit. The far side of the balcony had some very cool-looking deck furniture for lounging in, and two ping-pong tables. Fun!
There was a great variety and quality to the exhibitions. My favorite was the comprehensive exhibtiion of the fascinating painting of Forest Bess - which presented his idiosyncratic ideas about gender and spirituality in a really accessible way, and just gave me a chance to look at the way he developed his philosophy of colors and mark-making and symbols, to approach painting as the creation of a new other world. There is some great stuff in the permament collection galleries--several drawings and bronzes based on them by Daumier, the 18th century caricaturist, who drew the ascendant bourgeoisie of his time as weird monsters whose faces are just emerging from a gooey flesh mass. I love him! I also enjoyed the retrospective of James Welling, a conceptual photographer who came up with various ways of using photographic technologies to produce abstract images rather than indexical ones. I like the colors of those photograms and gradients but some of his later work, shot in libraries, looks dull. I really hate conceptual art with old books in it. The artist is just like "look how smart I am" and I could care less, honestly.
I also wasn't really into Tacita Dean's film, about the Spiral Jetty, which had some spiral-jetty-shaped cuts in the film, a cute gesture, but why make art about other people's art? I just don't get that. Then a show of a contemporary artist (I want to say her name is Kelly Crowland but now I'm realzing that can't be possible.. it was definitely Kelly something), with letters sewn on bags of rice, was not interesting at all but you win some you lose some, right?
On the way out I noticed a gallery near the entrance that theoretically one could visit without paying for entry, because you don't have to pass the admissions desk to get there. The show there was a video about interrogation techniques--seemed a little heavy-handed to have the free gallery featuring "socially engaged" art but I nice gesture I suppose.
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