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The April Art Crawl
By Keane A. Pepper
The GOOD vs. EVIL edition

lisa kereszi @ pierogi

I haven't been handling this war thing very well. Drinking by myself at noon. Fretting about things I have no control over. Couldn't even decide whether to go protest or not. Desperate to get away from my television, I headed out to look at art. Despite suspicions that this could be construed as my own failure to align myself with the hawks or doves; there was art out there. Well, after a generally lame outing that did nothing to reassure me, I decided to approach this art crawl from the perspective of our myopic president. Gone is the relativism of the Greenberg; this month there is only the blessedly good or damned evil art.

The gray area of complexity has been banished by our regime in their pursuit of Iraqi oil. I don’t mean to trivialize the war, but I feel like all of complexity that last one hundred years of intellectual thought has been hijacked by a cowboy who likes to sum up intricate world politics with poker metaphors. Now, I've lost some money at the tables and sweated out the booze, but a hundred bucks and someone's life are two different things. It is with this stultifying perspective that I will delineate this month's shows. You know this is going result in some 'collateral damage'.

So what do I mean by evil art? Try looking at the noxious paintings at Black and White Gallery and not feel the cold grip of an evil hand trying to stop your heart. These Richter knockoffs look like artist Jordan Schranz used the least amount of paint to cover up the image being projected on the canvas. The monochrome paintings of planes are so obvious in their evocation of fear and paranoia in the subject matter that I longed for emotional cues in the handling of the paint. Unfortunately he doesn't reveal anything in the translation of the photographic into painting. As you know, the terror alert is HIGH, and Schranz is setting off alarms earning him a trip to hell with the other evil doers. Arrivals and Departures is up through April 14th.

Outside in the courtyard, Austin Thomas has a lounge thing happening. The IKEA-like furniture sits invitingly in the sculpture space. I took a seat, felt the sun on my face and enjoyed a quiet moment away from the retired generals and concerned anchors weighing in with their profound opinions on the war; "Saddam is evil, folks. Go get 'em boys". According to the press release, Thomas will be hosting tea parties on Sundays, and I just love tea. I was happy to see the social component of the lounge being addressed by the artist, because otherwise, it was pretty anti-social sitting by my lonesome. Well, That isn't bad, certainly not evil. Thomas's show is good, and maybe I should rally the anti-war folks to come have a pro-art/anti-war rally tea party. "Lounge"runs through May 26th

At Pierogi, Lisa Kereszi's sumptuous photographs of desolate Vegas locations, and vulnerable Burlesque dancers tempted the nasty little voyeur in me and I got my scopophilia on without regret. Gallery I is full of lonely images that imply the aftermath of some other event, possibly morally reprehensible things that would make a conservative pee in their pants. I mean, the powers that be can't stomach the thought of a woman aborting an unwanted child, but they were eager to get this war on. The hawks presented Bush with ground invasion plans for Iraq prior to September 11th. The same plan they tried to sell Clinton for eight years. The hypocrisy of the right makes it imperative that anyone who dislikes fascism speak up now.

Gallery II is full of lonely girls getting ready to shake their asses for dirty old men but Kereszi doesn't judge with her camera. She records the humanity behind the spectacle aimed at suckers like me. Her photographs ultimately aren't quite as inspiring as her project but she finds good art in those sinful Vegas show rooms that no self-respecting Christian Republican would be caught dead in by creating a point-of-view that isn’t busy objectifying its subject. Landscapes and Interiors/New Burlesque is on display through April 14th.

Meanwhile Bryan Leboeuf will never be confused for a feminist sharing their concerns of the male gaze. His highly technical displays of Old Master technique are used in the service of ham-fisted cliches and overwrought melodrama. At some point, every painter gets the bright idea to paint a self-portrait as twins, and I can forgive this sin when it's in an MFA show, but Leboeuf uses it twice here. If it’s not him in the pictures then tell me to shut up, but come on. Anyway, you've got really well painted pictures of the human condition, as figurative painters like to call painting people looking sullen, sad, asleep, or dead. Leboeuf isn't much of a story teller, so he might want to look into more complex narratives. (Bryan go get a copy of Ismay Barwell's Feminine Perspectives and Narrative Points of View). Go on and learn about the difference between artist and hypothetical narrators. He's obviously a whiz with the oil glazes, but there's not much substance in these grandiose epics of suburban malaise. "13 Paces" is sending souls to hell through March 30th.

Michael Moore looked like an ass, but didn't he just make liberals squeal with delight calling the prez 'Ficticious'. Ouch. That hurts. Unfortunately for us, Bush and company are all too real. Guns are bad right? But wait, we are at war, so guns are good. Well, that's what's on display at Parker's Box. Chocolate, cardboard, porcelain, wood, wax, and other assorted weaponry are presented in nifty glass vitrines and on the walls. The presentation of the art objects almost outdoes the art itself as a cool post-modern minimalist gun shop. Parker's Box even built some walls to hide the office area to complete the illusion. Chris Burden has some photographs of himself shooting at an airliner, while the other "big gun" in the show Tom Sachs has some ramshackle firearms hanging around with ironic messages about Patriotism. Obviously due to the subject matter the show has a strong political bent and built-in topicality, but many of the works are personal takes that avoid being didactic. Susan Graham has some delicate little phasers, while Tim Laun's wax guns are cartoony evocations that extract the possibility of violence. Casey Ruble's colorful dynamite sticks have these neat little paintings on the caps that reveal a compelling narrative. Yeah, guns and bombs. I can't believe it’s a good show. If I had a nickel for every professor or critique that condemned images of weaponary as being too loaded. Whatever. Up in Arms surrenders April 7th.

I found the new location for Southfirst Art, just past Galapagos on N. 6th. There were some nascent little paintings on the walls featuring nobodies and a goofy character with a dick nose. So they aren't really bad or good, but since Ellen Takata looks like she learned to paint by studying Elizabeth Payton and Jose Lerma was looking at a book of Carol Dunham paintings, I'd wait until the next show pops up to drop in. What is this? The third location for this gallery? This is like a bad sequel to a horror movie, South First 3: Return of the dull. "Lives of the Obscure" is staggering around in circles saying "brains" through April 20th.

What else failed to 'shock' and 'awe' this month. Let's see. The paintings in the front of Bellwether were pretty awful. You might call the ambitious gray hotel art a Lovecraftian menace, something like "The Color that Shouldn't Be". Bad painting is the Michael Myers of the art world, it never seems to die with artists like Karen Klimnik continually providing unwanted sequels that make lots of money. Bellwether should send these things back through the gate they escaped from. John Bauer must have sacrificed a chicken to summon these canvases. Loaded with odd shapes in perspective and fuck ugly speckling, these uber-doodles might scare people away from the good stuff going on the Space II. Free Floating Anxiety is worrying small animals everywhere through April 21st

Small is good for Tamara Zahaykevich, whose sweet little sculptures land in the nebulous space of being hung just right. There's enough of these minimalist musings in foam core and paint to create an idiosyncratic vision. Her work is like a glass of water in the desert, er a 25mm autocannon in the desert, compared to Bauer's dreck. Each of the complex geometric forms is sparely painted with bright colors, and curious images that mix minimalist aesthetics with a strain of lyrical expressionism at points. Zahaykevich has put together delicate compositions that revel in their own perfect scale, pitch, and craft. Sculpture trumps painting once again at Bellwether, surprise, surprise. Pearl Onion is performing emergency first aid for eyes through April 21st.

So I dropped by Rome Arts and was happy to see the little space being put to good use, a kind of experimental installation was crawling around the walls. I can't remember the artist's name or the title of the balloon, paint, drawing thing, but I remember feeling pleased that it really was trying hard to be interesting. Well, it just sort of looked sad, defeated, and deflated. I think it just reminded me of myself, so I'm not gonna recommend it. It gets lumped in with the axis of evil by default. I'm not sure how long this thing is gonna be hanging around either.

I keep checking the New YorkTimes website and seeing pictures of bodies. I'm just waiting to hear Saddam has tossed Serin on our troops, or someone detonated themselves in Macy's. It's really distracting, so let me think good thoughts.

Schroeder Romero is evil for showing such beautiful paintings by Jaq Chartier in her solo show Testing. Now, I know that Ross Bleckner made a career out of respecting the medium and crafting luxurious surfaces, but Chartier's stain paintings are exquisite. Painter's who want to sell like hot cakes take a note here ; steal from painters who create sumptuous surfaces that look tastier than a box of chocolates. Please don't cop from my man Guston again and expect to decorate Upper East Side living. I digress, Chartier's paintings/objects are also affordable, and I'd buy one if I didn’t spend all my cash hoarding canned beer for when I have to hole up during WWIII.

In the second gallery Kathe Burkhart displays an obsession with Liz Taylor in her irony-laden prints and drawings. A self-conscious display of feminist intervention into mediated images, Burkhart launches some stinging barbs that are funny and kind of sad. Overall, this is a good show with disparate artists who would probably kill each other in an argument about theory. Sort of like putting George and Saddam in a debate. Its scary to think who'd win either of these. Both shows are up through April 7th. If your decorating, get over there even if you’re a punk or a prima donna.

What gallery is in need of regime change this month? Curious Georger ought to oust Jack the Pelican for punishing the poor hipsters of Williamsburg with the most ridiculous display of literary snobbery I've ever seen. David Hutchinson's "Translastions of Jean Genet" is a deeply flawed project that only a French literary academic could love. Minimalists would probably cringe at that overt literary thesis at work here, but who cares about minimalists anyway. Shits over, its just pretty to look at. This thing though is the worst case of stripe painting via book spines to climb out of the infernal pits since Barnett Neuman dropped the ball. So, your probably thinking, gee, Keane is just a stupid idiot who's never read Jean Genet. Well, I haven't and this fucking show isn't inspiring me to go pick up a copy of Genet's avant-lit. I've conferred with others about this head scratcher and nobody wants to touch it. If you like this show, you're probably never going to be caught dead on Freewilliamsburg and don't own a television. You are listening to NPR now, sipping Green Tea, and filling out an impeachment ballot. "Translations of Jean Genet" is spurring revolt until March 31st. Oh please, hurry up and take this down. Salvage your reputation Jack.

In stark contrast to the snobbery at Jack the Pelican is an egalitarian, promising show of child like sculptures at Front Room Gallery. The show, Assembly, is big, composed by the objects of 152 creative types from all over the country. Apparently, not just artists like Barry McGee were invited to submit sculptures under 24", but illustrators and designers too. The eclectic mix of contributors gives this show a wide range of weird sculptures that oddly channels childhood fears from the nuclear bomb to JFK's assassination. The packed table of hybrid creations has a palpable sense of unease with many disembodied figures and spaces. Overall, for a show that had very few limitations or directions the works evoke a powerful sense of insecurity and fear in the way a group of children might express themselves. Maybe it was the call to create figures or characters, but there is something disarming about the show, which is a good thing during this time of good 'ole American courage and strength in combat. Assembly, an army of good, is up through April 5th.

Let's wrap this up. This article is taking longer than Baghdad to finish off. These shows are all getting an evil nod for failing to throw of the shackles of commercial concerns and creatively rebel. Roebling Hall has some evil photos with dot drawings by Sebestiaan Bremmer. The infinitely detailed dot drawings are very good, but the photographic supports are evil. The mix just doesn't work and they end up looking wishy washy. "Vanishing Point" is up through April 21st.

Jessica Murray Projects is showing some stable artists that don't inspire. Although I liked Chris Doyle's watercolors, I have personal issues with Brady Dollarhide's silhoutte paintings no matter how many times I see them. These predominantly dark paintings of trees and houses at dusk are incredibly dry looking and dully earnest. To my horror I discovered another artist at the Armory show making paintings exactly like Dollarhide. If I were a millionare, I'd buy em, and hang them in the dark. Nah, I just wouldn’t buy them. I don't remember the third artist, they didn't make a dent. "How Deep is Your Love?" is up through March 30th.

Foxy Productions has a horror movie inspired loop of a girl walking about the woods and a house surrounded by scratch board owls. This installation by David Noonan doesn’t illuminate anything about genre conventions or create a compelling mood. The palatable earnestness lacks irony or the camp of a B-movie, and little exuberance for the subject. SOWA is up through April 7th.

Dam Stulhtrager
is showing ceramic hats, drawings, rings, and water balloons by Eric Hollander. A polite, well hung show that demonstrates why people are attracted to extremes, not middle of the road affairs. Remember kids, the news doesn't broadcast 24 hour around the clock coverage of humanitarian relief efforts. Through April 26th.

Momenta has a funky drawing installation and a canned photographic series that depicts an Oedipal Father-Son conflict that is deep on psychological content, but shallow on technique. Chitra Ganesh's "Her Secret Missions" is a confessional, cultural identity exploration using intentionally naïve drawings with various materials in the second space. She cracks holes in the walls, and mixes bad drawings with silly photos. Overall, promising but increasingly hackneyed formula. James Higginson's "Sacrifice" shows the son as soldier and Dad as general playing out a military-familial drama somewhere in South or Central America in color photographs. Momenta always has decent shows, and this is the best of the axis of evil, but my self-imposed, bull-headed myopic value system gives this show the old 666. Both shows are up through April 21st.

Well, I'm through projecting my fear and anxiety onto someone else's passion, but stress really gets honesty flowing. I mean, its art, not a bloody, shredded corpse laying in the dirt that I'm critiquing. I didn't even drink my way through this month's crawl, but that might have been a bad thing. I also skipped a bunch of galleries, either out of habit, or just plain laziness. I don't get paid for this, and I can only take so much 'fresh' Williamsburg art. If you have a show or space that you swear shows GOOD art get in touch with me. Oh, I did see the City Mouse/ Country Mouse show at the new Space 101 Gallery, but the curatorial premise was laughable, and despite several friends showing, I thought it was a colorful, gleeful mess.

Let's hope this war ends swiftly and people stop killing each other outright. I mean its hard enough to stomach the other kinds of stupid, unnecessary death all over the world. Either this thing ends quickly or I'm going to be critiquing B-52 Bomber nose paintings after the draft kicks in. Now, where did I stash that whiskey bottle?

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[email protected] | April 2003 | Issue 37
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