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The April Art Crawl
By Keane A. Pepper
Highest Score:
5 Greenbergs


"Higher Beings"
at Jack the Pelican

My head is empty, aching from all the cheap beer I drank yesterday at Trash. They are practically giving away beer. Anyway, I needed to do some heavy drinking after seeing a tidal wave of bad art.

Bellwether's show is so bad I barely slowed down. I'm not a big fan of contemporary Modern art, especially when it actively engages bad tastes. Edward Pruhliere's aesthetic is so bad it might be funny. The colorful junk effectively blocked me from even considering the bland abstractions in the back.

Rating: 0 Greenbergs
Through May 3rd.

Man, Helen Garber's portraits are ugly. The works basically concern tits, guns, and fire. What really confused me were the paint by numbers canvases mixed in with her tightly, rendered oil paintings. Where does 31 Grand find their artists? This place ought to enjoy some of the recent interest in Goth, which makes me wonder what happened to the art world. When will the old people realize that Goth was cool in '92 and would probably be happy to remain a sub-culture.

Rating:
Blasting Machines is up through April 14th.

I stopped in Green Gallery and Jon Elliot's painting provoked such deep thoughts as "Did he use a comb to make that pattern?" and "I wonder if he reads physics and science fiction?" While the canvasses have a nice atmosphere, they are generic. They lack a necessary something to individuate them from the hordes of bad painting. They are competent and formally well done, but just too familiar to be exciting.

Rating:
Glitch is floating through space until April 15th.


Craig Hein's little playdough, sculptures of cinder blocks, bandanas, and timberland logos depressed the hell out of me. As much as I disliked those, his banner holding birds were much better. They made me almost like the show, but I couldn't get over how stupid the rest of the work was. They will probably sell out and get reviewed in the Times despite my arm waving.

Rating:
"And I Don't Mean it in a Good Way" is cracking one-liners through April 26th.

"Defense", Peter Hendrick's show at Schroeder Romero is a big, white fence in front of some sinks. In the side gallery are some lame canvasses that say "Homeland". While they seem like they are trying to say something critical about our fascist police state, they are whispers. This show nearly put me to sleep its so boring. I'm sure you could write volumes about what the work suggests, it's what's present in the gallery that disappoints.

Rating:
This show is preaching to the choir through May 3rd.

Leigh Tarantino has some elegant drawings at Black and White Gallery, but my problem is she also has some really nice photographs in the back of the gallery. My question is why draw them at all? Her manipulation of the photographic source generates some kaleidoscope like imagery, that transforms suburban America into a weird totemic patterns. Visually, they turn the mundane into something more poetic, and the color works well. They all pretty much sold apparently, but the drawings are missing those little red dots. Why? Artist's probably shouldn't make their sources so evident, bad for business. Still, it's not like the muted drawings are bad, they seem like a superfluous step. Her small works of isolated elements like little sheds and gas stations are less enigmatic than her spidery patterns, but they have are lovely pictures of isolation and loneliness. In the back Roberley Bell has a big installation of flower like furniture that contrasts natural and synthetic elements, an implicit critique of the constructed nature of beauty. The big, wobbly pitcher like forms also function as garden furniture or children's toys. Embedded in the real grass are shiny orbs that reflect the sky, transposing the sky into the earth. The whole thing reminded me of the kind of weird displays at amusement parks, you know, the Enchanted Forest or something.

Rating:
"Anti-Oasis" and "Dressing" are leisurely around through April 26th.

Strangely, the trend of the normally miserable galleries showing decent art continues at Jack the Pelican. While nothing can change the silly name or their reputation as an opportunistic parasite on the ass of Williamsburg, their new show by three Icelandic artists also called the "Icelandic Love Corporation" is one of the few decent shows this month. The group, Signrun Hrolfsdottir, Joni Jonsdottir, and Eirun Sigurdardottir, are the subject of their large color photographs. There is a loose, road movie narrative in the series, with the girls sitting around strumming guitars and looking disinterested. There are some decadent sculptures, smashed champagne glasses, that hint at the lavish lifestyle of the rock n' roll characters. In the back, though, is a stunning video of the girls gutting a fish in reverse. Adorned with shiny faux diamonds on their skin and dressed elegantly, the girls appear to be putting a rather large fish back together. The cultural reference, rooting the girls' identity in Icelandic traditions, is interesting and the reverse video is mesmerizing. That and they are pretty hot. They seem to be well aware of that.

And, Bjork and ole Matt Barney were at the opening where I watched a hipster get a ticket for an open container. Stupid kids forgot how to use their sleeves. The trio's work is good, and will probably get better when they get some serious money. It's got a ton of style, now wait for more substance. Apparently, I missed the performance starring at Bjork and silently, bitterly envying Barney.

Rating:
"Higher Beings" is satirizing the rich through May 26.

Fishtank also has a well curated and conceptually concise show, for once, with Jihyun Park's funny dioramas and Rebecca Hackemans's stereoscopes. Park's incredibly odd juxtapositions of super serious looking diorama cases and his absurd scenarios inside are great. There is one of a shrouded figure roasting chicken wings as buffalo spill off the edge of a cliff. The dissonance between the framing device and the imagery adds to the surreal comedy. It's exactly what Hackemann's pretentious stereoscopes lack. They overblown narrative about angels in a, what's this again, fascist police state is pure melodrama. Plus they gave me a mild headache and I had to drink a few beers after the show to get the silly thing out of my head. It's not a good thing when the little boxes look better as a minimalist installation. The whole thing just felt so hopelessly literary, and not in the experimental, Age of Wire and String, Ben Marcus kind of way.

Rating:
Sight Unseem closed shop on the 4th.

Recreating the works of famous artists is always a pretty sure-fire way of getting people's attention. Making a new statement with it is always harder, and most artists don't do it until they are already famous. Joshua Stern's recreation of Vermeer paintings with little matchstick men in black and white photographs definitely succeeds in surpassing mimesis. His bleak, yet intriguing world is at once comic and sad, a tragicomedy as they say in the movies. The photographs themselves richly capture the atmospheric lighting typical of Vermeer, but the androgynous matchstick men completely change the tone of the source material. They are still intimate, and invite close inspection, but the narratives become ironic and self-conscious in a way that calls into question the act of looking. It's easy to become absorbed or fascinated with the simple activities of the characters. There is also a video, but I was too hungover to watch it, so be a better person than me and check it out.

Rating:
"Shouts and Murmurs" is being quietly seductive through April 23rd.

Pierogi's run of good shows sort of crashes to a halt with Jane Fine and Reed Anderson's colorful works. Fine's canvasses of melting tanks and castles is like a sugar-coated version of the Kim Jone's show. They are largely fluid abstractions with linear, drawings on the surface, transforming the blobs into objects. So, again, our fascist Imperialist state is brought to task. In the back gallery Reed Anderson's collage, cut outs of highly complex circular patterns, are pretty. They have a lot of visual information that I didn't really want to bother with. They have an overall sameness that somehow makes the individual works seem irrelevant.

Rating:
" After Sugar Time" (how could it be titled anything else?) and ""Crystal Horizon" (creative) are up through April 19th.

Ah well, things are little better at Priska Juschka than usual. Michael Scoggins' big recreations of children's drawings, essays, letters, and comics is a mildly witty show that will appeal to little kids everywhere. As an inveterate doodler as a child myself, I was instantly familiar with the cheesy comics and war pictures. Scoggins' show isn't merely a portrait of childhood though. He seems to be creating a child's perspective of the present, a desire for heroes, a fascination with war, and an attention deficit. In the large drawings, Scoggins recreates sections of spiral bound ruled paper and deftly renders everything from handwriting to superheroes. In the center of the gallery are several balled up failures, creating the illusion of the doodle as throw away. The show is all ten-year old boy without being sentimental and Scoggins gleefully toys with cliché, saving the show from being pure sap. Oh hell, this show is a straight gimmick, but it has personality.

Rating:
Works on Paper is day dreaming through April 12th.

So, I've been busy and I didn't get to see as many shows as usual this month, so if I skipped a few shows, don't get all pissy out there in art land. Of course, there are some spaces I will never bother with, but I just have to comment on the fact that there is a ridiculous number of new galleries popping up. I'm going to be a little bastard and give their names a quick critique and Greenberg, plus a little prediction about what kind of crap I can hope to find. On the upside, if I'm wrong, then everyone wins with good art. If I'm right, I'll just walk a little faster with my head down.

A Space Gallery: Wow, an ironic name. If this is the same chump who ran that big space on North 3rd, then there should be a lot of grad school painting.
Rating:


Capla & Kesting:
Last names haven't been popular in the burg. I suspect I'll find a lot of well-heeled garbage wearing expensive frames.
Rating:


Champion Fine Art:
Like the sweatshirt company? Graffiti art and an endless wave of Barry McGee clones.
Rating:


Christine Wang:
Come on, like you're anybody. I am betting on a lot of polite work that wants to be challenging.
Rating:


East:
Where did you say it was? An eclectic array of emerging artists, otherwise known as crap.
Rating:



Sazanov: This is a joke, this place used to be called Matchbox, and had the worst art in the neighborhood. I've actually seen the Clown paintings here on my way to the train, but I'll never be able to see this place as other than some weird dudes self-promotional storefront.
Rating:

Stripeman Gallery, LTD: Oh, a professional sounding outfit. This place sounds like a business and I bet the art looks like thinly veiled knockoffs.

Rating:
0 Greenbergs


Vertex:
Like a vortex sucking all the light and hope out of the universe? Bad video art and daffy performances that embarrass everyone in the room.
Rating:


Now that my hangover is receding and the muddy events of last evening are starting to sort themselves out, you should probably disregard everything I've just said and see the art for yourselves. What do I know, right? Oh, I thought I'd include a link for Tim Wilson here to Jerry Saltz's call for a moratorium on blurry photo painting.

I can't believe Jerry wrote this, but he partially articulates why I can't stand painting as photography. Anyway, I'm going to let all this bad art roll off my back and wait for the next round of shows to redeem certain places. Next month I'll try and get around to a few more places and see if any of these spaces aren't terrible.


--Keane Pepper

Send me mail:
[email protected]


 


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