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The FREEwilliamsburg Art Crawl
By Keane A. Pepper


O'Connor @ Pierogi

So I get all dressed up a couple of Fridays ago and meet up with my friend J at this terrible little bar called Subway. We drink some $2 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and try to come up with shows we think would kick ass. We didn't come up with anything concrete, except that we thought The Flaming Lips put on a good art show. The beer began to take hold, and we left for the art crawl feeling optimistic. It's too bad the 4 shows we saw that night were all really very cautious and middling. While the next weekend wasn't much of an improvment, there were a few pleasant surprises, but i'm getting ahead of myself.

When I got to Plus Ultra to check out the show, Tracy and Bobby, the tiny gallery was covered in little vaginas. The safely erotic show produced a mild charge, but the whole thing seemed to end before it started. I was compelled to rub the smooth, white plaster mounds installed all over the gallery walls. I know your not supposed to touch the art, but I'm gonna take a guess that it might be invited here. Artist Analia Segal makes an elegant statement about sexuality, but the work seemed to be only about attraction, with none of the repulsion. My friend J longed for a single drip of fluid from on the smooth creases. Maybe J was thinking about Matthew Barney too much, but I understood his desire for something to break the quiet monotony of the room. Sex is often a bit noisy and messy after all.
The show runs until December 22nd.

Rating:

Certainly painting can be a sensuous experience with all the paint, but Sara Bedford's canvases at Bellwether were all dry and analytic in her show Second Nature. Showing playfulness with little cartoon figures and odd illustrations is very different from applying the paint that way. Her canvasses while complex and layered, seemed way to controlling. Sort of like yelling at children to make them play. Bedford's self consciously goofy, decorative paintings succeed in evoking a 70's themed Disney world. Honestly, the photos in the back were a little more provocative. Loosely themed around domestic discord, Diana Kingsley's large color photographs in Lovely swallowed whole offer a fleeting glimpse into a tense world. A pair of bare female legs lay stretched out on a couch in one photo, while a stack of China teeters precariously in another. A photo of a woman's breasts with the water streaked name "Diana" adds an aggressive perspective, sort of like the way my friend J leered at several women. It gave the installation an edge, something Bedford's paintings lacked.
Through December 16th.
Rating:

Drinking tall boys from the Bodega, we arrived at Parker's Box none to quickly. A police cruiser eyed my brown bag suspiciously. Inside we encountered Drawing Quirks 2. Well, it was pretty quirky, and J started making pithy comments immediately. There were the "bad high school" drawings, photorealistic charcoals, some cutout illustrations on tags, and a time-lapsed video in the back. Hanging behind the director's desk was a clunky drawing of a woman in clogs that I really liked for some reason. The rest of the show was disappointing after the previous exhibition. Still, Michael Rodgers intentionally awkward renderings of a small house display an intriguing use of odd, culturally aspecific patterns. Tim Spelios's appropriations on museum style tags seemed intellectually challenged, and Stephen Bitterolf's mechanical drawings of grass from parks around the city really aren't as interesting as the press release.
Drawing Quirks 2 is up through December 16th.
Rating:

You can't really skip a Pierogi opening can you? Well, it was the most impressive of the night's openings, with some ambitious if bland systemic drawings in John O'Connor's Schemes Out and some interesting if overly familiar paintings in Johan Nobell's show. Systemic artwork usually bothers me, divide X by Y spin it around and draw the result, but O'Connor adds a sense of humor that saves the work from being merely disingenuous excuses for doodling. Even his title parodies Radiohead a bit, and he seems to mix up and reconstitute different events, episodes, and systems in an inventive manner. The noodling going on did seem excessive, but I enjoyed drawings like False Memory I, where brief, ridiculous memories float in an abstracted head. He also has a drawing that collides earthquakes with wars in a way that revels in the arbitrariness of natural and man made disasters.

I was talking with someone about Caroll Dunham's paintings and drawings of hybrid monsters that generally terrorize their surroundings. Johan Nobell's paintings seem like cousins of those same paintings, and the angry id running amok is becoming a little too familiar in contemporary painting. I liked the paintings though, with their spewing and churning monsters. I kept thinking about my evil brother who had been arrested after a night of boozing while trying to walk nine miles home. We just wreck everything if we can, I think. Really, J ends up getting beaten up at a Lower East Side party by angry hipsters later on.
Both shows run through December 23.
Rating:



Despite being jumped, J survived and is living and working somewhere in Queens. He really didn't look as bad as Kristine Robinson's Monster Jam with beaver wedge at Rome Arts. One of the smallest galleries in the burg, currently houses one of the strangest shows in Brooklyn, Robinson's sculpture looks like it escaped from an undergrad art locker at Hunter. I shook my head at being happily confused by Daniel Huang's painting Bear/Cactus. It's a bear and a cactus! Drop by before the end of December for a laugh.
Rating:

If you are a fan of oddities, skip everything else and run from Rome Arts to Momenta and check out the wierdness going on there. Huma Bhabha has some trippy drawings and something in a black garbage bag with creepy hands on a table. I noticed that Bhabha went to RISD and wondered if the artist might be part of the anonymous collective forcefield. Pure speculation really. Anyway, Kevin Cooley has some eerie photos of neighborhoods where television shows and movies are being shot. By shifting his focus to the intense effects the massive shooting lights have on the surrounding neighborhoods, Cooley creates photos that would make David Lynch proud. The banal becomes ripe with narrative possibilities. The show is pretty good, but the contrast between Cooley's sharp, beautiful photographs and Bhabha's homegrown wierdness is striking. It almost made me fall over with disorentation. Through December 23
Rating:


In another strange turn of events, Roebling Hall has completely remade itself for Daniel Lezama's show Morality Plays of classical paintings. The last time I dropped by, the place was dim and spooky. This time it's like tope, and there are naked ladies all over the place. Almost schizophrenic in its change of shows, I was wowed by the big canvasses. Suffice to say that Lezama has some serious painting chops. Shades of Fischel, Velazquez, and even Hopper don't overshadow Lezama's compelling figurative narratives. These are culturally loaded and just plain loaded paintings that mix up cultural icons with a vengence. There is a Damien Hirst like polka dot painting in the background of three naked Mexican youths in psuedo ritual pose in Golem. Lezama, a Mexican painter, apparently paints above a bar in "rough neck" part of Mexico. His paintings make us of the inherent drama of the poor, religious culture and its own rich painting tradition.

If I wanted to make work like Lezama I would move to East New York, which is a "rough neck" neighborhood if there ever was one. I wonder though, if I'd get criticized for painting naked kids from other cultures, but hey, what am I anyway?
I really like these paintings, but they just seem ready for a critical beating from somebody. I don't know quite why, except maybe it was all that feminist theory at university. Fuck it, this is a show worth seeing regardless of my feelings about the patriarchal history of painting.
Morality Plays is up through December 23rd.
Rating:



Things pretty much go down hill from here as far I am truly interested kids. Priska Juschka Fine Art has an interesting show going on through January 5th. The two former ISCP residents show a variety of photos and videos that run a wide gamut. The highlight of the show is Gabriele Nagel's video "Milkyway Comeshot", where men have milk dumped on their grill, recasting the venerable porn practice. I saw some unnamed Chelsea gallery owners having a chuckle over the humorous video. The rest of the show is fractured and uneven. Lin De Mol's divided installation features some hit and miss exotic landscape photos contrast with her surreal videos that bring Jane Campion to mind.

Really not my cup of tea, but I'll give it 3 Greenbergs.
Rating:

Schroeder Romero had a boutique like show, The Virgin Collection, by Robert Boyd up until December 2nd, but its going away. Boyd's multicultural appropriation and recontextualization of religious, consumer, and ceremonial icons and imagery made for a provocative statement. Using Spanish religious garb that is also used by the KKK in a wedding like ceremony and performance, Boyd blurs politcally correct boundaries as well as comment on his status as a gay man who is also a victim of discrimination. Come on, a civil union or domestic partnership is not a marriage, with all its tradition and pomp. The show had an air of sadness that tempered the explicit critique.
Rating:


Black and White Gallery
and Studio Fachetti get one Greenberg this month for reminding me why Chelsea should stay in Chelsea. Both Galleries show some passable art work, but the palpable pandering to the collector is ripe like an odor. Really, really nice spaces and art that looks like it was culled together based on descriptions of well known modernists. Oh, I know, its crass to reduce these things to money, after all everyone has to pay the rent, but the collectors like to go to Chelsea. If I have to recommend anything, go see Lael Marshall's painting show House Plant at Black and White. Her laconic, flat-footed paintings are homages to Guston, one of my favorites. So in this case, I don't mind the obvious influence.
House Plant comes down December 9th. Studio Fachetti is selling works through the New Year.

Rating:


If they suffer from a strain of commercialism, Dam Stulhtrager is weathering a case of underdevelopment. The artist, who's name and press release have escaped my clutches, presents large and small sculptures of veiled women and a video of dance performance under the Brooklyn Bridge. The show operates on one note, and really doesn't raise any intriguing questions or insights into the controversial practice. It seems like the artist is grappling with a very complex issue, but needs to reveal something. Excuse the pun, but he needs to lift the veil here to give the show a necessary edge.
Through the end of December
Rating:


Well, that's one take on the visible galleries in the burg this month. I urge everyone to grab a friend like J and head out and support the arts community. Exercise your own judgement and taste, preferably after the openings since you'll really just be tasting booze and talking. Remember openings are fun, but having a gallery to yourself is really quite nice. I'm saying get out there and fill up those guest books.

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[email protected] | December 2002 | Issue 33
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