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The December Art Crawl
(in Third Person)
By Keane A. Pepper
Highest Score:
5 Greenbergs

Updike at
Roebling Hall

Ext-Bedford Avenue-early evening
He staggers up the stairs onto Bedford Avenue, obviously drunk. He looks indecisively around up and down the busy street before heading left in the general direction of Grand Street. Keane wonders if there will be free booze at the galleries, and anything good to stare at. His hopes are pinned on a handful of artists he will never meet. Somewhere, his name is being spat out like a curse word.

INT-Roebling Hall:
The gallery is packed with the usual assortment of second tier intellectual and artistic types who've decided to make their aesthetic stand in Williamsburg. Between the people are several excellent sculptures and a less than compelling video/sculpture installation by David Opdyke. Someone passes the artist and calls him "John," like the author, not the artist who is clearly annoyed by this hipster's stupidity. Keane waits in line for beer and says aloud "I am not tipping you," to the middle-aged guy behind the counter. He saunters off to look at the sculptures.

The show is politically-charged with funny visual puns. There is a haywire power grid composed of many small electrical towers connected by a mess of filament like wire, aptly summing up the mess behind the black out that turned the city into a big party during the summer. Keane seems taken with an aircraft carrier colonized not by aircraft and soldiers, but parking lots, anonymous shopping malls, and tiny cars rung with teeny consumers. The well crafted, sculpture sums up America's economic imperialism nicely. Across from the aircraft carrier is a bomb made out of what appears to be hundreds of armor plates stamped with corporate logos. As with all of Opdyke's sculptures, it has the quality of being manufactured out of spare model parts, even though they are fabricated.

There's also a big map of the United States made out of white washed oil pipelines, refineries, gas pumps, and storage tanks. It's an intricate structure that is also painfully funny, and touches on the madness that is U.S oil addiction. Keane chortles with delight and slugging his beer merrily with the rest of the concerned but disinterested viewers. Like everyone else in the choir, the preaching sounds righteous. Playing on light and shadow, Opdyke presents what appears to be a mass of satellites or something, hanging in the gallery, but a glance at the floor reveals the distinct shadow of an eagle, which Keane thinks he has seen somewhere. Scratching his head he enters a darkened room where two large videos are being projected of what appear to be stealth bombers painted red, white, and blue. At this point, the artist's political views are no longer a secret. The large projections are coming from little wireless video cameras trained on small, rotating sculptures of the bombers. At some point the planes mass together creating the fleeting illusion of what an American flag. Still, the grainy projections leave something to be desired. Keane leaves, thinking he'll give Opdyke for his excellent objects and political will. Through December 15th

INT-*sixtyseven gallery
Keane slumps down on a comfy sofa and watches Javier Cambre's ephemeral video, "Contempt." The artist inserts himself into scenes of Godard's classic film of the same name, because, deep in his heart, maybe he is wildly in love with Bridget Bardot, the stunning actress. Perhaps, Cambre cannot help project himself into the film and combine the banalities of his existence with her fascinating character. The short film has a different soundtrack and combines footage from an apparent documentary along with the artist's own footage, which does a passable job imitating the look of the film with minimal production values. Cambre's film is more about obsession than perfection. The tone of the film changes when the artist appears in an odd mask, giving it a wonderfully surreal moment amidst a lot of nothing.

Keane wanders into the back room and checks out several of Cambre's drawings based around the film. The pencil drawings expand up on Cambre's desire. They capture the fab style of the Sixties effortlessly, and provide context for the oddly affecting film. There are also several formal pictures of Cambre sitting in a chair wearing a model of the house in "Contempt," on his head. Keane jots down for quietly expressing desire and objectifying the artist in the process through December 22nd.

EXT- Grand Street
Keane is walking past Parker's Box when he realizes that there is a video screening underway. He watches organic, abstract shapes morphing in a quick loop. It takes a few minutes to realize that he's watching Patrick Martinez's animation of the millimeter slices of human cadavers. The entire effect shifts from a pleasantly hypnotic experience into an obsessive riff on mortality. After staring for awhile, Keane thinks that the legs are beginning to look too much like ham steaks and scurries off towards Bellwether. Once again, he has passed by Lunar Base and the guilt racks his conscience. Martinez's solo show opens on November 28th.

INT-Bellwether Gallery
Keane stops outside the clean and well-lit gallery and is scared. Inside are freaky paintings of oddly colored landscapes. He cautiously goes inside and looks at the canvases by Malal Iqbal. The paintings are rendered in way that contrasts hard-edged foregrounds with soft focus backgrounds. The colors used to render the nature scenes; logs, mushrooms, lakes, and trees are saturated and decidedly unnatural.

Perhaps Iqbal is critiquing environmental policy, but Keane decides she just likes awful colors and envisioning oddly alien vistas. Keane mutters to himself . Misty is polluting the visual environment through December 22nd.

INT- Pierogi
Having made it all the way to Pierogi, Keane is hoping for better things. Inside the venerable institution, he finds large and small obsessively rendered pencil and ink drawings of Daniel Zeller's show, Empirical Cryptosis. Keane almost flings himself to the floor after getting a mild bout of vertigo. The big drawings look like images taken from a plan passing over the landscape, except they are really just an inordinate amount of marks. Up close, the images reveal themselves as meticulous, patient marks that masquerade as topographies and urban diagrams. Zeller's drawings are rigorous exercises that have largely sold out prior to opening, presumably to a corporate entity that prizes hard work and silence. Utlimately, the drawings lack anything beyond their own process and structure to make them compelling. Keane is happy the artist is set financially for the year and can continue to try and make meaningful art. The self-important sounding show is up through December 22nd. He scrawls in his little book.

In the back, Keane encounters some brightly colored ink drawings by Ati Maier. The drawings of robots, spaceships, and the universe evoke a cosmic, acid trip that kind of looks like an Atari having a flashback. The non-linear sci-fi narratives are more interesting than Zeller's cool formalism, but the drawings have an overall sameness that results in visual monotony. The round, plexi-glass frames are also cool, but sort of distracting. Keane wonders if the artist is trying to be too damn cool, and gives Maier because it's marginally better than the other guy's noodling.

EXT-Momenta Art
Keane looks in the windows of the gallery and can't bring himself to go in and contend with the art from Thailand once again. He's watched the videos and looked at the photos again, but is too intellectually lazy to talk about "disappearance" and politics.

He's also thrilled that he doesn't have to go to Priska, since the same ugly crap is still up.

INT-Jack the Pelican
Though the gallery makes Keane feel ill, he bravely looks at the surveillance-based work of Danny Goodwin. Attached to front wall of the gallery is a bank of LCD monitors supposedly showing live feeds from observation balloons hovering over the Bush Ranch in Crawford Texas and Dick Cheney's house. There's one for a couple other regime members. Along the walls are some bad photographs that Keane doesn't bother with. In the back space are the origins of the video feeds, tiny models of locations being filmed with little cameras suspended in the air by balloons. Goodwin is being 'honest', even though the whole thing is a carefully orchestrated illusion.

Keane keenly makes the connection to the conflict in Iraq. He thinks if the surveillance rigs didn't look so neat, he'd wouldn't give a shit. for the formal, not the didactic politics. Sneak Peak is hanging around through December 22nd.

EXT-Bedford Avenue
The streets are packed with beautiful women and model-skinny hipsters. Keane slinks along the sidewalk trying to stay upright. After seeing several politically-charged shows, the realization dawns on our hero that the crowds around him are most interested in their haircuts than Bush era politics. Surveillance? Facism? Imperialism? These don't seem to be burning questions for Keane's peers. In fact, Keane can't remember the last time he voted, or did anything other than bitch about things. Sullenly, he treks onward, trying not think about the absolute victory of fashion over art.

INT-Plus Ultra
Keane is standing with J, his image obsessed friend, who is checking his hair in the window. There is a decent crowd checking out the work of Team Lump, part of North Carolina gallery collective of some kind. On a small LCD monitor is Lump Lipshitz 's (great name) home video of men doing yard work and other guys. The video footage all has the quality of covert surveillance, which lends a feeling of desire. Keane also reads the title "My Long, Wet, Hot Summer" and gets the feeling Lump is getting off on this stuff. Though Keane doesn't swing that way, he enjoys the subversive, objectification of clueless meatheads.

In the center of the space are really, really well made sculptures of a space-man and a wizard by Gary Smith. The free-standing, two foot sculptures are insanely detailed and well-crafted nostalgic riffs on fantasy and sci-fi. J finds out that there are free Team Lump cigarettes and stickers at the desk and starts stuffing his pockets. Keane thoughtfully notes that people love free stuff. Though there is more work in the show, only Lipshitz's drawings on paper make a dent. Laura Sharp Wilson has some crafty, goofy small paintings, and Michael Salter has some digital drawings of spray paint. Salter also has a little kinetic sculpture of a rotating had tickling a foot with a feather.

Keane stops J from eating all the free doughnuts. Keane gives Beggars and Thieves for having a sense of humor and not rallying around a cause.

Act II-Sunday Afternoon
Following a bender with J involving a bottle of whiskey, large, Styrofoam cups of beer, and the police, Keane licks his wounds and retreats to his childhood home, a mansion like trailer in Jersey to eat Turkey with his beloved, yet simple parents. They do not understand words like "appropriation" or "Marxist critique". They drink canned beer and enjoy shows like CSI:Miami. Keane cries when this show comes on, because he can't afford to travel to Miami and hang out with the art crowd on Lincoln Avenue.

He opens another can of Natural Light and watches America's favorite broadcast network and tries to push thoughts of suicide from his mind.

EXT-Parker's Box
Extremely hungover, terrified of light, and angry that he can't go to Miami and get wasted there, Keane staggers up to Parker's Box. The front of the gallery is glowing. Inside the gallery, the front partition is painted day-glo orange, which freaks Keane out. He walks inside, through the curtains and finds a peculiar scene.
There are three holes in the gallery floor bubbling with neon green liquid, hence the title of Patrick Martinez's solo show, liquid. Behind the fascinated Pepper is a video projection of swirling, murky images of what appears to be the creation of the universe. Keane continues to watch the paint bubble up through the floor. On the wall, the images shift into some kind of planetary atmosphere and then into shifting sands. The montage of images all have the quality of elemental space like water or gas.

Keane finally comes out of his reverie and checks the back of the gallery. Standing before a funhouse mirror is a stick like alien with a bulbous head. Approaching the mirror, the alien's reflection morphs into a vaguely humanoid form, as filtered through Henry Moore of Jean Arp. Hanging above the weird tableaux is a lozenge shaped light fixture that seems oddly appropriate for the alien.

Sensing the underlying absurdity of the pieces, Keane smiles happily. Heretofore, the hapless critic had seen nothing as strange as this sci-fi existential meditation. To Keane, it felt a bit like standing in a three-dimensional, surrealist interpretation of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddessy. Keane gives this spiritually irreverent show . Liquid is bubbling through the floor like toxic waste until December 22nd.

INT-Schroeder Romero
The weirdness continues for Keane upon entering Jaques Flechemuller's show, Sophie at Night. Flechemuller's show consists of a wall of pencil drawings in the front of the gallery, and several large oil paintings. The show is a catalogue of obsession with a kind of idealized past, as his paintings and drawings are populated by aristocrats, children, pets, and an assortment of bizarre characters. The distorted and flattened characters are thinly painted with a delicate, slightly awkward hand. One painting, "Jane Loves Dick", sums up Flechemuller's sexually charged, yet playful subject matter. In the painting a happy couple, perhaps movie stars from the fifties, sit together on a beach as Jane etches the word 'Dick' in the sand. Keane giggle like a school girl, before noticing an odd painting black and white painting of a school girl. Something strikes Keane as odd, until he realizes he can see her breasts through the shirt. Perverse thoughts drift throuh his muddled brain, and he wonders what Flechemuller was thinking while he painted a little girl's rather developed bosom. Scattered throughout the show are small objects, like a bird pinned to the wall that are adorned with cryptic statements like "Death is better than living like this". Keane likes the overall tone of the show, though he doesn't really like the artist's style, though bad memories of Elizabeth Peyton's thin paintings, might have been surfacing. He gives Flechemuller, the perv, .

Keane walks into the project space, and confronts a surreal assortment of photograms by Wendy Small. On his first take, Keane thinks they look biological, perhaps nature studies, until he sees condom rings at the bottom. Keane actually gets a copy of the dreaded press release and learns that Small uses French-Tickler condoms to make the photograms. The luminous, sea urchin looking things are actually the weird tickler thing at the tip. Though Keane has never had sex using a French-Tickler, he thinks that it would be rather amusing. The rest of Small's photograms are ornate compositions of a variety of small objects from tiny, plastic sword cocktail swirlers to small toys. There are also three odd landscapes that seem out of place, but Keane can't be bothered to think of a reason. Small gets for her rather creative use of condoms. Both shows are up through the, surprise, the 22nd.

INT-Rivera Gallery
Keane looks at the explosion of imagery in Overlook, a four-person collaboration that sprawls from floor to ceiling with mild amusement. The show, which looks like everything else inspired by Barry McGee and the street artists, is nevertheless interesting. Jumping out of the inspired mess is an alter like structure on the left wall near the top. It's formal connection to altar pieces gives it a religious fervor. Another spot the catches Keane's eye is a football player painted on the wall that winds its way into a painting of a woman. The images are near a school desk, which gives the whole show context as the enlarged and expanded doodles of four distracted kids. Keane scrawls in his notebook next to some hip-hop lyrics.
Overlook ended its run on the 30th of November.

INT-Front Room Gallery
Though mentally exhausted by the daunting amount of bad art Keane has sifted through, but refuses to validate, he makes a stop at perpetual underdog Front Room. The large space has been transformed into a three-dimensional layout for a Starbucks. The conceptual show by a collective called the Front Group (no affiliation to the gallery) is apparently a layered critique of the relentless expansion of Starbucks, but also the rapid development of Williamsburg that has largely avoided corporate invasion. The exhibition feels like a threat to Keane, a threat of what it will be like when Starbucks are on every corner instead of Bodegas. Formally, the lines demarcating the various areas of a Starbucks is interesting as minimalist installation. Keane wishes he had a cup of coffee though and gives the show for saying what no one else wants to. Starbucks: The Great Tapeover is up through December 7th.

INT-Dive Bar
Keane quits pretending to be interested in culture and marches straight over to the bar. He settles into his usual spot near the end of the bar and orders a big cup of beer to carry him through the football game on the television. He glances down and is temporarily mesmerized by all the circular rings on the wooden bar. Perhaps this could be the source for all of his artistic output. Before he drifts off into a drunken haze, Keane remembers that he did stop by Monya Rowe, another new gallery and liked some of the drawings, but didn't feel like writing about the rather disparate group show. Sitting there, he also felt ambivalent about he paintings at Jessica Murray Projects, and downright ugly about the bad things going on at Gallery Galou. Sometimes, Keane thinks, you've got to draw a line in the dirt and say "No more bad art," and make a stand.


--Keane Pepper

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[email protected] | December 2003 | Issue 45
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