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

 


Scardillo at
Schroeder Romero

The group shows are upon us like a swarm of locusts, and to make matters worse I'm not in a single one. Well, maybe that's a good thing, since my inability to draw anything but circles has severely limited my ability to grow creatively. My therapist suggested that I see a psychiatrist and get on something other than, well, whiskey and deli coffee. I'd rather eat nails than go on Paxil, although maybe I'd stop weeping during these art crawls. My dealer in L.A. says not to worry and that lyrical abstraction is going to comeback huge in ten years, and just keep drawing and painting those circles. So, before I take a therapeutic break from the art crawl and work on my collection of aesthetic essays titled "What's real good?" I'll wrangle with these sprawling, beautiful accidents known as summer group shows.

Before I take on these unwieldy messes, let me review some of the shows that came and went since the last crawl. My personal favorite was Eric Heist's solo show, Leisure Management Corporation at Schroeder Romero. This silly indictment of corporate America was brilliantly conceived and executed with wit and restraint. Using the ultra-bland interior design of corporate offices as a thematic motif, Heist actually had to change very little about the blank walls of the gallery, a desk, a table, a sign on a door were enough to evoke corporate austerity. What's really funny and savage about the show are the figures underneath the furniture. Beneath the reception desk is what looks like a shrouded woman. Beneath the desk around the corner might be a man fucking; who or what remains a mystery. Heist subverts corporate seriousness wickedly; open the maintenance door and you'll find a disco ball in the reflected darkness. Heist also has a series of black and white drawings on colored paper and some from his corporate series, which are good enough on their own but achieve added resonance in their surroundings. The whole thing works out as one great, black comedy.

Rating:
Leisure Management Corporation went under June 23rd.

Pierogi had a whacky two-person before their summer group show opened. Brian Dewan's solo exhibit, I-CAN-SEE Film strips, completely transformed the gallery into a one room school house. The installation was pretty much a stage for the odd artist, who apparently stayed in the space for the run of the show giving these old school beep and turn film strip shows with lectures. I hadn't seen one of these things since grade school. I didn't stick around that long though, the guy was sweating a lot and reminding me of a weird cousin who still lives at home, despite the fact he's forty. Still, the whole endeavor was fairly impressive, but ultimately I couldn't stand the idea of sitting in a hot classroom watching a slide show about Colonialism. Sorry Mr. Dewan, I took a hall pass.

Rating:

Jonathan Herder had an impressive show of collaged drawings, Stampology, in the back that invoked history and pedagogy parallel to Dewan's performance. Herder uses historical stamps to create a variety of collages that blend genres from narrative comics to landscapes. In one collage, Herder uses the cut-out stamp heads of Lincoln and Washington on drawn bodies as they wage an absurd ideological battle. Additionally, Herder draws and collages tiny fragments of the squares to create mosaic landscapes that are delicate and beautiful. Herder also uses text and the language of history in one large drawing that is equal parts U.S History and Aesthetics. Overall, the show was one of my favorites for its exquisite formalism and its humorous criticism of historical reverence. Herder remains skeptical of history, while Dewan has the energy and bearing of a cheerleader for the subject matter.


Rating:
Both shows went on summer break June 23rd.

Let's talk about really bad painting for a minute, since it came in all shapes and sizes during June. There is an upside to the rain actually since it might have saved you from witnessing the tragedy of these three shows. Arnold Helbling's "Everything Falls Apart Yet Nothing Ever Does…", Karen Heagle's "Fierce", and Steve Silver's "Space is the Place" all were mystifyingly bad. Helbling's abstract leftovers from figurative sources were absolutely awful in their coloring and phenomenological excess at Roebling Hall. The extremely plastic looking surfaces and generic abstract mark making make Gerhard Richter's abstract paintings look sincere and masterful. Karen Heagle apparently cannot get enough Karen Klimnick, so she painted her own bad celebrity paintings, plus she adds some vintage porn scenes for a stronger post-feminist statement. Ug, I can't take it, next! Steve Silver's cake paintings at Plus Ultra took their cue from some source I am not familiar with and don't care to be after seeing what it inspired him to create. These paintings look exactly like my undergrad professor was doing in '94. Laying it on thick and making very edible looking globs of paint. Silver actually collages what looks like a bunt cake on top of the globs of icing-like paint.

You can probably still catch Karen Heagle if you don't believe they could be that bad, but your going to have to go ask the other galleries for slides to confirm the badness. All together you get , maybe, if you weight it fully clothed and soaking wet.

It's a split decision over at Dam Stuhltrager. Eric Trosko's spare, dream-like canvases of unusual objects invoke surrealist dreams. Conjuring everything from science to sexual desire Trosko makes better paintings through a formal economy that allows the curious objects to conceptually transform in the mind. The small canvases all share a clean, graphic style and a muted, pastel palette. All of them were untitled, but I was digging on one that reminded me of the possibility that universe is shaped like a donut and space might really function like in Asteroids where the ship goes out the top and reappears on the bottom. For some reason I can't articulate I liked one of the canvasses that looked like a hairy, vaginal ice-cream bar. I'll have to buy it and bring it with me to therapy. I really wish some of Trosko's playful imagery had spilled into Sheila Ross's home deco, geometric abstractions. Her formal collages of squares and rectangles are all made with a variety of faux surfaces that are pinned together with silver tacks. Unfortunately, nothing really takes command, neither the formal arrangements nor the silly, domestic materials.


Rating:
Recent Work is up through August 3rd.


Riviera Gallery had a pretty funny show, Greedy Gas Guzzlers, of advertising and design inspired works by Matt Campbell that document the emergence of house sized domestic utility vehicles. These monstrous machines rendered in a graphic cartoon style by the artist gleefully romp across the landscape shielded in the nonsensical language and double-speak of advertising. Campbell has a good time sending up soccer moms and macho men with his advertisements that market the machines security features and play to male desire. The show verges on intellectual snobbery since its satirical target has already got conservative middle-Americans actually thinking about the economic and environmental effects of their SUV's. The real strength of Campbell's work isn't conceptual, but in the unrestrained manipulation of so many commercial languages while maintaining a stylistic thread.


Rating:
Greedy Gas Guzzlers stopped running at the end of June.


So the difficult task of discussing a flood of group shows remains, and maybe I should concoct some ridiculous theme to tie all of the disparate shows together to seem like I'm conceptually and theoretically sophisticated. Or, I could just admit that I've got a lot of friends in these shows and want to talk about their work. I think, somehow, maybe I'll take my cue from the how the curators and galleries put these shows together.

School is Out, curated by the venerable Michel Auder at Southfirst, finds the old boy mixing in his old school friends and some people I've never heard of but am glad he threw them in. So, sure, he puts in Cindy Sherman, Alice Neel, and Jeremy Blake in here so I'd walk all the way down to the gallery, but then you already know their work. Stop by to see Auder's lesser-known selections like Coinne Jone's simple ink Jungle Drawings, Sandra Velllejos's uber doodle, Untitled, that on its mount looks almost digital or photographic, or Maureen Gallace's subtle and elegant little landscapes. Mari Eastman's glittery paintings of pets and a china plate also indicate that someone was not asleep behind her brush. Otherwise, this is a well-hung show that proves Auder has an excellent eye, but essentially avoids any thematic responsibility. Guess that's where the title comes in.


Rating: Through August 3rd
.

If Auder's show is a little creaky, Blinky, at Foxy Productions is rife with youthful energy. This buoyant little show features the work of Cory Arcangel, who gave a hell of a performance at the opening of Outpost (more later), and other multimedia artists riffing on techno-geek culture, therefore I loved it. Arcangel rigs up an old 8-bit NES to LCD monitors and basically sticks a fork in the thing to make Mario have abstract dreams. The gesture is beautiful, watching a computer generated icon have psychedelic dreams. Apparently Arcangel and BEIGE collaborated to confuse the NES into reading an altered ROM, but I used to get similar effects when my NES got old. I guess it's harder than it looks. Who doesn't love Gumby? The lovable creature is referenced in the work of the Paper Rad Collective. While there were other prints and such in the show, they felt more reactive to technology and somewhat less memorable. I really can't even recall what they looked like. Despite that, check it out since Blinky has been extended on weekends through July 13th.

Rating:

Almost as a counterpoint to Blinky, is Fish Tank Gallery's show, Marks. This four-person show claims to deal with "invisible cultural marks and concepts". Basically, all the artists have some idea in their head that they have to make visual. That could also be a description of making any kind of art. Let's make it a bit more specific; the artists are responding to specific concepts, mainly technological and pop-cultural. Unlike Blinky, none of the artists engage technology on its own terms. All of the information the artists are concerned with is processed through very traditional means, which ultimately have less to do with the ideas than arriving at a formal aesthetic. Carrie Pollack's linear abstraction is appropriated from multiple sources and reconfigured on paper or canvas to make complex compositions. Barry Allikas's hard-edged abstraction tries to function as a metaphor for data streams, but come on, they are rather generic, symmetrical abstract paintings. Valerio Vevilacqua's black monochrome canvases claim to have some game-like process, but are mainly dull. Essentially, I don't think the artists in this show really address or care about the thematic concept draped on them, which makes the press release a lot of reassurance for worried collectors. The only artist in the show that seems to have anything overt to say through the medium is Mark Schubert with his inverted Ken and Barbie dolls. The casts of the empty space inside the hollow dolls resonate formally and conceptually, although they fall short at conception. Ken and Barbie must be some of the most popular subjects for artists concerned with identity.


Rating:
Marks ended its streak June 30th


Cory Arcangel, the engine behind Blinky, also had a killer performance at the opening of Outpost, curated by Ada Chisholm at Smack Mellon. A friend of a friend was in the show, so I was forced to travel to the venerable DUMBO Gallery for the first time. Arcangel gave a Powerpoint presentation on some obscure facts surrounding Eddie Van Halen's soloing techniques while also revealing his own personal idiosyncrasies. The performance, which sounded really stupid beforehand worked because Arcangel was as absorbed in the subject matter as he wanted us to be, and when it came time to perform, he executed some of Van Halen's most famous riffs flawlessly. He even pointed out his bloodly, fingertips. Instead of mocking Arcangel I was surprised how easily he had accessed unwanted nostalgia for the 80's and those awful middle school dances and girls with big hair.

The rest of Outpost was interesting, but as someone noted, Arcangel's act was hard to follow. His own multimedia piece playing data patterns seemed boring and needlessly formal afterwards. Greg Simsic's sprawling cause and effect video installation was fun to try and figure out with its gee whiz factor. I appreciated the way his looping events activated all of the screens to create the illusion of connections between the individual monitors. I was slightly baffled by Lynn Sullivan's basement door in the middle of the gallery and billboard structure hanging above it. One silly bastard tried to open the sculpture, which was obviously all one piece. Amy Barkow's video of emptiness works as an existential gesture, and that's how I'm going to have to look at this one. Barkow places a camera looking down the long empty space behind a temporary wall, while a monitor on the adjacent wall shows the dark passage. I sort of wanted to draw some circles on all that empty space. Jason Mombert's New Sincerity is a big, gift-wrapped, pop-culture party shack. The pink room with its' balloon ceiling houses a whacky video of a party where a dude in a white suit offers some kind of pop art communion consisting of pop tarts and Champagne. There's a lot of popping going on, and the bottle smashing at the end made me want to pop some of the balloons and cause some mayhem myself, so I decided to lay off the booze until I made it back to the 'burg. Elsewhere, Joe McKay had an excellent art video game where two people try and match colors using old school, Atari paddle like knobs. I didn't give it a go, but watching the pretty patterns almost put me in a trance. Also, there was another bit by eTeam where you could go in and have your photo digitally slapped on a wall-sized projection of a western.


Rating:
Outpost is up into July sometime
( 3 1/2 Greenbergs)

*Sixty Seven doesn't even pretend to have a theme for its summer show, and well, it shows. The funky exhibit has some strong points but basically I was disappointed by the mishmash of work. Sometimes, when a particular work is so good or bad, it fucks with the entirety. In this case, Torsten Zenas Burns' installation surrounding his video were ridiculously ugly, white washed junk objects splattered with neon paint. The large, cluttered sculpture was a visual bomb in the space, even though the video portion was pretty funny. The artist covered in paint romping around in various vignettes was overshadowed by the unfortunate installation, which included a baby stroller and a motorcycle helmet. The remainder of the show follows your standard bell curve with marginal, unremarkable, and good work. One artist's self-portraits of herself making faces and putting in her contacts reminded me of those summer AP projects in high school. I thought it was unspoken rule that artists' made these once or twice and never again. Getting better were Pierre Obando's Coke logo inspired abstraction and Yuh-Shioh Wong's gentle, pale hued paintings of animals in traces of landscapes. Eric Trosko also appeared again with some breezy canvasses of his strange hybrid objects. I genuinely enjoyed Javier Cambre's odd video, Monsieur Hyde, and Jade Townsend's sculpture/theatrical prop of what appeared to be a fellow drunkard passed out standing up. I really couldn't be bothered with the rest of the work in the show, since most of it was vaguely annoying and unremarkable. I was so angered by Burns' ugliness, I left without taking the press release and my notes and memory were less than reliable the following morning. Summer show is poorly lumped together through July 27th.


Rating:

Parker's Box closed for the summer with Distant Shores, an eclectic group show of some familiar faces from previous shows. A personal favorite of mine, Fabien Verschaere, a French artist, had several of his little watercolor paintings in the back of the space. He applies an illustrative style to surreal, imaginative subject matter and creates a non-linear narrative. Joshua Stern's large format, black and white photographs of intricate setups involving what appear to be matchstick men were the most compelling images in the show. The miniatures appear defy their apparent simplicity and create overblown melodrama from ordinary materials.

I liked Jason Glasser's landscapes on the backs of auto glass, it's really a very nice, slightly bowed surface for his colorful marks. Still, I was bored by Janine Variviere's fragmented montage of flowers or Karolyn Hatton's faux flower arrangements. Stefan Sehler's coolly rendered series of mountain landscapes really did nothing for me, as the thinly applied paint and stylized rendering didn't offer an enticing vista nor a compelling conceptual reason for not offering it.


Rating:
Distant Shores closed Sunday June 25th.


Speaking of things in the distance, Black and White Gallery is currently previewing next season's line and four artists previously exhibited.

Of the new models, I responded most favorably to Janice Handleman's simple paintings of circles. Circles! I almost wanted to ask for her number, but realized that might border on stalking. So, instead I marveled at her grid of circles, well there were four little portraits that made the work far more interesting than just circles. Just circles! I swoon at the thought. Elizabeth Zetchel had a nice painting of bird with a small, outlined figure floating on the surface that looked a lot like the bird paintings by Anne Craven. Christopher Broughton's rather insanely layered, colored grids reminded me vaguely of Al Held, but without the illusionism. Of the old guard, I couldn't help but wonder if Andrew Piedilato had actually found old Ab-Ex paintings in an abandoned studio and appropriated them for the inaugural show last fall, and I am still left wondering. These things look like artifacts from the 50's. Meghan Foster's tightly controlled domestic scene looked rather cold and lonely. I much preferred Lael Marshall's whimsical little canvas in the corner. Really, I just like Marshall's modernist sources more than Foster's chilly post-modernism.


Rating:

Out in the second space, David Baskin had some rather beautiful, wax cast objects attached to the cement walls. The cast sections of furniture came in various colors and sort of emerged from the wall, like they had been buried. It made the courtyard feel as if hadn't been built up so much as dug out. Baskin's work continues the excellent work going on in the back of Black and White, which has been more experimental than everything inside so far.


Rating:

There is also a site-specific dance scheduled for the weekends at the gallery that sounds quite intriguing. On the Horizon runs through July 7th.

I was happily surprised with the group show, No Trespassing, at Priska Juschka. Having read my Foucault in grad school and debated notions of self-policing, I was rather intrigued with the guest-curated show. Rebecca Uchill and artist Mark Sarosi were responsible for the improvement in the art, but I have to give someone credit at the gallery for letting them curate the show. Sue De Beer's trapper keepers containing her favorite zines immediately sent me back to high school and the daily trauma. Well, I never shot anyone but I can remember doing plenty of crazy shit, exactly what De Beer is fascinated with; the difficulties of youth, which I am starting to think of as a high powered car blowing donuts in a dirt parking lot. There's plenty of energy but no direction. Anyway, her photo of masked teens violently making out is pretty disturbing. De Beer thankfully frames her exploration of teen angst in a way that seems less exploitive than dirty Larry. I really liked Brock Enright's props and evidence from his for-hire kidnapping service. The Ratbasketball and other homemade restraints are really funny/scary. Bill Brown's Surveillance Camera Players, which finds the artist and company performing 1984 at the 6th Ave L tunnel is a riot, and actually poses the question, "who actually watches those monitors?" No one really until something awful happens. J.S. Bogg's has some of his funny money in the show. I wonder if he'll have to go digital to tackle the new bills coming down the pipe. Curator Mark Sarosi's Panopticon is such a literal translation of the prison it is actually kind of silly. His curved wall of fake looking surveillance cameras blink and sputter about when you move in front of them. A much better invocation of the panopticon is Vibeke Jensen's, Blind Spot, a hidden surveillance booth in the mirrored column in the gallery. The first time I went through the show, I didn't notice it. The second time, there was a cable giving away the hiding place. For whatever reason, you are also being monitored as you monitor the gallery space, and it's in that duality of watching yourself being watched that gets at the insidiousness of the panopticon. Once you are aware of your visibility, you begin to make adjustments and police yourself. I'm pretty much a nerd in public until the booze takes hold, then I lose that learned self-awareness and start kicking garbage cans. Takes a couple of New York's finest to get me back in line…Ahem.

Unfortunately, Nin Bruderman's photos are extremely bland, Eric Stein's wall drawing looks way too tentative to be termed graffiti and doesn't feel remotely transgressive, and Jeremy Hobb's overdone Museum of Natural History light box overshadows a beautiful image made from an interesting photographic process using guns, electricity, and photopaper.


Rating:
No Trespassing is saying "Don't Touch That" until July 21.

I couldn't help but think that the show sort of continued around the corner at Momenta art since most of the work in their show, Focus Group, dealt with issues of privacy in post Patriot Act America. The show starts with pretty much with Tana Hartgest's Bitter Nigger Network prints. Hargest is African-American, so its alright to laugh at the artist's self-effacing take on the marketing of blackness. I kept thinking about Spike Lee suing TNN to stop them from making Spike TV a Network. Fuck, they should call themselves Stupid White Dude TV. Hargest prints are part of a much larger project, but are pretty scathing unto themselves. Perry Hoberman's spot on reproductions of OS X warning boxes are ingenious representations of our increasingly invasive relationship with corporate America. The best one is a Trademark and Copyright dialogue box that alerts you of infringement and presents you with basically realistic options should our computer society become more transparent to corporations and the government. Its basically here, Adobe sends your registration information along with your serial number (store bought of course) to its database for later action unless you compress a few files here and there. He's also got one warning you of terrorist activity with an option to have your computer call a taxi, but the default is surrender. George Kimmerling's faux real estate guide for sex offenders could be sent out in the mail now to sex offenders in Jersey and they wouldn't blink since they actually live in a different reality of privacy. The implication that sex offenders will be segregated is where the scary possibilities of this piece begin, since the government could easily target other marginal groups as threats to moral and national security. David Opdyke's electoral maps divided into corporate logos is probably the least serious work in the show, but as revealing as any of it, as fewer and fewer conglomerates exercise more control over the public and influence the merging governmental ideologies. I felt like having a drink after this show, it stirred the dark recesses of my simple little mind. Focus Group took of for the mid-west on June 30th, so if you missed it keep an eye out for the artists this fall.

Rating: (if only all the art was as intellectually and aesthetically relevant…)

Pierogi lightened things up a bit, or at least allowed my mind to shut down a bit while my eyes trolled over the obsessive drawings. A collection of fan favorities is up through the dog days of summer and a room full of largely systemic drawers makes a case for my least favorite aesthetic. Of course, I'm generalizing here, Dawn Clements large observational pen and ink drawing and Irene Pijoan's meticulous and overwhelming cut outs don't really qualify as systemic art, but they are my favorites in the show. Well, along with William Pope L.'s white paint text pieces with great one-liners like "White People are Us", and William is a black artist merrily getting his critique on. I was struck how many old white lady collectors were touring Pierogi, and I wondered what they thought of Pope L.'s humorous barbs. Anyway, there is a host of interesting uses of pencil, ink, and pigments on display, like John J. O'Connor's dense mushroom cloud of text, line, and color. The name escapes me, but the drawings on the left when you walk in were also better examples of the noodling going on. In Heat is sweltering in the gallery until July 28th.


Rating:

Rounding out this summer's crop of group shows is Summer Reading back at Schroeder Romero. This show has a lot of drawing, but it there is an emphasis on the textual and narrative aspects of the genre. Curated by Larry Walczak of Eye Wash, Summer Reading is uneven, but what group show isn't. I immediately identified with David Kramen's confessional drawings on paper and the gallery walls. Kramen includes such gems as "Half Empty. Half Full. Fuck You" in relation to a drawing of the proverbial pint glass and a self-effacing narrative about the slow, painful transition from cool college guy into middle-aged loser. I empathized with the pitiable wall installation and the white guy pathos. Bill Shuck's wall installation using grass is a technical marvel, but I have already forgotten what it actually said. Pierogi's Joe Amhein has his signature sign painter's lettering on vellum, that are pleasant enough, but don't really "emphasize the absurdity of art criticism" as the press release says, I do that! So, yeah, there's David Shapiro's excellent drawing/text installation using white raised lettering that somehow makes the text appealing. It's pretty much a free fall from here. There's a really awful transparent book sculpture, an alarmingly annoying LCD monitor in a literal bible belt, Leslie Brack's ransom type paintings which I didn't like much at Plus Ultra when they were there, and Robin Michals didactic rotting fruit as metaphor for warring nation in decline. Summer Reading is schooling fools through July 28th.


Rating:

I've been throwing around Greenbergs fairly liberally, but who can blame me. Every group show, well wait a minute, there's this new space on Grand called Fluxcore that had this month's worst show that would get a big ole' zero if it weren't for Donnie Myers amusing text on glass works. Everything else in the nightmare of a show aptly titled "Between Waking and Sleeping" seems have shambled right out your worst undergrad critiques. It suddenly got cold in here and it isn't the air conditioner. I mean this show makes me almost take back everything I said about the bad painting shows in June, well, nah. I recommend sticking to the Bellwether side of the street until the fall.


Rating: (I don't know when this show comes down, but the sooner, the better.)

So that's it for the first full season of the Keane A. Pepper show. I'll be returning in the fall as long as the Hipster Network is still on the air. Please drop by in August for a special summer column, and all you gallery owners don't hesitate to arrange studio visits and check out my work. I have a new series of circles using beer cans and, well, beer. You can't imagine the contrast a Brooklyn Brown provides. Ah, I'm just messin', I only draw circles with a China brush while I listen to New Age music.

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