I awoke on the floor of my apartment this weekend, smelling
of booze and feeling damp, which thankfully turned out to
be the contents of the can of beer I feel asleep with, but
even as that small miracle passed, the real pain set in.
I found myself immobilized, as if a subway spike had been
pounded through my head. I managed to grope for the remote
and turn on the television, something to focus on and keep
breathing. At some point during my malaise, a commercial
for Bob Hope's 100th birthday appeared on the screen. I
was struck by the fact that Bob was going to die, and soon!
With the hangover making me feel as old as Bob I suddenly
felt the inexorable hand of doom closing in on my prone,
listless form. I turned off the devil box and staggered
to the shower where I scrubbed like Lady Macbeth. Despite
the shower, I was feeling weak and pathetic so I called
my old friend S to join me for a walk where I might encounter
something more reprehensible that myself. Somehow, I felt
like a dark cloud was blotting out all hope of a good art
I met S on Bedford and ate a greasy slice of pizza hoping
to cure my hangover. Nothing. We walked down to Priska
Juschka where I was overwhelmed with feelings of mortality
by Constanze Schweiger's show "Friends", a series
of unflinching portraits of her friends shot in the minimal
commercial language of Gap Ads. Instead of impossibly beautiful
models, makeup, and digital retouching there are paunches,
puffy eyes, stained teeth, and the bad skin of her obviously
aging peers. These pesky little details don't factor into
the advertising world's desire driven equation. There is
a really strange and troubling reversal though by framing
her friends in such commercial terms, because although they
are not fetishized through makeup into objects of desire,
these pictures still seem to be about desire anyway. While
S noted that the pictures were actually an excellent example
of the oxymoron "pretty ugly", I empathized with
the unmistakable look of the subjects to actually be desirable.
I don't know if it was the trendy clothes, haircuts, or
There was something almost cruel in the way the sitters
were framed by the language of fashion photography. I don't
know if I'd want my friends framed against impossible cultural
expectations of beauty; I'd rather not use them that way.
The irony isn't so much in the discrepancy between Schweiger's
models and fashion models, since her friends look pretty
hip anyway as if looking like hell could be the new black.
Schwieger's pairing of smaller portraits with minimalist,
hard-edged pattern paintings don't suffer from this confusion.
The headshots exclude clothing and posing while the relationships
to the canvasses raise painterly questions. She also has
a video of the large portrait subjects posing on video,
which despite their blank expressions is infinitely more
annoying than the photos. The thing is, the gallery inexplicably
smelled like diapers, seriously, and the whole affair made
me feel awful. Maybe I was just hypersensitive or a baby
had been through but damn, I had to leave on the quick,
but "Friends" is scaring hard partiers off the
drugs through June 1st.
(for the art, despite the odor)
I left feeling despicable and ugly, waiting for something
to come screaming out of the sky aimed at my head. Then
the large model-like car in the front of Momenta Art
cheered me briefly. The contrast between the car's magic
shell coating and real tires seemed like an amusing reference
to childhood Hot Wheels. Once I got over the grand scale,
I remembered the inflatable hot rod at Ronald Feldman's
American Dream show, and got thinking I like that one better.
Carl Scholz's Cherry is apparently a real car coated to
close it off from the viewer. It seems Scholz forgets how
much fun it was to play with cars before we could actually
get in them since the press release claims the sculpture
refers to "the impenetrable nature of existence itself."
I really hate reading press releases sometimes.
In the second space, the work of Wangechi Mutu posed an
interesting question. Should a gallery show artists who
make very similar work within a few months of one another?
Mutu's mixed media wall installation is very close cousin
of Chitra Ganesh's "Her Secret Mission," so close
that I thought the same artist was having another show at
first. Mutu explores representations of the female body
in the context of her cultural identities through drawing
and collage. The sprawling wall installation is formally
very similar to Ganesh's, but Mutu is focused on the relationship
between objectification and mutilation of the body. Mutu's
version is less about personal identity than a critique
of the problematic cultural practices of two different cultures.
S commented on the feather's sticking out from the walls,
but didn't really get any of the deeper issues, and I didn't
feel like playing teacher.
(Both artists are unintentionally guilty of the old "Doesn't
that look like that thing we saw. . .?" through
Having been admonished in letter by Greg Stone for failing
to know that Mark Lombardi had committed suicide in 2000,
I slunk past Pierogi this month feeling awful for
not knowing that as I dismissed his deeply political and
exhaustive drawings connecting money and power, as if I
really knew anything about Mark or his work. I didn't then,
and I don't know how many people who see the works will.
Essentially, I don't know who's responsibility it is in
making the viewer privy to this information but I feel Mark's
work is something to be experienced in relation to his larger
body of work. Mark's preparatory drawings by themselves
are not all that compelling formally, and as a viewer, I
wish the preparatory sketches were shown in the context
of where they lead. Mark's work isn't so well known yet
that anyone will have as much experience with it as Greg,
Joe Amerhein, and Jerry Saltz who touched on it in an early
May issue of the Village Voice.
Jack The Pelican's new show of Doug Hender's wet-on-wet
monochromatic paintings of abstracted female forms is quite
a step up from the previous outing, although nothing to
get excited about. The black contour lines of pretty women
are repeated onto a gray ground and fade out indicating
movement through space or time. The repetition of the overlapping
forms results in mildly interesting patterns, but that lack
of color and further complexity in the paintings was a drag.
Strangely, I was reminded of William DeKooning's late pattern
paintings, and perhaps Hender's wasn't all there with these
things either. With titles like "hangover" and
"jet lag" you'd think I could relate, but I'm
not a supermodel and I can't afford to just check into rehab
for a few weeks when shit gets out of hand, even though
my hangover suggested it might be time regardless. Through
S seemed to be enjoying the pleasant weather although I
cursed my very existence all the way down to South First
Gallery. Once inside, I walked through LoVid's (Tali
Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus) collaborative installation of drawings,
sound, video and what in other contexts is wearable video
art. So, if you didn't get it, low tech and high tech meet
in a strange little installation. I missed out on the performances,
but they couldn't be any worse than Fischerspooner could
they? Could they? I couldn't tell and really couldn't care
less. There wasn't much sound and video other than static,
and I'm not a big fan of signal degradation art. If you
are, get on down there. Electricity if Fun When Lovid
Plays Synchro runs through June 16th, and we didn't
make up that title.
S got super excited when we followed a delivery of actual
fish into the Fish Tank Gallery. I nearly hurled
in the long hallway, before making it inside to find another
show of my favorite genre, traditional figurative painting.
To my surprise, Bryan LaBeouf was back with a painting from
his last show. Well, not really, the show consists of a
gang from that bastion of contemporary art, the Figurative
Academy of New York. After LaBeouf's crowd pleasers undoubtedly
sold, Fish Tank decided to reel in a bunch of figurative
painters. Admittedly, there are paintings engaged with the
narrative in this show aptly titled Space Invaders.
Much of the work deals with this theme literally and metaphorically.
Jean Pierre Ray's Sci-Fi settings blend together references
from the 50's to Aliens. Formally, Ray seamlessly melds
old master painting techniques with the illustrative style
of sci-fi novel covers in his paintings like Au-3100. If
the Aliens where to abduct or leave behind naked women it
might look like Medora Frey's soft focus, photorealism.
Her painting of a woman caught in a bright light then perhaps
leaving the frame suggests the passage of time through its
use of lighting and the absorbed gaze of the female subject.
Jennifer Peasant's paintings of projections onto the figures
and spaces in her compositions take up the theme metaphorically,
as memory and perhaps history are projected onto the subjects.
Peasant wants to engage the idea that history is written
on the skin and history is best remembered through pain,
like a tattoo or scar is the record of trauma. These works
seemed to be about emotional trauma and its wake. Amy Bennett's
top down domestic scenes reminded S of the old video game
Gauntlet, while I was thinking Zombie At My Neighbors. The
unique perspective creates a tension between illusion and
pattern that is rather unique in the show as a way of addressing
modernist painting ideas. Ann Hirsch literally invades the
space with sculptures of an anguished woman atop the false
stairway in the gallery. These things have palpable pathos
and are brilliant, a solid use of the traditional. The blobby
figures and Bay Area living rooms didn't do much for me.
All in all, this is a painting show that has designs on
more than a claim to relevance or the human condition. Space
Invaders is developing Fish Tank as a hot (bright?)
spot of figurative painting in Williamsburg through June
Having tried to give the figurative peeps a reasonable look
instead of just shrugging, I was almost longing for some
of their discipline at Space 101's fabulously trashy
new show The Burnt Orange Heresy. Based on some obscure
novel, the show features works inspired by it, which sounds
like a project show; a way to relieve all pressure to be
original or critical. Having been forced to engage the conceptual
trickery at work, I read the damned press release, which
is pretty fucking funny. Apparently this is some piece of
hackwork that inspired the curator, David Hunt, to get everyone
to read and make a piece about. Well, probably a bunch of
people said "fuck that" since there is a lot of
orange, like "He'll never know, he picked me already
for the show." I'm probably never going to read this
book, and you can get the idea from the book descriptions
that Hunt isn't interested in the work of Hans Haacke or
other theory heads who dominated the artistic discussions
of the 90's.
Well, this show is an inspired menagerie of whacky works,
from Carl Scholz's brilliant and hilarious cowhide motorcyle
(I can't tell you how much better this is than the car at
Momenta) to Russell Nachman's amazingly bad Dune-like illustrations.
The work in this show feels so new it hurts the eyes, and
with my hangover I reeled from work to work trying to really
care. Although it is pretty damn cool, individually I'm
not sure how much of this work would fair. I'm not even
gonna try to figure this one out, but Mac Handelman's Sci-Fi
painting Deephaven is also a very cool modernist take on
illusionism and flatness. Ivan Witenstein's The Kiss is
a salute to irreverence and youth. My favorite was Carl
D'Alvia's Sebastian (GT8), a sculpture of an orange, cyborg
monkey pumping out ooze and looking rather battered. What
would be really interesting would be to see the painters
in this show go over and start a war with the figurative
guys at Fish Tank. Maybe they could all find common ground
in science fiction, which much of the work in this show
seemed to really be about. It must be in the book.
(Signifying newness like green neon through June 23rd.)
I dragged S down along Kent Avenue looking for Chi: An
Art Space even following another group of art-goers.
We entered 184 Kent and were summarily confused when we
couldn't find the right apartment. I wasn't much for taking
stairs, I get terrible vertigo when hungover and a lemming
like desire to pitch myself off high places so we left,
(please email directions). Next time. We stopped by Star
67, but the same show I forgot about last month was up.
I decided to finish off the crawl by heading east towards
Grand Street. Peeked in Sideshow Gallery and saw Rosa Volado's
modernist metal sculpture that twists and turns inside the
gallery. I had a teacher back in high school who made metal/mesh
art, and I actually thought it might be his, but he apparently
will die a regional artist, the horror. Volado's form is
beautifully crafted and is quite pleasing. The connection
to Jonas Mekas's photographic collages, which look like
enlarged strips of super-8 film really isn't there, like
two different bands playing in the same room. It doesn't
hinder Volado's formal work, but it makes Mekas's half feel
A to C Jumping Over B runs through June 2nd.
S and I headed past Supercore and I tried to get
a coffee only to find out the place is now a bar. I almost
broke down and had a glass of wine, but I was feeling puritanical
after the previous evening's epic binging. A few minutes
later we were on Grand Street and with my hangover making
me feel so guilty and repentant, I was all set to go in
Lunar Base. I thought I saw a painting by an old painting
professor of mine in the window. Well, when I got the door,
I was confronted by a "be back in ten," sign.
I took the sign as a sign and cut and run, since those familiar
paintings weren't by my old prof at all, just another painter
exploring the joys of mixed media.
Like criminals fleeing the scene of a crime we ran, despite
my pounding head, until we were safely down Grand Street.
Then we stumbled upon Open Ground, an artist-run
gallery. This dim little place housed a bunch of odd work
from Sara Rainwater's unconsciously bad paintings and not
quite as bad mixed media works of urban and rural landscapes
to Maria Harrison's excellent photographs of an abandoned
state hospital. All of the works engaged place to a certain
degree, and even the gallery itself fits right into Neglected
Places. This place and the generally abject subject matter
did little to shake my sense of impending doom.
(Through May 25th so something new should be up.
Someone with some cash drop off a couple gallons of paint
and some lightbulbs.)
S reminded me that Plus Ultra had a new show up so
we backtracked down South 1st to the tiny cube. When I opened
the door I was overpowered by the smell of black liquorice.
I made S go in and find out what was causing the noxious
odor, I was no condition to be overwhelmed by anything smelly
for a third time. S came back out and reported there was
a large pair of wing tips made out of liqourice nearly filling
the gallery. I bravely charged inside; saw the large shoes
and point drawings of wingtips by Andy Yoder and bolted.
If you like the smell of liqourice this is a heck of show.
As far as shoe art goes, this was pretty ambitious.
(In a Perfect World aromatically affects the senses through
We stopped in this little deli on Havermeyer St as I finally
decided to get some aspirin for my splitting headache. Standing
outside I noticed Rome Arts had some new work up.
I dropped in for gallery owner Daniel Carello's ultra-minimalist
geometric abstractions. I couldn't help but notice they
looked like the little skewed window on the back wall of
the space. The paintings are perfectly executed, but I'm
not a big fan of minimalism, so I was immediately attracted
to Colin Keefe's obsessive drawings of cities. The drawings
while spare, pencil on paper, imply vast imaginary plans
for a city. They also seemed relevant in relation to all
the post 9/11 reconstruction planning I've seen, gaining
some emotional currency from the very public debate. I began
to feel better, even though the aspirin couldn't have possibly
kicked in during that odd minute or two I breezed around
The show comes down June 1st.
Feeling a bit more alive yet having encountered nothing
too uplifting in the galleries I was tempted to skip Bellwether.
I didn't want to see that little dog hobbling around on
three legs to remind me of my own misery. S demanded we
be strong and see the new show. Adam Cvijanovic's show turned
out to be such an improvement over the consciously bad paintings
I had been assaulted with at every turn at Bellwether, I
almost cried. His epic, social beach scene, the first part
of Hurricane Party, is a monumental work of painting. Cvijanovic
depicts an almost all-white beach party that spans the entire
front Gallery. Apparently this stuff is somehow portable
from the artists' studio like wallpaper, and the artist
seems like he is trying to invoke history painting. Instead
of Roman armies slaughtering Christians, we have boys and
girls getting their party on. The blue sky and beige sand
stretch out the horizon and flatten the space like a Rothko
painting. The beachgoers break up the monotony of the horizon,
but without all the dynamic movement and high drama of war.
There is a football tossed here, but no horses or flag poles
to create movement. If this was it, the show would've been
an ambitious failure.
Walking into the dimly lit backroom, I was suddenly surrounded
by an enormous wave on all sides. Like the drowning sequence
in A Perfect Storm, I was overwhelmed. All I could
think of was the rouge wave that almost took down Ernest
Shackleton as he crossed five hundred miles of open sea
in a dingy. S was stunned, by the sheer dynamic energy that
had been absolutely lacking in the beach scene. Cvijanovic
had been saving it all for the deluge. I scanned the walls
looking for Noah's Ark, but my eyes settled on the third
piece of Hurricane Party. In the back hall is a brightly
lit depiction of the space shuttle's vapor trail lifting
into orbit, sweet release! I felt elated, by the sheer energy
of the imagery, the process, and the shifting allegorical
(almost biblical) meaning of the three major works. This
thing is like three movements in a symphony, and it almost
has the classicism to match one.
What gets me though is the beach Cvijanovic depicts is obviously
not Coney Island, which would probably be the inverse of
this scene, makes one wonder about the possible narrative
relationship between middle America and that wave.
(Hurricane Party is up through June 30th, so if you
are stuck inside during a rainy day, bring a six pack, a
towel, and sit on down in the middle of Bellwether and enjoy
the beach. )
I felt a hell of a lot better, and I didn't even feel like
punting that nippy little dog over the next building. S
almost convinced me to get a beer across the street, but
I decided to head home and rest after such a terribly hard
day. Heading down Marcy Ave, what a spot for a park by the
way, I felt compelled to stop in Dam Stuhltrager.
They had a new group show up of a mixed bag of work.
The show Another State had a goofy, cheerful letter T by
Christobol Dam (must be his gallery right?), some weird
paintings of elves fighting amid really thick globs of paint,
a wonderfully, surreal picture of a fake palm tree, and
metal sculpture of what looked kind of like molecular structures.
At this point in the day, I didn't bother to take notes,
and they only had one press release, which I wasn't sure
was available for the "press". I'm wondering if
I could get myself a little badge on a chain to use to push
my way into crime scenes or get into chi chi events. Probably
not, but it'd be pretty cool. So yeah, Another State is
up through June 13th so go find out the name of the person
who painted those funny little elves doing what they do
when they stop making toys and cookies.
Ultimately, I departed for my tiny little corner of the
burg feeling that maybe I'd live long enough to write this
nonsense another day and if I was really lucky, I'd outlast
Bob Hope too.
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