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

Dawn Clements

I managed to drag a friend of mine, J, along with me this month. J, an illustrator, generally hates art that might require some kind of outside "knowledge" to get it , but, hey, who doesn't? We downed some canned beer at the old homestead, and headed out in the heart of the new, allied Gallery Association territory. The thing is, J is telling me all about this woman who's paying him a grand to paint pictures of dogs for her mom's ten speed or something. The realization that there are rich people who'd hire someone to paint custom dog 'stickers' didn't even strike me as odd, I mean, how else would the galleries stay open?

While reducing art to commerce is crass, Jeff Hand makes it seem sensible over at Plus Ultra with Faux Hand. Furry little still-lifes made out of cut felt sold as "do-it-yourself" kits bring the commodification of the art object front and center. The little kits sell for a few hundred, which is pretty reasonable for the young collector. Also at hand (awful pun) were some big portraits done in felt. Having vectorized some photos at my wretched job, the easy to digest images sort of bummed me out. The felt was cool, but the result wasn't all that original, plus they were really expensive compared to the kit editions. Well, Hand is an honest guy who doesn't mind making a critical gesture and subverting it. Through March 23rd

Although J complained bitterly about overpriced illustration techniques leaving Plus Ultra, I stopped listening when I looked inside the hallowed walls of Bellwether. Get this, there's a day-glo pig on a day-glo spit on day-glo rocks. Then in the back, I spot the same stereo monster sculpture that I ridiculed in a past art crawl. It's Kristine Robinson and she's firing off aesthetic bombs with her show Pork Bomb Washing Machine. After seeing her oeuvre, I must acknowledge her wacky vision. These things look like He-Man toys (remember Castle Gray Skull?) gone bad, or in this case good. Her satirical recombinant monster appliances and animals are worth checking out.
She really nails our hidden desires for all that is bad for us. In her case, more was definitely good, when I thought that would be bad.
Rating: (4 Greenbergs for rebuking bad Keane with strange art)

If only the paintings were a different story. It's common knowledge now that Bellwether is showing painters who are all aesthetic cousins. Of course this might be the Yale thing, but Melissa Brown's canvasses in Smokin' Mirrors look like more of the same. The press release (I can read) tries to imply that the process responsible for the style is unique in some way.


Anyway, the industrial blighted landscapes look intentionally awkward and hover in between pattern and illusion in attractive Martha Stewart pastels with ecological warning labels. ( 2 1/2 greenbergs ) Both shows run through March 10th.

Walking down the god-forsaken stretch of earth that is Marcy Ave along the great BQE divide, we noticed someone had spray painted anti-Bush graffiti on the sidewalk. We followed it to Dam Stuhltrager Gallery and J, a confirmed Bush-hater was all pumped up. Unfortunately, according to an artist watching the gallery no one in the show was responsible. He did agree with J, all sullen and disappointed, that it could easily be mistaken for work in a group show called All Messed Up with Nowhere to Go.

We got a real a kick out of Jade Townsend's Oh my Goth! a sculpture that J was ready to wake up. It's a pretty convincing looking Goth chick with her head down on a high school desk. This video by Mombert had us laughing as a guy with bad teeth and a ski mask smashes a full beer bottle over his head. I didn't realize what was going on until the bottle broke, since it's in slo-mo. Andrew Dieckman has some funny comics dealing with existential misery among his wall of drawings. William Powhida showed a bunch of sketchy looking drawings of people acting like animals or something. Dave Pedersen has some gun and song lyric photocopy paintings and Kristen Jensen has a series of slightly creepy mail art that got me thinking about some nasty letters I'd written to an ex in college as I listened to a rock song included in the show. Although it felt a bit angst ridden( I swear I got a pimple) the show actually held us up for awhile before moving on.
Through March 9th
Rating: ( for showing promise).

The people at 65 Hope Street and Rome Arts are going to hate me, but I stopped at this deli around the corner, had a sandwich to balance out the booze, and forgot about dropping by. I am such a terrible critic, I should be locked in a gallery for a month with no beer and the stinking corpse of Bob Ross. Not that I made up for it and dropped by Lunar Space, the monster was still in the window. Plus, I already saw the bad door art at Studio Fachetti last year, seriously. While I'm 'fessing up to skipping shit, I must have unconsciously dodged 31 Grand Street, after getting mildly scolded by someone there, although I'll have to drop by since their current show, I walk the Line, is named after a Johnny Cash song.

Down at Roebling Hall, who apparently had some issues with Customs, since several of Christopher Draeger's works had placeholders. According to the little placards next to the handsome frames and brown paper; the jigsaw pieces were still awaiting clearance. The fact that the large jigsaw paintings were of terrorist plane bombings might have raised good 'ole American suspicion. If it looks like terror then it must be real terror. Draeger's installation made it though. Based on the terrible Black September events in Berlin where eleven Israeli Olympians and their terrorist abductors were killed, the installation recreates the hotel room where they holed up before trying to make it to the airport.

The room stinks with blood splattered walls and cigarettes mashed into the carpet. Artifacts from the 70's lay around the dim room like evidence, and a video plays out where the windows ought to be. Draeger mixes fictional footage he shot, with real footage from the deadly standoff, where one hostage lost his life. On the wall near the entrance a small landscape, presumably bad hotel art hangs, offering an impossible escape. J never heard of the events, but we agreed that the installation was more effective than the jigsaw puzzle supports that say, "terrorism is a really complex puzzle". There are many of reasons to see this show, but perhaps to remember that we aren't the only country that deals with terrorism and Draeger's installation invokes its awful complexity.
Through March 17th
Rating: (for the installation)

Star 67 was a relief from Draeger's reality, like free drinks at an opening after checking my balance. Shih Chieh Huang's installation, S-67-03, is an abstract, whirly-twirly, mechanical, day-glo wonderland what bleeps and gurgles with a life all its own. The interactive environment is populated by a host of strange and wonderful robotic and sculptural creatures that looked like they were assembled by a homesick alien in a hardware store. Huang's vision is complete, and an excellent example of the growing DIY robotic sculpture genre that Tim Hawkinson and other's have spear headed. The whole thing really has no purpose other than to be marveled and gawked at until you smile, smile like J, who was extremely pleased to encounter intricate, complex, yet completely apprehensible art. I was smitten by this loopy sea-creature thing hanging in the middle of the gallery that fills and drains with orange water. It's just beautiful. The installation runs through March 23rd, and like any lifeform it will perish
Rating: (for executing to conception)

While I'm gushing praise, quick someone tape up this hole, I might as well recommend that everyone stop by Pierogi. They are showing some intense drawing by Dawn Clements in Space I. J was deeply into these drawings in a heartbeat. I was struck by the immensity of the work, not just the 'gee these are big' feeling, but the amount of drawing happening. One large scale work, Oval, is so dense it looks like a relic from the renaissance, and Clements draws with comparable facility. There are thousands of doodles, sketches, and musings layered together in ball point ink that spread out from the center. Although I spent a good deal of time digging around the imagery, there was way too much to reach any conclusions, and maybe no one should. The most surprising thing is Clements' other large drawings are from direct observation of her apartment, like the best execution of that freshman foundation assignment you've ever seen. The common link seem to be the obsessive qualities that characterize her works whether drawing thousands of hairdo's from memory or rendering every leaf on a very large plant in her living room.
Space 1 Rating: (for being the Best show of the month )

In space II, there was a video of a man dining, but the sound and video kept changing. J noticed if you moved toward the screen the video slowed down. Bogdan Perzyñski's balsamic vinegar of modena held my attention for about a minute before I started thinking about two dollar beers at Mugs around the corner. The video kept twitching and I went back out and looked at Clements' work for a bit, and then went for a drink. Pierogi changes things up after March 10th.
Space 2 Rating:

Someone needs to put up a sign on the door of Priska Juschka Fine Arts that says "Have you seen any good art? Call us here at…" Seriously, what a great space, and what mind-boggling choices. This month Priska features the soft, furry sculptures of Rachel Selekman. These things look like ambitious display pieces. I looked inside one to see if there might be a diamond ring inside. The sculptures that seem to take their cue from natural forms are so generic that I didn't really bother with them. What the hell, though, I'm a dude and I've never crocheted or knitted in my life, and the term "Fiber Arts" evokes images of hippies making tie dyes. I would've rather studied ancient Hellenic iconography than how to make string, so this is all my fault. Nah, listen to this bit from the press release ", they all exude a demure yet aggressive corporeality that captures Selekman's engagement with the riotous power of life force. " The only riotous thing about this show was the laughter that ensued that sentence. Through March 23rd

Momenta currently has its 2003 benefit show on display, and it's a veritable who's who of the Williamsburg Gallery scene. Slightly buzzed J and I stumbled around the space taking in the good and the bad. From the 'check list' here are my local and not-so local favs; Susan Graham, Allison Smith, Kristin Lucas, Karlos Carcoma, Jessica Stockholder, Jason Middlebrook, Simon Faithfull, Danica Phelps, Kirsten Hassenfeld, and William Walker. Sure there are probably better and more deserving artists, but this show is snapshot, and I like what I've seen from this batch in the past. The benefit show is sort of cool, like seeing a country from an airplane. Go spend your utility money on a raffle ticket and win art by one these or 135 other artists, Con Ed can wait a month man. At Momenta until March 9th, then White Columns the 12th - 15th.
Rating: (for being a benefit show)

I'm not gonna waste much more of your time (I know you are supposed to be working) and take a few parting shots. I'm sure you all read the NY Times review of the Eyewash show at Fish Tank Gallery. That's right, Fish Tank Gallery. You can say it too.

Well, it was bound to happen, an art critic drunkenly stumbled in instead of the Sweet Water Bar next door. Oh, well, I followed suit and the show isn't too bad. There's some pleasing modernism being turned over and inside out. Nothing offensive, nothing moving either, sort of like watching fish.

Putting on a display of Modernist aesthetics not seen in these parts since Pollack headed for the country, Phong Bui, has curated a dense show full of obsessive/compulsive artwork at Black and White Gallery. While I know a few artists in this salon style affair, I almost choked on the modernist ideology. With works from Alfred Jensen, who was working with text and numbers while Barnett Neuman was drawing stripes, predates all the emerging artists in the show, but there is a genuine connection between many of the artists in the show. Personally, I didn't have the patience to read all the name tags, there are like thirty artists, but Dawn Clements, Mark Lombardi, Forest Bess, Kristen Jensen, Chris Martin, and Itty Newhouse all made me make a mental note.
Ends March 3rd
Rating: (3 1/2 Greenbergs for excellence in salon hanging)
(Note: This might be the first time I've seen two artists in two different shows at the same time)

I might have forgotten a few others in the drunken haze that followed this month's art crawl. J and I settled in at the Turkey's Nest to discuss what it all means over really, really big cups of beer. One conclusion that we arrived at was that despite the date feeling more like 500 A.D than 2003, the art world can be a strangely comforting place to get lost in for a day.

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[email protected] | March 2003 | Issue 36
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