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

kim jones

Man, it's just getting plain embarrassing to be American. I hate conservatives. I hate corporations. I really hate when artists act like corporations. I hate the fact that art students are approaching art like a fucking business instead of a cultural expression. It's some sad shit going on out there in those little white rooms.

Anyway, I went out to see what the galleries are calling art this month, and thankfully there are still a few artists taking some shots at our 'great society' and making life difficult for the shoppers, er 'collectors'.

Kim Jones ought to be given a medal. His solo show, Escape from Flatland, is ostensibly about an imaginary war between black and white circles, but couldn't be a better statement on American culture. The whole exhibit has a Mad-Max, ramshackle feel driven by a furious energy. Jones's manic drawing process and sculptural forms say something like "If war is hell, I'm getting the fuck out." His weird sci-fi junk tricycles appear to literally fly out of the faceless, ceaseless drawing of war.

Jones's installation is a call for revolution, to get outside the culture and see what it looks like from the outside. Without being pedantic or moralistic, Jones creates a world of perpetual conflict, imprisonment, and demarcation. His drawing process, a kind of juvenile war game that seems a bit simplistic, gets amazing results. It's rare when an artist articulates a cultural mood without heavy-handed symbols or easy targets like Bush or big oil. Jones uses his own internal drawing logic and crazy-assed sculptures. That's right, crazy-assed. There's not much of a better way to describe his ugly and exhilarating wall pieces that careen wildly towards some 'other' existence. It makes you want to quit your shitty job and tear ass to Mexico and get tanked.

Jones extends the piece into the 'real' world with a series of manipulated photographs of mud-caked portraits, or perhaps they're close ups of Flatland and its denizens. Regardless, they're repulsive and revelatory, like seeing the picture of Dorian Gray, except it's our cultural picture behind the spectacle. It's a great follow-up to Ward Shelly's experiment. And it's nice to see Pierogi is still willing to get its hands dirty with their recent shows.

Escape from Flatland is getting the fuck out March 15th

I'd recommend Christoph Morlinghaus go so Jones' show. He's got some 'nice' pictures over at Roebling Hall. They are immaculate, precise, and elegant. They are also boring as fuck for the most part. His shots of the defunct Pan Am lobby and the escalator tunnel are eerie and beautiful, maybe even hyperreal, while the photograph of downtown LA is a lovely exercise in deep focus. The rest of the pictures are like Gursky lite without the implicit critique of consumerism. He's got a lovely shot of the Domo in Florence. You can't go wrong with the Domo, right? I guess not, it's a nice picture but Morlinghaus doesn't seem to have any overarching idea. Half of his show is Citibank lobby fodder, while the other half is haunting.

Bewitching corporate types through March 22nd

If you visit Roebling Hall and start feeling frigid, go to Parker's Box immediately. Samuel Rousseau's wit and humor will help restore your humanity. My personal favorite in the eclectic show of surreal hybrid forms is a souped-up shovel stuck in the gallery wall. It's like a hot rod shovel, which makes perfect sense in playful world of metanomic visual puns. Inside the main gallery, chickens with hammers for heads hover over twisted nails in the floor. The elaborate joke isn't complete until you start to imagine the activity. Hanging above the chickens is a little screwdriver with wings. I almost missed it, which is the case with some of Rousseau's subtle interventions.
As you enter the gallery, strange cloud like forms extend out of the wall and look like ugly, organic modernism. Around the corner, the clouds are actually jet engine exhaust streams attached to inflatable jumbo jets whose wings are actually flapping slowly, almost imperceptibly. In the back space, I saw a shower and almost decided the gallery had totally become a flophouse for their international artists until I hear a low cry for help. Peering into the shower drain, a man appears to be trapped far below in the drain. Though the illusion isn't very convincing, it's pretty funny like the bit in Trainspotting when Renton dives in the toilet. Anyway, Rousseau plays with contrasts between analog and digital representation with a fire made by a digital projector, needlepoint paintings with video eyes, and digital wallpaper. The portrait of the little girl with googly, digital cartoon eyes is plain silly, but it works. Who'd ever guess that beauty and art aren't mutually exclusive. What a difficult concept to grasp.

A Few Ounces Over is charming visitors through March 14th

At Bellwether, I was simply mystified by Sharon Core's "Thiebauds" which as an act of appropriation would have been novel as little as twenty years ago. Anyway, these photographic recreations of Wayne Thiebaud's paintings of confections are formally stunning and perfectly executed. The problem is I just never liked Thiebaud, and apart from that I don't find Core's concept very challenging. She's making an homage, as the press release indicates, not a critique. It's an example of what happens to an idea when you take away irony. The sincerity of the whole endeavor is kind of sickening, like eating too much cake. Art about art will always remain a source for artistic inspiration that unfortunately like inbreeding will eventually result in defects.

Sharon Core at Bellwether

"Thiebauds" is causing adult onset diabetes through March 22nd

If you appreciate inventive appropriation, Momenta is offering an excellent two person show with wall drawings by Abigail Lazkoz and a video projection by Francisco Lopez. Lazkoz's black and white line drawings on the wall are done in the borrowed style of children's books, but with violent and aggressive characters of dubious sexual identity. Each scene is framed by elaborate patterns from some kind of currency. The drawings create a non-linear narrative that is underscored by the threat of violence. Lopez's video is pretty amazing, as the artist edits and manipulates a few brief clips from some old TV show, Dynagirl or something, into a hypnotic narrative. The video and the accompanying soundtrack build rhythmically but the highlight is Dynagirl's long take change in focus from an indistinct pink blob into a sharp focus. Her expression suddenly shifts into a manic smile after the almost painfully long change in focus. The abrupt action is startling and sets the tone for the rest of the loop. Watching it through twice weirded me out a bit, but I enjoyed encountering something as bizarre as Lopez's vision.

Lopez and Lazkoz are scaring inner children everywhere through March 29th.

I had high hopes for the show, For Pleasure, at Priska, until I saw it. I must admit I was intrigued by an installation featuring plenty of beer bottles, but the show waffled back and forth between a kind of critique of desire, especially Anna Ho's fashion parody, and a giddy nihilism summed up by the graffiti and tape piece near the front. It's the visual equivalent of having a talk with the gutter punks at Sweetwater. I can't remember the artist, but it stands out. I was also mildly interested by the video of the sleazy business type conducting an interview in a derelict building. The irony wasn't very subtle, but the work reminded me of a low-budget Apprentice. It's too bad the show is imminently forgettable.

(Rating: .
For Pleasure ought to be over by now)

What exactly is on the walls at Jack the Pelican is pretty much up for debate. Graham Guerra's vaguely misogynistic images of faceless, computer generated nudes is obviously aiming at a critique of the objectification of women but turning the computer generated images into big digital prints seems like an attempt at inflating their importance. Taking the CGI images and framing them as photographs does zero for them conceptually. Here the scale seems like an attempt at turning what might have been something interesting in a video game format into 'art'. While they are hopelessly bad, at least there is a whiff of irony. The press release about the naïve genius, Chambliss Giobbi, in the back is pretty funny. Apparently he quit composing to pursue a sudden passion in art without any formal training. The big twisted portraits are a pretty good illustration of his mid-life crisis.


Graham Guerra's After the Party and Chambliss Giobbi's Portraits are up through March 22nd.)

There are three rather interesting if uneven painting shows in the neighborhood. Lindsey Noble's solo show at Schroeder Romero, Eric Trosko's solo show at *sixty seven, and a group show at Plus Ultra. Noble's ultra slick, layered canvases of abstract, biomorphic forms that look vaguely like calamari or something biological are the most intricate of the offerings. There is a series of monochromatic red paintings that are really beautiful and avoid some of the problems of the larger paintings. In some of her large glossy paintings, the transition from the photographic portions of the image to the painted are awkward and unconvincing though the tension between photographic illusion and mark making seem central to the images. Almost all of the paintings employ multiple clear layers of resin that hold different swirling patterns of dots. This gives the mixed media works both literal and illusory depth. They reminded my a bit of Sebastian Bremer's patterned photographs from Roebling Hall, but Nobel's use of multiple layers distinguishes her work for the better.

Rating: .
Connect is all glassy and ropy through March 22nd

Eric Trosko's show at *sixty seven is nowhere near as technically sophisticated, but fares the better for it. His pastel hued canvases of surreal combinations of the banal and the fantastic are executed in a flat, almost graphic style. The artist has a strange sense of humor that infects each of the canvases and smaller works on paper. My personal favorites of Trosko's art deco surrealism are canvasses of hairy watermelons, a hairy monster with a geometric pattern for a face, and a fleshy mountain denture. The show reminded me of listening to Neutral Milk Hotel and the strange drawings of that kid, Keegan McHargue. The strange, visual metaphors shift between attraction and repulsion a bit queasily and effectively. I also particularly liked the wall of small works on paper that remained a bit more ethereal than the weighty, cake like supports Trosko uses for canvases.

Hidden Sources is turning over ideas through March 22nd

Plus Ultra's artist statement about the merging of the aims of representation and abstraction might be applied to all three of the shows, but their show takes the premise the most literally. I didn't care for the soft-focus, photo-realism of Limor Gasko nor the flat geometric paintings of Jon Berzenski. Both artists employ different levels of abstraction in their subject matter, but the results are uninspiring. Gasko's use of birds has been used to the point of abuse in the art world lately, and Berzenski's canvasses are just dull. It's Gary Pedersen's abstraction, and his attention to the surface that stands out. The rounded edges of the central form sink into the surface, creating an illusion of depth, while the fat vertical bands of color and the thick stripe of paint at the center sit on the picture plane creating an optical tension. Pedersen's painting is the most unfettered by questions of representation, and rightly so. He's playing with the nuances of Modernist painting in defiance of its own limitations. Pedersen seems to understand what makes abstraction attractive after all these years. I wouldn't call him a neo-formalist either, since he appears to have been doing this all along. I got no beef with that.

Rating: .
All the Roses That Were Ever Painted is pushing paint around
through March 15th

Well, if you're not getting enough attention, it always helps to throw in some celebrities or established artists. It seems a few of the local galleries have been threading their fishing lines with collector bait. You know, a couple of big names to get the old folks with the cash excited enough to tromp around our hipster ghetto. While the results are spectacularly uneven and pretty funny, it's a formula that seems to be getting some attention.

I strolled into Naked Duck (its around the corner from my Laundromat) and I was like "What the fuck is this?" On the left were some dismal color fields adjacent to some pages that looked like that came out of a stoner's sketchbook. On the back wall was a dissected graphic novel. Before I left, I perused the old list of works and was shocked to discover these weren't the product of a grade school collaboration, but the work of musicians. Those awful sketches? The lead singer of Smog is responsible. Keep singing pal. The color fields? An experimental musician from Chicago. The absolute worst though were these finger paintings by the guitarist Mick Turner of Dirty Three. Should've called the band Dirty Fingers. Anyway, Ida Pearle's pretty, little cut out collages of women prancing about look hopelessly lost among the slacker crap. Maybe Zak Sally's fetus drawing wasn't a bad Crumb riff, but that's about it. I dodged out of the gallery pretty quick though; I really didn't want this to be my lasting impression of the gallery. Curator Marc Gartman should issue a public apology.

Series: 1, Artwork from some of today's finest independent musicians (and worst visual artists*) should be down by the time you read this.

While tossing in celebrity musicians is perhaps more gimmicky, Dam Stuhltrager seemed to have some success including David Salle and Fred Wilson in their show, Jumble. Rumor had it there was going to be a keg at the opening so I trucked on down there, but all I got was a warm can of cheap beer and a wall of people. The rest of the colorful show included photographs that looked like the Fred Wilson photos, a painting that looked like the David Salle painting, and two installations with sound that I couldn't make out over the noise. Anyway, I went downstairs and caught like two minutes of a video screening but had to flee because of my claustrophobia and the ridiculous crowds upstairs. I probably wouldn't have gone back except someone told me one of the pieces talked trash about me, so I checked it out briefly on my crawl. Jon Allen's drawing/video piece did indeed say something like "Keane Pepper sucks". I couldn't make out much else, people pissing on each other or something, so I'll leave the artist with his drawing of flaccid penises, hairy asses, Michael Jackson's stubby nose, and flabby vaginal forms. Please, dude, leave me out of the art and write a letter to the editor. I welcome all rebuttals, corrections, and straight up hate mail.
On second inspection Keith Ervin's photographs of different smiles was far more lighthearted that Wilson's political montage. Jeff Schneider's ironic abstraction of the Marlboro Man is done in the same language as Sally's painting, but not nearly as grandiose and overblown. William Powhida's window installation presented a familiar situation. The character, presumably the artist, gets tanked and crosses paths with the authorities in a series of small, black and white paintings. In the video part, the character argues with what seems to argue with his conscience. I never have that problem. Apparently, I'll have to track this fellow critic down and set him straight. Suddenly, I felt like having a beer. The video screening is apparently showing at the closing, so I'll give it a go then. It didn't appear to be playing when I dropped by.


Jumble is playing narrative tricks through March 28th

Black and White Gallery also has some big names in their show of works on paper by sculptors. The show includes the conceptual musings of Donald, Carl, Eva, and the rest of that 70's Gang. It's a nice collection, really. What was odd was the introduction of the gallery artists. I couldn't tell if they had all chosen someone to make homages to or they actually made work so incredibly similar. Well, its as they say, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." It's actually not easy to tell who did what apart. Despite this feeling of some kind of chicanery going on, I really did like Austin Thomas's linear geometry and cut paper collages. They managed to balance beauty and decoration rather deftly. Someone else thought so and bought all of her pieces. Dwight Godfrey's large drawing plan on the back wall was also visually rich and turned on its own internal logic. Whatever he may have been planning is beside the point, as the drawing is as interesting as any of his monumental sculptures. Otherwise, I thought David Baskin's homage to Jim Dine, who wasn't included, was a bit much. I think the problem with the whole show is that works on sale, by the gallery artists seemed tailored to be sold in place of the works from the Kramarsky Collection. Collectors may not be schooled in contemporary art, but they aren't blind or stupid to blatant pandering.
Drawings by Sculptors is up through March 15th

Southfirst also had a big works on paper show combining some of Williamsburg's own heavy hitters from the late Mark Lombardi to the collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus. Now these guys aren't exactly Mark Di Suvero or David Salle but they have established reputations. While there wasn't any particular theme at work, aside from the paper connection, I got the feeling that the gallery was trying to make rent. Outside, in the middle of the sidewalk was a little photocopied write up of the show from the Times. There was also one on the desk from Art Forum. Read one of those.


Works on paper closed shop

I'm going to be a bad critic. Front Room's show is like eating granola. The best thing in there this month is Jody Hanson's "Live Oil Projection." It's kinda like a lava lamp, but in beautiful black and white and definitely homemade. At Riviera Gallery there are some awful paintings, fabric works, and some pretty weird videos. I liked Defne Ayas's little LCD videos of transparent, reflected, and transposed bodies. There was a little bit of David Cronenberg's Videodrome in the bodies within bodies. Anya Lewis's fabric covered supports with Xerox transfer images had a quiet beauty. 65 Hope Street has a washing machine with projections of washing machines by Michael Yinger that isn't all bad. The video loops a montage of a toilet flushing and what appeared to be Vanilla Ice making for a pretty funny take on pop culture and the proverbial fifteen minutes. There is also a dummy in a tent that gets resuscitation on a fire escape in a video by Ian Pedigo. I'm not going to offer an analysis on that one, though I did enjoy the how absurd both installations immediately appeared in Tactile Film.

These are open for a while

Despite my yearning to bitch about pretty objects, a sense of obligation to the work in front of me takes over. I'd rather chill with a pragmatist than an ideologue so that's that for the art crawl this month.

--Keane Pepper

Send me mail:
[email protected]

* Don't forget to read my exciting "fan" letter from
Tim Wilson about last month's crawl

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[email protected] | March 2004 | Issue 48
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