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
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
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
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.
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
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.
All the Roses That Were Ever Painted is pushing paint
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.
Send me mail:
* Don't forget to read my exciting "fan" letter
Tim Wilson about last month's crawl.