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


So, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that despite SARS, everything is settling back into place nicely. All this 'protesting' seems to be over and I can return to the bar and blithely drink my afternoons away. God, all this heady nonsense was beginning to distract me from my central mission which is to maintain a strong buzz, draw circles relentlessly, and walk around making subjective claims about the value of certain art objects. So I left the comfort of my couch not once, but twice this month in search of the elusive "five Greenberger."

Ultimately the month proved uneven, but it picked up some steam heading into the doldrums of summer. In between rounds of beer and checking the scores of various playoff games instead of body counts, I actually enjoyed some art. Some art, I say.

Schroeder Romero has a good show up that gave me a bit of an overview of the Williamsburg scene. Decade is a large group show with over 65 artists who've shown at the space during the, uh, last decade, hence the title. With such a large show, its always hard to go wrong, and there are several great pieces like Julianne Swartz's delicate magnet and thread installation, Michael Waugh's obsessive and humorous text and submarine drawings, Lee Boronson's pretty constructions in State Street Gardens, and Drew Dominick's sheet rock sculpture, Dove Hunting. The show includes some memorabilia and video documentation in addition to the art, which is kind of funny. Willliamsburg is getting older, even though it maintains it isn't. Decade shows its wrinkles through May 19th.


Ah, Parker's Box continues their trend of underwhelming audiences, perhaps so they will never be accused of overdoing it. The spare show, Grounds, presents three artists who address the landscape in rather untraditional ways. Despite my quipping about the amount of art and the scale of Caroline McCarthy's projections, it's a clever, whimsical show. McCarthy has two moderately sized video projections depicting a camera trolling along a gutter, making the tiny space seem like a narrow canyon with steep walls and massive debris. The card outside says it's a work in progress, so I hope she shows bigger projections next time to enhance the illusion of 'mouse cam'. Ezra Parzybok's little palettes are cute, but his large floor installation in the front corner of the gallery is a marvel of ingenuity. The artist makes really familiar things (matchbooks, paint chips) into elaborate lines and shapes that resemble intricate domino setups, or landscapes. Ravi Rajakumar's stills of empty landscapes from cartoons aren't quite up to par aesthetically, but they manage to conjure up memories of my pathetically lonely childhood. Here not even goofy characters are around to cheer you up. Grounds runs through May 19th.


I love the Irish bar across the street from Parker's Box, and I had to dive in there for a beer to assuage my conscience after running past Lunar Base. I had just enough time to see things I wouldn't really like, so I'll let someone else take the hit for team art there. I was moving so fast I missed Studio Facchetti altogether. Bad Keane, bad Keane!

After a round, I found myself in front of what looked suspiciously like a show of foundation art class postcard projects. You remember this assignment "Design ten postcards. It's due next week."

Well, that's what Charles Wilkin's design/art/collages at Riviera Gallery struck me as. You know I love design (speaking of that, I have to talk to someone about the questionable FREEwilliamsburg color scheme*) and have no high brow grudge against it, but these things weren't really good as either design or collage. There are a lot of them, and maybe you'll find one that 'speaks' to you. Well, Riviera is a nice space, I'm sure they'll put something good and hip up soon. Index-A mulls its own purpose through April 18th.


I've always felt you could shoot a great post-apocalyptic B movie on the industrial streets near the Williamsburg waterfront. It's so, I don't know, hopeless even in the afternoon. Stopping by 31 Grand, I was impressed by the scientifically themed show "Arboreal" by Ernesto Caivano. I have to preface this by saying "thank fucking god". The last show, Gauze, was dismal, and I'll leave it at that. Caivano has crafted a handsome and intelligent show about trees, grass, and nanoplanes. I will say that using a Radiohead song as a title might be pushing the psuedo-science hipness a bit far. The real strength of the ambitious narrative is in the sculptures from the cartoon grass to the delicate cardboard trees. I wasn't as taken by the drawings. They are sort of plodding, as if painstakingly rendered to look like etchings. Caivano is really good with the cardboard. Arboreal is up through May 25th so head down by the river.


While I found myself on the Southside, I marched dutifully over to Roebling Hall past a weird clan of people that seem to be outside barbecuing all time. Sitting in their lawn chairs and drinking beer, I felt drawn to them, but I wasn't brave enough to just sit down and start gnawing on a chicken leg. Sadly, I tromped past like a sullen hipster and into Courtney Smith's show Copacabana. Adolf Loos once called ornament a crime, and Smith's sculptures are like a weird dream Adolf might have had. Baroque (Roccocco? Bah, who cares) furniture is overcome and infested by modernist cubes that form Mondrian like patterns.

While the idea of the work doesn't sound all that compelling, the actual "diseased" chests and bureaus are quite beautiful and complex forms. I don't know though about the show's title, apparently Smith lived in South America for awhile. Don't know what that has to do with the work, so I'll take it is another layer of ornament that the cubes are struggling within. To her credit, Smith doesn't cast the cubes as malign virus (bad Modernism) but something more transformative. Copacabana is inexplicably titled and running through May 19th.


Going back a few weeks, I attended an opening at Telomere Gallery, which is somewhere way down Kent, having recently reopened after being off the radar for awhile. I was invited and insulted in same letter by the curator/artist Kathy Grayson who sniped at my judgments. Anyone who disagrees with me was alright in my book, so I traipsed down the gallery on a rainy, dismal Friday night. Well, I enjoyed the show, which included paintings made of cake, sewn drawings of cell phones and other devices, a character from Kid Icarus, and patterns on the floor and window. Grayson's paintings of childhood memories in pixel vision were presented on bowed pieces of foamcore. I said "that looks bad" and she replied "They look like placemats, duh." Anyway, that was my big criticism until then they ran out of free beer. A snotty bartender tried to make fun of my refusal of the free hard cider, but I was not about to jump on the cider express. Being my usual nonprofessional self, I didn't take any notes so I won't bother pretending to name names, but there was a sewn cell phone drawing that was endearing, and Grayson's paintings hearkened back to my Nintendo tinged childhood without seeming sentimental. Bitten is resurrecting Telomere until May 15th, so take a long walk down Kent past Broadway.


While conceptual art that requires a handbook to wade through seems to have suffered a backlash recently, you can always count on someone to get all Hans Haacke on your ass. Mark Lombardi is really smart, I hope. His political map drawings at Pierogi say "I got it all figured out! This world is run by capitalist power brokers who move money like armies all over the world." I'd rather read the books and articles he read than look at drawing after drawing about them. If you chuckle at these, and nod knowingly in agreement then you're a better person than me. I got a mild headache and shuffled to the back gallery feeling dumb.

Rating: (for making drawing seem painful)

What do I discover but Greg Stone's tar and paper paintings. They looked like refracted patterns of light at the bottom of a pool. The phenomenological effect Stone discovered some years ago still looks good, although it seemed a tad light conceptually considering Lombardi's political maps. (2 Greenbergs for technique) Both shows run through the 19th offering art that falls far too heavily on either side of the ole' concept vs. object debate in what looks a calculated attempt at balance. Doesn't work, although it would have been interesting if Stone could've used Lombardi's drawings as supports.

Still on the conceptual track, I'll skip over to my experience at Plus Ultra and their show Color Schemes for Oedipal Conflicts, a photo/video installation by Rebekah Rutkoff. The installation featured a montage of video work by other artists like Adam Burke and Pedro Velez. Apparently, Rutkoff organized the videos according to color scheme in a decidely feminist move to recontextualize the appropriated narratives. Although I found the idea intellectually interesting if a little vague, the photographs were boring and the video was tedious in and of itself. I kept waiting for understanding, but it was not meant for me. Color Therapy for Opedipal Conflicts ended its session on April 27th.


Anyway, the Northside is rounded out by Joyce Kim's fashionably bland paintings at Priska Juschka. They are canvasses draped with paint formed on glass. I really don't like tricks to make abstract painting new again, it reeks of desperation to re-up its importance, and I just don't buy it. Despite the process, the paintings aren't all bad and some were actually pretty. Ended April 28th


Foxy Productions has several nice, quiet pieces in its show Soft Cell including Donna Nield's photograph of a snow tunnel. The idea of the sanctuary and solitude of the snow tunnel pretty much sums up the tone of the group exhibition, which has isolation in spades like Ian Sullivan's photograph of a hotel room decorated with bare mattresses. Soft Cell is quieting visitors throughout May.


Black and White Gallery has some new paintings done in a very self-conscious Rocco hand by KK Kozic that are strangely fascinating. I really dislike the Kozic's mannered style, but the intimate and humorous moments that transpire are precious. In one painting, a doe locks eye contact with a small dog beside his middle-aged master. This bit of Disney meets Farside makes the strong colors and dull forms seem appropriate.

Rating: (for narrative pleasure, through May 26).

Next door at Jack the Pelican are some bestial photographs by somebody. I can't be bothered to find the card. Suffice to say there are unmounted photos of animals constructed out of nude body parts. It felt like a Chinese horoscope project gone bad. I really hate to do this, but this gets the nod for worst show of the month.

Rating: (0 Greenbergs) Hopefully it'll be down soon and Jack can take another swing.

It's not all bad, cheer up kids. Jessica Murray Projects saved the day with a really funny show of drawings that contain a healthy dose of self-loathing and effacement. In his solo show, Moron, Scott Teplin updates Ed Ruscha's word paintings with instant classics like "Moron Tissue" while adding surreal and banal images into the mix. The lightly hued drawings are done in an assured style with clean lines reminiscent of a restrained R. Crumb. In the second space are two short animations of spinning bread and more by Jeff Scher. The hand painted animation cells flicker along to a goofy, propulsive soundtrack. They share the same kind of adolescent energy found in Teplin's subject matter, although Scher's drawings are more alive with color and trembling forms. Both shows continue through May 11th.

I was horrified when I passed by Bellwether near the end of my walk and saw that John Bauer's paintings were still up. I thought it might be some kind of sick joke, when I remembered the press release noting the extension of the show. It did little to console me and I simply abandoned the Grand Street Area for the train. Cosmically, it all worked out. I found out Dam Stuhltrager still had the ceramic hats, Rome Arts still had the saggy balloon and paint, and Front Room had the leftovers of a performance that sounded intriguing. Unfortunately, I missed the only round of performance art in the burg this month at the opening because I went back to Jersey to drink 40's with my friend Buff in his double-wide. Man, they never told me how rough New York was in my journalism classes at Garden State Community College.

* That's our signature irreverent, schitzo-sublime design aesthetic… courtesy of yours truly! (FREEwilliamsburg designer, Bret Nicely)

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[email protected] | May 2003 | Issue 38
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