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,
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.
(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
(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
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
courtesy of yours truly! (FREEwilliamsburg
designer, Bret Nicely)
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