Shaggy dog video story and Huelsbeck’s shades of Becerra


I ran in to Rodger Lapelle’s gallery last week to return an art video I had borrowed. (The video was one from a series done in the early 1990s where critics like Jerry Saltz and Arthur Danto stand in a gallery and explain the art or go behind the scenes and talk to the artist. There are several tapes in the series and just in case you’re wondering, the least tortured performance by a talking head was given by Arthur Danto who enthusiastically chased after Red Grooms in a gallery as the artist was installing a show.

I enjoyed the video a lot. It wasn’t at all like PBS’s art 21 with its high production values — it was more like an informed sales pitch for the work you were seeing. I thought it was interesting. And I wondered what art cartel put the series together. Maybe Rodger can explain a little for us…But I digress)


Meanwhile, in the gallery, the walls were full of work. This time by Simon Huelsbeck, small oils collectively called “Philadelphia Narratives.” The work was monotone — everything awash in sepia — which gave it a kind of old-fashioned photo-documentary feel. (images of car, tank, kiss and Philadelphia City Hall are by Huelsbeck)



The paintings, full of surreal juxtapositions, coded story-telling, apocalyptic skies and weird, camera-influenced, fish-eye point of view, were intriguing. Apart from the color, with their narrative qualities and the seriality of imagery — a man and woman kiss in close up, mid-distance and from afar — they reminded me a bit of works by another Lapelle painter — Roland Becerra.


I’m quite partial to Becerra so I slowed down enough to take a closer look and a few pictures.

Then Rodger tells me Huelsbeck went to high school with Becerra in Miami. Is it me or is that strange? The two went to art school in different places — Becerra, Yale and Huelsbeck, Minnesota. But here they are in a Philadelphia gallery. I suppose, given Friendster, that is not really shocking.


But that the work shows affinities is a surprise. Now Becerra, it must be noted, is doing suburban gothic of a sort (people in graveyards at night) and Huelsbeck seems to be doing Philadelphia by way of Los Angeles (B movies come to mind). So the work is not lock-step, but it is kindred in spirit somehow — those skies, those funny fish-eye angles, the storytelling. (bottom image is a Becerra)

Anyway, Huelsbeck’s show comes down tomorrow (sorry to be so late) but I recommend it.