Videos, photos from here and mostly there

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I saw so much art in New York yesterday, some great, some no so great, but much of it thought provoking.

I drove up with Judy Gelles, who was delivering some new work to Photo New York. We stopped back there late at night and I took a shot of her trailer park photos (right), one of a number of her displays in the show.

My first stop was an enormous video installation by Pipilotti Rist at Luhring Augustine (up until Oct. 23). Rist has gotten on the Swiss self-criticism bandwagon, and has produced in “Herbstzeitlose (Saffron Flower or Fall Time Less).” With four dvd projections, two sound systems, part of a wooden house covered with tiny shakes (I entered the exhibit through the door of the house), a real branch from a maple tree, a backlit panorama propped on the floor in front of two of the projections, and a table and three chairs, Rist presents a Swiss mountain scene that conflates reality and tourism cliches. I took the clear molded plastic packaging pieces hanging from the tree branch as a commentary on the packaging of Switzerland, its culture and its landscape.

But still, the trademark lush colors from Rist are there to enjoy, as is the lush scenery. She gives a lot to look at–and to listen to. My favorite sounds are the scream/yodels.

In the back room, her “Grabstein fur RW (Tombstone for RW),” (right) resting in strewn autumn leaves, includes a fisheye video screen showing a mouth with a very transgressive red tongue sticking out and moving around. I’m reminded of the old custom of embedding photos on gravestones. But that old custom seems tame compared to this in-motion and color image of life and sex and naughtiness.

Next door, at Matthew Marks’ 24th Street gallery, Sam Taylor Wood is showing very trendy photos and a video until Oct. 30. Taylor Wood is the artist who offered a Last Supper rip off at the infamous Sensation exhibit, with Christ a bare-breasted woman and socialite disciples.

The “Crying Men” series of portraits of weeping actors in their own homes seemed jejune and cut from pretty much the same piece of photo paper. So, men cry, too. And because these guys are actors, they can turn it on, so it’s even less interesting, if that’s possible. But the list of names would draw a crowd of pop culture fans–we’ve got the Hoffman boys, Philip Seymour and Dustin; we’ve got Laurence Fishburne and Steve Buscemi (image left); Willem Dafoe, Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn and for the older ladies, Paul Newman and so on.

The photo that almost redeemed the series was Robert Downey Jr. (right) posing like an odalisque a la Jean-Auguste Ingres or Francois Boucher, a sheet draped around his unmentionables. Mmm-mm-mmm. And he wasn’t crying.

Her other photo series, “Suspension,” caught my interest by way of comparison with the Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s poledancers that Roberta and I had seen at the Carnegie (see post).

Taylor Wood’s series is of the artist, suspended in air in relaxed postures, in her workhorse, Jockey-style underwear, in front of a daylit loft window, the space around it painted white (image above left).

DiCorcia’s night-owl athletes (image right, detail of “Harvest Moon”) become religious icons, whereas Taylor Wood, in languid suspension in daylight, just seems like nothing more than herself playing tricks with Photoshop–a literal artist-in-the-studio approach. My favorite tidbit on this work is that bondange expert Master Rope Knot tied her up several feet above the floor using dozens of ropes. (She then Photoshopped out the ropes).

The video of a man with a white dove on his head casually tapdancing over a sleeping (or dead?) body also didn’t offer much. I read in the gallery notes that the tapdancer was dancing on the prone guy’s chest and stomach, but to me it just looked like he was behind him. Without believability of the transgression, this was a lost cause (would your tap shoes make clacking noises on someone’s tummy?)

For other really interesting photos and video, I’d have to send you to “Adaptive Behavior,” one of the inaugural shows at the New Museum‘s new home, in Chelsea. My favorite pieces in the show were by Robin Rhode (also up at Perry Rubenstein‘s 23rd Street gallery until Oct. 30), Fikret Atay, Yoshuo Okon and Tsuyoshi Ozawa, but everyone in the show of 11 artists from five continents had work worth considering. The others were Kwabena P. Slaughter, Bojan Sarcevic, Suchan Konoshita, Fiorenza Menini, Kerry Tribe, Robert Melee (sooo transgressive), and Tonico Lemos Auad, many of whom required program notes for clarity.

At the moment I’m high on Robin Rhode, who mixes low-tech drawings of props with equally low-tech performance that he either videos or photographs (photos at the New Museum, videos and photos at Rubenstein). Whether he’s drawing a skateboard on a wall and then mounting and dismounting the image (detail above left), or he’s drawing dice and then throwing them and scooping up his winnings, or drawing a car and then washing it (image right, “Whitewalls” video ), he’s got this tender wish-fulfillment story that’s loaded with cultural values. Rhode, who was born in Cape Town, S.A., offers up in his photos a stop-action series that’s more cartoon cell than Edweard Muybridge, but it’s the sweet chalk drawings in deserted urban landscapes of a street urchin who is struggling to bring his 2-D dreams into the 3-D real world that’s touching and noble and touches on poverty, hip-hop and pop culture and street life.

Part of what I love about his work is its relationship to personal mark-making, which in general loses out in photography and video.

I also admired two videos of people dancing in unexpected circumstances from Fikret Atay of Turkey; I admired a pair of videos of two Mexican policemen in uniform performing, one twirling his nightstick (image left), the other dancing, the video showing only a tight shot of their bodies, from Yoshua Okon, a Mexican who lives and works in both Mexico City and Los Angeles; and I got a laugh out of Tsuyoshi Ozawa’s political clown, a character from a Japanese children’s program, who, manages to communicate some serious absurdities about deadly weapons and such even with a language barrier.

This show, which bills itself as exploring the shaky border land between private and public worlds is well worth a visit. Oh, and the new New Museum space far outdoes its former SoHo home. The work looks great here. (I didn’t have enough focus, so late in the day, to get much out of Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting’s show, “Rules of Crime,” which looked sort of interesting, with instructions to follow and survivalist themes. Like “Adaptive Behavior,” it runs until Nov. 13. A show on Agnes Denes’ installation art also challenged my attention span. It was more about art than it was art. I wasn’t in the mood.

More New York later, but I thought I’d get these up first and fast.

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features & interviews, mostly there, photos, reviews, videos

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