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Amazing New York fall roundup


Post from our man in New York, Brent Burket

Saturday I went gallery hopping, and it was good. It was very good. There were a few ughs, a couple of shrugs, and a host of jaw-dropping silences. The day started with Projectile on 57th and ending with Bellwether in Chelsea. Two fine book ends with many excellent volumes between them. The art season is in a full and serious swing in NYC.

Uptown reliables

First I went uptown to hit a few favorites. Projectile offered up some multimedia brilliance by Nic Hess. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This gallery, along with Maccarone and Zach Feuer, just doesn’t miss. The colored tape logo subversions were wicked fun, but the works that had me asking for prices were the color swatch plotting of MTV videos in the back room. The artist took the median color of each frame of iconic MTV hits such as Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and plotted the video out in strips of those colors. (image) His method and the outcome, although not as absolutely perfect, reminded me of Sherrie Levine’s brilliant iris print appropriations of Rembrandt.

Mary Boone’s uptown gallery had a collection of interesting papercut collages by Brian Alfred. At first I was unmoved, but then I found myself walking around the room a number of times. I became absorbed in the slight asymmetry of the pieces. Corners and angles never quite connect the way they should. The best piece was the video animation installation in the smaller gallery.

I also stopped at Pace Prints while I was uptown. A collection of new Sol LeWitt prints graced the walls of the gallery. I can’t think of the last time he disappointed me, and this show was no exception. This gallery is always worth the trip uptown, even if you’re not interested in what’s on at the moment. A walk through of the back galleries revealed a beautiful pair of monoprints by Pat Steir, an array of etchings by the ever-thrilling Tara Donovan, and some starkly expressive prints by Agnes Martin. The list goes on, but the list always goes on at Pace Prints. I love this place. Not only is the amount of great art overwhelming, but the staff is open and helpful. In fact, I find that to be the case for all the galleries under the Pace umbrella.

Speaking of which, just a spiral staircase away from Pace Prints is the Pace Wildenstein Gallery, with a show of light projections and holograms by James Turrell that is nothing short of miraculous. There have been books written about what Turrell does in regards to our perception. That’s fine and true, but above and beyond
his theoretical and perceptual bendings is something that is just downright beautiful. (Turrell, left)

The move from “How does he do that?” to “Oh, God. Who cares. I’m just glad he does. Feed me.” always happens quickly for me. Later, I can think about how he accomplishes something, but when I’m in front of his art I just want to let it own me. And, as usual, it does.

Hello Chelsea

My first stop in Chelsea was PPOW to see the Ann Agee. I felt like I was watching a cake after everybody had gone to the next room to open gifts. The color and composition echoes the feeling of uninhibited behavior on display. A blast. A big miniature pink blast. (Agee image right)

Next door was the Monique Prieto at Cheim & Reid . It was boring. I just couldn’t find my way in to these clunky things. The visit was saved by an absolutely transcendent Pat Steir painting I was able to peak at in the sealed-off side room.

I wasn’t expecting much from the Philip-Lorca diCorcia at the Pace
across the street. At first I was distracted by an excellent Sol LeWitt wall drawing in a roped off back room. One of the associates let me go up to get a better look at the undulating graphite wallscape. OK. Calm down, Brent. Once I got that out of my system I went back downstairs and began to settle into the diCorcia’s photographs (if one can “settle” into something so unsettling). Hard work. These stretched and tortured landscapes of feminity seem worn from reaching back across the decades to an old Vegas that is still grinding away. The dancers’ sacrificial contortions tell the story. And Jesus wept.

(diCorcia image above left)

Speaking of contortions, I walked right past Orlan’s work in the front of Stux to get to Brian Belott’s work in the back. I first saw his work this summer at Joymore in Williamsburg. His exuberant books and the sentimental abstraction of his found photographs were just the remedy to the heavy heart of the diCorcia. Plus, giving the finger to Damien Hirst is always fun.

(image right is a Belott)

It’s always a pleasure when Gagosian Gallery
has an excellent exhibit, as opposed to, well, a Hirst or a Schnabel show. The Roy Lichtenstein sculpture show is not only excellent, but there are some nice surprises.

(image left is a Lichtenstein)

As fine a thing as the sculptures are there’s a smattering of unusual paintings throughout the gallery. The more I see of
Lichtenstein’s work the more I realize that, as familiar as his style might have become, he was an artist that never stopped moving.

Awhile ago I asked about some paintings that were in Mary Boone’s back gallery that had stopped me in my tracks. The artist, it turns out, was Eric Freeman and he was scheduled to have a show in the main room. Well, here it is, and it’s nothing short of luminous. And I am a sucker for the luminous. The way these paintings move remind me of Mondrian and Martin, although they bear more resemblance to Rothko. I think that Boone’s guardians might have found the duration of my stay worrisome. Too bad. Once I entered those paintings I didn’t want to leave. (image right is by Freeman)

Across the street at Perry Rubenstein’s tiny second gallery, a not-so-quiet conversation is going down amongst four heavy hitters, all delivering: John Baldessari, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, and Christopher Wool. ‘Nuf said. Serious weight.

At the always trustworthy Zach Feuer Gallery Danica Phelps was quietly rocking the house with her intimate drawings of showering and sex. She records her days and colors, and we get to watch. After so much overload from earlier in the day (Not a complaint, just a recognition of an ebbing energy flow.) her clean lines and the uncertain certainty of this show were reinvigorating (for two other artblog items on Danica Phelps, go here and here).

When the occasional light dance and soft singing broke out at Sonnabend
Saturday afternoon Candice Breitz was to blame. Her lined and stacked video portraits of Michael Jackson and Madonna ├╝ber fans singing entire albums of their stars’ songs was both fun and poignant. I dare anybody who’s ever performed for the thousands of fans in their mirror to see this show and not smile with recognition and to not be touched by the open intimacy of it all. It’s more than entertainment though. It addresses the spectrum of what we can do with and to pop culture, and don’t ask me which is better: red or violet. I saw some excellent shows on Saturday, but this is the one that I cannot get out of my head. A bit like the most artfully crafted pop song ever. Immaculate. (right above is the Breitz piece)
With much anticipation I headed over to see the new Adam Cvijanovic’s paintings that filled the ceilings and walls of Bellwether. He had one of my favorite shows at the gallery before they moved from Williamsburg to
Chelsea. This time around? Stunning . . . Stunning. Stunning. Stunning. Have I said . . . Stunning? Loosing all earthly things from their gravity requirements lets them fly, and I found myself swept up in the motion of this work. A yearning for what is being lost and a hunger for that which will replace it envelops the viewer. This is a Bellwether show that more than lives up to the hype. I couldn’t get enough. Hello Chelsea? Yeah, finally. Hello back! (image here and top are Cvijanovic’s installation)

Lastly, I went next door to an old standby, Alexander & Bonin. This was one of the jaw-dropping silences, but not in a good way. Are they serious? Robert Bordo’s paintings lacked, well, just about everything: color, depth, technique, interesting ideas. Supposedly it’s an exploration of the “line between subject and abstraction.”, but it just seemed lost rather than exploratory. Sometimes, deceptively simple is just downright

I didn’t want to end such a good day on a sour note, so I ducked back
into the Cvijanovic for another long look. That did the trick.
Everything wrong was right again. At Bellwether it still looked like
disaster, but it felt like love.

–Brent Burket also writes for his own blog, Heart as Arena and for the Creative Time blog.