Chelsea Afternoon in December

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A couple things stood out in our Chelsea trek: The group show “Entourage” at Mike Weiss Gallery; Asuka Ohsawa‘s “On the Street Where We Live” show of excellent gouache on paper drawings at the new Freight and Volume Gallery, “The Painted Word” at Stellan Holm Gallery and Lari Pittman‘s new work at Gladstone which seems to have abandoned its flat design-y affect for a baroque, Japanese-influenced world of domesticity.

“Entourage’s list of works at Mike Weiss had more red dot stickers per page than I remember seeing in a gallery anywhere in a long time. Sold, sold, sold. Works costing in the 6 figures by up and coming artists and the current reigning blood and ceremony guru, Hermann Nietsche. (top image is “Two Left Hands” by Jansson Stegner from “Entourage.”)

I don’t have much to say about any of it but will put up pictures here. Mostly the work we saw in Chelsea was pleasant but I don’t think we had any “Eureka — this is the promised land!” moments. It was status quo but you can’t have epiphanies every time. God doesn’t come down from the mountain but occasionally.

“The Painted Word at Stellan Holm was a kind of greatest hits of word art show: On Kawara, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool, Richard Prince, Andy Warhol. For me the greatest of the great was Basquiat’s “Arise Sirloin of Beef” which kind of said it all — how words twist things but how we need them so desperately. (image is the Basquiat piece.)
Asuka Ohsawa
‘s perfect gouache drawings at Freight and Volume captivated all of us. A marriage of Japanese-type stylized linearity with Western bad-girl cartooning, the works had a raucous atmosphere where boys lift up girls skirts for a surreptitious look and Mickey Mouse rides a toy horse in the background. Weird and wonderful, the work in the show was already sold but for two works in the office that were oh so tempting to one of us. (detail of Ohsawa drawing)
In a season of small works shows wherein folks can purchase holiday art presents for loved one and not break the bank, Luhring Augustine Gallery marches to its own rich beat with a show of high-end chess sets, all in editions of 7, by artists like Paul McCarthy, Tom Friedman and the always amazing Yayoi Kusama. (image is Kusama’s chess set which I think she called a pumpkin set but which looked more like a mushroom set to me. This piece made the show. It was housed in its own separate room and so outshone the rest that it felt like a throne room. You entered for your audience and left happy.)

Lari Pitman‘s works at Gladstone are a surprise. Pitman, whose paintings we’ve seen in Philadelphia in the great “Secret Victorians” show at the Fabric Workshop, is producing some very different work these days. Gone is Pitman’s flat world with its 2-D design class affect. Here, in works with somber palette Pitman is softer, less didactic and more homey. These works have a domestic element to them (lamps, tables, interiors are depicted). What I remember of the flat world work is that it had political commentary in mind. I didn’t see that here although we didn’t linger and perhaps a closer reading would have uncovered one.

Enough already. Tomorrow, back to Philadelphia.