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Three from New York – Pablo Helguera’s Libreria Donceles at Kent Fine Arts and Pataphysics and From Memory at Sean Kelly


(Andrea visits two galleries in New York, sees three excellent shows, and buys something. –the Artblog editors)

Entering Kent Fine Arts these days is disorienting, because beyond the building entryway, elevator, and usual gallery door is a perfectly-realized, functional, used book store: metal shelves full of books, an occasional easy chair, recommended titles arrayed on a table, and a separate section for children. The only thing missing is the dust that usually characterizes such places. It’s the only store in N.Y.C. devoted to second-hand, Spanish-language books, despite the fact that a quarter of the city speaks Spanish. E-publishing hasn’t fostered the circulation of books for immigrant communities.

Poster for Libreria Donceles photo courtesy the artist
Poster for Libreria Donceles. Photo courtesy the artist.

Pablo Helguera’s itinerant inventory of ten thousand books is on offer in New York through Nov. 8, 2013. The contents were solicited from individuals and groups in Mexico City and elsewhere, and each bears a bookplate with the store’s name, Librería Donceles,  and the inscription Ex Libris..., with the donor’s name. The books cover all categories: literature, anthropology, politics, science, economics, photography,…

Pablo Helguera’s ‘Librería Donceles’ photo courtesy the artist
Pablo Helguera, Librería Donceles. Photo courtesy the artist.

Visitors may purchase one book each, the price self-determined, with cash placed in a box by the door. Proceeds will go to a local Spanish literacy project.  In the spirit of the piece I had to purchase something, so the rest of the day in Chelsea I was carrying a bi-lingual catalog of a Marta Minujin exhibition, ex collection Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. The presence of the book in my library is an ongoing extension of Helguera’s project, which involves social circles, generosity, reading, exchange, immigrant communities and their marginality, and as many other subjects as the books in his store.

Helguera is an old hand at what he terms Socially Engaged Art, and has produced an exceptionally well thought-out and clearly-written analytical model for the genre, Education for Socially Engaged Art (Jorge Pinto Books, 2011), ISBN 978-1934978597. It should be in the library of all artists and anyone else interested in this much-discussed but little theorized field, right beside Clair Bishop’s Artificial Hells; Participatory art and the politics of spectatorship (Verso, 2012) ISBN 978-1844676903.

Librería Donceles, alternate view.
Librería Donceles, alternate view.

Pataphysics; a theoretical exhibition and From Memory; Draw a map of the United States at Sean Kelly

Installation view of "Pataphysics; a theoretical exhibition" at Sean Kelly Gallery. Photograph by Jason Wyche.
Installation view of “Pataphysics; a theoretical exhibition” at Sean Kelly Gallery. Photograph by Jason Wyche.

If there’s much talk of American students not studying the STEM subjects, Pataphysics, at least, is alive and well among artists and scholars. Pataphysics, according to its originator, the writer Alfred Jarry, is the science of imaginary solutions. The seriously thought-out exhibition at Sean Kelly Gallery  through Oct. 19, Pataphysics; a theoretical exhibition, includes several generations of artists inspired by the anarchic discipline that refuses to take itself too seriously. It includes significant works, including Dust Breeding, by one of the early members of the Collège de ‘Pataphysiques, Marcel Duchamp. If his place in the lineage isn’t entirely obvious, one only had to look at David Hammons’ leather bound and tooled tome, The Holy Bible: Old Testament (2002), which opens to reveal The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp.

David Hammons ‘Holy Bible: Old Testament’ (2002) artist’s book
David Hammons, Holy Bible: Old Testament (2002), artist’s book
Holy Bible: Old Testament, interior spread
Holy Bible: Old Testament, interior spread
Performance by the Creative Destruction Consutlancy at Sean Kelly Gallery, photo: Thomas Kelly
Performance by the Creative Destruction Consutlancy at Sean Kelly Gallery. Photograph by Thomas Kelly

The more than twenty-five artists in the show include Joseph Beuys, Ai Wei Wei, Slavs and Tatars, Javier Téllez and Hennessy Youngman (in the form of his videos). The only relic of a performance at the gallery by The Creative Destruction Consultancy, Where the end is always a means.... was a brochure and business card. Kate Gilmore’s video Sudden as a Massacre (2011) is the hilarious acting out of Anna Chave’s critique of Minimalism: a group of young women in identical, printed dresses, tearing apart a large, cubic sculpture made of un-fired clay. The humor of Yoko Ono’s Play it by Trust (1966-1998) was subtler: a chessboard and pieces, all entirely white. I left the gallery not only thinking of the work I’d seen, but also scanning my mental inventory for other artists who could well have been included. That’s about as good a response as one gets.

Kate Gilmore, "Sudden as a Massacre". Video still.
Kate Gilmore, “Sudden as a Massacre”. Video still.
Installation view of ‘From Memory’ at Sean Kelly Gallery, photography: JasonWyche
Installation view, “From Memory” at Sean Kelly Gallery. Photograph by Jason Wyche

The second exhibition at the gallery, From Memory; Draw a map of the United States brings together a group of drawings done in 1971-72 when Hisachike Takahashi, a Japanese artist living in New York, provided a group of his colleagues with a sheet of handmade paper and requested that they draw a map of the United States entirely from memory. His friends included Arakawa, Jasper Johns, Joseph Kossuth, Brice Marden, Dorothea Rockburne and Robert Rauschenberg. The responses by twenty-three artists give an intriguing view of their disparate styles, sometimes literal, other times metaphorical interpretation of the request, and their varying methods of remembering visual material. Mel Bochner actually assembled the map piece by piece, re-creating each state.

Both of these exhibitions are museum-worthy, fascinating and fun.