Sunday, March 27, 2005

Marlene Dumas @ Zwirner & Wirth

I went to see the Marlene Dumas show of paintings at Zwirner & Wirth just last week, as I happened to be in the neighborhood and ducked into the gallery. I’d never heard of this artist before, yet I felt that the paintings were honest and straightforward without being overwrought or pretentious. The paint is thin and applied with a fresh confidence; obviously this artist is not relying on assistants and others to “help” (see Damien Hirst in an earlier posting).
As it turns out, the NY Times ran a review of the show :

Marlene Dumas's Number Comes Up
“But the city has a fresh opportunity to see what the fuss is all about... Her work intermingles high and pop-cultural imagery and touches on favored hot buttons, from politics to female sexuality to race. Her overall subject can be construed as the ambiguity of the pictorial image, a major critical talking point right now.”
Published: March 27, 2005

This is painting that is as tough as nails, that tackles many issues without losing the sense of the nature of touch, gesture and surface, infused with a deftness and light. John Currin, the much-lauded “best painter in NY right now” wishes he could paint this well.
Did I fail to mention that paintings by Marlene Dumas fetch the highest prices of a living female painter?

Marlene Dumas
Selected Works
Zwirner & Wirth
32 East 69th Street
From February 18 - April 23, 2005

Saturday, March 26, 2005

New Yorker Cartoons: Now Showing

I love the fact that the spot illutrations in the New Yorker magazine are now sequenced like key frames in a movie storyboard. See the article in the NY Times.
What do you think?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Williamsburg: what goes around comes around

I took a walk around Williamsburg today. I have to admit I’ve avoided it in favor of the galleries in Chelsea, but after seeing a recent article in the NY Times about the imminent re-zoning of the Brooklyn waterfront, I felt compelled to check it out.
Funny, the scene there seemed like the East Village in the early eighties: lots of graffiti, scruffy boutiques and trendy restaurants interspersed by the bodegas and Polish restaurants.
I did manage to stop in an art gallery and the art on view also seemed eerily reminiscent of the East Village art of the eighties: what goes around comes around.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Daniel Buren @ The Guggenheim: An Early Look

A New York moment: getting in to the opening nite gala for the Daniel Buren installation / exibit @ the Guggenheim Museum. Outside was the blustery snow of Ole Man Winter's last gasp; inside the crystaline reflections of a 100 foot-high mirror spanning halfway across the huge atrrium of the museum. I'm told that the view during the day is stunning: sunlight streaming though the oculus (which is otherwise sheided from direct sunlight). A house of mirrors, a fun house side show, an experiment in space/time... a cubistic vision of an old friend? All of these come to mind as one tries to make sense of what is so confounding visually as to defy easy definiton and instead, one should just surrender to the senses and enjoy the sheer novelty.
Read more about the exhibit in the NY Times article by Linda Yablonsky, excerpted below:
Mr. Buren's central piece at the Guggenheim, of course, is no little shack. For the artist, it represents an imaginary cube large enough to contain the entire museum. As engineered from the artist's drawings by a Parisian architect, Jean-Christophe Denise, and the Guggenheim's technical designer, Stephen Engelman, the structure's two adjoining walls meet at the exact center of the rotunda, making it appear as if a corner of the cube had been thrust into the void from the street. Short, bright-green vertical stripes resembling film sprockets line the balustrades of all six tiers, giving the Guggenheim's spiral the look of a giant zoetrope about to go into a serious spin.

Indeed, visitors will need to get their sea legs before starting up the ramps. What the mirrors will show, besides their own reflections, is a building that appears to shift its weight at almost every step. Because of a natural distortion caused by the play of mirrors against the vertiginous ramps, there are moments when it becomes difficult to distinguish the architecture from its mirror image, inducing a sense of vertigo.

I was teaching a Photoshop class at the museum where my students were re-touching photos of the mirrored cube and sure enough, several of my students (all adults) experienced a nausea not unlike sea-sickness as a result of the dizzying perspectives on their computer screens: a "virtual vertigo" if you will.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gregory Colbert's Ashes and Snow @ Pier 53

If you are in the West Village / Chelsea area, go to see Gregory Colbert's "Ashes and Snow" exhibit in the "nomadic museum" at 13th St. on the Hudson River. Tuesdays are pay what you wish (children are always free). Check out the images on the website, but it won't prepare you for the incredible installation on the pier. I espeecially was moved by the video projection and found similarities between the work of Bill Viola, recently shown at the Whitney

"...Viola creates projective narrative environments that explore the nature and consciousness and universal human experiences such as birth and death. The artist's subject matter is rooted in the history of Western and Eastern art, as well as in such spiritual traditions as Sufism and Zen Buddhism."

-from the Whitney Museum web site

The same could be said about the video by Mr. Colbert if you insert the nature of the bonds between man and the animal kingdom, between primal and instinctual connections and the place of man in the circle of life. Sounds corny and a little like cruchy granola but I left my cynical self on the island of Manahatta and was transported to another time and place as I walked to the end of the pier under the canopy of the temporary structure built for the exhibit. That the show is housed in an ad hoc confabulation of shipping crates only adds to the richness of the experience.

What do you think about the Ashes and Snow images?

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Elusive Truth About Painting

More on Damien Hirst: as I surmised in an earlier blog his new "paintings" are really based on photographs which "others" "painted"... no wonder these images have no presence or soul.
This from today's NY Times article by Carol Vogel:
Still, he [Damien Hirst] doesn't consider himself a serious painter. "I would feel uncomfortable putting myself in a category with other painters like Goya or Bacon," he said. "I'm more interested in the images than the painting."...

He readily admits that, as in the case of many artists working today, while his hand is involved in every painting, some of his assistants - most of whom are trained artists - do some of the painting for him. "I have a great team," he said.

Is it too much to ask of an artist today to paint their own pictures? I admit some of the images have interest but in an unteresting way, I mean isn't Photorealism so last century, a seventies thing?

Saturday, March 12, 2005

DAMIEN HIRST : The Elusive Truth

I stopped by the Gagosian Gallery today to see the latest paintings by Damien Hirst. So did a lot of other people. Many were the people who felt compelled to see what this latest enfant terrible had wrought.
I doubt that the paintings were entirely by his hand and I suspect that there was a lot of help by the way of mechanical aids of some sort: projecting images onto the canvas in order to trace the image and the use of photographs as source material as well. Such is the state of painting today. This is not to say that the images were devoid of interest, it is just that they were so generic in feel and vapid in touch that they lacked any individuality (Warhol killed that, didn’t he?).
The images of pharmaceuticals lined up in neat rows on shelves reminded me of the paintings of Wayne Thiebald as the pills looked as delicious as the pies and cakes. Again, not much new here. The truth be told, Damian Hirst had some tremendously shocking and exciting installations (the Shark in formaldehyde being a personal favorite) but too may of his paintings lack something, a soul if you will. Check out the images on the Gagosian gallery web site, they look better as photographs on the web than in real life. Art in the age of mechanical reproduction indeed.

DAMIEN HIRST : The Elusive Truth
Mar 11 - Apr 23, 2005
Gagosian Gallery
555 WEST 24th STREET
TEL 212 741 1111

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Art in NYC Milestone: 1,000 hits!

Alreet people, that's alright. This site will reach the one thousand visit mark in the next few hours or so. Thank you to all of the visitors who made this small milestone possible. The next goal is ten thousand.
As always there is a lot going on in NYC. Check out Gregory Colbert's installation on the Hudson. more on this soon, I may visit it this weekend.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Rubens Drawings @ The Metropolitan Museum

After finishing the biography of Willem de Kooning: “de Kooning An American Master” by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swann, I went to see the drawings by Peter Paul Rubens at the Met. Rubens was a favorite of de Kooning, (along with Ingres and Picasso, two other consummate draftsmen) and it was through the lens of de Kooning’s skewered perspective that I came to appreciate anew the work of his forbear.
Of course, modern art has little in common with the high baroque exuberance and technical virtuosity of Old Masterly skill evinced by the drawings by this “Peter the Great” yet the similarities were telling. Charcoal, that soft, nuanced and delicate record of an artist’s gesture was common to both these Northern Europeans. On close inspection, I noticed that Rubens rarely closed his forms with a contour but instead he would subtly overlap several lines with tiny interstices in between , this gave the work a slight visual vibration and a life to the forms as if they were “breathing”. This, of course, was a characteristic feature of a de Kooning drawing.
It would be something to see a de Kooning / Rubens show n’est-ce pas? Now that would raise some dust, charcoal and otherwise.

If you can’t get to the Met to see the drawings in person, there is an excellent online companion to the show.