Saturday, April 30, 2005

Take a Walk on the SoHo Side

Take a trip to SoHo this spring (remember SoHo?) to see some Art. There are still a few galleries holding out in the former Arts district, in between the boutiques and chic restaurants. A particularly strong showing on Wooster Street features several known masters of minimalism, a Bauhaus master and a pair of outstanding “outsider” artists. While you're there, stroll down Canal Street to take in the bizarre bazaar before it too morphs into a high-rent district faster than you can say "Williamsburg".

The Drawing Center
35 Wooster Street, New York, NY
3x Abstraction: New Methods of Drawing
by Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz, and Agnes Martin
March 19 – May 21, 2005
Agnes Martin’s drawings have never looked so good as they are presented here alongside two of the strangest and most esoteric off-shoots of theosophical speculation since Kandinsky and Rudolf Steiner. I’m speaking of Hilma af Klint and Emma Kunz; both of whom have rarely been seen in New York. The important publication “The Spiritual in Art Abstract Painting 1896 – 1985” accompanying an exhibit at LACMOA featured a chapter “The Case of Hilma af Klint” but as to Emma Kunz, it is my first encounter with her inspired graph paper drawings. Many well known painters (Alfred Jensen, for one) have followed similar paths yet here is a true original; a pioneer of abstract art as ground breaking as many more touted male painters.
Down the street, Wooster that is, is an exhibit of more familiar pioneer abstract artists paired together to great effect: Josef Albers / Donald Judd @ Brooke Alexander Gallery. Judd liked the “real space and real color” of sculpture yet the Albers “Homage to the Square” paintings hold their own in this exhibit.

Structure & Color
Josef Albers / Donald Judd
@ Brooke Alexander Gallery
59 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
Until May 21, 2005

See more Hilma Af Klint images here.

Modern Art at Auction: See the Works for Free, Buy for Millions

So you don’t want to pay $20 to see great works of modern art at MoMA? Check out the Impressionist and Modern Art exhibit at Sotheby’s this weekend (and early next week), you won’t be disappointed. There are some really strong examples of Fauvist painting by Braque, Derain, Dufy (both Jean and Raoul) and Vlaminck along with a slew of School of Paris masterpieces. A painting by Chaim Soutine and a late Picasso (Women of Algiers) alone are worth the trip. Take a break and have a latte on the roof terrace of Dean & DeLuca’s and you will feel like a millionaire.

My personal favorite is an early Kandinsky,
Zwei Reiter und Liegende Gestalt (Two Riders and Reclining Figure). Estimated at 15 – 25 million dollars, it’s a little out of my price range but definitely worth the trip to East 72nd St. and York Avenue.

The first decade of the last century was truly a watershed period in the history of Art comparable to Florence in the 1420’s or Rome in the early 1500’s. The works on view here are very high in quality, quantity and price.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Cartoon Skeletons: Pigpen and the Dead

From Artist Michael Paulus' Website:
"A character study of 22 present and past cartoon characters (including Pigpen)".

Speaking of skeletons and Pigpen, here is an interesting letter to the editor published the NY Times:
When the Bad Trip Began
To the Editor:
Seth Mnookin gets it right concerning the decadence and decline of the Grateful Dead, and ultimately of the music itself as the band became too popular to play in anything smaller than stadiums ["Now the Dead Will Always Be With Us," last Sunday]. What he gets wrong is the timing. The beginning of the end was already chronicled in Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" in 1967, with Mountain Girl, Jerry Garcia's girlfriend at the time, bemoaning the introduction of hard drugs into the Haight during the "summer of love." In addition, the death of the original band member Ron (Pigpen) McKernan in 1973 marked a significant change in the musical direction of the Dead.

The throngs of urchins, burnouts and hangers-on at the huge arenas was a shallow echo of the close-knit atmosphere of the earlier concerts, where you saw the same faces in the crowd and felt like part of something unique, American and ours.
Published: April 24th, 2005

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Robert Gober; Timing is Everything

Robert Gober @ Matthew Marks
Timing is everything. I was just lucky enough myself to catch this show on the last day of the exhibit, ducking in on my way to Chelsea Piers for some R & R.

Robert Gober’s installation came at the precise moment when the leadership of the Catholic Church changed hands. The headless body of Christ on the Cross was surely of the moment, and as a metaphor and portent for the future of the Church this installation hit the proverbial nail on the head, as it were.
Art based on the events of 9/11 comes at a time when many artists across disciplines ranging from theater, dance, film, graphic novels are grappling with an event that will shape the world we live for a long time. New York artists of all stripes are just now recovering from the shock and are able to address this harrowing era in ways that may help all of us come to terms, Art is an important and potent ritual that is vital to survival and recovery from tragic events.
Robert Gober does not shy away from the most difficult subject nor does he give us easy answers, smug platitudes or quick fixes of cathartic grief. This installation currently served as the memorial to those who perished; at least that may have been the artist’s intention. But an more apt and compelling memorial will be hard to find.
“Mr. Gober has turned the Marks gallery into a kind of church, complete with a central aisle, an altar and two inaccessible side chapels. When we peek through the nearly closed doors of those chambers, we see the legs of a figure (male in one case, female in the other) seated in a bathtub with water running from its handmade pewter faucet.

There is even clergy: the first work on display involves a priest's shirt and collar. And also the suggestion of stained-glass windows, with their traditional tales of trials and tribulations: a suite of eight drawings, four on each side wall, that depict fleeting, partial views of embracing couples. They are drawn on replicas of two-page sheets from The New York Times of Sept. 12, 2001, which have, appropriately, been drained of color. The newspaper pages on one wall have been reproduced normally; the opposite wall has mirror images of the same pages, a device that knits the room together spatially and also implies that in some way we are still stuck in the reported events.”

Roberta Smith NYTimes
Published: March 25, 2005

Robert Gober has produced a large-scale installation of new sculpture exploring questions regarding sexuality, human relationships, nature, and religion, all informed by the current political climate. The artist conceived this new body of work over a three-year period, beginning shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, and culminating shortly after the recent presidential election.

-from the the Matthew Marks Gallery, 522 West 22nd Street.

The next exhibition @ the Matthew Marks gallery space will be Jasper Johns: Catenary, opening May 7, 2005. Something to look forward to, hopefully Mr. Johns will be in good form for when 'he is good he is very good, and when he is bad...'

Saturday, April 23, 2005

FS/LS: The Good and the Not-So Good in Chelsea

New Work by Frank Stella @ Paul Kasmin, Lucas Samaras @ Pace MacGill

Frank is still working space. Like many artists of his generation, Stella emerged from under the shadow of de Kooning. In fact, Frank once had a reproduction of 'the king’s' work taped to the wall of his studio to remind him of “what not to do”. And of course, Stella’s early black and white paintings were the anti-de Kooning: an antidote to miles of second-rate, second generation re-treads of the masterful meanderings of Willem I. (Stella’s early work prefigured so much that lesser talents have made entire careers out of their implications; Sol Lewitt, for one).
Since 1975 and the “Painted Bird” series first seen at MoMA in that year, Stella has displayed a knack for creating sculptural work which to my eye appear to be like 3-D recreations and ruminations inspired by master Will. It seems that the ambiguous and open-ended gesture-based abstraction was impossible for Frank to resist forever so Frank finally gave in to the power of the small postcard taped to his wall so many years ago.
Some of Stella’s work fails in the same way that de Kooning did on numerous occasions: too much Sturm and Drang without a solid core; this is the price of risk. I’m sure that there are as many Stella “misses” as discarded de Kooning drawings. All of this is old news yet few people regard Stella as “hot” in the over-heated tulip-crazed frenzy of Chelsea.
I have long been a FS fan and if you haven’t read his “Working Space” yet, it’s an education in itself.
As for this show, it’s a stunner, even better than his show at Paul Kasmin last year. My personal favorite involves an open-ended “Buckyball” intertwined with various other free-form sinuous curves.

PAUL KASMIN GALLERY New Work by FRANK STELLA from April 2 – May 14, 2005.
293 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Lucas Samaras @ Pace MacGill, Chelsea

"LS? Who is LS?" I wondered aloud as I entered the gallery yesterday in Chelsea, ducking out of the cold rain. Oh, yeah. Good ol' Lucas Samaras, the irascible, unpredictable, irreverent and just-plain 'in-your-face fun where you’d least expect it' artist. As you walk in and you see all of these people sitting at computer work stations not unlike any cubicle farm dot-com hell from the recent past. As it turns out, LS has created some dozens of iMovies and umpteen Iphotos for your viewing pleasure.
Now don’t get me wrong I have great admiration, respect and genuine awe of much that LS has created over the decades, especially his fabric paintings but as someone involved in new media, this is “a little too little, a little too late.” All of the ho-hum Photoshoped self-portraits are such old news that it is a little embarrassing to sift through them; this is “art of this century” by someone from last century.
Other voices, to the contrary.

Lucas Samaras :: PhotoFlicks and PhotoFictions
Pace / MacGill
534 West 25th Street

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Max Ernst @ The Met / Diane Arbus, Too

Max Ernst
Through July 10, 2005
Ah, good old Max Ernst, the first multimedia artist. I forgot how various and varied his work could be. This show is a knockout on several fronts: for the sheer quantity of iconic works and for the range of formats included. The only works missing from this retrospective are the miniscule paintings from the Arizonia years. This exhibition is a must-see for anyone unfamiliar with his technically expansive paintings, his inspired and lurid collages and the “frottages” made of rubbings of diverse textures.

Diane Arbus Revelations
March 8, 2005–May 30, 2005

I ducked in to see the Diane Arbus photos on exhibit; it’s a good double bill with the Max Ernst show. You could easily see both shows without getting “museum-headache” –that awful feeling of information overload that one gets at the larger museums… the shows complement each other in odd ways, maybe because they are so foreign to each other yet there is a shared eeriness or tinge of voyeuristic pleasure in transgressing “good taste” that makes these shows so prescient right now.
I recently watched Kubrick’s masterful “The Shining” and realized for the first time that the Diane Arbus Twins
was the inspiration for Kubrick’s treatment of the sibling ghost sisters in the film; no wonder they are so haunting. “If you’re going to steal, steal from someone good.”

Just for fun, see the twins on this page (towards the bottom of the page).

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Gehry in NYC

One of my favorite architects will soon have three major structures in New York City...see for yourself:

#1. The New Brooklyn Nets Stadium (in development)
Bring Basketball to Brooklyn

“This is an important opportunity for everyone,” added Frank Gehry. “Our goals are to create a great Arena for a great team, and to create something really special for Brooklyn.”

#2: Headquarters of IAC/Interactive in Chelsea (under construction now)
Frank O Gehry in Manhattan

Does anyone know what the third one will be?

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Michelangelo Code

The idea that art imitates life is always being turned around out with life imitating art (Schwarzenegger as the Gov’ner is right out of a Phillip K. Dick Sci-fi send-up) but this new one is too much!

In today’s news that there is a conjecture that Michelangelo forged the “Laocoön” marble sculpture; this is comparable to Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” speculations about the Catholic Church.

“A scholar has suggested that "Laocoön," a fabled sculpture whose unearthing in 1506 has deeply influenced thinking about the ancient Greeks and the nature of the visual arts, may well be a Renaissance forgery - possibly by Michelangelo himself.”
NY Times, 4/18/05

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Endless Walking but Getting Nowhere

Julian Opie’s Walking Animations
Animation of “Kiera Walking” on this page is an example of the electronic billboard currently installed on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street, downtown NYC. There are two separate “animated” billboards, each one shows a figure walking but getting nowhere, very Zen and also both hi and lo-tech. I’ve seen this animation at night and it is very effective visually as the moving lights cut through the surrounding visual clutter, such as the tail lights on the car in front of you.
Seen during the day, the walking figures come alive as their movement is echoed by the many everyday New Yorkers walking to and fro. The futility of the urban constant rush is also wryly commented on as these figures spin their wheels yet go no further. Isn’t the Department of Education housed in the Tweed Courthouse?

See photos and read more at Gothamist.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fric Fischl @ Mary Boone Gallery

Sure, go ahead and see the Damien Hirst “paintings” at the Gagosian gallery. Decide for yourself if they are interesting or not. I found them a trifle tedious after the initial surprise at the use of Photorealism (such a tired style at this point). But while you are on 24th Street, check out the recent paintings by Eric Fischl.

In contrast to Mr. Hirst (who showed thirty paintings), Mr. Fischl presents us a handful of large-scale paintings. These new works are continuations of the style forged in the go-go eighties and it is more than curious that these painted are being exhibited at this point in time in Chelsea. The world changed so much since Eric Fischl burst on the scene in 1984 at the Mary Boone Gallery yet these images almost seem like items from a time capsule from the era of Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”. These images seem forced and strangely cloying, in spite of the fact that they are well painted; all that talent could be put to better effect than essentially copying photographs at a large scale and adding a dash of bravura brushstrokes. For all the smoldering desire in the images there is a ho-hum feel to the whole venture.

Through April 23rd
541 West 24th St.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Why is there an Arts Blog?

To provide an unbiased and informative view of selected highlights in the NYC arts: on the streets, in the galleries, museums and auction houses.

What makes this source important?
A down-to-earth yet educated and sincere look at the art with an eye for trends, interesting and stimulating exhibits and relevant news in the cultural life of this great city.

Are the views represented here truly unbiased?

The opinions expressed here are free from commercial interest and not affiliated with any for-profit business.

Does this mean that this site aims to be a comprehensive listing without personal likes, dislikes, or values of any kind?
No. Discerning the best and most compelling art from the wide range of current exhibits without hype, without an agenda and with an eye toward sharing insights into what is for many an awfully complicated scene. A broad perspective, mature and nuanced inquiry and an educated eye inform the views expressed here.

Can people add comments and opposing viewpoints to counter the opinions expressed here?
Yes, definitely.

What to see in NYC:
Max Ernst @ the Metropolitan Museum.
Does anyone remember the last NYC retrospective of this enigmatic artist? The show at the Guggenheim (I think in 1974) was a real eye-opener. More to come on this important exhibit.

Frank Stella @ Paul Kasmin Gallery
New Work April 2- May 14
An old standby, Frank Stella is always the thinking man’s artist. It may take a while before we catch up to his latest works but the never fail to provide visual force to what can be static and stale in lesser hands.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Damien Hirst’s sculpture, installed at the Lever House

While I definitely agree with Jerry Saltz’s opinions of the recent paintings “by” Damien Hirst, (see the article “The Emperor’s New Paintings”) I can’t agree with his take on the sculpture recently installed at the Lever House:

this from Jerry Saltz, published in the Village Voice, 4/5/05:

Worse than the paintings because it's permanent—not to mention marring the entrance to the beautiful Lever House on Park Avenue—is Hirst's hideous Virgin Mother, a 35-foot bronze eyesore of a naked pregnant woman with a cutaway view of her womb. ...Virgin Mother should be removed straightaway and those responsible for placing it here should be fired or whatever is done with reckless, imbecilic billionaires.

Yes, the Lever House is beautiful, especially in light of the recent renovation but this provocative sculpture is a perfect compliment to the pious modernism evoked and evinced by this building. I hate to say how utterly innocuous are the stone sculptures of Isamu Noguchi next to this brash bronze monstrosity. I love the irreverent insouciance of this strident Virgin Mother who literally bares all with such cosmopolitan élan and verve. I can’t explain why I love it (I know I’m supposed to like the Noguchi sculptures) but I took some people to look at the sculpture in the pouring rain and we all felt a similar sense of awe. Damien Hirst, after all is a sculptor first and foremost.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Art Criticism in the Age of Blogging

Not to be a “blog snob” but, it seems that Michael Kimmelman of the NY Times in his recent article: "This is Your Brain on Pause" agrees with our opening day (see our earlier posts on 3/12/05 and 3/14/05) assessment of Damien Hirst’s recent show of “paintings” at the Gagosian Gallery. In a word, they are bad; and in the sense that Warhol was “badder” and certainly did it first, Mr. Kimmelman is in agreement with us.
Blogging gets there first, trumping other reports with the immediacy and topicality of the speed of light while the lumbering apparatus of the paper news goes limping into the 21st century like a senescent relative from the old country, barely tolerated by today’s “fresh direct” generation.
Hate to say it, but does anyone under sixty years of age care about “classical” music? If so, they don’t go to concerts and they certainly don’t buy it in the record stores (a quaint notion in itself).
But, back to Damien Hirst, the artist known best for his sculptures, which is his true métier. There is currently a fabulous sculpture by Mr. Hirst at the outdoor concourse beneatht he Lever House at 53rd and Lexington. I call the sculpture “the Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” although it is probably closer to about 40 feet in height, the bronze sculpture depicts a striding pregnant woman with her flesh literally splayed open in the artist’s signature deadpan science-museum expository and explanatory presentation depicting the unborn fetus and the half-shorn skull in anatomical correctness; all of this in such a matter-of-factly “just out for a stroll’ way that passersby, janitors, tourists and myself including are left standing on the sidewalk scratching our collective heads. Now that’s Art, no matter what else you can say, this piece is striking and strident in a fresh and direct way.

, Mr. Hirst's flat-footed pictures, blithely lacking finesse, ignore photorealism's first goals and aspire only to be passingly ghoulish.

And absent invention, they hang there like corpses. They also arrive amid a booming youth market, as shallow and money-obsessed as Mr. Hirst, and just as enamored of fashion, but with a higher premium placed on solo handicraft and earnestness or at least on the appearance of it. Other paintings abound in Chelsea for comparison - not universally good, but generally craftier about the medium, making more of paint's expressive potential and its physical allure. Just up the block from Gagosian, on 24th Street, are shows by Magnus von Plessen, Jules de Balincourt, Martin Kippenberger, Eric Fischl and Gary Hume that at least feature more painterly paintings.
- Michael Kimmelman, NY Times Published: April 3, 2005

Look to this site, "NYC Arts" for a review of Eric Fischels' recent paintings coming soon.

To continue the riff about animation:
Wikipedia History of Animation
Finally a history of animation with links, links and more links.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Brief History of Animation

This is a link to as clear and concise a history of animation can be found anywhere. Well done. For more of the context but sadly no images, here is "A RATHER INCOMPLETE BUT STILL FASCINATING HISTORY OF ANIMATION" By Dan McLaughlin. This site is crying for images, but definitely worth a look, thanks Dan for doing the heavy lifting.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Basquiat@ The Brooklyn Museum of Art

Weighing in on Basquiat@ The BMA

Like the Human Torch in his paintings, Jean-Michel’s “Flame-On!” rocked the art scene in the early nineteen eighties.
It makes perfect sense for Brooklyn-born and bred Jean-Michel Basquiat to have his homecoming at the Brooklyn Museum, (his show at the Whitney in 1992 is but a distant memory in the collective psyche of New York City). Where else but here should we see the Basquiat paintings and drawings with new eyes; eyes that have been primed by the look and feel of Williamsburg, itself a reflection of East Villiage scene which engendered J.M.B. in the first place. SAMO indeed: “same ‘ole ____” that being the tag used by the artist in his earliest attempts to gain the notoriety he craved.
The music of Miles, Bird and Hendrix fueled Basquait’s improvisational style and infused the high-keyed color and outrageousness that is central to these haunting images.

Basquiat@ The Brooklyn Museum of Art

Through June 5