As we give spring a robust welcome, the art world synchronously offers its own salutation. We have all been invited to drift, like Le Petit Prince, through the universe created by Alexander Calder’s fierce yet exuberant small-scale sculptures at Dominique Lévy. I found myself transfixed by the magic of each work. Displayed on two separate floors, the installation as a whole evokes a sense of lightness, amplified by the environment designed by Santiago and Gabriel Calatrava—the father and son architectural collaboration. A white landscape of curved and layered platforms supports variously large, mirrored round tables that display the sculptures. The thoughtful design creates a perfect canvas for the moving shadows of Calder’s three-dimensional objects suspended below, and their two-dimensional companions above which unify in a glorious and striking visual encounter.
Malcolm Morley, in his own celebration, wholeheartedly embraced Baudelaire’s notion that “genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will.” Never before have we seen Morley’s iconic images of toy boats, ships, airplanes, lighthouses, fire trucks, among others (such as his own version of Jacques-Louis David’s 1801 landmark painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps,” accompanied with a real cannon and cannon balls), so democratically and viscerally infused. By remaking his own Napoleon and thereby disregarding the delineation of a historical period with the purpose of documenting human progress, Morley seems to have suggested that progress isn’t art’s main concern. In my own reading, his other painting “The Searcher,” which depicts two aircrafts gently approaching one another just above a ship on the sea, is a moving, loving portrait of his partner Lida and himself.
Equally reaffirming, on the front of representation and exploration of the human figure in space and how we perceive space in general, are the exhibitions of Lisa Yuskavage’s new paintings and pastels at David Zwirner and Chris Larson’s site-specific installation at Katonah Museum. Just when viewers, myself included, expected to see more of her fairly recent series of triptychs and large-sized paintings (along with some small erotic female nudes bathed in luminous colors that arouse at once a mythological yet familiar habitat), Yuskavage switches gears to survey her potential interplays between the geometry of color and human physiognomy. Partially driven by her desire to maximize the freedom of images, they defy their constraints as mere products of a particular time, and show themselves to be timeless. With the inclusion of male nudes in an intensified hot and cold color spectrum, the show turns out to be completely unexpected. No less gripping and immersive of an experience is Chris Larson’s complex and intelligent response to both the history of Katonah’s relocation in the late 19th century and Marcel Breuer’s architectural influences. In his own personal response to a given surrounding environment, the questions of how certain scales of things behave in a particular space, as well as how they generate one total image, are investigated thoroughly in Larson’s relentless activation of any unexpected volume of given space, whether indoor or outdoor. To Larson it feels as though walking through the three-dimensional space is the same as remembering the image of the experience.
Which brings us to the best group exhibit at a university museum anywhere this year—Pretty Raw: After and Around Frankenthaler at the Rose Art Museum, curated by Katy Siegel. Not only is it natural for Siegel to pick up the thread from her 2007 tour-de-force High Times, Hard Times: New York Paintings 1967 – 1975, which she curated with David Reed as an advisor, the show is a timely extension of the re-readings of Frankenthaler’s complex and influential legacy since John Elderfield’s landmark Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler From 1950 to 1959 at Gagosian in Chelsea in 2013. By featuring Frankenthaler as a point of contact and departure, Siegel sets out to explore varieties of political and social issues through the artist’s experimentations with the materials. Works by older and younger generations are caringly installed to amplify visual rapports. Grace Hartigan, Alfred Leslie, Dwight Ripley, Marie Menken, Larry Rivers, Jane Freilicher, Morris Louis, Jules Olitski, Carrie Moyer, Laura Owens, Mary Weatherford, and Sterling Ruby are among artists included in this not-to-miss exhibit.
The Rail is also so pleased, first of all, to remind you of our collateral event, presenting the artist Patricia Cronin’s Shrine for Girls at the 56th Venice Biennale. Secondly, we’d like to announce the move of our headquarters to Industry City in Sunset Park; the Greenpoint location will remain as an editorial headquarters. Due to the need to expand, embark on new adventures with our journal, and to rejoin our collaborations with the Dedalus Foundation, Industry City, and the communities of artists as we once did with the memorable exhibit Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1 in the winter of 2013, this new phase is full of limitless potential. It’s very exciting to say the least. I’m grateful to Glen Siegel, Jack Flam, John Thomson, Chris Apgar, and the rest of the Rail’s board members for having trusted and supported this expansion and growth. Lastly, on behalf the Rail’s editors, contributing writers, and comrades at the headquarters, I would like to thank our managing editor par excellence Sara Roffino for her brilliant service over the last two years. Sara has worked closely and tirelessly with all of us, and has contributed more than her share of love and care to the living organism of the Rail as a social sculpture/environment. We wish her great luck in her new position and future endeavors!
This issue is dedicated to our brothers and sisters in Kathmandu, who lost their lives in the recent earthquake, Saturday, April 25th, 2015, and in memory of that country’s most beloved treasures, UNESCO’s seven world heritage sites, which were also destroyed by the same natural disaster.
Yours in solidarity, as always,
Alexander Calder MULTUM IN PARVO
April 22 – June 13, 2015
April 16 – June 6, 2015
April 23 – June 13, 2015
Chris Larson: The Katonah Relocation Project
March 29 – June 28, 2015
Katonah Museum of Art
Pretty Raw: After and Around Frankenthaler
February 11 – June 7, 2015
The Rose Art Museum
Rail Curatorial Projects presents
Patricia Cronin Shrine for Girls, Venice
Curated by Ludovico Pratesi
May 6 – November 22, 2015
Chiesa di San Gallo
Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.