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Just when I thought I’d figured out how to unravel the pretzel logic of Damien Hirst’s latest exhibition (he hires people to make lousy paintings, which means they’re actually really good paintings masquerading as lousy paintings, and the worse people think they are the better and more valuable they become?), I come across David Levi Strauss’s piece “Considering the Alternatives: Are ‘Artists’ Really Necessary?” in the April issue of the Brooklyn Rail.
Annie loved looking at art. She was the most open and enthusiastic person I’ve ever met when it came to studio visits: she loved “discovering” a new artist.
"There are three things you dont want to see being made: sausage, legislation, and art history. Mark Kramer lobbed this bon mot at me during a recent update on the estate of Lee Lozano and some truly bizarre revelations in her Last Will and Testament (which are beyond the scope of this article).
It was a thrilling time. Riffs of Run DMC or Grandmaster Flash & Mele Mel’s “White Lines” rumbled out of boom boxes and over-amped car radios as they slinked through Loisaida streets. Soho was suffocating in its own moribund kabuki dance with late formalism, and the East Village was eating their lunch.
He was a goner, a nonentity, and although hes had a perfectly respectable career, to the forces that streamline history, he was invisible.
Mobs of anxious East Village aficionados arrived by foot, bike, and taxi. Carlo McCormick was out front for a smoke break. I waited briefly before entering to see who would show up.
At a jam-packed lecture delivered at the New School in 2000, Dave Hickey, the bad boy of contemporary criticism, presented an idea, profound in its breadth, that its memorynot taste, not fashion, not even aestheticsthat determines the staying power of a work of art.
Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise. The early bird catches the worm. The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work. Yes, the Protestant work ethic has reasserted itself with a vengeance. The dual facets of visible labor intensity and philosophical obscurity induced by over intellectualization are evidently common trends in plenty of contemporary art production. Through some misplaced sense of guilt, it has become fashionable to tout how hard were all working.
How far can it go before it pops? With a market bulging like an overinflated Macys Parade balloon on the verge of bursting, cultural soothsayers are scanning recent events, like the entrails of a sacrificial chicken, for clues to its future direction.
Painting is dead. No painting is alive. No its dead, no its alive, no dead, no alive, dead, alive, yada yada yada.
Who says the New York art world isnt controlled by a list of worn out clichés? For example, "Theres nothing more dangerous than an original idea, especially when you only have one." Or, "Its always wise to challenge accepted wisdom." Right! Unfortunately, those people who actually step over the boundaries established by the current market/institutional complex, are usually stopped at the velvet rope by the gatekeepers of good taste.
Arthur Danto in After the End of Art speaks of Postmodernism as the state in which art and its perception are beyond the "pale of art history." Now we have art that has been withdrawn from the pale, the garbage pails, of Williamsburgs art galleries. Dumpster diving, or garbage gazing, till now was a device used by brash paparazzi, or sleazy private dicks to cull clandestine information not forthcoming in polite conversation.
With the opening of Manuel Pardos Metaplasmic, the Van Brunt gallery inaugurated its second space, located on 819 Washington Street, near the meat-packing district. Originally from Beacon, Carl van Brunt and Rose Burlingham decided to expand their operations to Manhattan, featuring an entirely different roster of contemporary artists.
"Look around, this is the last generation of human beings that will be making paintings." This provocative statement of course grabbed a lot of attention at the birthday party where it was uttered recently by a painter who works for a museum at an upstate university, someone obviously more in tune with academic and student attitudes on these matters, so I deferred to his opinion.
Call me Ishmael. Some days agonever mind how longI visited an art exhibit of work purporting to be a critique of "Big Oil." Now, this "Big Oil" is nearly the same business that was hunting the whale and rendering its oil to light the world of the nineteenth century.
I did not see the Matthew Barney show, even though I was in the neighborhood several times, and couldve dodged the entrance fee. I did not see the Matthew Barney show. Of course Ive seen bits and pieces here and there in Manhattan. I bare him no grudge, and wish him only the best.
During a recent jaunt uptown I dropped in at the Adam Baumgold Gallery to see The Ganzfeld (unbound). This was a celebration of the publication of The Ganzfeld, a book of pictures and prose that features the comical work of over forty artists, including local favorites like Red Grooms and Fred Tomaselli.
Theres something in the air these days. Postmodernism and Deconstructivism seem to have brought art to a state of sublime meaninglessness. A main tenant of Po-Mo is a deep skepticism in the meta-narative, that is any theory or system of the sociological superstructure: God, nature, love, beauty, etc.
Albert Camus states in The Rebel that "to make a work of art is an act of rebellion." That realization is the punch that has provided Graf with its cult status as a means of challenging the status quo and having some "bad boy" fun along the way.
Little did I realize when I wrote The Gangs of New York (Brooklyn Rail July/August 2007), on the new phenomenon of the art blogosphere, that shortly wed be witnessing a major power shift as some of these bloggers flex their newfound muscle.
It seems my March column The Ethics of Aesthetics induced some urgent replies from a couple of the articles major players. In keeping with the Brooklyn Rails tradition of encouraging open discourse, these two letters are being published in their entirety.
Id bumped into this kid after closing time on a Sunday afternoon in the Killing Room at a Williamsburg gallery. Im usually running around looking at shows in the off-hours, trying to get an unobstructed view of the work. Seems young artists on the make have picked up on the idea, since its a great time to talk to exhausted gallerists wrapping up the weekend, their defenses down.
The dog days are here. Feverish nights, sweltering days, humidity like a scalding damp towel. As the temperatures climb, my brain goes boggy.
Where did they go, and where the heck are they now? If youve got more than a casual interest in contemporary art, and a memory that extends beyond breakfast, these questions can hold a morbid fascination.
Life is messy, but death is messier. And at least while youre alive, you can bust ass in the clean-upscrub away the stains and sweep what you dont want seen under the rug.
The bitter satisfaction of morning caffe lingers on the back of the tongue. The sun, burning through the mist, glimmers off the Grand Canal. A flock of cream-colored pigeons wheels overhead, the woofing of wings echoing the shuffle of exquisite leather soles on ancient cobblestones.
One of the attractions of art is its ability to present truth, and speak it to the face of power. Likewise, the pill who points out that the emperor has no clothes wins kudos from classmates, but now that were out of school, cultural institutions and the art market are our classrooms.
Not so long ago the mere mention of the words art fair could induce palpitations, hyperventilation, and uncontrollable twitching in some quarters. Everyone in and out of the art world had an opinion, some good, most bad, but as the momentum of this juggernaut continued to grow, they all agreed, this was a new paradigm, a brutal Darwinian restructuring of the art market.
The Joe Bonham Project at Storefront stirred my conflicted responses and left me in a state of anxious melancholy. Organized by guest curator and New Criterion Managing Editor James Panero, the Project is a group effort of wartime illustrators formed in early 2011 by Michael D. Fay, an artist and retired Marine.
The Five Spot Jazz Club was tiny, but it had a huge influence. I often find myself thinking back on these words, delivered by Dave Hickey during a New School lecture at the beginning of this millennium. As I trace back veins of art history and study the unlikely and humble beginnings of careers, movements, and galleries, they become even more poignant.
Arcadia and Metropolis: Masterworks of German Expressionism from the Nationalgalerie Berlin Neue GalerieBy James Kalm
"May you live in interesting times," goes the ancient Chinese curse. Arcadia to Metropolis seems a provocative artistic response to what were interesting times, indeed.
What does it say about an artist when he is universally acknowledged as being under-recognized?
Much ink has been spilled and many voices have become hoarse in recent discussions on the current state of feminist art, and intentionally or not, Transfigurations of Queen Butterfly places Yuliya Lanina firmly within this contentious dialogue.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to think of underwear in the same way again. The three current shows of the late lamented prankster Martin Kippenberger show the similarities and repeated images that made up this most self-conscious of artists’ personal mythology.
Park Avenue Cubists and its accompanying catalogue thrust me into the world of New York haut monde of the inter-war years.
I finally started an overly ambitious painting project Ive been putting off for years. Its a large, definitive map depicting the East Village art scene. Among the joys and sorrows of this kind of work is the research and documentation it requires.
You get it? That “it” is the punch-line to the joke, the plot of the narrative, the moral to the story. With this latest group of paintings at 303 Gallery, Inka Essenhigh wants to make her points clear and tell her stories more explicitly.
A dusty, smudged figure stands at the crest of a sheer precipice, his face strained but ardent.
Recently, within the “art critical establishment,” there’s been near-hysterical teeth gnashing and hand wringing over the diminished state of contemporary criticism. In an open letter, A Call to Art Critics, published in the December/January Rail, Irving Sandler lamented this “crisis of criticism” and its seeming irrelevance, a position that was echoed by several respondents in subsequent issues.
The clashes between the factions and subfactions of our aesthetic tribes are as unrelenting as conflict between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, or closer to home, the Bloods and Crips on the streets of East New York.
Seeing in the dark is not a simple matter. Because of the physiology of the cones and rods connecting to the optic nerve at the back of the eyeball, in the darkness we have a literal blind spot in the center of our field of vision.
“How low can you go?” was the question Chubby Checker asked in his 1962 dance hit “Limbo Rock.” No doubt the ghost of Clement Greenberg would be doing its share of twisting and shouting if it could witness the current situation that has turned his theories of high art versus schlock as expressed in Avant-Garde and Kitsch into “Avant-Garde is Kitsch.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, in approximately five minutes we will open the doors on Art Basel Miami Beach 2006. On behalf of public safety we ask that you not charge the gates. There is plenty of art for everyone to buy. IP card-holders to the left, all others to the right. Once again, there is plenty of art for everyone. Do not charge the gates.” The white cordons are lowered and the crowd surges forward.
Maureen Cavanaugh’s Lovey Loverson is a selection of paintings and small works on paper that initially seems to reinforce the common clichés of much “Post Feminist” or more recent “Chick Art.” These works, however, present a tightly knotted bundle of supposed contradictions: a cuteness that verges into the grotesque, an erotic voluptuousness that transforms into a Gothic severity, and a naïveté hiding a knowing cynicism that isn’t afraid to play the kitsch card when it suits her purposes.
Luc Tuymans is one of the current darlings of the European art establishment, and has the resume to prove it. Hes been included in every major show from the Saatchi Gallerys Triumph of Painting to Undiscovered Country at the Hammer Museum in L.A.
Finally, thank God its over, at least for some people. I received a sincere e-mail from a lady painter whose work I follow. It was soliciting signatures for a petition to investigate voting irregularities sponsored by moveon.org.
With eyes resting on an old pipe in a small room in a monstrous gallery building on the west side of Chelsea, its painted coating ravaged with cracks and flaking, my mind wandered back into memory.
Local motorist performs death-defying jump through ring of fire and is abducted by mysterious UFO, full details at eleven. This is the king of breathless tease that baits us into tuning in for the news, or turning to the next page of those supermarket tabloids.
Word up Williamsburg: theres another artsy neighborhood gaining attention in Brooklyn.
Sometimes beautiful gems are found in unlikely places. You might have to break out of your routine, your rut, your groove, and visit places that are outside the "mainstream," or off your cultural "grid". If youre lucky you have an opportunity to discover rare treasures.
On the heels of Raising the Bar, the critically acclaimed painting show that paired Thornton Willis and James Little, Vered Lieb and Richard Timperio have co-curated this show and selected some of New York’s most enduring, though perhaps lesser known, abstract painters. Willis and Little both participated in Barbara Rose’s American Painting: The Eighties exhibit, which though flawed, refocused critical and artistic attention on a phase of post-minimal, post-Greenbergian abstraction that is still the impetus for a large sector of current activity.
During these last few months, I’ve found myself remembering the above quote while thinking about contemporary Williamsburg and its, as yet, unfulfilled potential. It seems the art world’s deck is stacked against us and even the long arms of Brooklynites can’t compensate for the short end of the stick we’re constantly handed.
Brooklyn Dispatches: Still Crazy: Unveiled Previews Unprecedented Collection at the Denver Art MuseumBy James Kalm
ONE BILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF ART, yeah, that caught your attention, probably more than great paintings, masterworks of Abstract Expressionism, or a unique opportunity for in-depth study of one artists oeuvre. But that figure is not hyperbole; its an accurate estimate of the value of the Clyfford Still Estate, which will be housed in the Brad Cloepfil-designed Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.
If youre lucky enough to be in a relationship, one that has begun to stretch, before you know it, into an ever-higher percentage of your life, then youve been privileged to witness what the ravages of time can do.
In part I of Paving Paradise I started to discuss the results of some of the research Ive been conducting for a large painting diagramming the history of the East Village art scene. Patterns of circumstances began to leap out at me with regards to the current situation in burgeoning Bushwick.
As a long time member, both as an artist and gallerist of the Provincetown and Chelsea art scenes, “Bloopers, Gaffs and Other Rough Patches” is Lawrence’s New York debut exhibition.
As a young artist recently arrived in New York City and seeking some kind of exposure to the big league Soho gallery world, I availed myself to the weekly critique/look-see sessions then being offered by the Drawing Center.
Ether Nights is the title of this exhibition of recent paintings by Katherine Bradford, and one of the overarching themes is the idea of illumination, enlightenment, or the bringing forth from darkness. In these compositions Bradford is not only devising images that use the physical presence of light as a feature player, but she creates narrative metaphors reflective of a spiritual or intellectual enlightenment as well.
Williamsburg is over. As someone whos probably spent more time, energy, and ink than anybody writing hundreds of thousands (if not millions), of words about this neighborhood, and pedaled his sagging ass through its streets and alleys over the past 15 years, it pains me to say it, but Williamsburg is over.
Mini glaciers of frozen snow still dotted the side streets of Midtown, remnants of the record-breaking snowstorm of ‘06. As the elevator door opened on David Kapp’s selection of recent cityscapes, I was convinced that if the radiant heat generated by these works could be harnessed, it would’ve melted the last remains of winter.
“Don’t talk, paint. If you can express what you want in words you should be a writer or poet, not an artist.”
Cristobal Dam and his partner Leah Stuhltrager are artists who, like a lot of Williamsburg folks, also run a gallery. After years of showing the work of others, Dam is debuting his own recent efforts.
What interests me, for the sake of this essay, is why some of these individuals have attained immortality and others have been totally forgotten? The standard reply is some were just better artists, more talented or innovative, but who decides?
With the harmonies of Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys pouring out of every car radio, as a kid growing up in the West during the 60s, I didnt have to be reminded that California was where it was happening.
Ill start this review with a disclaimer. Normally when a writer inserts a disclaimer theres a smarmy, unctuous note that follows, but in this case Im proud to say that Thomas Micchelli was my editor here at the Brooklyn Rail for five years, and more importantly, I learned a heck of a lot from Tom.
First a disclaimer: I had works presented (under an alias) at both the Scope and Fountain shows, but I won’t review myself; however, I did get to see the backstage action and hear some juicy gossip.
"Ever since that September, time has gotten away from me. Doubts plague me…” Thus begins a line of text that, through the intricate imaginings and calculations of Leslie Roberts, is translated or encoded into a grid-based painting called “Bad Attitude” (2004). The painting is small with a pale yellow ground.
Imagine one of Balthus’s pubescent models running away from the chateau, joining a band of gypsies or a bizarre cult of female smugglers, and ending up in a university town behind the Iron Curtain.
Domestic blissan all enveloping cushion of comfort, security, and household good taste rendered within the pages of Martha Stuart Living or Good Housekeepingis a pictorial theme that unites many of the paintings in K.K. Koziks latest exhibition, Shelter.
Paint, the essence of paint, the substance of paint, the materiality of paint, the culture of paint. Geoff Dorfman is an artist who has spent the better part of the last three and a half decades immersed in the implications of what it means to be painting now.
Americans have always been held in awe by the forces of the natural world: from the panoramas of the Hudson River school, to the vast vistas of Moran or Bierstadt, to the Earth works of Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, we idealize nature. Indeed we’ve sold an image to ourselves and the world of Americans (both North and South) as innocents in a struggle with nature. Now artists like Sarah Sze are dealing with the “nature” of technology, the art of the artificial.
With the glut of galleries, fairs, and massive new talent shows, its gone beyond easy access to something approaching force-feeding.
As someone who has followed John Walker’s work since the “rediscovery of painting” in the early 1980s, I was caught unaware. I’d glanced at an ad for an exhibition of collages and immediately envisioned homey works on paper with Matissian colors, small enough for one to take home under one’s arm or put in the backseat of a cab.
Thick against thin, hard against soft, curved against straight, and the shapes in between. I first heard this maxim from Knox Martin, my esteemed teacher at the Art Students League sometime in the last century. It refers to contrast, and its value in manipulating perception.
“There is no one here, there is nothing left, there is nothing left after war, only other wars.” —Nathalie Handal
Painterly painting flat-lined, time of death, the late fifties. Since then it has been resurrected from time to time, but these attempts at resuscitation have often seemed like picking over a carcass, trying to find organs that are still viable for transplant.
A little painter man, brush in hand, strokes away at a broad black line. Following the trail of this line, it doubles back on itself again and again, passing through the doorway at the center of the picture, filling the room behind, then streaks on to fill another, on an endless continuum.
Not only does the emperor have no clothes, hes bloated, vulgar, ignorant, complacent, and wallowing in historically unprecedented mountains of cash, with bile-colored spittle flecking the corners of his mouth.
Most of us toil away, day by day, grinding out an existence, our lives punctuated occasionally by small events.
Yeah, I’m a car guy, or at least I was in my youth until I got hooked on bicycling. But in my book, anyone who likes to roll in style is cool.
How does an artist who has an abiding respect for a grand ancient tradition and a desire to remain completely contemporary, meld these two opposing urges? John Jacobsmeyer utilizes his abundant skills to perform a provocative pastiche transposing the classic techniques of under-painting and glazing to the project of depicting sci-fi B-movie and TV characters from the fifties and sixties.
For the sake of brevity let me dispense with old bromides about dogs and tricks. What Ill simply say is that Phil Pearlstein is an American art treasure.
Margrit Lewczuks new paintings, the Phosphorescent Paintings that make up this exhibition at the Maier Museum of Art in Lynchburg, Virginia, are a trip into an artistic terra incognito; a realm without signposts or guiding historical precedents, literally, a walk in the dark.
Tired of hitting the same five galleries along West 24th Street and seeing the same commercial products? Visited all the blue chip shows at the sleek spaces uptown? Looking for an authentic art experience that takes you off the grid, gets the blood pumping, or messes with your head like only unvarnished, challenging art can?
John Graham, born Ivan Gratianovich Dombrowski in Kiev, in 1887, stands as an avatar within the formative first half of the twentieth century in New Yorks burgeoning art world. His biography reads at turns like Dr. Zhivago, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, and The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.
It’s over, it’s peaked, it’s sooo yesterday. Never fear, the “art fair mania” bubble has burst. We’ve reached “Post-Art Fairism.” While standing in a line stretching for blocks to get into The Armory Show, an elegantly dressed European gentleman was asked if he’d seen anything that stood out during this trip.
As a twenty-five year local resident I can unashamedly admit it: I love the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Like the borough itself, its big, quirky, and, for the uninitiated, a bit odd.
"According to the artist’s bio, he’ll turn fifty next year. You’d think Mr. Humphrey would start acting his age already." Thus ends a review by Mario Naves that appeared in the New York Observer regarding David Humphrey’s current exhibition at Brent Sikkema.
Sometimes as I peddle to endless art openings, studio visits, multi-million dollar museum extravaganzas and the ever-expanding galaxy of art fairs, Im occasionally struck by parallel sensibilities or common developments. As a spate of recent shows here in Brooklyn seem to indicate, a subtle shift seems to be taking place with regard to cultures perception of beauty.
The new gallery season has kicked off, and despite apocalyptic predictions and nervous jitters, the crisis produced by the financial meltdown is beginning to settle out. Unfortunately, the crisis of clichéd metaphors providing color commentary is on the rise.
In his classic book Principles of Art History, Heinrich Wölffin establishes the concept of the “development of style” and lays out five opposing dynamics that signal its evolution. The first of these dynamics is the advance from a linear style to that of a painterly (planar) style; that is, using forms, light, and shadow and flattened space instead of just line as a means of representing a more true visual representation.
Sometimes, in this smorgasbord of karma that is contemporary life, our most meaningful relationships start with intense arguments. The téte a téte that brought Regina Bogat and Fausto Sevila into initial contact, years ago, during a painting class at Rutgers University taught by Vivian Browne (to whom this show is dedicated)
Anyone who knows me, or who might have followed my ramblings over the last several years now, would be aware that I have a great interest in the history of New Yorks art community. This fascination started gradually (Im a slow learner), when it dawned on me that to understand the mystery of art, you had to know the history of art.
Rightly or wrongly, the above quote has been credited to Sidney Hook, a scrappy political operative who, appropriately enough, was born and bred in early 20th-century Williamsburg.
The objects produced by Erik Guzman leave this viewer in a conundrum. Are they machines that want to be sculptures or sculptures that want to be machines? The Futurists theorized about sculpture that would incorporate mechanical motion and celebrate modern life.
Its funny that nothing seems to get dated faster than our depictions of an imagined future. Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four in high school, the future looked grim, but inevitably, when 1984 popped up on the calendar, life still looked cheery, and when the long-awaited movie lumbered along, it was a period piece indulging in high-kitsch Cold War paranoia. Likewise, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a much better snapshot of 1968 than anything weve seen in the new millennium.
Ornithogalum pyrenaicum or wild asparagus is to some a pernicious weed, to others, a rare delicacy. Every spring, after the snow melted and the days lengthened, my great-aunt Afton would scurry around the environs of her small farm on Bear Lake, Utah, searching river and canal banks for sprigs of the tender delight.
Time was there were things that one just didnt discuss in polite company: bodily functions, religion, and politics. Culture, at large, was supposed to filter out the grosser elements of life, but now we brandish our expertise in the latest and greatest outrages with pride.
I can still remember the exact moment, the exact brush stroke. I rounded a corner and fixed my eyes on Marschland (Dangast), a 1907 painting by Erich Heckel. I was visiting the small, secluded Brücke Museum in the Grunewald in what was still at the time West Berlin.
My, how things have changed. After arriving in the center of the art world to study and spend a couple of years compiling a portfolio, I began the daunting task of visiting galleries and trying to get dealers interested in what I was doing. Responses ranged from, How long have you been in New York?
Be forewarned: those of you with delicate sensibilities please forego this essay; those choosing to read on, please step lightly and roll up your pant cuffs.
Its perhaps one of the most often seen WWII clichés ever to come out of Hollywood. Stepping out of a cloud of silvery steam on a German train station platform, a tall, willowy blond in a raincoat and an elegant, broad-brimmed hat meets her contact.
Hi, my name is James, and Im an Internet addict. Hi James! A small circle of bleary-eyed geeks sit on folding chairs in a musty church basement. It started a couple of years ago, when I started lurking around art blogs. Spawn of the Devil mumbles an obese twenty-something wearing pajama bottoms and a Buddha patch. I thought I had it under control, then I signed up for a Google account The hook was set: I was a blogger.
WARNING: If the frank discussion of bodily fluids and their excretion make you squeamish, perhaps you should skip the first paragraph of this essay.
Although I can’t find an actual quote where Don Judd states this, in Local History (1964) he comes close. During late night discussions in the mid-1970s, I heard Judd denounced as a heretic by elders of the hardcore painting tribe: a received myth is often more durable than truth.