Thursday, August 14, 2014
I generally like Anne Collier’s work, but man, this show feels like way too little work in way too big a space. The show makes it pretty clear there is even less progression in Collier’s work than I would ever have thought. The photographs in no way justify a show of this size. I was initially excited at the idea of a large museum-quality show for an artist who might not get that attention in a big art mecca like New York. That is exactly what regional art museums should be doing. And I was all the more excited that it was a living photographer. Hell, I even made a detour to see the show on my way to Woodstock. I thought her last show at Anton Kern was pretty spot-on. So I was very bummed to find that there wasn’t much in the way of new work. Seeing all of the photographs in a couple of rooms makes it pretty clear how much she needs to stop taking pictures of books and other vernacular images very quickly or she risks becoming predictable and repetitive. On the upside, when I got to Woodstock, I saw a store window with a postcard for the show right next to a postcard for a Michael Williams talk. Williams is the founder of the Photo-Sensualis movement (or dudes who photograph naked ladies), so the store inadvertently made the best Collier piece I saw all day.
Through Sept. 1st
As a Yalie, I have a soft spot for Yale photographers. I also like a lot of the photographers in this show: Joseph Maida, Jen Davis, Allison Sexton and Jenny Drumgoole are all awesome. But I am also the owner of a very unsmart phone and have almost no interaction or interest in instagram. That said, I am not opposed to snapshots or snapshots as art, just seems to me that instagram is potentially another time suck. The show doesn’t necessarily do much either to change my love for Yalies or my lack of interest in instagram. There are some nice pictures in the show, like Curran Hatleburg’s off handed (and all-the-more-believable for it) shot of a young woman floating face down in a leaf-lined pool or Lois Conner’s selfies through foliage, which I assume are a playful nod to Friedlander. But many of the pictures feel like snapshots or rough drafts of half-finished ideas that I found hard to remember the next day. The prints seemed maybe 10% bigger than your average smart phone and were a little pixely. I was a little perplexed as to why the prints weren’t the scale of a smart phone, the medium they would be seen on, if not a little smaller?
Can’t say I really spend much time at Momenta Art. I often look in and am a little unmotivated to read the large amount of text that seems to go with every show. Well, I had some time to kill before meeting up with friends and found myself quite engaged with Henry G. Sanchez’s The English Kills Project. It is art, that is, kind of art, but really more of a creative city planning proposal or at least the parts that I enjoyed. For instance, I learned from the show that contamination from sewage “outflows” is the main source of pollution of Newtown Creek, a superfund site that runs a couple blocks from my apartment. The pollution could be greatly helped by filtering the runoff through rows of floating tires filled with marsh grass. Who knew? This is presented in generally interesting and instructive form through text, digital mock-ups of the tires, video screens peeking out of tires and a fish in a tank (which I didn’t get). I would certainly contribute to a kickstarter to run a line of grass-filled tires to help clean up Newtown Creek.
What did Jerry Saltz call it in New York Magazine? “Zombie Abstraction” or that the art world has been flooded with a glut of safe, drab, abstract paintings because they are salable and reflect the taste of an older generation teaching in MFA programs? I am pretty sure a Sam Moyer piece from this show was an illustration for the Saltz’s piece. I don’t tend to disagree much with Mr. Saltz, and the show did have an entire room of drab, forgettable abstractions. But in the back room at Rachel Uffner, Moyer had a giant slab of marble on the floor mirrored by a splotchy yellow and gray canvas hanging from the ceiling with a lighting rig behind with light poring through it. I thought it was a pretty impressive installation, and it took me a second to catch the canvas hanging from the ceiling. I loved the scale and light through the canvas. Possibly Moyer’s strength is more installation than painting?
Scott Alario’s work makes me very happy. As I get older and remain single, more and more people I know are pairing off and starting families. Some of these people I don't see all that much anymore or when I do it generally involves activities that focus on small children, which is fine, but kids do seem like a lot of work. I can’t help but wonder if I could be a parent and still do a lot of what I’ve built my life around. I am sure the lack of time to make art, or write about art, would be balanced out emotionally with the amazingly enriching experience of the love of a child and all, but a part of me worries that I would miss my current life. It is very comforting to see parenting as reflected in Alario’s work, where the world seems to have been turned into a more magical place. As if Alario is starting to see it through the eyes of his small child. Who is shown in a homemade mask on top of a trailer surrounded by smoke. Or standing in the darkness covered by a blanket decorated with a glowing constellation. The pictures exhibit a magic that is in no small part that of a skilled photographer using the camera to bend the world to his ends, where banal things like hanging laundry and walking the dog become transformative experiences. Not knowing Alario in the least bit, and going off the young man pictured, it seems that he has very much taken to family life. And is supported by an understanding wife who appears in a photograph holding a glowing orb above her head at night on a grassy field. The orb, I want to believe, is just a children’s toy that Alario has converted into some fantastic art. Despite a picture of who I assume is Alario holding his daughter while he pees on the side of a suburban home, the pictures are a rather magical celebration of family life. Work that makes it seem that one can pull a hell of productive life out of settling down.
Man, Sterling Ruby has out Matthew Day Jackson, Matthew Day Jackson. This is what Matthew Day Jackson’s show at Hauser & Wirth should have been. Or at least been more like. Ruby’s show is a giant, bombastic, confused, scattered, absurd exhibition and possibly the best approach ever to being shown in one of Chelsea’s megamall galleries. I mean, how did Matthew Day Jackson not have giant car-engine parts covered in blood? How did that get by him? I find it hard not to like Ruby’s huge collage pieces of bleach-splattered cloth with the occasional florescent spandex worked in, sculptures that look like giant ashtrays from a grade school art class. Ruby even obnoxiously hawks the cardboard splayed with paint used to protect his studio floors. Hell, I think he should be showing nothing but giant pieces that would bankrupt any aspiring artist in the giant Hauser & Wirth. He even made a Calder out of aluminum bats. I love / hated the show in exactly the way I imagine it was intended. The work feels genuinely dislikeable in its bombast and over-scaled sloppiness in a way that is challenging the viewer to feel disgruntled and hate it. Even trying to be punk while selling for absorbent costs at a top-of-the-food-chain Chelsea gallery, seems like he is trying to push buttons. If this is the next generation of what is cool, then I am down, but again, I remember when Matthew Day Jackson was the hot artist on the rise, and now after a prolonged absence from Chelsea and getting killed in his first show back at Hauser & Wirth, it is hard not to worry that his artistic legacy is very much in jeopardy. So I guess we’ll see how high and for how long Sterling Ruby can fly.
I spent the entire group show playing guess the Dana Schutz. Even after reading the press release, I still guessed wrong. I thought it was the John McAllister.
Through August 15th
Displayed brings on a certain awe and cynicism in me. I like the show a great deal. The piles of ironic kid shirts, to multiple Roe Ethridge photographs, to making me realize how close Rachel Harrison is to Ethridge’s esthetics of appropriating randomness into a master class of cooling-looking objects, to the fading coolness of Josh Smith, even including and elevating the skilled work of Marina Pinsky. The show even generously includes more then one photographer, making me more interested in the photographs of Annette Kern and Moyra Davey. The show, curated by artist Matthew Higgs, really is a knockout of a summer group show. There is so much quality art in the show that all seems to incorporate stuff from the world as a starting place to create objects that feel more cool than substantive, that the show starts to feel like an argument that Ethridge is in the center of an artistically zeitgeist. That is barreling off a cliff and possible over a shark. It should be interesting to see what the up-and-coming Annette Kelm and Marina Pinsky do next and how far it breaks from work that now feels very much in keeping with lots of other people.
Through Aug. 22nd
Oh, this is not good. There is a large landscape photograph, where what you would assume should be green is a reddish pink, looks as if it was photographed with infra-red film and/or by the now widely exhibited Richard Mosse. The work in the show is so scattershot that I assumed it was a group show featuring Richard Mosse, but no, it is all definitely just the work of Florian Maier-Aichen, who certainly owes Mr. Mosse an apology if not a part of the sale price. This is the most painterly of Maier-Aichen’s work. Much of the show is digital c-prints that in no way look photographic. The images appear to be straight-on abstract paintings, which I guess is a nice trick, but at some point that sleight of hand becomes so convincing that it is no longer a trick. I mean, if they look like paintings and are under glass and you have to check the price list for materials, why not just make a painting? And if they are evaluated as a paintings, they are only okay: contemporary and hip but with out being terribly challenging, the images have a nice palate that works well with the few more traditional photographs. It would just be nice to have more consistency in shows no a days. I very much feel that in a few years these random Ethridge-esque shows will all look like a dated 70’s issue of Aperture, where we will forget this ever happened and art historians are gonna have to build entire survey shows to give context to why everything looked like an ill-conceived group show. The green valley landscape basking in rainbow light is a knockout, however. I just wish it didn’t remind me so much of Richard Mosse’s work from earlier this year at Jack Shainman.
(So apparently Florian Maier-Aichen beat Mosse to the punch with infrared landscapes, but for my money Mosse now owns infrared photography.)
(So apparently Florian Maier-Aichen beat Mosse to the punch with infrared landscapes, but for my money Mosse now owns infrared photography.)
I don’t know. I loved the giant Larry Clark show years back, Punk Picasso at Luhring Augustine, where he showed piles of detritus that made an overwhelmingly compelling case that Clark was sexually assaulted as a child and his career has been the result of that trauma, like he was doing Mike Kelley’s career in reverse. It was so convincing that it was hard not to suspect that on some level it was a bit of a put-on, a fiction possibly derived from fact, which would make his later work more compelling. But after this show, I have an even harder time believing that he is just not messing with us. The show features vintage shots of young men, large off-handed figurative paintings of naked young men and graphic collages of naked young men with erect and ejaculating penises. Perhaps it is the presentation or maybe just the misfortune of being good at sequencing otherwise unspectacular images into something more, but it is hard to feel a real desire in the work. It feels like Clark is trying very hard to provoke instead of reveal something. I could just be that the large paintings feel downright labored-on in comparisons to the collages, and the work of bespeaks a man making through choices instead of struggling to unburden himself. So I don’t know. The work isn’t bad, it just feels like he has tipped his hand.
I know the I Heart Photography blog doesn’t exist anymore, but man, would Laurel Ptak love this show. Lots of what look like shards of pictures, maybe some negatives, caught in midair in front of a white seamless. I think that’s what it is, but they are so still, maybe there is something more digital happening? Also some images that look like image shards lying flat on a piece of glass, maybe? and some straight collages. These are all combined with some slightly more traditional pictures of the world (kind of). There is a death mask (?) fading away into a pink-white haze and a poloroaid of a light in the darkness over a floral print material or a woman with a pink sunburned back in front of powder blue surface. Now, the pictures have a refined palate that hinges on whites and some spring-like pastels, and they certainly push alternate-process work in a very refined direction. But like most photographic abstraction, which dominates the show, they tend to assimilate, the more traditional photographs into an abstract installation. I am just not sure what the work is about. It feels well crafted and attractive, but I wish there was something more substantial to grab onto. The PR talks about the work as experiments and investigations, which could just be lazy PR writing, but the work feels exploratory, little glimpses of ideas that would make for a great tumblr, but images that haven’t resolved those investigation into any overarching content. And that’s what I would hope would be the goal, especially when you’re at the point of your career when you’re in a ground floor Chelsea gallery. But that being said the work unquestionably feels contemporary, and it is good to see that a couple of times a year Silverstein breaks down and does a contemporary photography show.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Tim Barber has certainly done good stuff with Tiny Vices, and his pictures are quite good, but I am not sure I loved them. From what I can remember of the show, there were pictures of a wrist, a cat with some flowers, two hands touching, a green lens flare through trees, a naked couple kissing, a child breastfeeding, an overhead shot of a body of water, light breaking through the clouds, all good and sometimes striking pictures. But at some point, it would be nice if photographers got back to putting together bodies of work that made a little bit more sense. I feel Ethridge has gotten old, and I’d like to see pictures once in a while that are about stuff out in the world.
Through Jun. 23rd
Say what you want about Oscar Murillo’s meteoric rise from art school to big budget show at star-making David Zwirner. It’s easy to hate, but remember how many people the other star maker in Chelsea, Gagosian, has run through. Like anyone remembers that Tierney Gearon had a solo show there, huh? Bet you completely forgot that. And man, Murillo’s show comes with free chocolate marshmallow candies. Now, the exhibition is just a functioning candy factory that you can see only by peeking through the shelves or on three live streaming monitors. Like the show, the candies are only ok, but I am all for art that gives me candy.
Ugh, this is so terrible. I am not sure what to say about the over-worked photographs that look like paintings. It’s as though Yancey Richardson is becoming one of those SoHo galleries that deal in things that might qualify as art, but don’t make any sense in the context of the last thirty years of art history. It’s like they are pioneering an avant-garde of tastelessness.
Through Jul. 3rd
I generally like Mark Cohen’s work. I think he is a solid street photographer, who is clearly a level below the greats, but well worth spending some time with. He was certainly the first to bring fill flash and such an aggressive formalism to photographing people on the streets. Is it me? Maybe it’s just the edit, but are there a lot of pictures of children’s crotches in the show? I counted six plus a kid’s butt in a bathing suit, a girl in a bathing suit and two adult crotches. I never noticed this before, and I am now kind of curious to go through a best of Cohen book to see just how much of a theme this is in his work. I assume it’s just the editing, combined with his tendency to shoot from a low and close vantage point. But yeah, lots of kid crotches in the show.
Through Jun 30th
I love Mika Rottenberg’s art. I am an unapologetic fan boy, but I forgot this was up and didn’t realize it until I ran into a friend on 22nd St. who mentioned it, so I had to turn around and head back in a light rain. I enthusiastically sat through the video, which is as good as all her videos are. Just to get to it, you have to go through a swinging wall featuring a bingo machine. The video focuses on a pretty dank bingo hall featuring a random batch of humanity, marking their cards in wonderful purple ink. It isn’t long till the person calling numbers is dropping clothespins into yet another Rottenberg-Rube Goldberg contraption ending with a man sticking the clothespins on his face until he explodes. Then there are a few, and not nearly enough, moments where we are on an ice float and then in a motel room where an odd contraption that vibrates / heats water (?) is next to the women calling numbers in bed. The video makes about as much sense as all her videos, where the visuals are compelling and involve a narrative in which one thing inevitably leads to another and to another until you get an odd result. You can say there is some critique about mass production in the work, but as awesome as the videos are, I do feel that they are getting repetitive. I wish she would engage even more of the outside world with her process, as she did in Performa with her video involving a desert landscape and indigenous people, or her last video Squeeze where she included people in a field picking cabbage. The outside world peeks in with the ice floats and bingo parlor. I just wish there was more of it. It seems like a natural next step that might break some of the repetition in the work.
Can we all just accept that Julian Schnabel is an awesome filmmaker and isn’t a very good painter. It’s funny, but I think I would take Harmony Korine’s paintings over Schnabel’s. I do wish Korine had some of the crazy delusional bombast of Schnabel’s paintings, but outside of one purple and pink painting, Schnabel’s new show is just large, ugly paintings with a color palate right out of a Serra sculpture mixed with a duller crimson red.