Saturday, March 15, 2014
I generally feel pretty positive towards Stan Douglas’s work. I thought his black-and-white noir photographs at Zwirner were awesome. But I am not sure I am all that into Luanda-Kinshasa. I like funk, especially deep-cut 70’s funk and R&B, are the only musical genres that can get me dancing in public. But Douglas’s spot-on reproduction of a recording session just seemed to lag. It’s such a nice re-creation that outside of occasionally being aware of the pristineness of the HD projection, I felt like I was watching something from a PBS pledge drive, like the Let It Be documentary. Musically great, but at a certain point, it’s just such a successful remake that it becomes the real thing, and I honestly find the real thing a little dull. But God bless him, he did get an extended funk jam on the wall at Zwirner.
Wow, I am impressed by Austin Thomas’s show. It is badass. I’ve always liked her Lower Eastside gallery Pocket Utopia, and I have seen her work here and there, but this is the first time I’ve seen a bunch of it together. Unsurprisingly, it’s not unlike what she curates, as if Pocket Utopia is an extended artist talk about her process. I guess what hit me is that I like her work better than anything that she has shown. If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it all seems to be tied into physical books in a very loose way. She seems to work exclusively on faded paper in a style that makes you suspect her studio smells like mildewing library books or the old basement at the Strand. I guess, I suspect her work to be sculptures / collages made from torn books, or small work that felt like it was culled from a box of childhood belongings, that might lead one to believe they were a hell of a progeny. But what I found most surprising was the diversity, from a nice still life of a three-dimensional triangle that I think is the slip case from a hardcover book or the flower photogram that I am just assuming came from being pressed under a Thomas Pynchon novel to the large black and white cube sculpture in the center of the room, which is surprisingly blunt and assertive compared to the rest of the more humbly scaled pieces. So what I am saying is Austin Thomas is damn good and should certainly be having work out in the world more.
Through Mar. 15th
Nice to see Michael Vahrenwald’s still lifes of tiny weeds heroically lit at night getting up on the wall in Chelsea. They’re simple, but beautiful pictures of the little tufts of nature always make me sad for people who live in Bushwick, where there is a real lack of real nature, even by New York standards. What did Szarkowski say? “Like Job, we need to learn to love our ash pit.” Well, if a 30x40in image of a swath of gray cement, with weeds painted gray by a lax city employee, isn’t loving our ash pit, I don’t know what is. The show also features some more rad Matthew Day Jackson work. After getting shellacked off his show at Hauser & Wirth, it’s nice to see him back with some humble little pieces. Where he selected Time Life covers that and in collaboration with his mother, Karen Jackson, stitched little shapes into the cover photograph. I also can’t help but like the inflated pink bags on the ceiling by Maren Hassinger. Not sure what to make of Dawit L. Petros’s pictures of a dude holding up a cardboard box in front of expansive landscapes. I think the Times review mentioned it was a commentary on minimalism, but what that commentary might be escapes me. The press release mentions African alphabets and commerce, but that seems like a lot of content to hang on pretty thin images.
Hate to say it, but I really like the Andrew Moore’s show at Yancey Richardson. Sure, he is the master of abandoned porn, but his meticulous, large-format eye put to abandoned or just very old farmhouses is pretty amazing. It could just because I am from the urban northeast, but these old weathered houses set back from the roads on large swaths of land are always so fascinating to me. Are farms’ fields being cultivated? Why not keep up the house? Does someone live there? I am not sure Moore’s pictures really answer any of this. But he does successfully present a slightly over-the-top cinematic version of a world where you see stretches of these lonely old farms from the sky and at least one old gentleman in an interior, which would suggest that some of these ancient houses are actually inhabited by people holding onto a long-gone lifestyle. It’s no surprise that you get some falling apart interiors, but the skeleton of a calf (?) inside a dilapidated room that was once pink is pretty stunning. It’s even nice to see the occasional landscape. It seems Moore is really trying to do something different and is getting outside his comfort zone. Still, the photographs are a little dramatic in the lighting and could use more of the subtle details of these places, but the work is so much better than anything Moore has previously done.
I haven’t seen Lisa Sanditz’s work in a little bit. I think the last show I saw was the work that followed Sock City. It seems that her art is in the process of changing. She has held onto her propensity for bright yellow and Easter pastels, thick paint and landscapes occupied by signs of human inhabitance. But her paintings have gotten more experimental, at times her palate has become muddy and dark, her landscapes have become almost completely abstracted into large geometric shapes. In one of the better pieces in the show, giant geometric swaths of color are literally pushing her older subject matter off the bottom of the frame. The transformation might not be resolved, but her undeniable skill makes the journey pretty electric.
Even more surprising are the large assortment of porcelain sculptures of plants and improvised sculptures made from styrofoam cups. The work is a mix of fabricated porcelain styrofoam cups and actual styrofoam cups, combined with porcelain cactuses with real cactus quills. It is pretty enjoyable to see her celebrating the sculptural experiments from studio debris by elevating them into porcelain. Making little sculptures of porcelain seems like a pretty recent trend in Bushwick, and with Sanditz eye for color and even her execution, she manages to fucking slay just about anything like this I’ve seen in Brooklyn. Seems like some people need to step up their game, because Sanditz is making lots of artists look pretty damn amateurish.
Thu. Mar. 15th
Some okay square landscapes as well as young women sitting on a wire, centered in front of similar landscapes. Nope, not sure I get it or what there is to get. It’s called Centered, and the women are centered, so in that sense it is pretty successful. Having just perused the press release, it doesn’t make the work any clearer. But Naomi Leshem is Israeli, and am I crazy? Is Andrea Meislin a photography gallery that just shows Jewish art? Not to say there is anything wrong with that. It just seems like a hell of a business plan. Yup, of the sixteen artists on their website, all but two are listed as born, living in, or working in Israel. The gallery has recently moved to street level, so I guess representing Israeli-related photography is working out for them. Who would have thought you could succeed as a photography gallery not to mention a photography gallery with such a particular focus.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
The show looks a little like the art work of it’s curator, Andrew Zarou, often modest in scale (with the occasional large sculpture), based in found materials, with a strong reliance on line and a palate that errs on the side of earth tones found in the home decor of someone who belongs to a food co-op. Now, it’s pretty common for artist/curators to show work reflecting their own taste, which can be problematic, but in this case, the resulting show is excellent, focused and coherent.
The standout for me was Michael Voss’s rows of worn and blackened tennis balls. From what I remember, the black smudges seemed to form shapes on the tennis balls, but in retrospect the smudges could have been the result of random bursts of spray paint. Either way, the dark worn balls immediately brought me back to warm childhood memories of finding one of the hundreds of tennis balls that went missing while playing baseball in the backyard, only to have them turn up weathered and worn after a fresh mowing of the lawn or trimming of the hedges. I was also impressed by Christopher Patch’s sculpture of a very tall tornado or slender tree trunk made from ropes in a variety of colors. The structure was bound so loosely that you could see through it, creating the illusion that the whole thing could collapse at any moment. Creating a wondrous mass of household psychics defying materials.
I am a little on the fence with Ruby Palmer’s small installations, which use shadows to create line on small hard-edged installations of small arranged pieces of wood. Making art with shadows seems hard to do without being cutesy, which was my initial reaction to the work, but the more I sat with it, the more I enjoyed the pieces of wood on their own. The use of common desk lamps as a lighting source does bring the shadow art down to earth. The result is work that feels like a happy accident stumbled upon in the studio, rather than a mystic magic trick where art is created in a transient medium. I loved her piece that hung just below the very high ceiling. It’s hard not to be fond of art that is going out of its way not to be seen.
I didn’t love Ben Pritchard’s large brush strokes of muted colors against a field of raw canvas. The paintings are a tad dark for my taste, though clearly well crafted and in keeping with the general palate of the show, while hammering conforming to the general theme of line that I got from the blurb above the artist list. But overall, an excellent show, one of the best ones I’ve seen at Parallel, and it very much makes me look forward to new work by Zarou.
I love Saira McLaren’s paintings, especially the dyed linen work. As much as she’s been showing of late, the noticeable progress in her art justifies it. The dyes are getting darker and dirtier. She has started layering gold leaf on top of the dyed linen, and I love gold leaf as much as I like her propensity for a pink and yellow tie-dye palate. Unsurprisingly, I am psyched that she is combining the two of them. Even the ceramics are coming together. There is a weird, crushed metallic glob that works wonderfully with the gold leaf and gruffer palate in her new paintings. It’s as if her idyllic hippie paintings are tracing the trajectory of the baby boomers, from her earlier bright pictures (reflecting the playful fun of the 60’s), to the worn palate of the new paintings (mirroring the faded 60’s idealism of the 70’s), to the new gold leaf layered over brightly dyed canvas (recasting 60’s utopian idealism embodied in the materialistic yuppies of the 80’s. Even the more homely shapes of the porcelain seem to work better with the new shabby paintings. I am just excited to see the progress. It’s rewarding to see how much McLaren is pushing her work.
I think Christopher Astely’s sculptures work well with McLaren’s paintings, especially the sculptures of balls pushing through brightly stretched spandex or the two-dimensional metallic canvases. I think it’s fair to say his sculptures are better than McLaren’s, especially the silvery cloth cube with cement exploding out of it. I am just not as into Astely’s color palate. It’s not far from McLaren’s, just a little bit more on the edge of ugly in a way that feels intentional and challenging, but just not my thing.