Thursday, February 23, 2006

Art in NYC

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday in New York City, walking around Manhattan, and looking at an astonishing variety of art.

On Monday afternoon, I went to MoMA, which seemed insanely crowded. I didn't have the time to see any of the big special exhibitions, but I did see a neat little show of etchings, which contained likeable works by artists as diverse as Sol LeWitt and James Ensor (including this piece). There were also intricate etchings by the great James Siena, who lectures at Cornell on March 7th. The next day, I went to the Met, where I saw the incredible retrospective of Rauschenberg combines (more on that later).

Tuesday, I also had a few hours of desultory gallery-hopping in Chelsea, which felt cold
(both literally and figuratively). I was disappointed by most of what I saw, more so than usual. Here are few highlights, reflecting my own idiosyncratic tastes and responses rather than any kind of systematic judgment.

Lucky de Bellevue's colorful chenille (pipe-cleaner) mounds filled the main space at Feature Inc. These web-like pieces were either suspended from the ceiling and/or walls, or attached to various found-object bases (one loosely figurative work was resting on a cane). He has this to say about his art:
I think this humorous conflict is implicit in my work: the beautiful/grotesque, the abject glamour, the materials, and sometimes the titles. When I first started doing this type of work, there was a bit of a "fuck you" attitude in my mind about it and, although there are still elements of irony I am much more sincere about it moving dangerously close to total sincerity.
Roxy Paine's show of sculptures at the Jam
es Cohan Gallery, although (as usual) diverse in approach, was brought together by his interest in blurring the distinction between art and nature. Although the centerpiece of the show was probably the life-like Weed Choked Garden, my favorite piece was the strange, fungal Bad Planet (see above, also here for a detail). Also notable was Erosion Machine, a laptop controlled blasting device, gradually working on this landscape. Unfortunately, it wasn't running while I was in the gallery.

Here is a fairly unsympathetic review of the show
—the pieces "offer a kind of Madame Tussaud's experience for the artworld". That might be true if Paine did just the hyperrealistic pieces (he has also done mushrooms). However, seen in the context of his other work, it would be misguided to simply stand back in awe of their verisimilitude (although this is part of their appeal). In particular, this is true because his machine-made abstractions also have a life-like, "natural" quality to them. So, I think you need to reconsider the dualism of realism vs. abstraction, as well as that of art vs. nature. None of this is "conceptually neat" at all, and most of it is fun to look at too.

Thomas Nozkowski's small, stylistically varied abstract paintings were up at Max Protech. I thought the hanging was sparser than it needed to be
—his work benefits from clustering. The pieces were more or less interesting. I particularly liked his Untitled 8-67, with its wispy blue background and its accumulation of candy colored tounge forms. Here is a recent interview.



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