My birth-month celebration continues and moved to NYC on Thursday, for a cruise through the Chelsea galleries: what a gift. There are so many changes going on in the city, especially in the Chelsea area. High-rise condos, high-rise rents, it will never be your Daddy’s meat-packing district ever again. The meat is now art, sometimes just as messy. It’s been that way for some time now, I’m amazed at just how extensive the change has been, and how dramatic.
There has been an ongoing discussion about the cost of living in NYC and what this means for the culture of the city. Will there be affordable housing/studio space for artists? I don’t understand the current real estate market, not for lack of trying, It just doesn't make sense to me. With that said, the galleries in Chelsea are doing fine. The market for established artists is strong and the insatiable urge for the hot new younger types is showing no signs of cooling; and on we go.
First stop was to a very good show entitled Blessed Are The Merciful, which delves into corruption and the manipulation of money, power, and religion. Have uneasy thoughts about burkas and veils and their perception in Western society? Nezaket Ekici explores this in her hilarious video Vail Fight and Hullabella. Also of note here is Ronald Ophuis’s three-panel painting Srebrenica, which reminds me of Leon Golub’s work and Annie Sprinkle’s photo collage 40 Reasons Why Whores Are My Heroes. Sprinkle has a very interesting personal story. Carlos Aires's work, shown top left, is also in the show.
Jack Shainman consistently has exhibits that challenge your view of the world, especially perceptions of race. It lurks beneath the surface of our lives. Katrina hits New Orleans, whoops! Who knew? Brutal rape charges at bucolic Duke University; racial anger has been festering all along. Hank Willis Thomas’s Branded takes a shot at perceptions of African Americans, especially the merchandising of athletes, and in Priceless, shown right, the value of life itself.
One show which has had much said about it the past few weeks is Tara Donovan’s absolutely beautiful installation of precisely arranged plastic cups (hot-glued at the base) at Pace Wildenstein. So simple, so amazing.
The installation of David Smith’s work at Gagosian is brilliant. The man was a Picasso, using everything in sight as inspiration. As usual, this is a museum-quality exhibit, with some real gems, I want to do some casting now.
Inka Essenhigh’s paintings at 303 are imaginative and well painted, although I couldn’t get a Jim Carrey movie out of my head, or maybe it's Roger Rabbit. Three big $35,000 Brian Alfred paintings sold at Mary Boone, including my favorite, The Most Beautiful Night.
Way back in college -- OMG 1979! in New Bedford, Massachusetts -- the Federal Government placed a big carved wooden sculpture in front of the new federal building. The residents hated it. “It was a cross between a cactus and an octopus,” they said, “and it was scaring the senior citizens, when they went for stamps.” I think it was titled Sea Flower, pictured here. The artist was James Surles, and he's got a show up now at Charles Cowles. The work seems much happier and selling very well.
Walter Randel has a wonderful show of meticulous abstract drawings by the late Beatrice Riese. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing her work before, and Randel’s gallery is good for that: he specializes in the rare or passed-over artists from the 50s and 60s. The late work of Riese is composed of rows of tiny pen and ink markings, shades of green, red, and black, arranged on a grid. The combination of handmade marks and the structured grid makes stunning, luminous designs. I have a purchase test when going through galleries: if I were buying art, this would be a definite purchase. I wish I could find a better picture.
Susanna Heller is showing some strong paintings at Magnan Projects (Hard Rain is shown). Around the corner, Alberto Magnan has teamed with Ed Emrich, Magnan/Emrich, to take over one of my favorite spots, 505 W. 28th, formally JG Contemporary. The current show, Crush, by Cuban artists El Soca and Fabian, is just that, thousands of crushed flies, really! Once you get past the disgust factor, it’s quite a beautiful installation.
West 27th is the coolest place in Chelsea right now, with five or six galleries right at ground level, in the old terminal building. Of note is Daniel Johnston’s drawings at Clementine. He’s in the Whitney Biennial and had a recent write-up in the NY Times Magazine. He’s white hot as an outsider collectible. Plus Ultra has a very nice show of Nancy Baker’s take on medieval manuscript art (City Of God is shown). We're not so far removed from medieval times at the moment. I was sorry not to make it the NYC art blogger hook-up. Judging from the morning after writing, drink-up, at Plus Ultra. I had to catch the train. Next time.
On my way to the train, Milagro, in honor of our soldiers in Iraq.