Saturday, February 9, 2008

In the galleries: February

Robert Zandviliet at Peter Blum
Yesterday, anticipating a round of gallery-going in Chelsea, I was actually excited, which caused me to think perhaps I’d stayed much too long in the country. Surprisingly, my emotion was justified. After seeing shows in almost 20 galleries, I came away with the feeling that things were changing, that something new was stirring that could bode well for the future. Of course there was still plenty of the academic post-conceptual mumbo jumbo that’s tormented us for the last God-knows-how-many years (Luis Gispert’s lurid video at Mary Boone could be its apotheosis), but it was countered by a lot of abstract painting that looked new, fresh, and light-hearted, by artists who appear to be taking their art-making seriously. For a change. Beauty and formal concerns seem to be in, irony is out. I hope I’m not speaking too soon when I say, whew! It’s been a long haul.

Juan Usle at Cheim & Read
Often a theme emerges during a day in Chelsea, and this time it might be called “Casual Abstraction.” Now we’ve had a lot of painting that looks as if the artist isn’t trying because he/she can’t paint, doesn’t care, and art is a stupid endeavor anyway (such as Josh Smith at Luhring Augustine last year with the press release about how his “anti-art aesthetic intentionally defies the rules of artistic convention in an ironic and informed manner”), which is very different from the work I saw yesterday where the artist knows how to paint and does care, but wants it to look spontaneous and effortless, as if it “just happened.” Such as:

Chris Martin at Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Dutch artist Robert Zandvliet at Peter Blum (through 2/23), Spanish artist Juan Usle at Cheim & Read (through 3/15) and of course Chris Martin, who got such a big play in The New York Times, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. I can’t say I loved all of the work in all of the shows, but there were some standouts and best of all, seeing it made me want to go home and paint.

There was also a healthy dose of geometric abstraction sprinkled about in group shows too (unfortunately the one at McKenzie Fine Art, which included work by Ann Pibal and Don Voisine, has since closed), such as Marjorie Welish’s paintings at Zieher-Smith (through 2/23) and an especially lovely solo show by Danish painter Leif Kath at Elizabeth Harris (through 3/8).

Leif Kath at Elizabeth Harris
And although my former dealer, Betty Cuningham, has always loved the realist landscapes of Rackstraw Downs, I never got it until this show (through 3/12) where the installation is as much a part of the work as the painting. It was also fun to see my fave blog The Sartorialist at Danziger Projects and to see which photographs he chose to feature.

Of course there will always be shows where the emperor has no clothes, but rarely so literally as at the Winkleman Gallery where Christopher K. Ho has depicted the owner in sculpture au naturel (ended 2/9). It would be nice if his nudity made the art dealer seem vulnerable, but alas, Winkleman is just too buff for that, so it’s more like art dealer as sex god, a double whammy.

1 comment:

RJ said...

"...academic post-conceptual mumbo jumbo..."

One of my pet peeves!