Art Review

From Russia, With Love

Arcady Kotler: Sculpting the Void

Innovative artist Arcady Kotler is not associated with any particular creed, religion, or tradition, but excludes none. At the core of his works lies a profound sense of intimacy that hopefully initiates a dialog, for which the artist always longs.  Kotler's work presents the evolution of a concept bearing form: from elaborately adorned yet impeccably harmonious ("Clothed Maja") to minimalist, with a strong reference to Russian supremacy; in "The Red Square" [left], the rigid geometry of a square intrudes on the organic form of the intentionally excessively decorated Russian nesting doll. It feels as if complexity has reached its limit and collapsed into the simplicity of the red square.

A matryoshka is a traditional Russian toy, the skill level of which rests on the number of nesting dolls it consists of. The last and smallest doll of Arcady's matryotshka is not hollow. It is solid.

StimULAting Texts

Breathtaking and horrifying, Hurricane Sandy's devastating aftermath left many speechless and others still talking. "Go Home Sandy," "Boo! Go Away Sandy We Want Candy," "Better Safe than Sandy," and a slew of other witty taunts graffitied onto boarded windows and doors tried to disguise mass fear. Hundreds of 3x3 white hate-notes with brief messages to Sandy veiled shop windows in New York City. Written in different languages, the sentiment was the same. The superstormdid not discriminate, decimating already poverty-stricken and economically challenged islands including Cuba and Haiti but also sweeping away multi-million dollar homes along the gold coast of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Master of Puppets

Bjarne Melgaard: A New Novel by Bjarne Melgaard
Luxembourg & Dayan
Through December 22, 2012

I open one eye. Sunlight pours in through my Zaha Hadid-designed venetian blinds, casting horizontal shadows on the walls, turning the room into a recumbent prison cell. I was supposed to meet James Franco (who is still a little sore at me for beating him out for the part of Cocktimus Prime in Sue de Beer's hardcore version of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) in Central Park an hour ago, but my Philippe Starck alarm clock (which I fully believe is haunted) failed to wake me.

Back to Black

Picasso Black and White
Guggenheim Museum
October 5, 2012 - January 23, 2013
Claiming once that color weakened his work, being merely an addition to an already finished canvas, Picasso eliminated it from his palette during many phases of his well-documented career. If one wanted to make the case that the haunting blue period and the sugary rose one were the painterly equivalents of tinted photos, then there might be a case to be made for it being a lifelong practice with which Picasso demonstrated the supremacy of drawing above all else in his work. Clearly the Guggenheim, in this well-curated exhibition, makes a strong argument for this position, bringing nearly 150 paintings, many of which have never been seen before in New York, as well as some that have never been exhibited publicly, to its Frank Lloyd Wright temple of Modernism.

Hudson Valley, Take 2

New Hudson/Second Nature
The Living Room, Cold Spring, NY
The Hudson Valley was, to the Hudson River School of painters, a glorious and inspirational place. Today, after a century and a half of industrialization and development, a good bit of what once was is gone and the otherworldly beauty that defined the Hudson Valley has disappeared with it.

The five artists who have been selected for New Hudson/Second Nature by curator Suzanne Ball give you the idea that, despite the changes, the Hudson Valley remains a powerful draw for the more creative among us.

Little Q+A: David Humphrey + Bradley Rubenstein

David Humphrey's new work can be seen in solo exhibitions at Fredricks & Freiser, New York, opening November 8, 2012, and at The American University Museum in Washington, DC, opening November 3, 2012.

Bradley Rubenstein: The last time I was at your studio, we were looking at an empty landscape in progress. You said, "This one is just waiting for a protagonist." You were thinking in terms of storytelling -- a part of the picture was the character, another was the set.

Nashville Rising: Carrie Mae Weems and Other Current Exhibits

It happens quickly -- discomfort in a public place -- and it is a very effective element to control, as you will experience with the work of Carrie Mae Weems. Early on in the exhibition at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, Weems confronts her audience with her AINT JOKIN’ series from 1987-88. Here she combines images and text that project racial stereotyping with works such as "Black Woman with Chicken" [left] and "Black Man Holding Watermelon." In another piece nearby we see a vintagepolitical drawing of Abraham Lincoln looking a bit disheveled, seated in a room filled with props and papers positioned above the question: WHAT DID LINCOLN SAY AFTER A DRINKING BOUT?. The answer-box nearby reveals: I FREED THE WHAT?. The exposure to this, and other bits of appropriated hurtful humor will surely prompt an uncomfortable feeling in most viewers as it flies in the face of current, ‘public’ trends toward universal political correctness.

Double Fantasy

Jackson Pollock and Tony Smith: Sculpture: An Exhibition on the Centennial of their Births
Tony Smith: Source
Matthew Marks Gallery
Through October 27, 2012

Nominally a show of sculpture, Matthew Marks is presenting something more like relics of art world myth, or a romanticized artist-buddy story (think Lust for Life or Schnabel's Basquiat). It seems an odd pairing at first glance: Pollock, whose paintings consist of poured or dripped skeins of paint and are the archetype of Ab Ex passion, and Tony Smith, whose Buckminster Fuller-like geodesic monuments ushered in an Age of Cool. This show presents the remains of a day, one spent at Smith's New Jersey home, when Smith tried to coax out of the fallow (and soon-to-be-dead) Pollock a few last attempts at making art and ended up becoming a sculptor himself.

Almost Famous

Richard Phillips
Gagosian Gallery
Through October 20, 2012

I am running late, so I park the Ducati on the sidewalk and toss the keys to an eager production assistant. It is incredibly hot and crowded as I push my way through a crowd of background actors to the location, which has been carefully designed to look like a gallery. Wardrobe has given me an antique Ramones t-shirt (which actually has some of Debbie Harry's vintage blood on the sleeve) and a period Hugo Boss Nazi SS uniform jacket with five firing-squad bullet holes through the left lapel (vintage blood carefully removed). Also, store-torn Alexander McQueen jeans (a gift from an Olsen twin, I think) and flip-flops, which are decorated with pictures of colorful monkeys.

Light in August

Matt Bahen: The Weight of Light
Munch Gallery
Through October 20, 2012

The paintings of Matt Bahen are nothing if not quiet. That is not to say that they do not speak to us, directly and clearly; they do, but in hushed voices, as if imparting a secret. It might be easy to overlook such work -- simple, almost monochromatic paintings of derelict landscapes -- were it not so good.

Bahen's subjects are ruined places: empty industrial buildings, Anselm Kiefer-ish woods, and frozen, snowy rivers. It would be more precise to say that these are Bahen's locations; his real subject matter is paint. In "The August of the Night" (2012 [left]) and "In the Quiet of the Dark" (2012), Bahen uses the plays of light, gliding through empty spaces and tracing rectangular windowpane patterns on the walls to exercise a muscular brush, loading heavily leaded pigment layer by layer -- essentially sculpting that most fleeting thing, light, out of dense pigments.