Art Review

Roy's Keen

lichtenstein-printRoy Lichtenstein: The Black-and-White Drawings, 1961-1968
The Morgan Library & Museum

Through January 2, 2011

One of the many visual images to become embedded in our collective minds from the World Trade Center attack on 9/11 is the showers of paper falling from the Twin Towers. Paper memos, faxes, and archived letters -- things that a decade later seem quaint, having been replaced by emails, texts, and tweets. Of course, though it is a wild stretch to compare this event to any art-historical watershed moment, one might, tentatively, compare it with the papery revolution of Cubist collage. There was a moment, in the early half of the Twentieth Century, when the use of text and images from popular media such as advertising and newspapers sought to replace the high art materials of stone and paint, overthrowing notions of what comprised an artwork and its relationship to culture and politics. Read more »

Parallel Lines - Deborah Kass


Deborah Kass: More Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times
Paul Kasmin Gallery, NYC
Through October 30, 2010

There is a great Roy Lichtenstein painting from the 1960s called "Image Duplicator" that shows a comic book mad scientist with a thought bubble that reads, "What do you know about my Image Duplicator!" Whether this mythical machine ever existed outside the realm of Lichtenstein's imagination is besides the point -- dozens of artist from the '60s through the '90s used image replication and deconstruction as their primary motif, from Jasper Johns and Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol through Sherrie Levine and David Salle and Jeff Koons. Deborah Kass has largely followed this model, with the twist of appropriating the appropriators -- using Warhol's images (already appropriated from newspapers and magazines) and then combining them with Jewish themes and pop icons (e.g. Barbara Streisand in Yentl), giving the works a post-modern, feminist, and political slant that most artists of her generation, with the possible exception of Cary Leibowitz, didn't have.

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Sk8er Boi

dan-colen-harleysDan Colen: Poetry
Gagosian Gallery, NYC

Through October 16, 2010

When we are young we think as children do; we see the world as full of promise, often mistaking signs for wonders. We start by faith, and consummate by vision, at least according to St. Augustine. When we grow older we put away childish things -- or, in the case of Dan Colen, who is having his first exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery, exhibit them in a pristine, polished concrete, Chelsea art space.

Mr. Colen's show doesn't so much occupy the gallery space as sulk against the walls. One meets these guarded, obdurent, art objects head-on. "The Sweetest Thing" (2010), a freestanding wall -- brick, concrete, steel and re-bar, is the first obstacle one encounters upon entering the first room. Read more »

Art as Geotherapy

Mara_Oyster_IslandWhen Henry Hudson first landed in New York, New York Harbor was home to 350 miles of oyster reef spanning the distance between Coney Island and Poughkeepsie. By the turn of the twentieth century, the one time "Oyster Capital of the World" was no more as its oyster population fell to zero due to over-harvesting, pollution, and disease.

New York City is about to launch a large-scale campaign to restore its oyster beds by creating shoreline protection and habitat for over 200 forms of aquatic life. One artist, Mara G. Haseltine, has joined the fight. Read more »

South of Heaven

matisse-portraitMatisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917
Museum of Modern Art

Through October 11, 2010

"Bathers by a River," in the collection of the Chicago Art Institute, has to be one of my top ten favorite paintings, though otherwise Matisse has always seemed a bit too lightweight for my taste. The Museum of Modern Art has devoted a large portion of the current Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917 exhibit to that newly cleaned and restored painting, so, with the prospect of seeing at least one great piece, I visited the show and unexpectedly got a fresh opportunity to rediscover a powerful painter.

Henri Matisse usually brings to mind bucolic scenes of rest and calm, but here we finally meet the artist who matched Cezanne and Picasso in his ambition to discover and convey a new, distilled way of seeing through painting; an artist driven to strip-mine nature in order to find an essential ore of pure form. Read more »

Detroit Art Kicks Out The Jams

gordon-newton-head-variatioContemporary Art 1945-Present
Detroit Institute of Arts

Through September

Detroit is rightly credited as the breeding ground for great music. Iggy and The Stooges, Eminem, Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, and Jack White have all captured the sound of the exquisite decay of metal, the beauty of rust which is Detroit. Less acknowledged are the artists who have sprung from, or continue to work in, the Rust Belt Capital, giving us a sense of the visual poetry found in the ruins. The newly retooled Detroit Institute of Arts has at last given us a glimpse of some of the works of these artists in a section of their current exhibition Contemporary Art: 1945-Present. A wonderful show of their permanent holdings (much the same as New York MoMA's similarly themed current exhibition), it gives us the opportunity to peruse the best-of-the-best of the collection. Read more »

It’s Only Rock and Roll

timothy-gaolty-posterJakub Julian Ziolkowski: Timothy Galoty & The Dead Brains

Art and rock 'n' roll just go together. Throbbing Gristle, Sonic Youth and Mike Kelley, Albert Oehlen and Red Crayola…the list of crossover brands is extensive. We can now add Jakub Julian Ziolkowski and Timothy Galoty & The Dead Brains, the concept behind and title of Mr. Ziolkowski's New York debut at Hauser & Wirth, to that list. Unlike his predecessors, though, Ziolkowski does an end-run around the art/rock concept by producing paintings, drawings, and gouaches about a fictional band. Sans music, it is all surface, no soundtrack.
Since we can't judge the songs (I imagine they would sound like Nick Cave fronting a Klezmer Ensemble) we are left with just the pictures. Read more »

Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios

met-picassoPicasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Twenty years ago Picasso seemed to be pretty much everyone’s whipping boy -- too misogynist, too modernist, too whatever; ten years ago the Museum of Modern Art devoted two major shows in an attempt to patch up his battered reputation. Finally, The Metropolitan Museum of Art gives the viewers the chance to decide for themselves with this undogmatic exhibit of all the Picassos in the permanent collection. Covering the artist's entire career, the selection is as uneven as the taste of the collectors who donated their prizes, but has some wonderful, little-seen gems, as well as quite a few familiar masterpieces. Read more »

Rats in Paradise

rocket-padDefrosted: A Life of Walt Disney
Billed in the gallery press release as a "concept album" exhibition jointly curated by David Humphrey and Adam Cvijanovic, Defrosted: a Life of Walt Disney brings together a group of artists whose works weave together various aspects of cartooning and pop culture to illustrate scenes from the life of the Mouse King, arranged in three parts through two gallery rooms.

A wall mural collaboratively painted by Cvijanovic and Humphrey presents the most straightforward narrative: Walt playing polo, the construction of the Matterhorn, etc. in a goofy, theatrical way reminiscent of 19th century cycloramas. Read more »

Nothing Old, Just Reimagined

salle_tennysonI was very excited to hear that Katherine Mulherin and John Pollard opened a gallery in Chelsea. I came to know John from my many trips to Richmond when I was doing crits and lectures for VCU. His Richmond gallery, ADA, has a roster of artists who often favor a hi-low mix of dark humor -- I was delighted to have a show of my paintings there in '08. Mulherin is maintaining her base gallery in Toronto, as she shifts her secondary L.A. emphasis to this new venture in N.Y.C. Her Toronto roster has similarities to what John looks for, especially with respect to palpable art-making skill, though Mulherin leans slightly more to the conceptual. Read more »

Mid-Day in Mid-Town


Victor Matthews: Alter Ego Paintings
Wendt Gallery, NYC

I am currently working on two curatorial projects. Nature Calls opens this July at SICA in Long Branch, NJ. The second show, which opens this December at Kim Foster Gallery in Chelsea, brought me to today's meeting at D.C. Moore Gallery in midtown. My goal was to discuss and select works by the incomparable Whitfield Lovell. After my successful tête-à-tête with Heidi Lange, I took a quick look at D.C. Moore’s current show of works by Katherine Bowling, an accomplished painter whose forte is to capture the small miracles that sunlight produces on such things as dewy grass and tree blossoms. Read more »

Divine Comedy: Drawings by R. Crumb & Roz Chast

r-crumbDivine Comedy: Drawings by R. Crumb & Roz Chast
Westport Arts Center
Curated by Helen Klisser During

"Mr. Natural in Death Valley" the great man (an ex-taxicab driver from Afghanistan) has been meditating in the desert for forty days! How does he do it!? This title, text, and the art that accompanied it were by R. Crumb. It was published in Zap Comix no.0, which for many of us comic book kids was our first fully illustrated link to the world of sex and drugs. I wasn't quite thirteen when that publication first came out in the fall of 1967, and, despite the fact that the sexual revolution was in full swing, us pre-teen suburbanites were more or less outsiders looking in. Hence, my window was formed in most part by the underground comic books -- I still prefer the word comix -- I read with my friends. Read more »

The Works of Peter Gazdag

out-peter-gazdagOur ancient ancestors adorned their civilizations with artwork telling us the story of peoples and ways of life from otherwise forgotten periods in human history. With the ever-growing gap between today’s art market and mainstream culture, if future generations were to uncover much of the contemporary art created over the past few decades, it’s debatable what it would communicate about us and our society. With all the movements and experiments, the basic thread of public accessibility seems to have been abandoned in the world of visual arts. Peter Gazdag is a Budapest-born artist dedicated to restoring humans to the art form as he explores new narrative techniques with canvas and paint. Read more »

Readings: Edward Hopper House Art Center, Nyack

Kay.Ramble.acrysmall_010The subject of the two-person show Readings is books and their meaningfulness to the artists that depict them. In Stanford Kay's paintings, books are sometimes stacked, sometimes shelved (as in "Ramble," left), and other times placed on tabletops in a non-static grid. The core format, the classic type from this body of work, is the shelved book (straight-on compositions) variously sized and colored (books seen with binding out set straight up and down along thin shelves), all veiled in color and wispy brush strokes. In "The Natural World," various representations of leaves are applied near the end of the painting process suggesting the outdoors, a vision sometimes imagined while reading novels set in gardens, valleys or forests.

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Compulsive Patterning

LW_UntitledLaura Watt's exhibit of obsessively patterned oil paintings and drawings is exquisite. Watt is a colorist who creates extremely detailed and meticulous works. She has taken '70s Op Art to a higher plane; it's just as intense, but her palette is toned down and her work shows the artist's hand.

Working within the tradition of abstraction, Watt has developed her own unique vocabulary. There is a subtle evolution in the show from the earliest painting in 2004 to the 2009 pieces. An early square painting titled "50402" dazzles in its tight highly defined geometric construction; one is mesmerized studying each detailed segment of the painting. Yet as Watt moves on she loosens up (a bit). Read more »

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