Adalsteinsdottir, Stephen Stux Gallery
Icelandic artist Thordis Adalsteinsdottir's tantalizing,
quirky paintings hint at a sophisticated manner of perceiving
and interpreting the world around her. Her images, constructed
in stylized awkwardness, hover on the verge of reality,
dropping clues about a world that is both enticing and off-putting.
In these meticulously organized representational works,
the underlying sense of alienation and anxiety is lightened
by a sly wit that injects humor into compelling scenes.
For example, Woman Awake depicts a woman lying at the edge
of her bed. She also appears to be at the edge of her consciousness,
staring out at the viewer, as if in a trance. The composition
is spatially calculated; the upper section, which shows
the woman’s body, takes up a third of the canvas,
balanced by two thirds of nearly empty space, painted pale
Nile green, at the bottom. Her fingers, like tentacles,
hang over the edge of the bed, compositionally connecting
the narrow upper section to the expanse of pale green of
the floor. Punctuated only by a remote-TV-control, and a
single ashtray, containing three cigarette butts and some
ash, the ground is ominously empty. The formal, Zen-like
arrangement of the painting brings the viewer to the threshold
of personal mayhem. It is as if the woman has nothing to
do except stare out, with the TV-remote and cigarette butts
to keep her company.
A profound sense
of isolation seeps through the sheets into the rug. At first
glance, it appears as if these flatly painted, immaculate
surfaces are free of any trace of the artist’s hand.
Upon a closer look, however, one notices idiosyncratic details,
such as the tiny gray hairs on the woman’s leg, painted
meticulously, one hair at a time. Her right leg, with the
minute brush strokes of dark gray hairs, intimates a neglected,
perhaps even carefree appearance. Her foot is smudged in
dark gray, as if dirty from walking bare-foot. In a painting
that is crisply, meticulously painted, the dissonance of
a single, gray smudged foot introduces a quirky humor into
the idea of painting; something along the lines of the notion
that "Dirty feet are smudged, while clean skin is not."
The sheets are
richly patterned in sets of triple dots, which serve to
contour her body, and articulate the folds. The pictorial
flatness contrasts with the emotional depth that is implicit
in the woman's face. Her hair, summarized in less than twenty
strands, falls in nervous lines across her face and forehead.
Eluding a strict interpretation, this work teases the mind,
tugging at the eye to enjoy its inherent mischief.
In a series of twelve small oval paintings, Adalsteinsdottir
depicts scenes from the Bible, with Biblical passages that
relate to the image copied in long hand at the back of the
canvas, as if to set the stage for the story.
In one of these, titled, Abram with Donkey, Sarai with the
Pharaoh, Genesis 12:10, lonely Abram is paired with the
donkey, while the pharaoh pleasures himself with Sarai.
A slender, vertical line divides the painting into two compartments,
representing Abram's world severed from Sarai's. Upon closer
inspection, humorous details emerge. Sarai's buttocks and
back, and the pharaoh's knees are smudged in red, suggesting
soreness from prolonged sexual activity.
In other paintings in the show, the empty interiors in which
the figures are placed serve as neutral backgrounds. The
colors are toned down into the quietude of monochromatic
grays, occasionally accented by bursts of subtle brightness,
occasional red and pink smudges. The muted palette is keyed
into the cooler shades of gray blues and pale greens, further
conveying the work's sense of isolation. The figures are
condensed into stylized flatness, reminiscent of figures
of Egyptian and early Greek art. Adalsteinsdottir's work
is centered on observation of the other, with the understanding
that one can never get close enough to the subject. She
resists revealing too much about her characters, allowing
for an anxiety and loneliness that is akin to them.
The exhibition also has a video component, which is presented
in a room at the back of the gallery. Titled Woman Sitting
in the Bathtub, Talking Like a Dog, the work pivots on the
un-intelligibility of the woman, who happens to be the artist,
herself, mouthing words in her Icelandic tongue. Digitally
altered, the sound is muffled, with the artist's voice masculinized
to a very low pitch. The life-size image is situated at
a corner of the rear gallery where a bathtub would likely
be placed if there had been an actual bathroom. There, surrounded
by white tile walls, is the image of the woman, shoulder
deep in water, speaking heatedly on matters of apparent
importance and equal mystery.
communicates the intensity of her concerns, but the words
sound like gibberish, leading the viewer to re-consider
the correspondence between language and the visual world;
a link that is ordinarily taken for granted. The artist's
tools for expression are the movements of her countenance,
her eyes and mouth, the angle of her head, all of which
articulate the depth of her argument without the words.
As in her paintings, the narrative is limited to visual
clues, expressing a sense of alienation and a loss for communication.
Without the aid of words, the viewer comes up with personal
associations related to the woman and her mysterious speech,
such as being alone in a room, where the noise of one's
thoughts rings louder than the sound of words.
Image, The Painting Center
are tasked to explore the theme of anxiety in this group
exhibition of diverse, skillfully crafted paintings curated
by David Sharpe and Jimmy Wright. Standouts include Olive
Ayhens' From the Underground (oil on linen, 1986) which
evokes the discomfort associated with city life lived at
a rapid pace, while Roger Brown's surreal piece He Has Started
Out To That Which Has Come Full Circle (oil on canvas, 1986)
presents an isolated human silhouette, situated within a
huge musical note.
Façade (oil on canvas, 1981) presents a building
entranceway that transforms into a honed black human form,
in a clever metaphor for a social mask. The cartoon-like
Girl with High Heels (oil on wood, 1996) by Bonnie Lucas
shows a pre-pubescent girl on roller-skates roping a huge
pair of spike-heeled shoes that symbolically pierce the
girl, creating the stain of a menstrual cycle.
Here the girl
confronts the dangers and difficulties of incipient womanhood.
In a distorted over-the-top airbrushed image Untitled (acrylic
on canvas, 2004), Peter Saul creates a tilted Picasso-like
woman's face grafted to a hairy male cheek, in an image
that evokes the schizoid tension arising from gender confusion.
Jeff Way's Grid
Heads VIII (acrylic on canvas, 2004) shows painted, grid-like
brain-waves that undulate hectically, evoking the tensions
inherent to the age of technology. In Ganesh (oil on canvas,
2001), a colorful work by Charles Parness, the artist identifies
with Ganesha, the Hindu Lord of New Beginnings, by growing
an elephant's trunk; his frantic dance suggests a manic
In these revealing paintings, diverse environmental or personal
sources of fear and psychic discomfort resonate with each
individual, tapping their particular vulnerabilities. The
expressive potential realized in each work depends on the
intensity of feeling that the artist chooses to reveal.
11/2 through 11/27.
Attie, Wooster Projects
Chad Attie's drawings,
monotypes, paintings and assemblages all share one thing
in common; passion. There is an intensity that manifests
itself in these scratched surfaces, often outlining the
feminine form in rough hewn abstraction.Using a variety
of materials found in everyday life, Attie creates a world
of wild beauty. The Box Girls, a collection of paintings
on boxes, are both sculpture and assemblage.
Attie has etched
the indelible image of a woman on the cover of the boxes,
which contain a variety of things; books that have been
drawn on, mutilated with female forms, sheets with sketches
of women, crushed balls of paper, rubber erasers, pens,
pencils and dirt.
In his mixed media on canvas Attie adopts the same method
of imposing on the female form a fierce treatment that punctures
the canvas. Lemondropgirl(2004) balances this violence of
the torn canvas with the repeated motif of yellow flowers,
the type Andy Warhol used in his flower prints, rendering
the black torn outline of the female form less painful.
The emotion elicited by these marks extends to the painted
surface as well.
Scratches in the surface of the paint brings to mind a prisoner
scratching on the walls of his prison cell. Lollipop (2003)
has a deceptively innocent name. The canvas is dominated
by a flood of blood
red paint, through which a bit of white seeps. The slim,
long-limbed female figure in the painting is on her knees,
arms at her side.
Attie's treatment of color is never wimpy. He goes at the
canvas with his paintbrush, in the same intensity he uses
to slash the works on paper with markers, pencils and pens.
In The Swing Set (2004), a brown girl's hair splays out
all along the top of the canvas, and the swirling tones
of beige and brown capture the effect of movement on the
swing. In Malibu Girl (2004) the build up of green paint
at the base of the canvas looks like moss, while at the
top a smoother application of paint balances the two halves
of this scratches and torn canvas.
For those who still murmur about "the death of painting"
this work offers compelling evidence of the medium's evolving
Gottlieb, Pace Wildenstein
This is the first
exhibition in ten years of the "pictographs" of
Adolph Gottlieb. Spanning a decade of the artist's career(1941-1951)
these thirty oil paintings form part of a body of work created
by the New York School of artists that helped pave the way
to Abstract Expressionism.
Gottlieb's use of the grid and images seemingly unrelated
are noted in these works. In T-1950, the grid is superimposed
over tones of white, flesh pink, beige, green, yellow, red
and black. Within the grid are images of circles (filled
in with black or just the outline), a cross, an asterisk,
a swirly snake-like mark, a man winking, an eye like that
of an Egyptian figure and the letter T. The work, E-1949,
suggest a bunch of codes related to Albert Einstein's theories;
black letters and symbols dominate this otherwise spare
Against a predominantly yellow background a column of symbols
in black stands like a totem next to a stick woman whose
torso is red in Symbols and a Woman, (1951). Her arms and
legs on the left side are denoted by arrows. A white grid
on the left side of the canvas is filled in with images
that look like a bird, the scientific E, a penis and boxes
of color, green and blue.
More stick figures and arrows dominate the center of Plutomania
(1951), in which a white grid is painted over swathes of
orange, brown, beige and grey.
Straight and curved brush strokes add another dimension
to the work. Around the head of the black figure is a circle
of radioactive color, two shades of red forming a halo.
The smaller, earlier works are less abstract, with more
easily identifiable tribal iconography, though the grid
is still dominant. Generally the paint application is smoother
and the color palette more muted in these early work. With
his pictographs, Gottlieb created a language for himself
and his peers that defined the School of Abstract Expressionism,
and this show serves to make these connections abundantly
Coates, Rick Levinson, Luxe Gallery
In her first solo
show in New York, Jennifer Coates creates a fantastical
world of imaginary pseudo-landscapes evoked by a combination
of figurative elements (such as horizon lines and vaguely
grassy plains) combined with purely abstract geometric and
organic patterns, vivacious, intense colors and bursts of
a lot of formal territory in these works, wandering from
the playful ebullience of Hatching Stars and Swamp Fizz,
to the darker implications of Replicator; veering as well
between the low art of kitsch and the high art of classicism.
Her imagery is at one and the same realistic, abstract,
painterly, refined, expressionist and almost cartoonish.
A master of the incidental moment, Coates animates her surfaces
by allowing bits of the history of their making to show
in some areas, even as she tightly renders others. Painterly
moments thus become visual hot spots that bring the works
to visceral life; a bit of intense turquoise here, for instance,
peeking through a glaze of yellowed green, imbues the surface
with radiant color that keeps the eye bouncing, or a scumbled
expressionist passage suggestive of landscape might be found
in juxtaposition to almost illustrative controlled squiggled
lines that suggest internal organs or mazes with no end.
Coates' mixed metaphors allow high art and the low art of
kitsch to collide in her more playful works that use spangled
lights straight out of fairy tales and childhood fantasies.
These intermix the enchantment of magic wands with the spectacular
light shows of fireworks as well as nature's own brilliance
(shooting stars, the Milky Way, the Northern lights and
such). This is most evident in Blackboard Twinkle &
Hatching Stars, with its dazzling stardust effects.
Referencing geometric abstraction in another work, Coates
repeats a seemingly endless pattern of polychromatic triangles
that co-mingle, connect and disconnect against a communal
flat ground to form, or perhaps to separate from, a greater
whole. Entitled Replicator, darker interpretations are implied
than the seemingly innocent imagery with its decorative
patterning and delicious colors would at first suggest.
In the the gallery's Projects Room, Rick Levinson's mesh
and wax suspended sculptures of abstracted faces cast astonishingly
life-life seemingly 3-dimensional shadows on the walls.
The interplay between shadow and light; in which the shadow
seems more dimensional and real than the mesh that casts
it, conjures a startling inverse of reality, and invokes
psychological associations to the inner versus the outer
self. The works thus operate as metaphors for the personality
as a constructed
identity, versus the unrevealed, multi-dimensional but truer
self contained within.
Robert Mann Gallery
1970 to 1976 mostly in Ohio, these uniform square black
and white images in black mats were taken with the rather
primitive Diana camera ‹ a plastic toy 120 millimeter
camera produced in Hong Kong during the 1960s and 1970s
and marketed in many forms (flimsier and less sharp than
the Holga). At first glance, these images appear to be conventional
snapshots, but looking closer we realize that they do not
present the usual snapshot subjects ‹ poorly framed
portraits of relatives and friends.
Instead we see partial pictures of beds, of pieces of houses,
of winding empty roads, of an old Coke machine in shadows,
of the photographer's mother spreading her arms as if flying,
of children playing at a distance, of a boy lying with his
St. Bernard, of a blurred overexposed muzzle of a cow, of
her mother's knees, of children playing dress-up on a porch
‹ lines are not distinct, blur is a constant, lighting
is mostly drab, but the camera's vignetting makes the centers
glow. The ordinary becomes exceptional.
The Diana camera's uncorrected lens and wobbly focus transform
any scene into pure atmosphere. The square format and black
mats reinforce the sense that we are looking at pages from
an album of memory and revery. Rexroth has managed to transform
present day Ohio into evocations of the melancholic Iowa
of her childhood, utilizing this humble camera. The feeling
Vaux, Alpan Gallery
by Lily Faust
is the first step in considering Richard Vaux's oil paintings
and works on paper.
His point of departure is nature; the land, the sea, and
the sky. In many of these paintings, the sky is depicted
as a cloud filled void; the sea, as a multi-colored expanse
of subtle contrasts; and the land, a distant element out
on the horizon. Hyper-charged in intense colors that dramatize
nature, his forms are effectively minimized to horizontal
planes of shifting color. The compositions integrate abstraction
and representation to convey a sense of pure visual pleasure.
Sonata Series VI, a 12 x 12 inch oil painting which depicts
a vividly colored stretch of horizontal form (the land)
anchored against the cool blue stratum of a quiet sky, presents
in the foreground, clusters of shapes in varying sizes resemble
clumps of weed, treetops and boulders. A foggy band of autumnal
colors in the upper half settles over a wet expanse of yellow;
dotted with green, pink and orange. The word "pastoral"
comes to mind, relating to idyllic charm. The painting,
tinged with the essence of a sunny afternoon, orchestrates
surface rhythms of color, mass, and subtle depth.
In another painting, Quintessence Series, the visual world
is abstracted into simpler forms, saturated in vibrant color.
In this large work, (48 x 80inches) Vaux concentrates on
the sky, awash in tonal values that dissolve into the distance.
The horizontal organization of the composition juxtaposes
layers of intense reds and yellows, suggesting depth. A
series of wavering, fluid lines on the upper left burst
into what could be interpreted as cloud formations. At the
base of the pictorial plane, darkened shadows hint at land,
veiled in fog.
Employing a variety of painterly techniques, Vaux creates
sensual landscapes. Layered in washes of light filled hues,
these works capture atmospheric shifts and the high drama
of the evening sun.
Overreaching the materiality of the physical world, they
reflect an almost primordial conception of the natural world.
Joan Miro, Pace Prints
In the main gallery
space Pace Prints presents an exhibition of recent prints
by Jim Dine, made in 2004. Titled Jim Dine's Garden, the
work includes a quirky selection of pieces based around
the theme of plants.
Papyrus, From Egypt shows the buds, roots and thick leaves
of the Amarillis as a lythograph over the vertical and horizontal
reeds of papyrus. The papyrus adds another dimension to
the work, in terms of both color and texture. Three large
format watercolors of the same flower are painted in bleeding
pinks, reds, mauves, green over brown-black earth and roots.
These imposing buds are depicted close up to the picture
plane, while an arching blue sky hovers.
In the lithograph Me and You Dine has created a diptych,
one half of which is black with an all-white Amarilis, the
other half white, with an all-black Amarillis. The two are
not mirror images of each other, but individual works. The
black lines of the flower on the white background are more
blurred while the white on black has cleaner lines. Where
there is shading and shadow on the white surface, none can
exist on the black surface. Dine's preoccupation with plants
adds to an intriguing oeuvre.
In the second gallery space, the early prints of Joan Miro
are on isplay.
These works come from the period of the1930s through the
1950s and show in brilliant color and black and white, the
playful, surreal images for which Miro became famous.
For example, Untitled for Cahiers d'Art (1934), a small
print with a diagonal line separating the top part in black
and the bottom in blue, depicts white abstract figures,
somewhat like the caricature of a ghost in a sheet, float
over the surface. More color dominates Femme au Miroir (1957),
a lithograph on paper in which vibrant reds, blues and turquoise
comprising graphic, surreal shapes, are punctuated with
figures and symbols. A simple streak of black, with a red
circle, suggests the mirror in front of which the woman
Portrait de Miro, (1938), an etching, shows the artist's
face, rendered with a Daliesque twist (the left eye is a
star), behind a web of lines. Images of flowers, tribal
figures and writing, complete the work.
On a more serious note, Miro designed posters against the
dictator Franco's rule, one of which from 1937 is shown
here. Titled Aida L'Espana, this work gives some insight
into the artist's social and political awareness. The pairing
of these artists' work, Dine and Miro, suggests an aesthetic
narrative that probably wouldn't otherwise come to mind.
In this context, however, one seems to illuminate the other.
Elana Rubinfeld, Roger Smith Hotel
by Mary Hrbacek
A mysterious aura pervades this collection of work, presented
in the penthouse of the Roger Smith Hotel in New York. In
the playful spirit of Marcel Duchamp, Private View: The
Collection of Rick Haatj pretends to be a collection of
high-class stolen originals; by artists such as Edvard Munch,
Marcel Duchamp, Picasso and others. These works are actually
meticulous copies made by Trong Nguyen, a co-founder with
Elana Rubinfeld of Art Hijack, a combination of art collective
and promotion firm.
Intended to confound viewers in order to stimulate public
dialogue on themes of attribution, originality, art preservation
and ethics, the exhibit raises questions on the very nature
of collecting; what determines the perimeters of a coherent
collection and why are these limitations so often narrowly
defined. The clever bluff teases viewers and tests their
sense of the absurd. Two original pieces by Trong, both
silhouette portraits etched on vintage mirrors, obliquely
explore self-identity and the artist's perception of the
The iconoclastic spirit behind the "Haatj Collection"
(an anagram for Art Hijack), raises ethical issues probing
the regulations that apply to an installation of works so
perfectly recreated. Copies
are frequently to be found in the art marketplace. The potentially
thorny process of determining attribution was explored some
years ago in the Rembrandt: Not Rembrandt show at the Metropolitan
Museum. Signatures protect artists from unlawful duplication,
with the result that unsigned works, perhaps unfairly, command
lower prices. In the juncture where art and commerce converge,
art may be a commodity, but it is not unprotected. Artists'
rights groups have fought for laws making the deliberate
alteration or destruction of an artwork illegal.
The expectation that serious art should be viewed exclusively
in galleries and museums has been supplanted by the proliferation
of independent art fairs in recent years. In this context,
Art Hijack, with its novel exhibition concept, provides
artists with yet one more creative alternative to get their
artwork shown before a critical, engaging audience.
Singh, Sepia International
by Joel Simpson
India has long
been a provocative photographic subject. Its human diversity,
natural lushness, dramatic rituals and architectural magnificence
alongside the extreme conditions of life in a country which
daily fails to feed, house, clothe and provide basic sanitation
to a large sector of its population, have attracted scores
of photographers since independence in 1947. Most have applied
basic principles of photojournalism to capture the particularities
of the Indian landscape and population. Just leaf through
Aperture's India: A Celebration of Independence, 19471997
to survey the styles of 24 photographers working the country,
starting with Sunil Janah and Henri Cartier-Bresson in the
1940s and ending with Sabastião Salgado in the 90s.
Raghubir Singh, who died in 1999 at the age of 57, offers
a distinctly different perspective. His approach is most
striking in the series of photographs where he places a
car window or car-door window of the Indian-made Ambassador
automobile, in the picture between the viewer and part or
all of the subject. This clever conceit reminds the viewer
both of the photographer's presence as observer and his
‹ and our ‹ inevitable distance from his subject.
in the same image he shoots both past an open car door and
through its window, he seems to be making a contrast between
"direct" and mediated observation, possibly suggesting
that direct observation is really impossible, that the "exotic
types" of conventional Indian photography merely play
roles in the viewer's imagination.
Singh tries to get beyond that fascinating "otherness"
to insist by various means that we really can't know the
people he photographs.
In Pedestrians, two pre-adolescent boys on a street are
divided by a car door; the one to the left of the door is
directly seen but gazes away from the camera towards the
center of the photograph. The other, seen through the car-door
window looks plaintively at the camera. The photographer's,
and by extension the observer's, distance from the subjects
is illustrated in its two extremes. The one that looks away
is caught directly; the one that appeals to the photographer
is separated by glass, a ready symbol of the separation
of the observer and the impossibility of true empathy across
Singh uses this device in several other contexts to equal
effect, but not always in the same direction. In another
image, a long-haired young woman in the foreground looks
angrily into the car, while we watch a man speak to his
donkey in the background through the car door window.
Yet another image
shows a poor couple some distance away emerging from the
woods, protecting their heads from the rain with a sheet
of plastic ‹ the whole image seen through the rolled-up
car window. We would be driving cozily through the rain,
when we quickly pass them, but Singh preserves that moment,
and our conscience rather than merely pinched is squeezed
In other images we see an abandoned red bus through a car
window, a castle reflected in a car window, a red-and-white
intercity bus loading passengers through two car windows,
one inside the other. A pair of images has the car door
with its window rolled down in the exact same position;
in one the door divides the people in scene on a hilltop
overlooking a city. In the other the same door with no window
divides a people-less scene of grasses overlooking a vast
valley. The car door has become a seeing device, a stand-in
for the camera itself.
Once sensitized to the framing, partitioning, distancing,
self-announcing function of the car door, the viewer notices
different framing, partitioning devices in other photographs.
A movie poster on its side occupies nearly the entire right
half of a photograph otherwise showing a poor rickshaw man
with a passenger; six red window frames parse an industrial
street scene depicting an Ambassador auto, a man hauling
a covered load, and an orange truck; a green frame of a
mirror seen from the side divides the interior of a coffee
The device multiplies and becomes more dynamic, provocative
and nigmatic; the display in a mirror shop shows people
in different sizes and perspectives, the crowded street
chaos is excerpted and rearranged within a simpler randomness;
seated men before a non-descript concrete building, the
whole cast in intense red, is dramatically highlighted by
a bright blank white television screen, perched on a high
stool in the foreground; a woman under a dark but transparent
veil, that functions as a kind of screen, proudly shows
off her child; a gossamer blue fly-protector is turned upside
down and colors part of our view of Victorian train station;
an orange cart with a painting of a brama bull partially
obscures a real brama bull in the background; three turbaned
bearded men wander through the rows of frames of a Sikh
portrait gallery with one luminous window.
And the most surreal
one of all; a four-armed bare-breasted stone Kali statue,
her tongue sticking out, is both partially framed by the
hand and leg of a closer statue (the hand broken and in
a splint while the glue dries), and in turn frames a barber
intent on shaving his client on the right, and a man in
a tank top, distractedly scratching his chest on the left.
Singh has captured
the disorder of Indian life; its exuberance, anger, and
pathos; its unintentional, unnoticed relationships of juxtaposition
and simultaneity, while managing to avoid any sense of exoticism,
local color, or "fascinating types." (And his
only swami or sadhi, a de rigueur icon of the Indian human
landscape, is ironically shown sleeping on concrete steps
of what we presume is a public building, in unconscious
accommodation to his material condition.)
Singh has revealed
us an India that is neither a tourist destination nor an
occasion to lament the fate of the poor, but rather an India
that is simply home to its people of all means (mostly modest),
where they live, make do and get by.
Season in New York:An Overview
A survey of auctions
from these past couple of seasons show a change in the buying
habits of the art world. One collector asked, "Where
is all this money coming from? Who are these people buying
art? They must be new collectors." New money and new
collectors are shaping auction results today.
Amid vigorous bidding, the old favorites ‹ Lichtenstein,
Warhol, Basquiat ‹ are being passed over, in favor
of more contemporary artists like Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons,
Marlene Dumas and Maurizio Cattalan. The old is getting
older fast and the new is selling for record breaking prices,
catapulting them to the top of the art world and securing
their place there, at least for now.
This drop off in interest in old favorites does not mean,
however, that these works don't sell. In fact those distinctive
treasures from artists like Warhol fetch high prices. The
people buying these works are often the old guard collectors.
At Christie's last contemporary and post war sale Mustard
Race Riot, a two panel silkscreen print of Charles Moore's
1963 photographs taken during the civil rights movement,
fetched $15.1 million from German collectors. With weak
dollar, Europeans were buying in force.
Eli Broad bought a towering Lichtenstein sculpture, Brushstroke
Group for $3 million. At Sotheby's a telephone bidder bought
Rothko's No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray)
for $17 million. What we are seeing however is art buying
as fashion buying. Big name artists are like the high end
fashion labels ‹ Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton ‹
and just like fashion, from season to season, things change.
What was hot last
season, Asian artists like Murakami and Nara, are not so
hot this season; they are replaced by those high profile
artists who are currently in the spotlight, either recently
having had a museum show, or a big gallery show, or a recent
record-breaking auction sale or for some other reason find
their names in the news.
This is the case with artists like John Currin, recently
shown at the Whitney and signed with a new gallery, Gagosian.
The same with Ed Ruscha, recently shown at the Whitney and
Gagosian and then selected to represent the U.S. at the
next Venice Biennale. Matthew Barney drew record numbers
to his show at the Guggenheim in 2003. Andreas Gursky had
a highly successful show at Matthew Marks recently and Damien
Hirst had an auction solely of his works from the restaurant,
Pharmacy, in October at Sotheby's in London.
Favorite art stars like Jeff Koons seem to be perennially
in the spotlight; almost anything he shows sells. His Bear
and Policeman sold for $2.6 million at Phillips de Pury
& Co. Marlene Dumas, too, shares this special privilege;
her sexy, haunting, evocative works are often sold for hundreds
of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars amid heated
Those spending the money and therefore controlling the market
because they control the cash, are still in a large part
men. More than half the people filling the auction rooms
are men and most of the works up for auction are by male
artists. A change in this phenomenon may not occur for some
time, though more and more female collectors are bidding
and buying works. A hotly contested work among women at
Phillips de Pury & Co. was Martin Kippenberger's Terrorist/Touristin,
a colorful diptych showing the fashionable Burberry's scarf
hiding the face of a male terrorist and female tourist.
In spite of these observations it can be safely conjectured
that what one can expect at auctions is surely the unexpected.
Like the stock market, trend-spotting and market analysis
can only go so far.
At the end of the day, the discerning collector knows that
he or she should buy only what they like; not expecting
then to make a profit from the work in the future, but enjoying
the work for what it's worth to the buyer.
to Evru", Haim Chanin Fine Arts
by Joel Simpson
Born Alberto Porta
in Barcelona in 1946, the self-taught artist who became
known as Zush, morphed into Evru, a new identity, at the
start of the new millennium, with a new mental landscape.
This exhibition generously documents the transformation
in Zush-Evru's many media, including pencil drawing, mixed
acrylic-pen-and-ink, large-format wax and ink, bronze bells,
and an interactive graphic computer program. The whole constitutes
an illustrated internal world peopled with benign-grotesque
cartoon-like characters with misshapen bodies, some with
a single eye made of a black bead affixed with wax, variously
sporting tails, horns, oblique grins, skin textures resembling
patterns of neurons, random hairs etc.
At first glance the show appears naive-bizarre. There is
often a spareness reminiscent of Klee and Miro. But once
one enters the artist's world, and accepts the visual language,
a fascination takes over. Design motifs seem to come from
the worlds of seed-pods, dried florals, cytology and graphology.
There is even a one-off rough-papered book with multi-media
works on every page, that the viewer can leaf through. An
artist with the ambition and audacity to create a complete
world of forms devoted only to his own interior landscape
is asking a lot. But the fertility of Evru's imagination
rewards a careful visit, and one is even willing to indulge
his illegible crayon captions scribbled on the wall.
Marti, Elizabeth Dee Gallery
by Joyce Korotkin
pop culture with a wide range of art historical references,
Virgil Marti's oversized wall sconces, black-lit fluorescent
wallpaper room installation and immense striped candle sculpture
create a curiously hybrid, decadently fin de siecle environment
that is at once Rococco, Symbolist, psychedelic, and heavily
laced with the lurid science fiction of grade-B films. Marti's
works straddle the edges between disciplines and defy categorization;
fusions of his interest in interior design applied to fine
art, as interpreted through a kaleidoscopic, very trippy
The wall sconces are Baroque oddities that break down the
boundaries between applied art and fine art. Wedding form
to function, they are not quite light fixtures although
they emit light, and not quite sculpture because they are
sconces. Appropriating their forms from the enlarged shells
of Russian tortoises, they are mirrored inside, each containing
a silver-plated cactus, mirrored bulbs and colorful resin
flowers that cast prismatic reflections of sparkling lights.
Adding to the melee of crossed references are the titles,
which refer to films, such as The Lady From Shanghai, or
characters from films, such as Sissy Spacek's "Pinky
The tackily flocked, psychedelic wallpaper likewise is a
conglomeration of colliding styles. Entitled Landscape Wallpaper
with Star Border and Shrooms and Flame Dado, it takes its
format from classical bordered wallpaper patterns and its
imagery from drug culture. This allusion is enhanced by
the darkened room and black lights that make the colors
Ode on a Paul Smith Bag, a lit candle sculpture, is something
of an anomaly in this environment of otherwise functional
works. Neither furniture, wall covering nor lighting fixture,
it sits in the center of the gallery, a mysterious form
emitting the scent of leather and bearing Smith's signature
polychromatic stripes; an object of silence like the famous
monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 200l: A Space Odyssey, that
despite its decorative nature suggests a portent of doom
as it slowly melts.
Kahn, Richard Selesnick, Yancey Richardson
by Joel Simpson
and Richard Selesnick (both born in 1964, the former in
New York, the latter in London) have been collaborating
since 1986 to produce fictitious panoramas of "scientific"
scenes, all very believable. Unlike Robert Parke Harrison,
whose platinum prints suggest a time in the past for his
comically doomed scientific fantasies, Kahn/ Selesnick's
images have an immediacy, a literality and a mock-seriousness
that almost convince the viewer they're real.
This exhibition is premised on the charming fiction that
1960s US astronauts on the moon discover a lost mission
of Edwardian-era space explorers when they arrive. It consists
of seven large-scale panoramic photographs, a life-size
moon rover looking its 1910 vintage, eighty small mixed-media
drawings, and a text-log of the whole enterprise, whose
visionary tone alludes to their predecessors' conceiving
of themselves as "visiting gods."
A charming fantasy
whose meticulous realism and detailed alternative historicity
sustain a comic undertone, the work is strangely relevant
to an age in which "creationism" is taken seriously
in certain quarters and supported with supposed evidence
‹ it is even alluded to in Kahn/Selesnick's text.
One is led to wonder how this marvelous show would play
in certain "red" states.
Chastain-Chapman, Kravets/Wehby Gallery
by Nadja Sayej
A haughty woman
with tar black hair sits on a plastic lawn chair, wearing
orange gloves and a jelly purple jacket, amidst a desolate
green field. The clouds echo in the background with severe
concrete buildings that, curiously, have no doors to enter
Chastain-Chapman's paintings suggest a distorted fairy tale,
where trendy rock stars lounge with children's book characters.
The work occupies a tangy, undefined space where adolescence
meets adulthood, sort of.
This Hunter College MFA student has a peculiar taste when
it comes to constructing her characters, an assortment of
misfits who lead us through dramatic tales of unresolved
angst. Fashion in painting can be superficial, but we soon
realize that the clothing on these sexy beasts create an
embellishing confidence. Hockney patterns meet soap opera
drama in oddly inventive combinations, where the women's
attitudes seem at once shy and defensive. The vast emotional
spectrum of the subjects are explored here, as a thwarted,
would-be superwoman leans against a garbage can with her
arms crossed, spying out of the painting with her evil eye.
This first solo show is one of a paradoxical diligence.
The emotionally descriptive faces depicted here are reminiscent
of cartoon characters and glossy fashion models; seemingly
bored, yet strangely entertaining.
National Gallery of Art
by Lola Sherman
Roger Fenton is
acclaimed for his many and varied contributions to the infant
field of photography in the 19th century; one of the first
war photojournalists, he dragged his cumbersome equipment
to inhospitable battlefields during the Crimean War; he
introduced and taught the new medium to the Queen of England,
Victoria, and her consort Albert ("Mr. Fenton explains
everything ") and became the royal family's portraitist;
he photographed objects in the British Museum as visual
participated in the formation of a professional photographic
society, elevating the new technology to higher levels of
prestige; and, not least, he joined other new photographers
in visually exploring the landscape and architecture of
England and elsewhere in Europe All of these activities
he performed conscientiously.
Yet the approximately
90 works in this thoroughly researched exhibition are suffused
with a general blandness; no matter the subject, sepia image
after sepia image floats past, each conveying the same homogenous,
hushed, unmoving atmosphere, achieved through a lateral
disposition of forms combined with gentle contrasts of light
and dark; no image intrudes that could disturb the viewer's
Fenton's photos are very still; an absence of movement pervades
even when figures are meant to appear to be moving (Rievaulx
Abbey, Doorway, North Transept). Snapshot techniques (such
as the cutoff view) which his colleagues utilized to convey
immediacy are nowhere to be glimpsed in Fenton's scenes
(viz., Robert Cornelius's Self-portrait as an Experimental
Chemist). His style "stands out" (if such a phrase
can apply to a manner as genteel as Fenton's) in its avoidance
of surprise; even when compared to works by contemporary
photographers who, like him, were held captive by the influence
of mid-19th century European painting.
Fenton's customary traits are revealed in his Crimean War
photos as well as other explorations of Russia. Compositional
elements are neatly balanced.Vantage point is from a respectful
distance, with most of the forms arrayed along a single
horizontal recessional line; no sharp diagonals hurtling
back through space for him. Cookhouse of the 8th Hussars
shows about twelve figures neatly assembled side by side
in various neoclassical poses.
Banks of the Dnieper; Distant View of the Forts and Low
Town of Kief is an appealing example of Fenton's usual approach.
A well-defined horizon line separates a uniformly lit sky
from a smooth expanse of still water broken only by a single
dinghy and a few horizontal wooden boards. It conjures serenity
of the 19th century Luminist paintings, such as those by
Another Russian photograph, Moscow, Domes of Churches in
the Kremlin, upends Fenton's standard formula, creating
far more drama than is usually found in his work. The roof
of a Russian church, its round arches topped by emphatic
onion domes, thrusts itself at the viewer from the lower
right corner. The dome theme is echoed on the left through
a repetitive pattern of smaller domes topped by lacy Orthodox
crosses. Here, Fenton appears to appreciate shape and pattern
for their inherent properties.
Fenton depicted a bloodless sobriety in his scenes of the
Crimean war, in sharp contrast to his letters home which
described abysmal conditions at the front. Portraits of
military leaders show them gazing off into the distance,
seemingly contemplating the gravity of war (Captain Lord
Balgonie, Grenadier Guards). However, the evocative Valley
of the Shadow of Death, while it does not display the horrors
of war, comments tersely about its tragic impact.
Hundreds of cannonballs lie strewn about a rolling plain
which is superposed by an absolutely blank sky. Nothing
else; no vegetation, not a living creature, permeates the
scene. The effect is one of deadly, sterile desolation.
Minute figures are almost always present in Fenton's landscapes.
Perhaps he intended that they function as the viewer's surrogates.
Or perhaps they allude to the immensity of Nature and the
insignificance of humanity.
Fenton's lens captures hills or clumps of trees whichobscure
the middle distance, effectively stopping the eye from encompassing
panoramic vistas (Pont-y-Pant, on the Lledr, from Below).
Landscape with Clouds is a magnificent exception; a dim,
undifferentiated strip of land sits below a pale, limitless
sky (reminiscent of Turner, though that painter's clouds
would probably be stormier). Most photographers of the period
had bad luck rendering clouds, which tended to be overexposed.
Fenton discovered that a negative exposed for the ground
resulted in the sky's overexposure, so he exposed his negative
based on the light of the clouds.The museum wall text speaks
approvingly of how he "....devised ingenious solutions
to cope with harsh daylight shadows" in photographing
museum objects out of doors. One wishes that a few of those
harsh shadows had crept in and lent some vivacity to the
Fenton's still-life photographs are extraordinary photographic
facsimiles of 17th century Dutch painted still lifes. The
objects are assembled in the same manner, and they acquire
the same tactile richness; every ridge, ruffle, luminosity,
transparency of the objects is explored and exploited from
a very close distance (Flowers and Fruit; Decanter and Fruit,
Notwithstanding photography's ease in reproducing natural
appearances, not often is one confronted with such a hyper-realistic
representation. One still life is astonishingly modern;
an intense close-up of a white cross enclosed within a back
circle set in the center of three boards, the sort of minimal
abstraction contemporary photographers turn out in great
numbers, produced in 1860. This anachronism is explained
when one sees the title, "The Queen's Target."