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  the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

Mariko Mori
Birth of a Star
Spied collapsing in tears, at Union Square's Zen Palate vegetarian spa: the most talented and beautiful Mariko Mori.

The reason? Suspected control freak Jeffrey Deitch, who doesn't want Mariko to experiment, to stray creatively from the self-portraits that made him a mint. A Mori pal confides, "Jeffrey thinks she's like a delicatessen -- walk in and get three more hot shots of Mariko."

Control has been an issue in this dealer/star turn for a while. Four years ago, Deitch bought Mariko a loft on Watts Street, designing it to her specs and picking up the tab, against future receipts from sales. "She should have just taken cash," the Mori pal demurred.

There's a park outside of Mariko's pad -- for a couple of years she's begged Deitch to let her refabricate it, Mori style. Jeffrey has ignored her on this one, however.

Don't forget, Mariko, your five-year contract with Deitch runs out in six months. Calling Larry Gagosian?

The Arts in America column misidentified the creator of "Object," a well-known surrealist artwork that consists of a fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon, cited as an example of idiosyncratic creativity. The piece, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, was created by Marcel Duchamp.
        -- correction on page 2 of The New York Times last week

Tom Sachs at Thomas Healy
Wanna know why teenage male nut jobs shoot up American schools? We divined why, anthropologically, at Chris Kelley's Memorial Day weekend loft curation, just west of Union Square.

A vibrant, verdant young crowd, just out of art school, jammed the 17th Street pad, with a DJ in the back and a dozen artists' work on the walls. (When this kind of artist-generated thing starts happening again, there's gotta be a scene developing.)

In the midst, curator/artist Alfredo Martinez, at 30 an eminence grise to this crowd, showed off a piece he'd made, a gun constructed completely from common studio tools, like stapleguns and clamps. Martinez boasted, "I made this years before Tom Sachs" -- another firearms fabricator, whose wonderful Shot Ross Bleckner is currently on view at Tom Healy. The post-grad male artists jabbered at Martinez, "Does it work?" You can guess the answer. Yet, the women present were indifferent to Martinez's metal machine.

Hardware appears to have some staying power as Gen Z medium of choice -- it's solid and cheap.

Artist Danny Jackson, just graduated from NYU's visual arts program where he studied with professor Peter Boynton, was best in show with half a dozen Donald Lipski-like fuzzy tool variations on Meret Oppenheim's Fur Lined Tea Cup.

Ugly Beauty
        -- Thelonious Monk

Flash Art
with Cecily Brown
by Damian Loeb

Art Club 2000
Chelsea Ya Later

Robert Irwin at Dia

Tony Smith

Charles Ray
Family Romance

Warhol at Brooke Alexander

Ellsworth Kelly
Sculpture for a Large Wall
at Matthew Marks

Matthew Marks

Ellsworth Kelly
Back in September we wrote, "It will be possible to satiate oneself repeatedly on great art throughout the 1997-98 dance and never enter a commercial gallery."

Boy, we tabbed that right -- art-wise, the '97-98 New York gallery season was the quietest in memory.

There were no new stars, little impact work and zero buzz. Cecily Brown, whose penocentric pieces received mixed reviews at best (they're still up at Deitch), has the gall to advance Elizabeth Peyton, John Currin, Michael Bevilacqua, Damien Loeb and herself as some brave group who reconfigured painting, in this month's Flash Art.

Yea, painting like Bouguereau, Puvis de Chavannes and the Pre-Raphaelites!

Worst of the lot is unknown Damien Loeb, Deitch's apparent replacement for Mariko Mori, who is a bad cross of Mark Tansey and Mark Kostabi. To Deitch, Loeb is Salvador Dali redux.

The one thing quieter than the lack of real new talent was Soho, now a ghost town for art. People walk by Soholdouts like Deitch, Sean Kelley and American Fine Arts, asking one question, "When are they moving?"

Well, we know Deitch will decamp at Sotheby's proposed gallery mall on York avenue and 72nd Street in the year 2001.

The last one to leave, Colin Deland or Stefano Basilico, should turn out the light and leave us to reflect on the spooky fashion emporiums -- their expensive fetishes silently glowing through picture windows on a breezy, dark evening.

"Didn't this used to be Barbara Gladstone?" one wonders. These dresses, hand bags and shoes, framed in giant gallery spaces, mirror our postmodern soullessness far more tellingly than any of the art leaving the neighborhood.

The lack of fresh talent or ideas in the galleries burnished middle-aged art dinosaurs, in contrast. Robert Irwin and Richard Serra took it to the highest level at the Dia Center for the Arts.

And the dead (Alice Neel, Man Ray, upcoming Tony Smith retro at MoMA) were transfigured by new shows of work unseen or under appreciated in its time.

Contrapuntally, midcareer types like Jack Pierson, Robert Gober, Matthew Barney, Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Ellen Gallagher suffered serious creative slumps, allowing Charles Ray, basking in his justifiable pre-eminence, to kick off the post-Ross era at the Whit next month, as numero uno on the hit parade.

On the classic front, the Warhol Foundation has arranged for every gallery in America to get at least one Warhol show. Andy prints materialized for months at Ronald Feldman; celebrity drawings of Elvis and John Lennon adorned Brooke Alexander; "Dollar Signs" garnished Gagosian -- even Anton Kern got a Warhol show.

And (how soon we forget) the Whitney held an actual Dandy Andy Flea Market (check David Ross' pockets).

Still, gallerywise, there were the usual small pleasures and irritants.

Danese Gallery made us rethink Ralph Humphrey, then did Josef Albers up royally.

Cheim and Read turned themselves into MoMA downtown.

Matthew Marks rescued a grand 1957 Ellsworth Kelly wall from the Philistines of Philly.

Michael Govan righted the ship at Dia, and he's probably on his way to the Whitney.

Dozens of galleries were opened by people you never heard of, a dead trend since 1989 -- maybe some good art will follow?

Chuck Close is happily more mobile than suspected, yet his work in toto, at MoMA, was distressingly claustrophobic.

In spite of the efforts by the spineless gits in charge of MoMA's projects space, the Pattern and Decoration movement continues to lay an egg, sans impact.

The Soho Guggenheim showed bad late Rauschenberg and Mao propaganda, winning the Flush's "Waste of Space" award.

Victor Hugo couldn't draw.

Both Mona Hatoum and Doris Salcedo underwhelmed at the New Museum, sandbagging Alexander and Bonin's lazy river approach to art dealing.

Gavin Brown throws cool parties, but lacks an eye.

Rikrit should have stayed home and logged on.

In five years, Chelsea will be blocks and blocks of Hollywood soundstages, and the gallery scene, such as it is, will be on the upper east side (courtesy of Sotheby's) just like in the '50s!

If you care, which we don't, here are the Flush's 10 best gallery shows by living artists for '97-98:


Art Club 2000
"Night of the Living Dead Author"

Matthew Antezzo
Frank Stella...

Renée Cox
The Liberation of Lady J and U.B.
1. Marina Abramovic at Sean Kelly -- she pukes on Vanessa Beecroft.

2. Y.Z. Kami at Deitch projects -- portraits full of hope and mystery: the unClose.

3. Cindy Sherman, "Berlin Pictures," at Metro -- we swear she's in there somewhere.

4. Art Club 2000 at American Fine Arts -- the club is our last line of defense against the new American fascism.

5. Tom Sachs at Tom Healy -- Nikki de Saint Rauschenberg shoots a Bleckner.

6. Lisa Ruyter at Rove/Kenny Schachter and Mitchell Algus -- she's the best young painter around, but we can't tell you because we bought one.

7. Dennis Oppenheim at Stux -- Sisyphus' sweatshop.

8. Matthew Antezzo at Basilico -- Now deleting Peter "Pixels" Norton.

9. Renée Cox at Cristinerose -- one piece in an otherwise bland show -- Renee liberates Aunt Jemima and Mr. Cream-of-Wheat.

10. Ellen Gallagher at Gagosian -- two terrific all black paintings, in an otherwise execrable show -- when we suggested to Gogo director Ealan Wingate that the whole show should have been black paintings a la Stella and Reinhardt, he replied, "We don't control what the artist does" -- That's what galleries are for, Ealie !!!

To sum up, the late Henry Geldzahler eulogized Richard Bellamy (who died this season) in 1967, 30 years ago, thusly:

The most fascinating gallery of the past decade was Richard Bellamy's Green Gallery. Its greatest strength was Bellamy's constant search for new art, and his ability to perceive it. His reputation soon spread among the lofts downtown and his phone was besieged by diffident choices asking him to visit.

In this way, Bellamy first showed Jim Rosenquist, Larry Poons, Lucas Samaras, Robert Morris, Donald Judd gave the first uptown shows to Tom Wesselmann and Claes Oldenburg, and showed the first pieces uptown by Dan Flavin. Dick Bellamy launched the post-Ab Ex Generation in just five years of operation.

The Green Gallery worked in effect as a talent scout for career established dealers. Today its former artists are at Sidney Janis, Leo Castelli, Pace, and Richard Feigen. These days [1967] Dick Bellamy is a private dealer, working out of the Noah Goldowsy Gallery.

Sic transit galleria ...

The pressure for novelty from the American vanguard audience, and the atmosphere it creates of witless frivolity and intrigue, of shallow seriousness, adds a certain adrenaline smell to the art world.
        -- Thomas Hess

Buster Cleveland
Photo Timothy Greathouse
The three musketeers of Avenue B, Gracie Mansion, Sur Rodney Sur and Buster Cleveland, lost its swordsman, when Buster succumbed in Queens earlier this month at the obscenely young age of 55.

Buster, whose adopted moniker bested Duchamp as a synonym for deflowering a virgin, was his own art work, whether wickedly defenestrating the bishops of Artforum, mentoring Rodney Alan Greenblatt, or hanging out on Gracie's sofa (look in her kitchen -- it's full o' Busters).

Artworldies, chew on this -- a Dada gnome dies again, whilst a mediocre phony like David Ross gets feted in this month's Artforum for failing again and again -- plus the big Frisco money.

More apartment shows put the Rosses on the run!

Which happening young femme Ab Exer is allegedly rooming with a coke dealer? At her party for that hot Basilico artist last week, the guests lined up to buy little white packets, as soon as that bigfoot dealer left the bash.


Andrew Wyeth
Congrats to Lennie Lauder, who wasted no time hopping atop the curatorial pony. Spritz pulled all the museum's Louise Nevelsons out of storage, hung some 120 Andrew Wyeth landscapes and recreated the studio of forgotten abstracto Richard Pousette-Dart.

From now on, let him be known as Gertrude Vanderbilt Lauder.

Inquiring minds want to know how deposed dealer Patrick Callery landed a gig buying Basquiats for Leonardo DiCaprio. The go-between was Dana Giacchetti, head of Cassandra Productions and DiCaprio's financial advisor. Giacchetti apparently is an old friend of Callery's.

One interesting wrinkle: Giacchetti employs hunk of the moment Chris Cuomo, son of the ex-governor.

Note to readers: for the summer months, The Royal Flush will appear fortnightly, weather permitting!

CHARLIE FINCH is the New York editor of Coagula Art Journal and has coauthored the forthcoming Most Art Sucks from Smart Art Press.