1. Richard Tuttle, "It's a Room for 3 People," at the Drawing Center
40 Wooster Street, Nov. 6, 2004- Feb 26, 2005
For his exhibition at the Drawing Center, Richard Tuttle has filled the large gallery with new sculptures and drawings, all grouped into five "villages." Tuttle's villages link together the two mediums in a symbiotic relation that is suggestive of the social constructs of a village. Tuttle has painted the walls around Village V in a repetitive pattern that serves as a sort of flamboyant wallpaper, upon which he has installed a row of individually wood-framed works on paper that wrap around the corner and continue onto the next wall. Each picture contains a single abstract meditation, like an isolated thought jotted down and then ripped out of the sketchbook, leaving messy jagged edges. Vibrant colors interrupt the contemplative aura of the small compositions.
Tuttle's art has often seemed balanced at a peculiar threshold between the immutable world of objects and a more quizzical ephemerality. He offers up works that are almost like living creatures, made of materials as delicate and destructible as life itself. Thin plywood, discarded plastics, strands of wire and odd bits of paper are his iconic materials. He has a running dialogue with Minimalism that is expressed through his attention to purity of form, but he abandons Minimalism's creed in his sense of material experimentation.
Surprisingly, many of the new works at the Drawing Center are doused in glitter, a technique common to many artists who came after him. What's more, Tuttle uses color without restraint, a use that borders on the abusive, though carried off with a childish innocence as if Tuttle is actually color blind. Then, in the middle of all this flash and dash, appears a work like Village I , Sculpture (2003), a simple construction of steel wire and wood that looks like a small petrified waterfall.
Tuttle, who was born in 1941, has a momentum in the contemporary art world that continues to strengthen, culminating in the first full-scale retrospective of his work, debuting this summer at the San Francisco MOMA and subsequently appearing at the Whitney Museum, the Des Moines Art Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Chicago MCA and MOCA Los Angeles. The second installment of Tuttle's Drawing Center show, "Village VI," opens at the "drawing room," Jan. 28-March 5, 2005.
"Organized Delirium" is a phrase that was originally used by the late Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980), whose group performances and participatory art pieces made an important contribution to the Latin American avant-garde in the 1960s. In the 70s, Oiticica spent some time in New York City, and he and his peers from that period -- John Cage, Neville D'Almeida, Gordon Matta-Clark, Yoko Ono, Jack Smith and Robert Smithson -- are all represented in Galerie Lelong's new version of Oiticica's "Organized Delirium."
The key is that their delirium was "organized." The central work in the Lelong show, Oiticica's CC2 Onobject (1973), seems to suggest that art lovers have lost their spontaneity, and must therefore be instructed through it by the artist. CC2 Onoobject is an environmental installation, complete with a constructed room with films projected on the walls, and a plaque listing the instructions for visitors to complete the piece -- including "participants must take off shoes" and "participants should be induced into a light and joyful play of body through dance rising above ground." Today, more than 30 years after its conception, the work seems rather contrived, with vague sexual undertones as forced as children playing spin the bottle.
Yoko Ono's 1964 how-to book, Grapefruit, is on display in the gallery, page by page leading the reader into a realm of induced creativity via its simple Fluxus art instructions. In a world polluted by self-help books, diets and new age spiritual movements it comes as no surprise that contemporary culture is shot through with a motif of helplessness. Perhaps it's no accident that today, with our perverse political environment, that we're revisiting the delirious response to the war and political oppression of the 1960s and 70s.
3. "Beuys and Le Va: Compare and Contrast" at Sonnabend Gallery
536 West 22nd Street, through Feb 12, 2005
Joseph Beuys, who died in 1986, remains an important touchstone for contemporary artists -- witness at least three very different shows in Chelsea that show the influence of the German art magus. Paula Cooper Gallery advertised its exhibition of short videos of sound-making machines by Christian Marclay with a picture of Beuy's tin-can multiple. At Tanya Bonakdar, "Material as Metaphor" presents works by five artists who look to Beuys as a historical predecessor. And at Sonnabend Gallery, "Barry LeVa and Joseph Beuys: Compare and Contrast" has arranged itself almost as a symposium, parlaying a large number of works by the two artists into a pedantic discourse.
In the front room are 11 of Beuys' black-painted wood panels -- blackboards, essentially, covered with diagrams, phrases in German and drawings. The works are part of a series completed in collaboration with his student Johannes Stttgen during several performative lectures given in 1982 at "Documenta 7" in Kassel, Germany. In both white and colored chalk, Stttgen and Beuys schematized the concepts from Beuys' lectures, with many of the boards featuring in their center an outlined figure of the artist, who in his traditional apparel plays king over the incoherent jumble. In one work he is actually holding up a crown.
The back gallery spaces are devoted to works by the Post-Minimalist artist Barry Le Va, including several architectonic compositions on canvas and one of his sprawling sculpture of wood forms and steel balls titled 3 Hour Stare (1988). One composition titled Diagrammatic Silhouettes: sculptured activities (double wall/double floor) (1988) looks almost comically like a deliberate homage to Beuys, with cut-out silhouettes that resemble canes and top hats assembled haphazardly on the canvas in electric colors that mimic Beuys' neon chalk.
The comparison of Le Va and Beuys may just be more interesting than the actual works in the exhibition. Interest in both artists grew as part of a broad reaction to Minimalism, and a subsequent exploration of social convention and political constraints. Le Va's "distribution" pieces, which incorporate scattered materials like dirt, felt and powdered chalk, relate more directly to Beuys' interest in materials, though perhaps without their magical overtones.
4."View Eight: A Few Domestic Objects Interrogate a Few Works of Art" at Mary Boone Gallery
745 Fifth Avenue, Jan. 6-Feb. 26, 2005
Another trend in current Manhattan exhibitions is the merger of art and high design. The Cooper-Hewitt Museum's "Art ≠ Design" exhibition asserts that design is not art -- it's in a realm all its own, with its own rules and a superior sense of difficulty. In a survey of furniture by Danish designer Poul Kjaerholm, jointly mounted by R 20th Century in Tribeca and Sean Kelly Gallery in Chelsea, curator John Keenan combined Kjaerholm's works with art by John Baldessari, Rineke Dijkstra, Joseph Kosuth, Yves Klein, Lucretia Moroni, Richard Tuttle and Tony Smith.
Also in on the game is dealer Mary Boone, who invited Bruce Ferguson, head of the art department at Columbia University, to organize an exhibition that pushes the art-meets-furniture thing a little bit further by focusing on objects of design that actually act more as a work of art than a functional object.
As a result, Boone's uptown space is turned into an oversized wunderkammer inhabited by spectacular and extraordinary tables, lamps, sculptures and chairs. Jorge Pardo's Untitled table from 2003 is bold and sleek, made of wood with varying fiery shades of orange and red graphed onto the surface by an inkjet in a wave pattern, as is Sachio Hihara's electric orange Obi Bench, which isshaped into a twisting silhouette that seems to be reclining in the center of the gallery.
Ken Price's amorphous phallic sculptures of painted clay and wood are scattered among the larger objects, setting a sensuous tone. Two untitled pieces from 2002 by Tom Friedman are perhaps the most striking, despite their pale coloration. One is the faintest remnant ofa cardboard box, whose sides have been cut out so that only a slight outline of the original shape remains. The second is a chair that looks as if it were attacked by woodpeckers. Other artists represented in the show include Jurgen Bey, Lee Bontecou, Karen Davie, Lionel Theodore Dean, Andrew Lord and Josiah McElheny.
5. Chris Hammerlein at Derek Eller Gallery
526-30 West 25th Street, Jan. 7-Feb. 5, 2005
For his third solo show at Eller, Chris Hammerlein presents seven large drawings filled with swirling pencil lines coiling out the forms of grotesquely gaunt goddesses and strange folkloric symbols. Freewheeling and precise, Hammerlein's cartoonish drawings string together disparate images -- flowers, demigods, birds, broken violins, a full moon. The drawings are like illustrations from narrative poems, or scenes from legends, myths or old wives tales, or symbols from the index of a book for decoding dreams.
In one drawing, titled Gossips (2004), three laughing pigs dominate the center of the composition, with a half-eaten corncob lying at their feet -- a portent of ridicule in the face of loss, according to New Age dream books. A small monkey appears in several compositions, just as it does in the Medieval Unicorn Tapestries. Hammerlein's irony is his use of such optimistic emblems of power, love, and beauty in drawings that are base and abject, as if to illustrate our current ravaged state.
In the glossy white space of Bellwether Gallery, a series of 20 x 24 in. photographs are lined up in a row around three walls surrounding the view with soft whitewashed headshots of the alien-like marchers in Tanyth Berkeley's "love parade." What's a love parade? Berkeley stalks streets and subway in search of subjects who exude the purest and most unique natural beauty.
The young women she photographs for her "Orchidaceae" series, for instance, are unusual to an extreme. Albinos, red heads and faces with asymmetrical features are transformed by Berkeley's lens into elfin princesses crouching in an enchanted forest, their gaze always mysteriously out of frame. The light plays upon each face and sets their hair aglow with an intensity that counteracts the nonchalance of their expressions. Orchidacea, by the way, is the scientific name for the orchid family, defined of course by their "unusual flowers."
The show also includes some videos that add to its narrative and metaphoric dimension. Serenade features scenes of women walking in the subway, with a soundtrack of men belting out love songs, while Bird shows an albino peacock, a demure doppelganger to some of her hand-plucked human orchids.
7. Kent Henricksen, "Season of Delight," at John Connelly Presents
526 West 26th Street, Suite 1003, Jan. 7- Feb. 12, 2005
For his second solo show in New York, Kent Henricksen has turned John Connelly's gallery space into an 18th-century boudoir, complete with plush wall covering, candelabras and his own new works, a series of embroideries on found tapestries. Henricksen's sinister cloaked figures, previously made on canvas and paper, have now invaded the toile Rococo landscapes populated by innocent maidens. The effect of these sneering hooded men is both dark and comic, and reminiscent of Max Ernst's Surrealist collages, in which he made subtle yet bizarre alterations to cheap black-and-white ink prints.
The barely hidden sexual content of the tapestries turns kinky, even flat-out raunchy, and the otherwise banal imagery turns rebellious and menacing. Henricksen's works take on a pointed political meaning today, with the rise in both Islamist terrorism on the international scene and right-wing religious fervor in the U.S. It's a sick and twisted formula -- adding figures that refuse to show their true faces to a nostalgic landscape of harmless pastimes. With titles like Lady Lovers and Romantic Delights, Henricksen keeps it light -- plus, his embroideries have an additional appeal on a decorative level.
8. "Kandinsky Gallery: An Inaugural Selection" at the Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, Sept. 17, 2004-May 11, 2005
Despite the trendy hijinks that now characterize life at Tom Krens' Guggenheim Museum, it does still hold in its vaults a treasure trove of over 150 works by Wassily Kandinsky, the unparalleled Russian avant-gardist. So it makes a lot of sense that the museum has now dubbed one of the largish galleries in the Thannhauser wing as the "Kandinsky Gallery," and filled it with works ranging from 1908, when the artist was still in Russia, through Der Blaue Reiter in Munich to his later masterpieces like Composition 8 (1923). The Guggenheim plans to change the installation periodically during the next two years.
NICOLE DAVIS is associate editor of Artnet magazine.