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by Max Henry
Art world hipsters and hangers on were crawling all over the cavernous new Manhattan space opened by rising art dealer Leo Koenig, who launched his first New York gallery in Brooklyn last year. Koenig's inaugural show features geometric abstractions by New York artist Greg Bogin (already nearly sold out at $4,000-$20,000).
Bogin's precise oblongs, thick straight lines, squares and stacked "L" shapes appear machine-made, but are actually silk-screened smooth as porcelain. He's the Donald Judd of 21st-century painting, borrowing primary color and shapes from Ellsworth Kelly. Bogie recently defected from tony Sperone Westwater in New York but will still show with Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome.
The tall, lanky Koenig, who is son of Frankfurt's Portikus museum director Kasper Koenig, presided over his packed opening wearing a sporty beige corduroy suit while sipping a tall boy. With its unusual tile floor and old-world molding framing 20-foot-high ceilings, Koenig's space has the feel of a mini-Kunsthalle. The gallery is housed in a former manufacturing space at 359 Broadway in the high-rent Tribeca neighborhood. Tucked away in the back is the New York division of Greek-Roman antiquities dealer Gordian Weber Fine Art, run by Koenig's brother-in-law. Next door is a space currently under development by internet visionary Josh Harris.
The antihero with a thousand faces
Elusive international art star Sam Samore is featured in the new show at Clinica Aesthetica, a 1,000-square-foot project space recently opened at 427 West 14th Street by Yvonne Senouf, whose past affiliations have included Christie's auction house and McKee and Cavin-Morris galleries. Samore, who shows with Gorney Bravin + Lee, has collaborated with zany Claudia Hart, the former Artforum reviews editor who published the very successful children's book, A Child's Machiavelli: A Primer on Power in 1995.
Together Samore and Hart have created "Playworld," a project that can be described as an adult Romper Room. The walls are painted in pleasant pastels -- pink, lavender, yellow green. A bright green sofa and side table piled with artist's books invite reading and relaxing. Around the perimeter of the space at ceiling height is an 18-inch cadmium pink frieze stenciled with Samore's signature alternating word associations -- "childless," "ugly," "unbelievable."
A 32-inch video monitor plays a DVD loop of Twin Pigs, two digitally animated Tweedledum-Tweedledee characters created by Hart in her first digital animation. Nearby, a lucite-framed plastic mirror hangs on a checkerboard wall. Step up to gaze within, and an audio loop plays a child's laugh. Reflected in the mirror is Samore's lush horizontal painting hanging on the opposite wall, a close-up of a young boy printed on canvas with inkjet acrylic in Samore's recognizable grainy texture.
What's going on in "Playworld"? On the surface all is cheery and bright, but the button on the video touch screen doesn't function, leaving those piggies to dance annoyingly in virtual perpetuity. "It's a frustration button for the 21st century," said Hart. The laughter veers from funny to malevolent after a lapse of time.
Samore and Hart have effectively employed a seductive esthetic to conjure the psychology of children's storytelling and games -- an interactive world of deceptive comfort -- easily manipulated by invisible dragons.
Okay Kay uh-huh!
Semioticians, fontologists and wordsmiths love the word-works of former linguist Kay Rosen. At Ten in One Gallery on West 26th Street (the former Chicago showcase relocated to Gotham last year), Rosen has installed a series called "The Up and Down Paintings" (2000), six canvases painted in flat enamel and hung at different heights. For these works, Rosen used the clean uppercase font called "commander extended normal."
A baby blue monochrome has white letters spelling FLOAT and ALOFT. It's hung high on the wall to physically mimic the sensation of staring up at the clouds. STRIP STRIPE STRIP STRIPE is a cadmium red font -- if you read it fast enough you get a sensation of Morse code cadences -- short, long, fast, slow. In a separate space is a wall drawing done in blue pastel spelling out the famous maxim, "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line." It's an elegant, eight-inch-tall line of type in a regal font (called "script 92 normal") across a ten-foot wall underscored with, what else, a straight line.
For y'all who luv language -- Kay Rosen is an addiction, an affliction. One can walk the streets murmuring catch phrases (especially after catching Rosen's text on the exterior of the Whitney Museum for the "2000 Biennial," which reads A BANNER YET WAVE) and grin at the variety of quasi-rhymes. After seeing her show, next time you walk by a psychic storefront Gotham Dispatch predicts you'll reread it as PSYCHIC-SIDEKICK-SY KICKS. O, the possibilities are endlessly humorous. Smile and think fond thoughts or rather, font thoughts for this particularly articulate artist.
Rosen also has a group of works on view at Paul Morris. Both shows run through Apr. 29.
For those of you who think you may have missed the survey of heretofore-unseen models, small sculptures and drawings by Jackie Ferrara at Frederieke Taylor/TZ Art on Broome Street in SoHo, the show has been extended through Apr. 29. The works range in date from 1973 to 2000, during which span Ferrara has quietly built a stellar career, receiving numerous large scale public and private commissions including 1999's amphitheater at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Ferrara is from the post-minimal generation, a contemporary of Mel Bochner and Sol LeWitt. Her pyramidal shapes, walkways and spires dazzle with simple geometric forms built out of rare exotic woods and limestone. It should be noted Ferrara has yet to have a show of her work in a major New York institution as other artists of her generation have. Perhaps some museum curators will take notice.
The long goodbye
A memorial for conceptual artist Mark Lombardi was held this past Sunday at Pierogi 2000 in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. Lombardi quickly became a fixture on the local art scene after having relocated to New York from Houston three years ago. At 48, he gained critical respect with his detailed maps of financial and political scandals, currently on view at P.S. 1 in "Greater New York." His work was influenced by the writings of French Situationist Guy DeBord as well as by Ab Ex art critic Harold Rosenberg.
Often seen with a smoke in hand and a bottle of beer, Lombardi lived a cowboy's life with the energy of men half his age. There is talk of a traveling exhibition and perhaps a monograph on his work, which most agree will gain in stature as time goes on. As the estate is resolved, the dozens of drawings left behind will be catalogued and hopefully end up on display in museums, further preserving his legacy as a major artist at the end of the century.
MAX HENRY lives in New York City.