The Body Electric
Summertime is for sweating and suntans, the surface of the body glowing from pleasurable exertions like hiking and swimming. But Jeanne Silverthorne's restless intellect won't allow time off from the rigors of the studio, where rather than tanning her skin she magnifies and replicates it into biomorphic cast-rubber forms.
For Silverthorne's exhibition at the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris in midtown, "The Studio Stripped Bare, Again" (July 30-Oct. 15, 1999), branch curator Debra Singer has installed a cast rubber version of the artist's studio. On the wall are ornate black rubber frames containing mustard colored "paintings" -- those magnified repros of the human skin and sweat glands. So that's what we look like up close! Yellow cast rubber shapes rest on pedestals, and cast rubber fuse boxes, light fixtures, outlets and electrical cords spill out into the atrium and crawl up the wall to the very high ceiling.
A literal translation of an actual place, Silverthorne's work begins with the body and ends with a sculptural object -- like a geneticist's cloning of the myriad points of a complex system, and the dispersal of its elemental attributes into a plausible abstraction.
Corporations Need Art
Art as a fundamental aspect of daily life seems more an anachronistic Old World philosophy than an American tradition. However, several luxury retailers have recently taken interest in using the avant-garde to enhance public awareness of their brand. Fashion houses have understandably set the trend, with Yohji Yamamoto and Yves Saint-Laurent installing fine art in their boutiques.
Early this summer, tony pen peddlers Montblanc followed suit, opening an art-filled 1,800-square-foot flagship retail shop at 834 Madison Avenue (at 69th Street). The concept is to create an environment of rotating exhibitions where the harried shopper can slow down and unexpectedly take in some culture -- perhaps while having new fountain pen nibs ground to their exact handwriting style (one of the many services offered by Montblanc).
The first show is by French artists Anne and Patrick Poirier, who have installed a 660-pound bronze sculpture called Anima Mundi (1981). Resting on the floor, the heavy disc-like gilt object contains a small, square window in its center, filled with compressed dried leaves and blossoms. The Poiriers are concerned with cultural memory and the destruction of the natural world.
Artist Tom Sachs, who is known for making things with duct tape and cardboard, and who recently joined the stable of uptown dealer Mary Boone, has a work called Burn Baby Burn. Exploring the speed and violence of contemporary life, Sachs has built a large maquette of the Apollo Eleven Space ship and suspended it from the ceiling. Two videos play excerpts from popular, violent Hollywood action films. Adding a subversive twist, Sachs has sprayed the words "burn baby burn" on the staircase wall in dripping black paint.
In midtown, Deutsche Bank has been mounting quiet exhibitions from its extensive collection, which largely consists of works on paper. Until Sept. 24, photographs by the German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher (collaborating together since 1959) are on view in the lobby gallery of the bank headquarters, just across the street from the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street.
Deutsche Bank has one of the largest collections of the German team's work to date. The Bechers photograph industrial and residential buildings in Western Europe and North America, which look as ominous and elegant as stills from Fritz Lang's Metropolis.The Bechers have found beauty in monumental beasts of post-war architecture, while the houses they shoot look as simple and unadorned as a Shaker structure.
New Belgian Import
Jan Van Imschoot is a Belgian painter and contemporary of Luc Tuymans. Relatively unknown in the States, Van Imschoot can be seen at Bonakdar Jancou amidst a group-show bonanza of works by Franz West, Martin Kippenberger, Thomas Schutte, Rosemarie Trockel, Tuymans and Fischli/Weiss.
The 36-year-old Van Imschoot holds his own with canvases depicting eccentrics and misfits in traditionally applied oil paint. Van Imschoot's colorful works on paper are perhaps better known. Reminiscent of Kippenberger's cartoony style, they incorporate ironic textual twists that contrast with his comical characters. Look for him in his first solo show around mid-spring of 2000.
Rebel with a Kaws
The 25-year-old artist known as Kaws (pronounced "cause") steals the large posters from bus stops along East Houston Street. Ones with Christy Turlington in her Calvin Klein undies, say. On these he paints graffiti-like shapes and abstract geometric colorforms. There are no computer tricks here, it's all painterly sleight of hand. The subversive artist then replaces the altered poster in its original bus stop shelter.
Kaws can be seen in a group show organized by downtown film curator Jane Gang in a raw loft space at 450 Broadway. The show's quasi-romantic theme relates to works made by hand in an increasingly digitized world. Other artists include Ida Applebroog, Nicole Eisenman, Hal Hirshorn and Judy Glantzman. Another young unknown with a hilarious take on hip-hop culture is Morgan Phillips, who makes funky dioramas of urban settings peopled by clay figures that look like hip-hop space aliens.