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by Meredith Mendelsohn
|It's springtime and the New York art scene has got muscles, lots of muscles. This is especially true of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in SoHo, where "Picturing the Modern Amazon" (Mar. 31-July 2) posed and flexed, complete with bikini-clad body builders. Organized by social activist and bodybuilder Laurie Fierstein, performance artist and art critic Joanna Frueh and curator and critic Judith Stein, the show traces the (often troubled) history of "curiously strong" women -- it is sponsored by Altoids, after all.
The not-so-muscular art folks were lining up for a gander at the 150-odd images from circus act ads and comic books to Herb Ritts photos and a Matthew Barney installation. I liked the Nicole Eisenman of Alice in Wonderland with her head disappearing up the crotch of Wonder Woman.
Also muscular is Richard Long's giant slate ellipse on the floor of Sperone Westwater. Who carries those things?
Muscular in a vibrant, multicolored way is L.A.-based artist Ingrid Calame, who looks like a blonde Rasta and is actually from the Bronx. Her show at Deitch Projects opned on April Fool's Day (to Apr. 27) with four paintings, five pencil drawings and single wall mural in aqua and cream shades. The show -- her first solo in New York -- is called "twlsptptpptptsl," which is as everyone knows the sound abstract artists make under their breath while they work.
Calame's constellations of blobs, squiggles and splashes in interlocking, overlapping patterns are obviously one part Matisse cutout and one part Pollock pouring. She actually gets her shapes by tracing stains on the streets and sidewalks of Los Angeles. In an era when a new stain-removal product hits the market every week -- be it for teeth, skin, clothes or rugs -- Calame stands out by embracing the stain. It's a way to eradicate signs of the passing of time and hence stave off death. The paintings, done in enamel on aluminum, are a reasonable $15,000, while the drawings are $10,000.
More squiggles are on view at Ronald Feldman, with the highly decorative new works by Carl Fudge (Apr. 1-May 6). Fudge takes perfectly nice Japanese pictures -- actually, they're often pornographic -- and then chops them up and recombines them with a computer.
One series of works is called "Rhapsody Spray," and they're all exactly alike except for their color scheme -- very artificial looking purple, blue, pink or brown. I can make out the flesh-colored face of a Japanese cartoon character from a series called Sailormoon Supers, tweaked by what look like tiny abstract tribal patterns set across the image like computer code. They're in an edition of 6 and cost $5,000.
Also on view are two abstract paintings in more traditional Japanese colors and several silk-screen prints of minimalist, abstract figures made of thin black lines -- sort of like a spyrograph gone awry.
Up in Chelsea, everyone is gushing over Amy Sillman's luscious oils and gouaches at Brent Sikkema (Mar. 31-Apr. 29). Sillman, who has a work in "Greater New York" at P.S. 1, likes to juxtapose serene expanses of soft, luminous color with clusters of dainty doodles and delicately drawn figures. They're as tranquil and disquieting as a fever dream. The show features seven large-scale (around 50 by 60 in.) canvases and 20 smaller works on paper. Everything was sold by Saturday except for two big paintings, priced at $9,000 each.
Maureen Gallace's small landscapes over at 303 Gallery (Apr. 1-Apr. 29) are also strangely placid and unnerving. Almost all of the18 works (12 oils and three pastels) show a white house in New England, either surrounded by lush green trees and grass or in the snow, devoid of any sign of humanity and without many details. She applies opaque paint so smoothly that her fluffy trees and wood paneled homes are totally textureless.
Gallace hails from Connecticut, which no doubt explains the erasure of all human presence from these homey scenes. The works run from $4,500 for an 9-by-12 inch oil on canvas to $12,000 for a 16-by-16 inch oil on linen.
Things are a bit more cheerful over at Debs & Co., with paintings by New York artist Roy Kortick, who just had a show at Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome. My favorites show Kortick's dogs Sammy and K. Kortick painted his own version of the "Hunt for the Unicorn" scene from the Unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters, then cut out parts of it in the shape of animals and pasted them on canvases. K Cut Out shows a large-scale cut out of his dog looking cuddly, playful and iconic, against a plain buttery yellow ground.
Had enough paint for one weekend? Try a little of the art world's true lifeblood -- Mark Dion's "Museum of Poison" at Bonakdar Jancou (ha, ha, just kidding, we're all about joy here). In the front of the gallery is a brick wall with a locked glass door through which you can see an assortment of biocide memorabilia -- old-fashioned hand-held glass pesticide sprayers, plastic jars of poisons, pesticide canisters with names like "Tanglefoot Fly Spray" and "Sweet Dreams."
Next to the display case is a big, rusty pesticide sprayer on wheels. A pile of blown up black and white photos showing human hands holding dead insects, labeled with archival museum tags, stands next to a stack of three file storage boxes, labeled with stickers that read "Biocide Hall Insecticide Sprays 1945-1960." It's all covered with transparent plastic sheets, as though it's going into storage.
It's not really clear if the museum is quarantined and closed down, or opening for business. You can buy it and play "Museum of Poison" however you like for a mere $45,000. The kids will love it! The show at Bonakdar runs concurrently with his "Nature Bureaucracies" at American Fine Arts in SoHo.
The kids also love Karin Sander's exhibition of 40 miniature figures at D'Amelio Terras, Apr. 1-May 13. The little sculptures are all realistic portraits of the German artist's friends -- including numerous artists and art dealers -- measuring one-tenth of their actual size. She makes them with a 3D laser camera, which scans the body and passes the information on to a machine called an extruder, which builds the figure layer by layer out of an acrylic material over the course of 30 to 40 hours -- a new technological process she devised in collaboration with two German tech companies. A technician then paints them.
Each figure is encased in its own glass display on a pedestal that stands about five feet high. The room looks like what a spaceship laboratory might look like if aliens had swooped down to Earth, kidnapped 40 Upper West Siders, froze and shrank them. They're $10,000 each, including the artist's self-portrait in jeans and a blazer.
TV is our own self portrait, or so says Jonathan Horowitz in his new seven-monitor video installation at Greene Naftali. Arranged in a circle, each monitor plays a 20-minute montage of images from different periods in his life. Sometimes the segments are taken from TV shows, sometimes they're just static images and sometimes they're quotes. For example, one segment shows a scene from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. The caption reads "Nick at Nite with Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore, 1994-2000." Another is a black screen with the quote "A contest to see if my sister or Lisa Gagne has bigger breasts, 1974-76." My favorite is "On acid with Belinda Carlisle."
A soundtrack quietly plays TV tunes and nostalgic pop songs, while another speaker plays a 70-minute audio track of Horowitz talking about things like self-expression, thought processes and neurosis. Painted on the gallery wall is a big sign that reads "THE JONATHAN HOROWITZ STORY." It's entertaining and moving, and somehow avoids being corny. The installation is an edition of three. The first on costs $20,000, the next, $25,000, and the third, $30,000.
Also at Greene Naftali are Horowitz's posters of a young Al Gore that say "Vote Gore" on them in red ink. An edition of 20, each print costs $500, and the proceeds go to Gore's campaign.
The group show at Postmasters also has some not-to-be missed video work. Austrian artist Gebhard Sengmüller has set up his "Vinyl Video" shop in the front of the gallery, where guests can watch his recordings of artist's videos that he's actually made on vinyl, like old records (and which he plays through TV sets). They're black and white with the texture of a really crappy, old TV, and the moving image appears in abrupt flashes, like a strobe light without the brightness and blackness.
In the back room the crowd was going nuts for Camille Utterback's Figures of Speech. The work consists of large screen with a tiny hole in it through which a camera records the people looking at it and projects the images back onto the screen. A computer projects falling letters, which are sensitive to light and dark on to the same screen so that when you walk by or reach up to grab the letters they bob up to avoid being touched. Sure, the science part is fun, but watching people watch themselves grabbing at nothing was far more entertaining.
The crowd was a kick too in front of chic Nolita shoe boutique Siegerson Morrison on Mott St., where macho feminist video artist Jocelyn Taylor -- last seen at Deitch Projects in a film where she struts down city streets stark naked -- has installed a three-monitor work called The Story of Color (2000), Mar. 30-Apr. 27. Commissioned through the Public Art Fund's annual open call to artists, Taylor's project -- like many of her past works -- explores racial and sexual dynamics. We see interracial couples smooching, candid shots of people looking into a (hidden?) camera on a street, a floating, "light," black woman and the like.
What's it got to do with shoes? Not much. But atop each monitor is a fetching display of Siegerson Morrison's strappy green sandals and pink slip-ons. One young window shopper got it anyway, "See!" she remarked, "It's all about color!" Make sure you go when the sunlight isn't hitting those west-facing windows.
As for closings, Pierogi 2000, the Williamsburg gallery that could, just wrapped up Lisa Stefanelli's first solo show. Her signature red caligraphic swirls and glyph marks seemed a nostalgic nod to her figure-skating past. She sold five paintings at $1,500-$2,400 a pop, and several works on paper from the famous flat files.
Other art notes: Art Hamptons 2000 -- the annual migration out to East Egg of the New York City art scene -- has begun with the installation of 10 spray-painted murals by Brett Cook-Dizney on the outside walls of the Parrish Art Museum, local school buildings, other Southampton sites. The paintings show portraits of kids with their anti-racism statements.... Jeff Koons is at work on another topiary colossus, this one in the shape of a hobby-horse head, 35-feet-tall with 90,000 plants, for the papal palace in Avignon, reports James Reginato in the April W....
Newsweek art critic Peter Plagens goes to "Greater New York" at P.S. 1 and gives us his "ones to watch:" Vanessa Beecroft, Inka Essenhigh, Saloman Huerta, Julian LaVerdiere, Michelle Lopez and Paul Pfeiffer.... The now-weekly US magazine has a "fine art" feature, beginning with piece on Kim Dingle driving her Whitney Biennial-mobile.... Speaking of Dingle, West Coast gossip has it that San Diego curator Hugh Davies titled Dingle's pink MG "Prissmobile," in reference to her "Priss Doll" paintings and sculptures, much to the artist's dismay. We're sure it's not true. The car's official title is 63MG 4ME....
Bill Arning says "achieving failure" -- the title of his "Gym Culture" show at Thread Waxing Space in SoHo -- is gym slang for working out until you collapse, "effectively embarrassing your muscles into rapid growth"....
The new issue of the scabrous mag everyone loves to read -- Coagula -- features Matthew Barney on the cover (the mag compares him to famous Barneys, like Barney Rubble and Barney the dinosaur). Inside is a review of the Cindy Sherman show at Gagosian in Beverly Hills and an interview with Judy Chicago about her new website, judychicago.com. Coagula is now legit, says editor Mat Gleason, and will be for sale on newsstands and bookstores for $3 a copy.
MEREDITH MENDELSOHN is Associate Editor of Artnet Magazine.