Last weekend's openings at New York galleries were something like dumping out the silverware drawer -- jangly, discordant, hard to find what you're looking for. There's no time for this sort of mess. Let's see, what do we have here:
String-of-light sculptures by cult rock god Alan Suicide at Deitch Projects, originally shown back in the 1970s, many of them obviously vintage. Alan, who is the father of a three-year-old boy, has reunited with Martin Rev for a new Suicide CD, due out in a few months on Flat records. Prices for the artworks, which simmer and blink with soulful mourning, range from $6,000 to $10,000, with a large floor piece already sold at $20,000.
Female nakedness from septuagenarian painter Ida Applebroog at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, who for her new "Olympia" series has forgone her schoolmarmish Neo-Expressionism to treat the female nude, from the Classical and the Modern to pornography and fashion magazines, mostly with a pastel-hued lyricism that is irresistible. Something must be working; the $200,000 wall of watercolor erotica, Modern Olympia (after O'Keeffe) is sold.
Tony Smith "For Series" at Matthew Marks on 22nd Street, a beautiful installation for which the gallery actually demolished its back rooms to create an clean open space. Smith made the nine black-patinaed bronze forms in 1969 and dedicated each of them to friends, mostly teaching colleagues, identified by initials. The gallery also produced a flyer that shows the black plywood mockups for the works arrayed in the artist's grassy backyard in New Jersey. Are these sharp-edged voids relics of death and the dark side? They rekindle "funery-art tradition," writes Jean-Pierre Criqui in the accompanying essay. "You can have any color as long as it is black," Smith said.
Soft-focus sentimental color photos of Times Square hustlers by David Armstrong at Marks on 24th Street. Sad guys sit in windows, framed tightly, or stand on street corners. Do you have sex with your models? "Sometimes I just photograph them, sometimes I have sex with them and don't photograph them," he said. The works are $3,000 in editions of 10.
Performance artist Andrea Fraser, best known for a speech in which she enacts an "institutional critique" by taking on the role of a museum docent, in a double show at the Pat Hearn Art Gallery and Friedrich Petzel on 22nd Street. In one room-sized video projection, the hyperathletic artist dances in skimpy costume in Rio's Carnival. In another tape, she gallops across a field on a horse like a champion Red Guard -- Stalinism lives, apparently -- and she strips to her underwear in a couple of others. Her majesty is somewhat obnoxious, unfortunately, though perhaps that's the point. Frequently overheard comment -- she has a great ass!
Young artist up from Texas Brad Tucker in his first show in New York at Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, with works that include an assortment of flip-flop sandals piled on the floor ($2,200) and a small painting titled "Who's Asking" but that in fact spells out "Ass King" (it's sold). Tucker likes "flip flop" because their name is an onomatopoeic echo of the sound they make when worn. That's nice, but hey, I want to be the ass king!
Dana Schutz at LFL Gallery, upstairs from Lombard-Freid on West 26th Street, with comic, charming Immendorffish portraits and paintings of what look like summer-camp arts-and-crafts sessions. Painter Erik Parker claimed to have bought the portrait of a girl blowing her nose off, for $2,400.
"Abstract Redux" at Danese in the Fuller Building, a show of paintings and two sculptures by artists largely represented by other galleries, including Warren Isensee's large oil 20th Century Box (2002), a field of bricolated balloon shapes that sold for $18,000, and in the back a very hard-edged painting by Michael Zahn, Untitled (Gradient Editor) (2001), priced at $6,500.
Greg Bogin's new abstractions at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea, paintings that poise a single, looping stripe in a pretty color against a white ground, sort of like a fragment of an early work by Frank Stella. Three of the seven on view were marked sold, at the modest price of $15,000 each. Bogin was a studio assistant to Julian Schnabel, also shows his works at Raphael Jablonka's in Cologne. The title of the group, "Signature Series," seems to recognize the curse of Mary Boone's magic -- the art is more like merchandise designed for the market than part of some kind of public art-world discourse. Similarly uptown, where collectors are snapping up big, gray paintings of empty rooms (at $15,000 each) by Kevin Zucker, a graduate student at Columbia.
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Don't miss "Family Line: Drawings and Paintings by Anne Harvey, Jason Harvey and Steven Harvey" at the New York Studio School on West 8th Street. Organized by Steven Harvey, the painter who works at Salander-O'Reilly and who curated the Louis Eilshemius show at the National Academy of Design, the show uncovers works by his aunt Anne, who back in the 1930s in Paris posed for Jules Pascin and Brassaï, and did a great painting of Constantin Brancusi in his studio. The show also includes New York and Cape Cod scenes from the 1970s and '80s by Anne's brother Jason, and contemporary paintings of the nude model by Steven, frequently with a presence that is given a bit of added animation by the artist's working hand seen in the composition as well.
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The Berlin artist Daniel Knorr is single-handedly reviving the Conceptualist pretense of the empty space as art, and brought several of them with him for his current show up at the Project on West 126th Street in Harlem. In the downstairs space -- well lit, white-painted but empty, of course -- is Not Another Readymade, which apparently consists of the art-fair booth space of Knorr's Zurich dealer, Serge Ziegler (it comes in an edition of 10, and can be had for $2,000) and another piece, this one for perfect for the hypochondriac, called European Influenza -- a piece one would definitely rather not collect, though it seems like it would be easy enough to walk off with all the same.
Upstairs is Klaus, Klaus Comes by Foot (2001), another empty room but this one with a middle-aged lady standing in it. Knorr had originally enlisted a retired Berlin museum guard named Klaus to enact the work in Zurich, but the original Klaus declined to travel to New York. So Knorr searched the Manhattan phone book for another Klaus, and a retired city child-welfare attorney named Mary Ann agreed to take on the job. She was at the gallery, greeting visitors and chatting -- the relationship is the piece, according to Knorr. It's priced at $16,000
Also on hand are several more materialized artworks, including some color photographs of a snowman made of stones on a Nice beach in summer, and a red-eyed robot, named Lui and Morty, that asks for a handout and then thanks you if you toss a coin into its open head.
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Artnet Magazine advice columnist Mark Kostabi took his own counsel in advance of his show at Stefan Stux, using his enviable gossip quotient to plant stories in both New York tabloids. The Post's Page Six had Kostabi looking for respect, spurning the "tourist trap" Martin Lawrence Galleries for the greener pastures of Stux in Chelsea. "I'm tired of being a joke," quoth Kostabi.
In the Daily News, Kostabi was fuming over Andy Behrman, the "easel weasel" who did five months in jail for faking more than $100,000 worth of Kostabi paintings but who now has a hot book about his hyperactive life and electroshock cure -- titled Electroboy -- that has even been excerpted in Talk magazine, "He's profiting off his crime," Kostabi said, which is prohibited by New York's Son of Sam law.
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"If it's not a great cookie, why eat it?" notes Studio Museum in Harlem curator Thelma Golden, presumably by way of illustrating her curatorial ethos, in a long and rather embarrassing profile by Ian Parker in last week's New Yorker.
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Where can you see art legends Jasper Johns and Lawrence Weiner topless? At Leslie Tonkonow's show of shadow contact-print portraits of the artists by Kunié Sugiura... Art Chicago guru Tom Blackman is looking into mounting the first art fair in Las Vegas... What if Julian Schnabel had his next show this spring at Gagosian, rather than PaceWildenstein. Imagine the scale... Danger-loving dealer Xavier LaBoulbenne, who suddenly went missing from New York a year ago, sends greetings from Berlin, along with a jpg showing Mike Sale in a body art performance. Xavier is producing Janine Gordon's piece for the Whitney Biennial...
Veteran Museum of Modern Art curator Kynaston McShine stands in for departing director of painting and sculpture Kurt Varnedoe while the search for his successor goes on... Oklahoma prairie painter Joe Andoe, one of the stars of Joe Helman's pre-downsized 57th Street operation, has gone out on his own and built a new website, at www.joeandoe.com... Performance art diva Karen Finley is working with Liebman Magnan Gallery in Chelsea, and has a show scheduled there in May 2002..."Tortured reality" video works by Danny Hobart, Chloe Piene and Aida Ruilova, on view in "Altered States" at Stefan Stux in Chelsea, are also viewable online on curator Paul Laster's site, Bkyn.com...
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People are loving the Irving Penn nudes up at the Metropolitan Museum, and why not, they're the best kitsch money can buy. Penn's lugubrious torsos, all photographed without heads or arms, were made in the years immediately following World War II (and the liberation of the Nazi death camps) by a photographer whose talents were employed over a long career (Penn was born in 1917 and became the house photographer for Condé Nast) largely for celebrating the hollow high style of the social elite.
The nudes, then, are Penn's "artistic" work, though it is an estheticism that pales in the face of the vulgarity of his professional practice. In any case, their method is obvious to anyone who has ever picked up a camera, and their artistry much less adventurous that that of other photographers of the period or earlier.
All this could be passed over in silence if it weren't for the fawning tone of the wall-label text. No one expects independence of mind from today's contemporary curator, who is after all the artist's champion. But obsequious flattery is just irritating.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor-in-chief of Artnet Magazine.