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.
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.
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.