The art world thronged to the Jan. 19 opening of its favorite prodigal son, Cy Twombly, who lives in Rome but brought his major 12-painting cycle "Lepanto" over from the 2001 Venice Biennale to exhibit in Gagosian's large Chelsea space. The series, which is sold to an European collector for an undisclosed price, describes a famous 16th-century sea battle between the Moslem world and the west that gave the shaky Papal League a short-lived victory over Turkish forces. Hmmm. In any case, Twombly's spirited rendering of this historic triumph gives us magenta ships, all heading counterclockwise around the room, and watery explosions rendered in yellow, turquoise and hot pink.
"Haven't seen him use that pink before," said Mark Kostabi, a fellow resident of the Eternal City. Kostabi went on to explain how loved Twombly is in the art world. Though Twombly's scribbled art can seem mysterious, elitist and pretentious, in person the artist is warm and down-to-earth, a Southern gentleman. He now has higher status as an artist than his former good pal, Jasper Johns, since Twombly's 1994-95 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art was widely praised, while Johns career survey in 1996-97 received more mixed reviews. And as a final proof: Julian Schnabel adores him, and even named one of his kids after him.
Similarly thronged was "A New World Trade Center: Design Proposals" at Max Protetch on West 22nd Street. This collection of 45 architectural projects is the show that everyone's writing about, from Newsweek to the Architectural Record to the New York Post's "Metro Gnome." As you can imagine, the ideas are grandiloquent, most of them, calling for new twin towers, digital towers, light towers, negative towers, slab towers and more. Eytan Kaufman proposes a 4,000-foot-long bridge arching over the Hudson from Manhattan to Jersey City, reserved for pedestrians only. Morris Adjmi drew up a tiered wedding-cake-like structure decorated with stars-and-stripes bunting.
Hani Rashid/Asympote submitted a massive undulating biomorphic volume with sky gardens and suspended pools. Daniel Libeskind produced a collage rendering of a deconstructivist tower with gardens and a memorial plus working and living space. Perhaps more to the taste of those of us with no fetish for the building trades is Michael Sorkin's huge green berm, an "Elysian Field filled with earth from every country in perpetual memory of the fallen." Now that would be a thing to see, especially on the World Trade Center site.
In a more playful spirit is the show "Reflection Loop" at Bitforms, the new gallery of digital and cyber art on West 20th Street. M.I.T. art-and-science grad Kelly Heaton has turned her scalpel on Furby, that exceptionally popular, exceptionally annoying toy of several Christmases past. In one work, a lobotomized Furby calmly contemplates his electronic brain in a nearby jar ($3,500), while in another, Furby's constituent parts are neatly arranged and butterfly-pinned on a board ($3,250). Now this is a rare thing: engineering with a sense of humor.
The show's big set piece, calledThe Pool, features 400 Furby eyes arrayed in 20 by 20 grid on a giant panel ($33,000), a composition governed by the molecular structure of water, according to the artist. In any case, the free-floating eyeballs erupt in a chorus of winks and blinks at the approach of every visitor. "I chose to work with Furby because it is so absurdist," Kelly explained to a visitor, adding something about "exploring the ethics of using an intelligent machine..." Like all Furbys, the pieces will eventually "die" and stop working. And to think Heaton originally went to veterinary school.
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Painting is mired in such pathos these days, impossible to make without layers of mediation. Jeff Elrod designs his "analog" abstractions on a computer with mouse and a simple vector drawing program, and then transfers the images to canvas with tape and paint. They have an Art Brut awkwardness that is exactly the same as Jean-Michel Basquiat's pseudo-primitivism -- Basquiat was an African other, while Elrod is a white cybergeek. And the paintings also have a hidden if slight narrative, something for the future art historians to parse out. In any case, Elrod's work is hot. Besides the current show at Leo Koening, where the prices are in the $4,200-$13,500 range, he's included in a group show at Cohan Leslie and Brown and has had recent exhibitions in Berlin and Milan.
The paintings on view at Sandra Gering gallery, which is hung floor-to-ceiling with several dozen works, each slightly smaller than two by three feet, begin not with painting at all, but rather with film. They're stills from Waking Life, the animated film by Slacker and Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater, painted by members of a team of 30 animators led by Bob Sabiston, who devised the "interpolated rotoscoping" software used to make the animations. The individual stills -- they usually depict individual actors, and have a brightly colored Pop feel -- are inkjet prints on Somerset paper in editions of three, priced at $1,800 each (framed).
At Tanya Bonakdar, the elegant gallery space is given over to a pair of film projections by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, an American woman and Swiss man who live in Austin, Tex. The first work, titled Eight, has the alluring soundtrack of teeming rain and is effortlessly brief, though looped. The camera takes a leisurely pan through a rainy backyard, surveying an abandoned picnic table loaded with hot dogs, juice and balloons, until a young girl in a pink party dress comes out despite the downpour to cut a piece of cake, she looks up and the pan continues, past ruined plates, bits of uneaten food swimming in puddles of water, a plastic tiara, until the camera pulls back and a seamless cut puts the viewer suddenly inside the dry living room, where the girl looks out the window at the rain, only to go out and begin it all again. The DVD is in an edition of 10 and is priced at $12,000.
The cut has to be a reference to Jean-Luc Godard's looping, impossible pan and cut in Le Mepris that gets cineastes so hot (he begins on a rooftop patio and somehow goes down the side of the building into the bedroom window), a bit of added excitement in a film that stars Brigitte Bardot. The second Hubbard and Birchler film is longer and more involved, and features several see-sawing pans swinging between a bass player in a garage to a girl throwing stones outside in the darkness. The films are very good, though I'm not sure for what.
Haunting works as well at Daniel Silverstein Gallery in Chelsea, which is hosting large wall drawings and a pair of animated films by Avish Khebrehzadeh, an Iranian-born woman artist who moved to the U.S. in 1996 and lives and works in Washington, D.C. Khebrehzadeh makes simple line drawings on huge layered sheets of newsprint and vellum, using a thin pencil line colored by lacquer and olive oil, depicting horses in a woods or children on the beach or villagers watching a pair of circus performers.
One of the animations, playing on a monitor in the gallery, is titled Red Hair (2000) and includes several narrative fragments involving a watering hole, a strange kind of seal creature named Red Hair, and two friends named Eslam and Mashti's son. The work is archaicizing, like the Old Testament tale of Joseph and his brothers, and is quite affecting. The DVD comes in an edition of five plus one artist's proof, priced at $2,000; large drawings are $3,000-$5,000.
For a quieter show of historic proportions, try "Neil Jenney Sculpture 1967-68" at Alexander & Bonin on 10th Avenue. For three decades now Jenney has been famous for his influential "Bad Paintings" made in 1969 (they weren't, in fact, bad at all), reprised last year at Gagosian on Madison Avenue. Perhaps even more celebrated are the little-seen Postminimalist sculptures the artist made in the years preceding, and they are now on view at A&B. As in the paintings, the artist was concerned with two-part propositions, though in the sculptures each of the two components are essentially the same, though different.
Shown in the picture accompanying this text are, from left, the polished aluminum Linear Piece (1967), another Linear Piece (1967), this one its aluminum ends dipped in pigmented, waxy-looking silicone rubber, and the Joanne Duffy Piece (1968) of corrugated tin sheeting and round fluorescent fixtures (named after a friend). The prices are $125,000, $45,000 and $350,000, respectively, with some red dots in evidence.
For those who would delve into the secrets of all this, the tome is Postminimalism, a book written by Robert Pincus-Witten back in 1977, before he became an art dealer, and published by critic Richard Milazzo's Out of London Press. "It's on back order on Amazon," volunteered the young lady at the desk.
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Adam Dant made a name for himself in London a couple of years with Donald Parsnips' Daily Journal, a handmade, 4 x 6 inch comic book that combined odd cartoons with slogans like "Beware, wild horses will try and keep you away from things you don't want to go to," and lists like "Why you shouldn't paint" (3. It involves the use of paint. 4. People will only buy the results). Now, the 34-year-old artist is having his first U.S. solo show at Adam Baumgold Gallery on East 79th Street, titled "Your Tomorrow Better (Call Now)."
Dant's large and elaborate drawings often involve protagonists in clown makeup or people who have casts on their limbs. "Minor everyday accidents," the artist explains, reveal "the objects of contemporary life as comic props imbued with a malicious life of their own." Smaller, single-image works are $1,800; the mural-sized title work of the show, composed of 300 interconnected drawing0s, is $12,500.
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Richard Serra has a role in the new Matthew Barney Cremaster 3 film. He throws Vaseline on the side of the Guggenheim Museum and sits in a dentist chair for a fitting of chrome choppers... Principal of new gallery Rivington Arts that opened last week on the Lower East Side's famed Rivington Street is Mirabella Marden, daughter of painters Brice and Helen...
Willoughby Sharp premieres the video footage he shot 30 years ago at first U.S. performance of Joseph Beuys at Rene Block Gallery in SoHo, in which German art legend spent three weeks in a caged-off space with a coyote. The show is at a bar on West 24th Street called Eugene on Jan. 25...
Mrs. Marilyn Minter, making the Emily Cheng opening at Winston Wächter Mayer Fine Art on East 78th Street, sporting a new wedding band and firestone engagement ring -- tattooed on her finger. Marriage was in Rome, honeymoon in Venice... Butterfields auction house, the eBay subsidiary with offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, is rumored to have laid off 40 staffers in its L.A. office last week -- only seven remain there.
Larry Rivers, who has left his storied 14th Street loft for good (for East Hampton and Miami), slated for retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery this May... Hot young painter Jay Davis is now repped by Mary Boone along with Stefan Stux... Old Master dealer Otto Naumann showed off his new $40-million Rembrandt, a portrait of Saskia posing as Minerva that last appeared in public at auction in Paris in 1976, at his 80th Street gallery during a special Jan. 22 opening for Old Master Week in New York.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.