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by Walter Robinson
|It was a "world culture" weekend in the New York art world, as Christian Haye reopened his Harlem gallery with a decidedly international program, Tim Rollins hosted a gospel choir from Harlem at his opening at Baumgartner in Chelsea, and P.S. 1 unveiled the much-anticipated "Greater New York," a show that proves that whatever New York City is, it's got no art style to call its own.
The new incarnation of Haye's gallery, called simply the Project -- or "el Proyecto," as the web address would have it -- is located in a modest two-story building at 427 West 126th Street, just a few doors down from its former location. He lured the Frieze critic Jenny Liu from 303 to be director -- "I can smoke in the office," she said.
The Project has several different exhibition spaces. Downstairs in the main gallery are razor-sharp black-pencil line drawings by Jesse Lopez, an artist who splits his time between San Antonio and New York. His subjects are overheated, surrealistic faces, thornbush branches, spiky plants, plus hands, dolls and cock-shaped packages, all wrapped in mummy bandages. They're priced between $1,350 and $4,700.
Upstairs in a kind of mezzanine gallery is a videotape by Tracey Rose, a South African artist. The video shows her standing naked in a tiled bathroom (after Degas?) methodically shaving the hair from her head and the rest of her body. "To thwart racial profiling," said Christian.
Upstairs in one of the rooms of what turns out to be an apartment for rent is a bundle of fabrics -- Western t-shirts wrapped inside fancy Asian prints -- by Soo-Ja Kim, the Korean artist who made an impression at the Venice Biennale by exhibiting an entire truck loaded with bundles. Here in Harlem, one costs $15,000, with several interested potential buyers, according to the gallery. Other artists on tap include Londoner Tom Gidley, Brazilian Martín Weber, Paul Pfeiffer and Maria Elena Gonzalez, who I think hails from Brooklyn. The first show is on view Feb. 20-Apr. 2, 2000.
The neighborhood still has an edgy feel. Next door is an auto garage, across the street is a large abandoned building whose hoarding held murals by Brett Cook-Dizney last fall -- still abandoned, but without the hoarding. Which is not to say the area doesn't have amenities. Around the corner on 125th Street and Morningside Drive is M&G's Soul Food Diner, a great place to have lunch.
In the front gallery are four works, the largest a huge 12 foot square -- a giant block-letter "IM" painted over pages of The Invisible Man. Other works are a smaller, all-white Invisible Man, a woodcut figure collaged on pages of Huckleberry Finn, and a multicolored row of satin ribbons overlaid on Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. They're selling, too, at prices between $15,000 and $35,000.
In the back are watercolor florets collaged onto pages of A Midsummer Night's Dream ($12,000) and in the hall are the low-end bargains, individual pages from books by Martin Luther King, each with a monochrome triangle, for $500.
These works are made by kids, of course, in Rollins' workshops. At this point, he said, he has programs in the Bronx, San Francisco, Memphis, and now at the Des Moines Art Center, where he is to be artist in residence. Along with the sculptor John Ahearn, Rollins has put community-based, collaborative work at the center of his practice. The extra payoff for visitors to his opening on Feb. 26 was a performance by the Ministry Choir of the Memorial Baptist Church, where Rollins is a member and a coordinator of the ministry of art, praise and worship.
Sorry, New York, it's not working. The problem isn't in the way that the show is installed -- not that powerfully, as it happens -- or in the art itself, which looks considerably less punchy than a Jay Jopling art fair booth. The problem is that New York City can't have a specific art identity because it's the world art center. In the global art market, nationality is an esthetic commodity. The world's best art talents come here from all over -- and you can't represent "internationalism," at least not yet.
You could do "Brooklyn" or "Abstract New York" or "Model City" or whatever. But the curators haven't done that, either. Good the show is but "greater" it is not.
A few more things: The Economist hazards that French luxury-goods czar Francois Pinault, who bought Christie's for $2 billion last year, devised what it calls a murky offshore business structure to evade taxes. Pinault's lawyers denied it … San Francisco artist Mark McCloud, self-appointed historian of LSD blotter art, was arrested last week and charged with conspiracy. Word is he's being charged in Kansas, since a San Francisco jury would never jail a guy for running an LSD Museum.... Catch Cecile Brunswick's new work at Broome Street Gallery. Art and money is the theme of the show, titled "Hidden Assets."
In the press, or out of it: Bohemia Beer helped sponsor Artforum's post-Armory-Show office party, 10 cases worth.... Art & Auction ace art-news reporter Steven Vincent casts his lot with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the bulldozers in his New York Post op-ed piece on Feb. 25, arguing that neighborhood gardens should be turned over to developers. Now that's a real crime, compared to the nonsense he usually screams about.